Nintendo has had a complicated history with backwards compatibility features in their consoles. From most of their consoles simply not supporting the feature, while their handhelds were largely backwards compatible, up until the era of the Nintendo 3DS where the functionality was limited to just the previous generation. Tocay there is the current Nintendo platform, the in vogue console/handheld hybrid Nintendo Switch, and it remains an island, outside of games that Nintendo makes available through its Nintendo Switch Online system and the libraries from the original Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64. The Nintendo Switch is now quite long in the tooth though, so what about whatever comes next? The latest Nintendo Investor Q&A managed to shed a little bit of insight.
Nintendo has just spent the last week celebrating some incredible financial results, less in terms of its hardware successes, with sales dipping somewhat for the quarter, but namely it’s incredible software achievements. During the Q&A component of the session, Nintendo’s leadership were asked about their plans for their successor to the Nintendo Switch, and what sort of backwards compatibility features it may offer. Nintendo legend, Shigeru Miyamoto was on hand for the Q&A, and shared some of his own thoughts on the matter, suggesting that it’s easier than ever to implement backwards compatibility, but was simultaneously non-commital in regards to what the console manufacturer would do with their next platform.
In the past, we provided a service known as the ‘Virtual Console’ that allowed users to play older video games on new consoles with newer hardware. As long as the hardware remained unchanged, those games could continue to be played. However, the publishing rights to video games are complicated, and we have said that we would only add titles after securing the necessary rights. Of course, video games developed for dedicated consoles were created in different development environments for each console, as a result, when the hardware changed, the development environment could not necessarily be reused, and so the video games that had been released on older consoles could not be played on newer consoles without additional modification.
Recently, however, the development environment has increasingly become more standardised, and we now have an environment that allows players to enjoy older video games on newer consoles more easily than ever before. However, Nintendo’s strength is in creating new video game experiences, so when we release new hardware in the future, we would like to showcase unique video games that could not be created with pre-existing hardware.Credit to VideoGamesChronicle for the translation
While it does sound as though Nintendo is confident in their ability to provide backwards compatibility, it seems that the level of backwards compatibility, either natively in the console, or via Nintendo’s online options will be dictated by Nintendo’s priority of creating new games not posisble on previous consoles – that lack of ability to produce the game for previous consoles component might be the bottleneck, as with the Wii U and Switch before it that stops Nintendo from supporting backwards compatibility in the ways we all want them to.