Nintendo and Android fans got a funny bit of convergence last week when Android ROM developers released a build of the mobile operating system running on the Switch console. It's weird, hard and a lot of nerdy fun.
This kind of modding never hits the mainstream of video game consoles ̵
Why are more techy Switch owners excited about Android? It's certainly not to make Switch a conventional iPad-style tablet. The six-inch plastic screen, 4GB of RAM and a respectable (but dated) NVIDIA Tegra chipset mean that it can't even compare to a tablet that costs much less than Switch's retail price of $ 300. Android on the Switch is about the games – games that players do not have access to on the official Switch software.
The surprisingly flexible design of the switch as a portable gaming machine is what attracts so much aftermarket interest. The excellent Joy-Con controls and their compact design – less cumbersome than an iPad and a separate Bluetooth controller – make it so easy to toss in a bag and walk. But some players are not happy with just Switch's selection of official games, as excellent as they are. They want more.
You may think that players will have access to the Google Play Store and its thousands of mobile games. Not so much. Mobile games rarely appeal to console players, outside of ports like Fortnite (and like Fortnite many of these games are already available on Nintendo eShop). And the Switch design is not suitable for tools like browsers or email clients, as mentioned above. On top of all that, Android ROM doesn't even come with Play Store built-in. It requires another modified flash at the top of the base software, for practical and legal reasons. To be blunt there is better and less cumbersome way to play almost any Android game.
All All About Emulation
What players are excited about is emulation. As long as possible on Android phones, but rarely practical thanks to touchscreen controls, classic Android console emulation flourishes and similar open platforms. With an Android ROM on Switch, emulation software from NES up to the original PlayStation and N64 should be able to run at full power. Ditto for Game Boy, Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable. On NVIDIA SHIELD TV (which uses an almost identical, but less battery-powered version of Switch's chipset), players can recover slower GameCube and Wii games on the Dolphin emulator. There are thousands of titles, all available (if in doubt) on a small portable gaming machine with amazing controls. What's not to love?
In fact, Nintendo should probably take a few notes. Although the Switch Android hack will surely attract only a fraction (or less, thanks to security updates) of Switch owners, Nintendo promised almost the same with its Virtual Console service on Wii, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Why did it skip Virtual Console on the Switch in favor of a narrow selection of NES titles tied to the $ 20 per year online service is another article.
But the fact that Android modders have been eyeing the switch since its release shows there are plenty of players still hungry for the old titles.
If the prospects of thousands of classic console games available on Switch are exciting, head over to the XDA-Developer forum and check out your options. If you have a switch that is compatible with the ROM (and is not guaranteed), you can upload Android on a MicroSD card without changing the console's stock software at all. It's a cool process, reminiscent of the early days of Android ROMs and hacking.
If you do not have a compatible switch, do not lose hope! This community is tense and growing. They are likely to find a way to get into newer hardware, although the process may not be as secure.
Want classic laptop games without putting Nintendo $ 300 on the line? Check out our review of Clockwork Pi Gameshell or consider rolling your own laptop.