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June 2015 Retro Gaming Article


June 1, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Will backward compatibility remain if Nintendo powers their NX console with Android?

June 2 Update: One day later Nintendo refutes the notion that NX will be powered by Android. Um... didn't they say they were NOT going to talk about NX?
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Rumor has it that Nintendo may be leaning toward Android to drive their next game console, referred to as NX. Having been very tight-lipped about any (and all) NX info, such rumors have to be taken as possibilities rather than definitive plans. Nintendo has stated they won't entertain discussions about NX until 2016.

Many sites are already saying Nintendo's next console will be a smart phone or their games will become lost in the vast wasteland of mobile games with finger-swipe control schemes. It's interesting that so many folks don't perceive Android as an OS that powers many different devices. They associate "Android" solely with phones. Ouya and GameStick are both Android game consoles involving no telephony.

Some of the more thoughtful sites are speculating Nintendo sees the value in attracting more 3rd party developers to it's platforms and "going Android" may be the best way to make those bonds. Naturally, this also makes such games easily available on traditional Android devices from phones to tablets.

Mario meets Android via Maxell Maxell ad One thing I'm not seeing much about is Nintendo's heroic stance on backward compatibility. Even the GameCube had a solution for playing Game Boy cartridges! The Wii could play GameCube discs and the Wii U gave you full access to your older Wii library of games. Nintendo knows that there's a crossover period where fans are excited about new games on a new console, but still want to play their existing games.

Generation 8 may become best known as the era in which backwards compatibility met it's death. Both Sony and Microsoft released consoles incapable of playing the former console's games. This struck me as gravely insensitive to loyal fans and poorly thought out considering the hefty prices being charged for these new systems. Nintendo's Wii U was still compatible with Wii games! Smart move. Often removing prior system emulation is done at the end of a console's lifespan to offer a less expensive model - as seen with the Wii Mini.
Mario meets Android via Maxell
So how about the NX? Will it play Wii U games? My interest in this is driven by Nintendo's commitment to compatibility and understanding of customer needs during transition.

I'm not a programmer, so I don't really know how an Android-based console would affect the ability to emulate Wii U games. I assume Nintendo has powered each of their consoles with a proprietary OS - which makes them less desirable to AAA franchises, code-wise. I wonder if a switch to Android easily allows for backward compatibility. And would an Android OS help or hinder with larger franchises that have skipped the Wii U?

One can see the growth of mobile games and the potential benefits of Android compatibility, but what about the larger franchises that always skip the Nintendo platform? Some have speculated that smaller indie titles are the future of gaming rather than the episodic franchises that can span generations of game console eras.

Whatever their tact, I'm certain they'll continue to make great games on innovative hardware that deliver experiences unlike the competition. I get the feeling that Nintendo plans on twisting the notion of a "game console" and delivering something very different.

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