Miyamoto: Backward Compatibility Is Easier Than Ever, but Nintendo’s Strength Is in Creating New Games Not Possible on Existing Hardware

Francesco De Meo
Nintendo Switch

Implementing backward compatibility has become easier than ever, but it's not a given that the successor to the Nintendo Switch console will be backward compatible, as Shigeru Miyamoto feels that Nintendo's strength is in creating brand new games not possible on existing hardware.

During the Q&A session held after the company's latest financial briefing, the Japanese company's representatives were asked about backward compatibility and how easy it now seems to transfer software across multiple hardware generations with the Nintendo Account system. The Nintendo General Manager and creator of the Super Mario Bros. series did agree that it is now much easier to have backward compatibility, as the software development environment has become more standardized in the past few years. He feels, however, that Nintendo's strength is in creating new games, and they would like to focus on creating unique titles not possible on existing hardware in the future.

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We used to offer a system called "Virtual Console," which allowed people to play old software on new hardware. In comparison, video can be enjoyed for a long time as long as there is a playback environment. However, the rights for video are complicated, so Nintendo is proceeding with the project after ensuring that the rights are in place. Indeed, in the past, software development for game consoles was done in a dedicated development environment that differed for each hardware. Therefore, when the hardware changed, the development environment could not be taken over.
Therefore, software released on past hardware could not be played without modification.
Recently, however, the software development environment itself has gradually become more standardized, so it is generally easier to create a playback environment that allows software for past hardware to be played on new hardware than before. However, Nintendo's strength is in creating new games. With new hardware, we would like to propose unique games that cannot be realized on existing hardware.

The company's stance on backward compatibility has changed a lot over the years, and it was mostly the portable consoles that had some degree of backward compatibility, like the many original GameBoy revisions, the Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS. The Nintendo Switch itself is, unsurprisingly, not backward compatible with previous Nintendo home consoles like the Wii and Wii U, and the fact that its successor may not be able to play games released on its predecessor may mean that Nintendo could be planning something more than a straightforward Nintendo Switch 2.

For now, the Japanese company is fully focused on supporting its Nintendo Switch console, which has been confirmed to have sold 114.44 million units worldwide. The console's price is not going to be increased in the near future, but Nintendo is monitoring the situation and will carefully consider if they indeed need to do so, which would be something unprecedented for a company that has never increased the price of already-released hardware.

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