The Sony approach We’ve already seen what the mod community can do for games like Breath of the Wild through emulation, but the possibilities would balloon with a line of native PC ports. Picture Skyrim’s modding community set loose on BotW. Character model replacements and cheats, yes, but even more important are the quality of life tweaks we might start to see, like an FOV slider and convenience mods (what if you could climb when it’s raining?) Add the possibility of major graphical overhauls and new quests, and we’ve got a very appealing reason to return to Hyrule.
Even in my imagination, I can’t see a Fairy Godmother granting us these great games but a monkey’s paw, and alongside them would come Nintendo-like solutions to problems that have no reason to exist. Let’s imagine a lot of good with a little bad. What if Nintendo followed in those footsteps? Obviously, there would be a ton of positives, from improved performance to mod support, but Nintendo’s known for never quite giving the fans exactly what they want.
The thing is, this option isn’t even all that unlikely. Sony is putting its older games on PC in an effort to expose new players to its library of intellectual properties in hopes that those same players will pick up the latest PlayStation hardware to get the new games as soon as they launch. Nintendo is already doing exactly this on smartphones, by making original takes on Mario, Animal Crossing, and Fire Emblem for mobile gamers. Those aren’t ports, admittedly, but they serve the same purpose – introducing a new audience to Nintendo’s library of games and characters. But this is where we have to acknowledge the fact that, even in this fantasy scenario, Nintendo is still Nintendo. Would the company that’s too scared of the internet to put voice chat in Splatoon 2 truly allow mods to run free and unfettered? Or would the lawyers send out the DMCAs the instant a nude Bowsette appeared in a modded version of Smash Bros? Skyrim has a robust mod scene because Bethesda has mostly supported modders and provided tools to help their work. While mod work could continue without that sort of support – ROM hacks are a terrific example of that – the biggest mod scenes have needed the blessing of their respective game makers to reach their true heights.
Picture Skyrim’s modding community set loose on Breath of the Wild Let’s first picture the future if Nintendo follows in the footsteps of Sony. Here, Nintendo ports some of its most popular recent games to PC – a few years after they hit console, of course, so as not to cannibalise the sales and prestige of Nintendo’s own machines. We’ve had Horizon: Zero Down, Death Stranding, and Days Gone, so we get The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Luigi’s Mansion 3 on Steam. A random, sporadic selection, surely, but great games nonetheless, and ones which we can now enjoy at much higher frame rates and resolutions.
Under the Microsoft approach, Nintendo publishes its games simultaneously on its own consoles and on PC. This lets you choose whether you want to get your games on a TV-driven device or through Steam, which is nice enough. But that’s the small picture. If we imagine ‘Nintendo’ the way Microsoft now pitches ‘Xbox’ – as a service, not just a console – the possibilities get very exciting. The Microsoft approach
But the real game changer is the possibility of a Nintendo version of Game Pass for PC. Every first-party Nintendo game available on release day for $14.99 USD per month – or $9.99, if you just want the PC versions. You’d have access to a library of classics ranging from Super Mario Bros to Drill Dozer, all in one place, across a variety of machines. Microsoft has also been building its backward compatibility options through robust emulation efforts in order to provide an even bigger library of games on its platform. Of course, Nintendo used to do this too, with various iterations of the Virtual Console service. Nintendo has the most robust library of beloved classics of any major publisher, bar none, and there’s a reason fans have been pining for the days when Virtual Console was a formalised effort from the company. The Microsoft approach is especially exciting here. First, we’re getting cross-save and cross-buy on all first-party Nintendo games. Great. We can start playing a game on a TV with a Switch, pick up the Switch for a bit of gaming on our commute, then download the save to PC to finish the session in the evening on far more powerful hardware. This would extend Switch’s core appeal – flexibility – to whole new playstyles, and hey, Nintendo is already designing games around varied power requirements and different control methods. PC just adds an additional step.
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