Nintendo's development teams are currently exceptionally busy, producing content to cover release schedules for both Wii U and 3DS, two systems with fairly substantial disparities in raw processing power. The idea of simply streaming Wii U games to 3DS, for example, has never been seriously mooted, though it's a principle currently being promoted by Sony with its PS4 and Vita combination. In general, and some would argue it's a major strength, Nintendo's home console and portable game libraries are relatively unique and distinct from each other.
There are overlaps, of course, whether in similar titles or in rare cases of actual cross-overs — Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate allowed cross-platform real-time play and save transfers, while we have the upcoming (though slightly more distinctive) releases of Super Smash Bros..
Nintendo is clearly planning for a future where its systems are more closely linked, though has stayed away from openly stating it'll shift to completely unified hardware. Satoru Iwata has stated that various aspects will be unified in future, utilising the Nintendo Network and possibly shared operating systems and structures in future hardware; Nintendo also has a new development building that's brought portable and home console development teams under the same roof.
Most vitally, these moves could eventually help Nintendo ease its development burden and produce games more efficiently, while also giving consumers multiple devices and opportunities to play the same games. It's an area that Shigeru Miyamoto has now considered in an interview with Kotaku.
So, certainly if you look at the show floor, currently the games are designed for the systems they're running on. There are games that in a way take advantage of being on a higher-spec machine that plays on a TV and there are games that are designed to play better on a portable machine. But certainly we've gotten to an age where the technology has advanced and it's become more and more possible to have a similar experience running on a lower-spec system. And even within the Wii U itself we have the Virtual Console, which sort of is an exhibit of how you can have one type of play that is at a higher-spec level and another type of play at a lower-spec level as well. So certainly I think there is possibility in that area in the future.
So, this is a bit of a tangent, but five years ago I think the industry was at a point where many game developers felt that, if they weren't creating games for the highest-spec machine, then they weren't going to get work, that the business would go away.
But over the last five years we've seen that the range of devices that they develop for has expanded, so they're able to decide if they want to create something that is very high spec type of game or something that is for a lower-spec device. So I just think it's good to see the freedom of choice that developers now have.
What I can say is, certainly, within Nintendo the fact that our development environment for our home console is different from the development environment for our portable system is certainly an area of stress or challenge for the development teams. So as we move forward, we're going to look at what we can do to unify the two development environments.
So, particularly with digital downloads now and the idea that you're downloading the right to play a game, that opens up the ability to have multiple platform digital downloads where you can download on one and download on another. Certainly from a development standpoint there is some challenge to it, because if you have two devices that have different specs and you're being told to design in a way that the game runs on both devices, then that can be challenging for the developer—but if you have a more unified development environment and you're able to make one game that runs on both systems instead of having to make a game for each system, that's an area of opportunity for us.
The topic of cross-buy with the Virtual Console was also raised, a tough issue for Nintendo as some are increasingly frustrated at the same games — in some cases — appearing on both 3DS and Wii U, yet requiring separate purchases. When asked if Nintendo will do things differently in future dual releases on the platform, Miyamoto-san simply said "I'll think about it".
There's plenty of talk over whether Nintendo will unify its portable and home console platforms into one product in its next generation, or keep them separate but with greater potential for cross-play, cross-buy and general networking. The company is clearly considering its options, but what would you like it to do?