ByMichael Mitchell, writer at
Former Staff Writer for Now Loading. Currently tweeting things here:
Michael Mitchell

Yesterday, Nintendo pulled back the curtain and unveiled its brand new console, the Nintendo Switch. The console looks fantastic! It's going to have all sorts of games, new and old — hello there, Skyrim — thanks to its plethora of third-party support. But the reveal also left us with a lot of questions.

Chief among those was, what exactly will happen to the 3DS if the Switch is capable of also being a handheld? Turns out, we have an answer sooner than we thought we would: The Switch is not going to be able to play 3DS cartridges or Wii U discs. Don't panic, though! This is actually not a bad thing.

This Doesn't Eliminate Digital Downloads As An Option

During the trailer, we saw what may or may not be a new Mario Kart and an equally ambiguous sequel/update to Splatoon, among other games. If we assume these games are in fact updates to the existing titles, this already guarantees that not playing Wii U discs is not the same thing as not playing Wii U games.

But even if these do happen to be brand new titles in their respective franchises, it's not as though Nintendo is staunchly against having digitally downloadable titles. Both the Wii U and the 3DS eShops frequently add titles from old system for players to download.

Heck, digital content is how Nintendo released the Pokémon Sun & Moon demo to the world last week. It's practically a given that digital content will be part of the Switch. And while what that content will include is still unknown, Nintendo's latest generation of consoles — both in-home and handheld — has proven the company willing to continually expand its library to include more and more older-generation content.

It Maintains A User-Friendly Experience

Some of the best games on the Wii U were the ones that completely abandoned the idea of utilizing the gamepad screen. Others — looking at you, Star Fox — tried far too hard to incorporate the gamepad screen for the sake of incorporating it, and the experience suffered as a result.

The worst thing that Nintendo could do when it comes to backward compatibility is create a blanket method of playing old games on the Switch. Both the 3DS and the Wii U have games with an incredibly variant degree of dependence on their touchscreens. If you could just plug any old 3DS cartridge into the Switch, it would mean some games played much more smoothly than others, and the same goes for Wii U titles.

By not being able to play whichever 3DS or Wii U games you want and instead (hopefully) focusing on digital content, Nintendo can customize the games to best fit the Switch. As a result, it's much more likely that whatever games do become available on the Switch will not have gimicky or just plain awkward controls. Old games will be made for the Switch, but the Switch will not be made for old games.

And It's Better For Each Console's Games

This ties into the above point, but it's still worth making. If Nintendo is not designing future Wii U and 3DS games with the Switch in mind, it allows them to develop games for all three systems that feel like they're meant for that system.

What I mean by that is, take a game like ZombiU or Kirby: Canvas Curse. Both of these titles made great use of their gamepad/touchscreen mechanics and they were better for it. Now imagine that, during development, Nintendo had to think about how these titles would work on a different system like the Switch.

In all likelihood, we would not have the same games we have today, because the system-specific controls would have had to be adjusted for a system that doesn't have all the same features. In the end, console-specific development helps create unique, successful titles like the above two.

Now, that's not to say Nintendo couldn't do it — or that multi-system development couldn't help avoid awkwardly controlled games like Star Fox — but overall, it will be better to design games that work for their systems first and then work on porting them to other systems.

How do you feel about the Switch not being able to play 3DS cartridges or Wii U discs?

[Source: Nintendo News]


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