No less than Shigeru Miyamoto has said Nintendo is working on new hardware and that it will be backwards compatible to at least some degree.
The Nintendo Switch first came out in March 2017 and now, almost six years later, it’s obvious that Nintendo must be working on a successor. They’re not ones to announce anything before they have to but there have been several recent hints that new hardware is on the way.
Nintendo’s president used to deny there was any new hardware but now he simply offers no comment, while Pokémon developer Creatures is currently hiring people to work on ‘next generation’ hardware.
And now Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto has got into a surprisingly long conversation about ‘new hardware’, although primarily within the context of backwards compatibility with the current Switch.
At a recent investors meeting, Miyamoto was asked about the advantages and disadvantages of backwards compatibility, from a business perspective.
He started by talking about the Virtual Console from the Wii and Wii U (which required you to pay for individual retro games and so wasn’t really backwards compatibility at all) and how it has become increasingly ease to emulate old games on modern hardware.
‘The software development environment itself has gradually become more standardised, so it is generally easier to create a playback environment that allows software for past hardware to be played on new hardware than before,’ he said, according to a translation on ResetEra.
‘However, Nintendo’s strength is in creating new games. With new hardware, we would like to propose unique games that cannot be realised on existing hardware.’
Just the fact that he’s openly talking about new hardware is surprising, and not something that would have happened until recently, but the last sentence seems to suggest that he’s thinking of specific games that are already in development.
Ironically, his comments don’t really answer the question of backwards compatibility, but the Wii and Wii U were as backwards compatible as possible, in terms of disc-based games, and it’s only the fact that the Switch went back to cartridges that means it can’t run previous games directly.
It makes no attempt to do so digitally though, and the big question will be whether its successor will require you to start again from scratch in terms of digital games and online accounts. You’d think not, in this day and age, but that is an area where Nintendo has traditionally been very… backwards.
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