Is this the clearest sign yet that Nintendo is working on Virtual Console for Switch?

Nintendo games have, officially, come to the Nvidia Shield TV in China. That may not sound like a big deal, especially as you can already emulate Gamecube games on a UK Shield TV with the Dolphin Emulator, but the implications of this partnership is huge.

Is this the clearest sign yet that Nintendo is working on Virtual Console for Switch?

Nvidia officially announced that the Shield TV in China will run New Super Mario Bros. Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Punch-Out!! in 1080p. Games like Super Mario Galaxy are listed as “coming soon” too. The news came Westward thanks to tech industry analyst Daniel Ahmad as he posted videos on Twitter of official content running on the Shield.

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By bringing Wii games to the Shield TV, it’s quite possible that Nintendo is testing the waters for bringing Wii and Gamecube emulation to the Nintendo Switch. Seeing as both the Shield TV and Nintendo Switch run on Nvidia’s Tegra X1 mobile chip, anything that works on Shield natively will work on the Switch. It’s also arguable that they’d perform better on Switch due to it not having Android TV bubbling away under the hood.

If these Wii games run at 1080p, a resolution the Wii didn’t actually support, they’ll be crisp running in the Switch’s Handheld mode which only requires 720p output. It also opens up the possibility for official Gamecube games on both Switch and Shield too. While this does mean the Shield can comfortably play Wii games, it’s hard to gauge  if Nintendo will bring games to Shield in the UK, or simply reserve them exclusively for Switch instead.

Unfortunately, it appears that a description page on Nvidia’s Chinese site has revealed that all is not as it seems. While Ahmad’s videos suggest it’s running natively on the Tegra X1, it’s actually streaming via Nvidia’s GeForce Now service. This means it isn’t being processed on the Shield TV itself, and is instead being processed on Nvidia’s rig of powerful GPUs for cloud gaming. However, it’s interesting that these HD versions of Wii games – a console that wasn’t available in HD – exist. It may not be the end of Nintendo’s experimentation of bringing Wii games to the Switch or a future Nintendo Mini console.

It’s not yet known what Nintendo’s plans are for backwards compatibility on the Switch. It’s believed that it’ll bring the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS’ Virtual Console to the platform at some point in the future, but Nintendo isn’t talking about it just yet. It’s more than likely that Nintendo’s partnership with Nvidia is a way for the console manufacturer to crack a notoriously hard market for consoles.

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Games on the Nvidia Shield cost very little too. Ahmad claims that games cost just 68 RMB, equating to £7.99 each. Currently, if you want a copy of Twilight Princess on the Wii U – which is the only way to play in HD – it’ll set you back about £25. New Super Mario Bros. Wii could set you back as much as £21, and it wouldn’t even be in HD.

For years, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft completely avoided China due to high rates of computer game piracy and rip-off versions of their hardware appearing on the market. With Nvidia’s success in China with the Shield TV, and Nintendo’s partnership with the chipmaker on the Switch, means that it’s in a great position to bring its games to the market.

Shield TV in China is actually a completely different software proposition to that of the UK, with specialised content for the Chinese market. Instead of Android TV, it runs on Baidu’s DuerOS and utilises it’s conversational AI too. It’s also furnished with local content and utilises iQIYI’s entertainment offering too.

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