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Tech & Science

Nintendo's gaming tech is often years behind the competition, and there's a good reason why

Business Insider Australia logo Business Insider Australia 8/07/2019 Ben Gilbert
a screen shot of a video game: The Nintendo Switch, released in 2017, employs off-the-shelf parts that weren't new even in 2017. The Nintendo Switch, released in 2017, employs off-the-shelf parts that weren't new even in 2017.
  • Nintendo's known for classic game characters that power its killer library of video games.
  • The company isn't known for creating bleeding-edge hardware.
  • There's a good reason for that, apparently: "We don't only chase trends in technology," Nintendo hardware lead Ko Shiota said in a recent investor Q&A. "We think about both how the technology will be applied to gameplay and what new experiences and gameplay we can offer consumers as a result of that application."

For years - decades! - Nintendo hasn't been in the business of chasing the best graphics.

The Japanese video game giant continues to put out game consoles and accessories, of course, but the company no longer competes in the horsepower race most directly embodied by Sony's PlayStation competing with Microsoft's Xbox.

There's a simple reason for this: Nintendo doesn't "chase trends in technology," the company's hardware director Ko Shiota said in a recently published Q&A with investors.

a doll is wearing a hat

Shiota went into more detail on how Nintendo chooses which technology to use in its products, and it offers a rare look into Nintendo's process.

"When considering what to offer in our entertainment and services, we think about both how the technology will be applied to gameplay and what new experiences and gameplay we can offer consumers as a result of that application," Shiota said. "It's difficult to use even an outstanding technology if the cost is too high, so we will continue to also thoroughly investigate the cost of new technologies."

It sounds simple: How will the tech be used, and is the cost too high for a consumer product? But, for many consumer tech products, the "next big thing" is often based around more processing horsepower, which produces more dazzling visuals and grandiose worlds. With each new iPhone, you can bet there'll be a new chip from Apple making it go faster than ever before. Such is the case with new game consoles as well.

But in the case of Nintendo, new hardware doesn't necessarily mean bleeding-edge tech that competes with - or even matches - already existing game consoles.

Look no further than the company's latest console, the Switch, for an example: The device uses a years-old chip to power graphics that aren't as impressive as game consoles that came out years before. The Switch is also a massive hit - the latest proof that Nintendo's approach to technology is working.

Pictures: Surprisingly valuable video games you might have at home (Lovemoney)

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