Nintendo Offers Vague Answers About ‘Switch 2’ Backward Compatibility – Ars Technica

Zoom in / A selection of Nintendo consoles that can’t run software designed for a previous Nintendo console…

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Since we moved away from convertsIn early 2017, there was much chatter and speculation about the regime’s inevitable successor. And among Switch owners, there’s a lot of worry about whether the upcoming “Switch 2” will be compatible with the thousands of games already available on the current Switch.

For now, Nintendo remains frustratingly vague on this key question. in Investor Q&A (partially Translated by Twitter user Cheesemeister), Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa said that “While our company is always considering various specifications for future hardware, I will refrain from making specific comments about future hardware here… Our company wants to continue to offer unique ways to play with its integrated hardware and commercial software, so please look forward to that. “

It’s hard to read too much into the lack of an answer, considering Nintendo hasn’t officially announced it any Details about the next console hardware so far. Later in the same questions and answers, Furukawa male that “in terms of transitioning from Nintendo Switch to next-gen device, we want to do as much as possible in order to seamlessly transition our customers, while using a Nintendo Account.”

This is not entirely new information. Nintendo He said in the 2020 investor presentation slide that it plans to use a Nintendo account for its “next hardware and software integrated gaming system” launching in “20XX”. However, the new quote emphasizing a “smooth transition” and the outdated account management system can be taken as a hint that Nintendo plans to allow Switch gamers to bring their game libraries over to new hardware.

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Looking back

Nintendo has a long history of backwards compatibility on its handheld systems, each of which can play games from the previous generation in a series that stretches from the original Game Boy to the Nintendo 3DS line. Recently, the company implemented a similar series of Gamecube backwards compatibility through the Wii U, which the latter can even play downloadable games ported over from the Wii.

Games released in 1989 for the original Game Boy can still be played on Game Boy Advance consoles that sold well into the 2000s.
Zoom in / Games released in 1989 for the original Game Boy can still be played on Game Boy Advance consoles that sold well into the 2000s.

Andrew Cunningham

But Nintendo broke the chain of backwards compatibility with the Switch, which merged both lines of Nintendo’s hardware into a new “hybrid” platform. Meanwhile, both Microsoft and Sony have increasingly focused on backwards compatibility as a marketable feature in the latest Xbox and PlayStation hardware.

From the point of view of game development, Shigeru Miyamoto from Nintendo Observed in November 2022 that in the past, software development environments “could not be rendered when hardware changed, and software released for earlier hardware would become impossible to run without changes.” Recently, though, the integration of these development environments across devices means that “in general, it’s become easier to implement an environment where software released for previous devices can run on new hardware,” Miyamoto said.

Teaching speech

Of course, implementing backwards compatibility on the new Switch depends on more than just software development environments and online account structures. New hardware running Adapter 2 will need to be able to interpret software designed for a completely different SoC in some way.

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As Modern Vintage Gamer points out at March’s great video on this topicThe Nvidia Tegra X1 chip that powers the Switch is increasingly outdated by the company Maxwell architecturewhich dates back to 2014. Even if Nintendo sticks to Nvidia chips (as seems likely), the new console will likely be based on a new SoC built on a new architecture like Ampere or even lovelace.

The chip compatibility situation is further complicated by the way the Nintendo Switch software format bundles the full Maxwell GPU driver package and game-specific shaders with the software itself. This means that the binary file is written for Maxwell-based Switch devices It will not work on a non-Maxwell GPU Without a complete reassembly.

There are a few ways around this problem, as Modern Vintage Gamer explains. Nintendo can Follow Microsoft’s lead in using a software-based emulation layer to back up older hardware, a strategy that has proven successful Unofficial Switch Emulators on Steam Deck. Nintendo could also integrate a full X1 chip onto a “Switch 2” motherboard, reversing the strategy taken for some handheld consoles in the past. Individual games can also be patched to work on new hardware, though this will likely leave some support holes, given the Switch’s huge game library.

matter of will

Technical issues aside, the question of Nintendo’s actual desire to pursue backwards compatibility for “Switch 2” looms large. Most of the solutions discussed above come with additional costs to Nintendo, either in terms of emulation/debugging development or the physical costs of the hardware itself. Backward compatibility would also require that the new system be fully compatible with existing Switch consoles and the Switch cartridge format (which tops out at 32GB), both of which can force design compromises.

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Full backward compatibility for
Zoom in / Full backwards compatibility for the Switch 2 also means full support for the Joy-Cons and all their special features.

Mark Walton + Sebastian’s hands

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These may seem like small hurdles that need to be overcome to ensure that tens of millions of Switch owners can transfer their libraries to Nintendo’s new hardware. But there is at least some market research Which suggests that backwards compatibility has a limited impact on the platform’s long-term success.

There are also some signs that Nintendo may not consider backward compatibility a high priority for new hardware. Back in November, after Miyamoto pointed to the increasing ease of backwards compatibility in software development, he added that “Nintendo’s strength lies in our creation of new entertainment, so as we release new hardware moving forward, we plan to continue to provide new and unique gameplay that It is not achievable on existing hardware.”

This isn’t an outright denial, but it’s also not an outright endorsement of the importance of keeping existing Switch software libraries available on new hardware going forward.

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