Iwata… Plans to Emulate a Mobile Platform?

So, now that we’ve had a chance to read the Investor Briefing in English, there was one notable topic that appeared in the discussion. Something unexpected, but which we’re still trying to make sense of. The topic involved how Nintendo handles hardware platforms, because currently their systems are separate—there’s not too much in common between the Wii U and the 3DS—and it appears that this may change in the near future.

Iwata mentioned the advantages that come along with having hardware that can “absorb”, or mimick, or reflect on the characteristics of other Nintendo projects and technology, in the same way that the Wii was based on what we saw from the GameCube. This allows the development process at the company to make large strides in progress in a short amount of time, and unlike the launches for the 3DS and Wii U, can mean there are not software shortages on release:

“For example, currently it requires a huge amount of effort to port Wii software to Nintendo 3DS because not only their resolutions but also the methods of software development are entirely different. The same thing happens when we try to port Nintendo 3DS software to Wii U. If the transition of software from platform to platform can be made simpler, this will help solve the problem of game shortages in the launch periods of new platforms. Also, as technological advances took place at such a dramatic rate, and we were forced to choose the best technologies for video games under cost restrictions, each time we developed a new platform, we always ended up developing a system that was completely different from its predecessor.

The only exception was when we went from Nintendo GameCube to Wii. Though the controller changed completely, the actual computer and graphics chips were developed very smoothly as they were very similar to those of Nintendo GameCube, but all the other systems required ground-up effort. However, I think that we no longer need this kind of effort under the current circumstances.

In this perspective, while we are only going to be able to start this with the next system, it will become important for us to accurately take advantage of what we have done with the Wii U architecture. It of course does not mean that we are going to use exactly the same architecture as Wii U, but we are going to create a system that can absorb the Wii U architecture adequately. When this happens, home consoles and handheld devices will no longer be completely different, and they will become like brothers in a family of systems.”

That’s interesting… because following this statement, President Iwata mentioned Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android systems as examples of platforms he would like to emulate in future hardware release. He was vague on how this would happen—an “all-in-one” solution like the other major players in the game, or creating multiple styles of hardware like Android, running the same OS and thus able to play all the same games:

“Still, I am not sure if the form factor (the size and configuration of the hardware) will be integrated. In contrast, the number of form factors might increase. Currently, we can only provide two form factors because if we had three or four different architectures, we would face serious shortages of software on every platform. To cite a specific case, Apple is able to release smart devices with various form factors one after another because there is one way of programming adopted by all platforms. Apple has a common platform called iOS. Another example is Android. Though there are various models, Android does not face software shortages because there is one common way of programming on the Android platform that works with various models.

The point is, Nintendo platforms should be like those two examples. Whether we will ultimately need just one device will be determined by what consumers demand in the future, and that is not something we know at the moment. However, we are hoping to change and correct the situation in which we develop games for different platforms individually and sometimes disappoint consumers with game shortages as we attempt to move from one platform to another, and we believe that we will be able to deliver tangible results in the future.”

Huh. Would Nintendo fans have a positive response to a Nintendo OS that runs on multiple configurations of hardware, allowing a wide base of compatibility, providing ease of upgrading without loss of access to older software titles? This would allow for that account-based system that present Nintendo fans have been screaming for, but would it work? It’s been a long while since Nintendo has had only one piece of hardware available—put all their eggs into one basket, so to speak—so this is certainly an intriguing bit of speculation on Nintendo’s part. Or, using the same OS on different hardware that’s used for different purposes.

At the very least, it’s promising that Nintendo is exploring these options and having the discussion, as opposed to sticking with the way things have been done in the past.


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Author: Micah View all posts by
Micah has been playing games since his first pong machine, and has been writing for as long as he could grip a pencil and not drool on the paper. So, for about a week.

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