Bringing Wii U and 3DS Together

With a single development team and the possibility of a common development platform in the future, how might Wii U and 3DS develop a closer relationship?

By Jon Stevens. Posted 02/19/2014 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Nintendo has made numerous attempts in the past to connect its consoles and handhelds together, with varying levels of success. The Game Boy Player, for example, allowed gamers to play their library of Game Boy, GBC, and GBA games on GameCube, while the GameCube–Game Boy Advance Link cable allowed for second screen gameplay long before the GamePad.

Iwata’s recent comments on the benefits of combining the portable and home console teams, and specifically the development of unified architecture, showcase how far we have come from these early ideas, as well as a change in Nintendo’s own approach to hardware.While Iwata was discussing this in the context of Nintendo’s next consoles, there is still a lot of potential for how this could affect both Wii U and 3DS. In fact, a lot of this is simply building on what the company has already begun to implement in recent years.

There are, of course, many reasons why this is a positive step, and the below are just a few of the possible ways in which this could benefit both Nintendo’s future and current consoles. Some are relatively simple, while others are… less so:

Easier Porting of Games

In the Q&A session with investors, Iwata himself noted that one benefit is the simplification of porting from one console to another. It’s an area that has seen problems in the past, with developers often opting to release radically different games on handhelds than on home systems– Sonic Generations, for example, was one such game which just wasn’t as good on 3DS (breaking the trend of truly great handheld Sonic games).

Unified architecture could reduce the tendency for this to happen and while console games shouldn’t simply be emulated on handhelds, this would at the very least help with the issue of simultaneous releases. Furthermore, by making the transition of software from one platform to another simpler, Nintendo is hoping to reduce the post-launch drought that routinely affects new consoles. For anyone who buys a console on release, any attempt to resolve this is welcome news!

Unified Account System

Nintendo has already said that it is “very much aware” of customer feedback calling for unified accounts. Not only should this already be the case, but at the very least, a unified team working together should provide the opportunity to really modernize Nintendo’s account system. Everything from maintaining a profile on Wii U and 3DS, managing your friend lists, and (down the road) combining one’s library of purchased games needs a unified account. Whatever the problems have been in implementing one so far, it is guaranteed that this is being worked on, and this should help tremendously with that.

A fully joint Nintendo account could then lead to more expanded services which really take advantage of the devices that we use today. The availability of Miiverse on other devices is really only the start of this– imagine a similar service to that which Steam offers, whereby you could purchase games off the eShop from another device and return home to find them already downloaded on your Wii U or 3DS.

Combined eShop and Virtual Console

This is related to the idea of a unified account on systems, as consumers would need a single account to fully take advantage of it. While there should be console specific games which take advantage of the unique features of the system, having a plethora of eShop games that you could access on any Nintendo console would be fantastic. Think along the lines of iOS which allows apps to be used on different Apple products.

Furthermore, a unified architecture could allow for more simultaneous releases of Virtual Console games across platforms and should remove any need to pay for games multiple times. If I have Super Mario Bros. 3 on my 3DS, I really shouldn’t still have to pay for it again just to be able to play it on a big screen, unless it has added features, like with Wii to Wii U versions. Who knows, cross-platform Virtual Console games could be a reality one day!

Expanded Cross-Platform Play

We have already seen a good example of cross-platform play with Monster Hunter 3, which allowed four player local co-op with a Wii U and three 3DS consoles. It also allowed you to save data across both versions of the game through a free app.

This sort of gameplay could become far more common though in the future, with multiplayer implemented far more easily. Even when direct multiplayer is not possible, there are numerous possibilities for further interaction between the consoles. I’m curious to see, for example, what the interaction between the Wii U and 3DS versions of Smash Bros. will entail (as we know that cross-platform play is out).

Using the 3DS for additional controllers, multiplayer itself, or simply being able to transfer the saved data of games onto each console on the move (maybe using the Wii U’s NFC reader) are all ideas that could be made easier through this.

A Streaming Service

Sony’s recently announced PlayStation Now provides a further example of what may be possible with a unified architecture. While streaming games is still not practical for many, by having such a system in place, Nintendo would likewise be able to make its wide library of games available on a multitude of systems.

Imagine having the entire Virtual Console service available under one subscription (perhaps with different tiers) and being able to access it from any Nintendo console, tablet, or computer. Sure, certain issues would need to be addressed, such as controller schemes, but by developing it under a single “operating system,” these issues could be sorted in a much more efficient manner. At the very least, Nintendo could offer the service locally between Nintendo consoles– useful for when your bedroom is beyond the range of the GamePad.

As I mentioned at the outset, some of these ideas are unlikely to arrive on Wii U and 3DS, but with a single team working to create unified architecture for the future, I see no reason why Nintendo consoles won’t in a few years, as Iwata described it, “become like brothers in a family of systems.” Hopefully, we might even hear more about this in the coming year.

Are there any more advantages to the bringing together of Nintendo’s consoles that I have missed out, or are some of these just too unlikely to come about any time soon? Share your thoughts below.

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