“Nintendo Switch Pro” has been a subject of discussion for many years, even going back to when Nintendo Switch was known as “NX” (Nintendo Switch’s codename). But recently, it has been rumored that Nintendo has since canceled this “Switch Pro” console. So, at this point, the conversation is no longer about “Nintendo Switch Pro.” It’s now possibly a “Nintendo Switch 2.” The next generation consoles have more horsepower than Nintendo Switch’s Tegra X1, which was conceived in 2015. Nintendo Switch was launched in 2017.
Here are PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series console specs as per 2019’s rumored specs. Here are the final specs of each aforementioned consoles.
Operating on the assumption that “Nintendo Switch Pro” exists, leaks pointed towards a possible path towards backwards compatibility. The codebase of Nintendo Switch Pro uses the same language as Nintendo Switch. [Source] Other related code has a cross-reference code (via drivers) to the overall Nvidia ecosystem. [Source] Nintendo slightly confirmed that Backwards Compatibility is possible on Nintendo Switch Pro or 2. [Source] With me so far? Good. Now, the recent conversation around Backwards Compatibility on Nintendo’s Next Console (Switch 2?) stems from Modern Vintage Gamer’s newly released YouTube video where he explains that Nintendo Switch 2 may not be Backwards Compatible with Nintendo Switch…
Nintendo fans got up in arms about and around the video and/or conversation. These fans don’t understand the issue. And to be fair, Modern Vintage Gamer is a game developer, so he would understand what is required to make Nintendo Switch backwards compatible with the upcoming console.
Nintendo Switch runs on a driver-based codebase, similar to how Windows treats its games.
Let’s look at history of what MVG is talking about though, by moving away from Tegra X1, or move it up to X2 or higher. You’re only missing part of the issue. And you can look at how Microsoft is able to bring Xbox, and Xbox 360 games to Xbox One consoles, and the new Xbox Series consoles. Newsflash: It’s not native, it’s all emulated – coded to work with said consoles one by one.
Let’s see how moving away from Tegra X1 or at least upgrade the Tegra to maybe X2 or higher.
If Nintendo were to move away from Tegra X1, it would lose native backwards compatibility. History shows us this. PlayStation 3 is the perfect example of this. The overall architecture of PS3 was radically different from PlayStation 2. The graphics chip is RSX, a joint project between Sony and Nvidia. The CPU is a intel, Toshiba, and Sony project: Cell. Radically different from PlayStation 2 – the CPU was Emotion Engine, which is a joint project between Sony and Toshiba. The graphics chip was Graphics Synthesizer, a Sony chip. So, in order for Sony to have native PS2 backwards compatibility, it was to put PS2 chips into early manufactured consoles. The original 60GB model is the legacy PlayStation 3 console that can play PS2, and PS1 games natively. Anything after that model? Software Emulation, which would cause some glitches here and there. Over time, Sony quietly stopped supporting emulated BC.
Moving from PS3 to PS4 is even nastier. Sony opted to do away with Nvidia’s chips altogether, because PlayStation 3 was not only expensive to manufacture, it was also difficult to develop games for in general. Many developers complained about Nvidia’s code so much (Cell, too, but more heat was on Nvidia), it caught Sony’s attention. PlayStation 4’s CPU is Jaguar, and the GPU is GCN – BOTH are AMD chips. The codebase is right up developers’ alley: x86-64. PlayStation 4 has ZERO backwards compatibility to speak of. Nada, Zilch. Nothing.
PlayStation 5 is a little better in this regard: PlayStation 5 is fully backwards compatible with PlayStation 4 games, and even runs games better in some respects. This is simply because of Sony’s wiliness to work with AMD again; CPU is Zen 2, and the GPU is a custom-made RDNA 2 chip. Games run better on PS5, with PS4 Boost mode via patches deployed for each individual game.
Now, you might think to yourself: What about Nintendo 3DS being backwards compatible with existing hardware? Well, this is a little more simpler than you think. Nintendo 3DS games can play Nintendo DS and DSi games. The problem here boils down to the screen size as one example, the other example is 3DS cartridges are vastly different from Nintendo DS/DSi cartridges. GBA games can be played by 3DS, but the issue is that it’s not native. It’s emulated. There IS a cartridge slot just for GBA.
So, what have we learned here? Backwards compatibility isn’t easy. We don’t even know if Nintendo has retained Nvidia for Nintendo Switch Pro or Switch 2. All this is, just pure speculation. It’s a conversation that is needed to calm fans down when the idea of Backwards Compatibility isn’t on Switch Pro or Switch 2.
Just understand this: That Tegra X1 chip is 8 years old, and Nintendo Switch is 6 years old.