This year, we’ve gotten to see how much Nintendo and Nvidia have been cozying up to each other. It’s gotten to the point where Nintendo has agreed to supply Nvidia’s SHIELD TV for China with remastered GameCube and Wii games. Due to the massive success of the Switch, the relationship between these two companies is stronger than ever. If this partnership is maintained, it could turn out to be a very good thing.
Nvidia has dabbled in console gaming before. Actually, the PS3 used a GPU that was designed by Nvidia in collaboration with Sony. But their partnership didn’t blossom the same way this new one between Nvidia and Nintendo has. This partnership was definitely unexpected, but I’m glad it happened. Even more so, I’m glad that Nvidia is so passionate about it. Having these two ‘big Ns’ collaborating is interesting, to say the least. That’s because Nvidia’s expertise complements Nintendo very nicely.
In case you’re not familiar with Nvidia, this company has some amazing technical expertise. They have been the leaders in PC GPU technology for a number of years now, and for good reason—they make awesome tech. The GeForce/GTX family of graphics processors have been advancing steadily over the past few years, and they’re constantly getting better. In fact, Nvidia just added a new member to the family: the GTX Titan V. It’s a whopping $3000, but just so happens to be the most powerful GPU in existence yet. That’s definitely nothing to scoff at, hence the reason why so many PC gamers are fond of the ‘green team’s’ products. Outside of the PC realm, Nvidia has been making great strides. That can be clearly seen with the Switch.
The heart of the Switch is the teeny little custom-built Nvidia Tegra X1 SoC (system-on-a-chip). While the Tegra is tiny, it has an incredibly important role: this is what allows the Switch to run full home console-quality titles despite being a portable machine. Nvidia designed this chip to be as versatile as possible. On top of that, because developers already work with Nvidia hardware on PC, the creation environment on Switch is very familiar to them. Nintendo consoles have long been criticized by developers for being difficult to work with, but Nvidia has clearly stepped in to correct that. Now, developers both big and small have expressed great excitement over the simplicity of creating games on the Switch. Again, the dynamic that Nintendo and Nvidia have going on is outstanding.
This partnership was unexpected, but the future of Nintendo systems looks bright because of it.
There’s never a time when Nvidia isn’t working on advancing its technology. It’s constantly releasing new GPUs for both PCs and mobile devices. With more research and development to improve its technology, it will, in turn, will give Nintendo the tools it needs to build future systems. Considering how big of a hit the Switch has been, I would be totally shocked if Nintendo’s next system wasn’t a direct successor, a-la NES to SNES/ DS to 3DS/ Wii to Wii U. Assuming the Switch’s hybrid design has definitely become the new norm for Nintendo, then it’s pretty much a guarantee that the next iteration will see big improvements.
From a physical perspective, the Switch is mostly fine already. Where the improvements from this potential successor would really shine is the internals. I’ve talked about this before in past articles, but allow me to reiterate—the Switch is benefiting from the advancement of mobile technology. We see new strides being made every year in the world of smartphones and tablets. The Switch’s Tegra X1 is directly related to that since it is a mobile chip after all. In fact, there’s already a more advanced variant of it out there: the Tegra X2. If the Switch follows the typical console lifecycle of at least five years, then there’s almost no doubt the mobile chips of that time will be well beyond what we have today. In fact, I’d say it’s likely those chips would be on par if not noticeably beyond that of the PS4’s capabilities.
Now, you may look at that as being mediocre, since the PS4 is a 2013 machine. But, remember why this is such a big deal: the Switch is essentially a slightly chunky tablet. It was not easy for Nvidia and Nintendo to design a system with such an incredibly compact size that also needed to have enough horsepower to handle modern titles while being powered by just a battery. But, somehow, they pulled it off, and the results have been rather impressive so far. Yet, the system still isn’t a full year old yet. As time goes on, developers will get more acquainted with the Switch’s hardware and will be able to push it even further, so it will be exciting to see what this little system can really do in a few years. Speaking of power, isn’t this what so many gamers have been wanting Nintendo to pay attention to for years now?
“Now you’re playing with power – Nvidia power!”
I’ve seen quite a few folks say stuff like “Nintendo systems have always been underpowered”, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. At one point, the company’s main advertising slogan was “Now you’re playing with power!” That wasn’t a buzz-term, it was quite accurate. From the NES to the GameCube, Nintendo put a strong focus on the hardware capabilities of its systems. The SuperFX chip comes to mind; enabling actual 3D polygons to be rendered on a 16-bit system. Even today, it’s still kind of mindblowing that the SNES was able to pull that off. Indeed, Nintendo really did have a passion for pushing the boundaries of its hardware at one point, but that passion faded when its hardware sales were continuously declining. That’s why the company shifted its strategy to making more affordable hardware, at the cost of sacrificing graphical capabilities. In a way, the Switch kind of walks a line between these two strategies.
Nintendo designed the Switch in a very budget-conscious way, no doubt. But, as I stated earlier, it had Nvidia create the customized Tegra inside the system to still have just enough power to run modern titles. The Switch can’t stand up to a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X at all, but it’s not nearly as limited as the Wii was compared to the PS3/360. As long as the partnership between Nintendo and Nvidia continues, these two companies can continue working on this mobile console technology to further improve it.
These two are essentially a dynamic duo of sorts. Nvidia is the one with the brawn and confidence, while Nintendo has the brains and creativity. As they continue to work together closely, that will only lead to advancements that benefit us as gamers. Even if Nintendo never truly returns to the power race, using Nvidia’s technology can help it to at least keep up with the other platform makers. After all, Nvidia is already used to making GPUs with the same architecture that have different capabilities because they’re targeted at different budget plans. That’s how flexible Nvidia’s technology is, which makes it an incredibly valuable asset to Nintendo.