Nintendo has been famously reluctant to allow its classic games to run on anyone else’s platform, but it’s making an exception in China. Nvidia is teaming up with Nintendo to launch the Shield Android TV box in China with an assortment of games from the Wii and Gamecube. Don’t hold your breath for these games to launch in other markets, though.
Nvidia has put together multiple partnerships to bring games like Borderlands and Doom 3 to the Shield, but the Chinese launch is all about Nintendo. The Shield is the only Android TV device with any kind of market share right now. It retails for around $ 200 in the US, and ships with a remote control and a game controller. Inside is a powerful Nvidia Tegra X1 chip that can decode 4K HDR video and run console-quality games. This is the same chip powering the Switch, so this partnership was probably a no-brainer.
Chinese e-commerce site JD is selling the Shield for RMB 1,499, which works out to around $ 226. This version of the box can play Nintendo games like New Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and Punch Out. All these games are running in HD and cost a mere $ 10 each (RMB 68).
The Shield outside of China runs on a standard build of Android TV with the Play Store, Google apps, Assistant, and so on. None of that works in China, so Nvidia says the Chinese version of the device will run “completely localized” software. It’s still based on Android, as far as we can tell, but video content comes from iQiyi and Baidu handles search.
Limiting these games to China will irk everyone outside of China, but it makes sense for Nintendo’s business. Its consoles are not officially sold in China, and the country is a huge gaming market. There are some 600 million people playing games in China, and selling a few classic games to even a fraction of them would be good business for Nintendo.
It will be interesting to see how well secured the ported games are. A Nintendo game running in HD on Android is the holy grail for many gamers, but these aren’t actually running on the console. Nintendo’s games are part of the GeForce Now game streaming service. That will make them effectively impossible to pirate, and gamers will need a good internet connection to play. You can get GeForce Now in the US and other markets, but don’t expect Nintendo’s games to show up. Nintendo would prefer you bought a Switch.
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