Nintendo releases first party titles for NVIDIA China

Nintendo’s first-party software has always been the reason most people buy one of the company’s consoles, but a recent announcement in China means gamers won’t necessarily need a Nintendo console to play Nintendo games. NVIDIA announced Monday that their Shield console, which just launched in China, has access to several first party Nintendo games with more on the way. Games available at launch include New Super Mario Bros. Wii, the GameCube version of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and the Wii version of Punch Out!! More titles are said to be coming soon, including Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime.

This is a nearly unprecedented move for Nintendo, a company which is extremely protective of its intellectual properties. Nintendo’s games are featured prominently on the Shield’s Chinese sizzle reel and home page. The announcement made clear that Nvidia is licensing the games from Nintendo for the Chinese market only.

The Shield comes in multiple form factors, including a tablet and a handheld unit that can be used to play games on the go or stream them from a home PC. The version shown in the Chinese trailers acts like a more traditional home console, albeit one without an optical drive. As such, it relies on an internet connection to download any games or media. Nvidia and the Chinese video company iQiyi are partnering with Nintendo to bring the games to the Shield, but it’s unclear if the games will be stored on the console or accessible from some sort of cloud service. I spoke with an Nvidia employee who let me know the console will use the company’s streaming services to play the games, but couldn’t go into further detail.

The Tegra connection

Nintendo has been partnering with Nvidia for the Switch console, running the versatile system off Nvidia’s Tegra chips. The partnership has been beneficial for both sides, and it’s likely this announcement came at least in part due to the success of the Switch’s launch this year. Shield consoles and handhelds also utilize the Tegra chipset, so it’s fair to speculate that the games announced for the Shield in China might soon be available in other territories for the Switch.

There’s been a lot of speculation about a potential Virtual Console on the Switch, but very little is actually known. Apart from the announcement that players who signed up for the Switch’s online service would have access to a free retro game every month, Nintendo has been silent on the subject so far. Seeing Nintendo games from two to three generations ago running on Tegra hardware is the best indication we’ve seen that a GameCube and Wii Virtual Console might show up at some point on the Switch. The games are also said to be “running in High Definition,” meaning some sort of upscaling may be taking place. All GameCube and Wii games were originally programmed in Standard Definition.

Original tweet here.

The announcement raises some questions. Many of the Wii’s games featured motion controls, but the Shield and its controller don’t have this functionality built in. If the games have been reprogrammed to remove the necessity for motion controls, it’s far more likely that they’ll be ported to systems other than the Shield. If not, some of them will be essentially unplayable. The Wii version of Mario Galaxy in particular requires the player to shake the motion controller frequently to get from place to place, though none of the other games announced for the system were as heavily reliant on the mechanic. 

We’ll keep following this story and bring you updates as we learn more about the partnership.