Nintendo just unveiled a new console called Switch, and it’s powered by a custom Tegra processor from Nvidia. The chip has a checkered history of failure and success — it’s mostly been an impressive machine for graphics demos — but Nintendo choosing it for a major console release gives it a substantial new beachhead into the consumer market. The coup for Nvidia may help it realize one of the original dreams of Tegra, which was to bring desktop-level graphics to handhelds.
When Nintendo showed off the Switch today, it didn’t just demonstrate Nintendo games, it showed off Skyrim — the same game Nvidia demoed on its streaming Shield console way back in 2013. The Shield was a bet to bring console-quality graphics and PC streaming to a handheld device with a pop-up screen built into a gamepad. (Sort of the same idea as Nintendo’s Switch console, but in a different configuration.) The Shield didn’t take off, but now a very similar idea is being proposed by Nintendo.
Nvidia says the custom Tegra processor contains the same architecture as its top GeForce graphics cards, which makes sense given its history. Nvidia already brought its desktop graphics processors to laptops, so the architecture’s flexibility has been proven. The chip designer also says it created “fully custom software” for the Switch’s Tegra processor, including “a revamped physics engine.” And with Nintendo’s support, it might finally have a home in your living room.