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Nintendo Switch 2 Could Have Backwards Compatibility Issues

Rumors of a successor to the Nintendo Switch have circulated practically since the console launched, but until recently these rumors weren't substantiated by much. Of course, the Nintendo Switch OLED edition came out a few years ago, but without much more than a new display, it wasn't exactly the new Switch model fans were waiting for. After Nintendo silenced a leaker who claimed to work in production for posting about unreleased Switch models, many think the Switch 2 is on the way.

The next version of Nintendo's hybrid console, if that is indeed what the gaming behemoth has in store, would likely bring some upgrades for the console. Modern Nintendo consoles have never been particularly known for cutting edge graphics, but a Switch 2 — or a Switch Pro — would have to raise the bar a bit. Even with performance upgrades, some game developers and industry vets have concerns over the successor console's backward compatibility.

YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer is a former developer for Nightdive Studio, and now lead at Limited Run Games, whose videos typically focus on ports, emulation, and retro gaming. In his opinion, there's potential for the Switch 2 to have problems running original Switch games, despite only being one generation behind. 

Modern Vintage Gamer points out that his concerns aren't focused on Nintendo Switch Online classics, just the Switch 2's ability to play current Switch games. It was revealed in 2021 that the company plans to keep building on Nintendo Switch Online features well into the future, so this makes sense, but will the Switch 2 be backwards compatible with the current Switch?

Original Switch games may not be backward compatible with the Switch 2

Modern Vintage Gamer goes on to talk a more technically about why Nintendo won't release a Switch 2 that can run original Switch games. In essence, it's because of the hardware differences. The current chip used for Nintendo Switch consoles — the Tegra X1, developed by Nvidia — is all but certain to be replaced. There are lots of rumors as to which chip could replace it, but it's the way that games were made to work with this chip that could make future emulation difficult.

"If Nintendo is to move away from the Tegra X1... then current switch games won't work on new hardware," Modern Vintage Gamer said. "That is, without recompiling games to target that hardware." Modern Vintage Gamer offered three possible solutions to this conflict: good old software emulation, installing compatibility into the system, and installing the Tegra X1 as well as the new chip in the Switch 2.

Regular emulation would still require a big performance leap, but the YouTuber points out the power of the Steam Deck — and its ability to play Switch games — as an example of what's possible. The second option is to provide compatibility within the SoC (system on the chip), but the YouTuber says this isn't possible yet, and if Nvidia and Nintendo figured it out, he says that info ought to have leaked. The third solution is to include the Tegra X1 with the Switch 2 as well as its own next-gen chip. This would, of course, increase the production cost, but it's something that Nintendo has done before with the Wii.