Streaming games to other devices is now a core strategy for a number of console creators, but Nintendo’s Wii U arrived a little too early to join in the fun.

As the availability of high-speed internet grows, the face of gaming appears to be changing. Console creators and game providers have been able to give gamers a previously unseen level of flexibility regarding how they wish to play their games. Alongside the obvious improvements to the likes of online multiplayer and downloadable games, there is also the matter of streaming to other devices.

Just last week, Sony revealed that PS4 owners will be able to stream the console to their PC, adding to the possibility of gamers playing games such as Fallout 4 on the PS Vita handheld device or via PlayStation TV. The PlayStation creator is not alone, either, with Microsoft also allowing a similar system. Xbox One owners can stream game content to a nearby Windows 10 PC, allowing a level of flexibility in regards to how to access Microsoft’s console content.

Meanwhile, Valve’s Steam distribution service has taken a reverse approach. Although the system is devoted to PC players, Valve has been taking steady steps towards making Steam content available away from a gaming rig. Players are able to stream content from a base unit to a smaller PC device, and even to television via the Steam Link. The introduction of both the Steam Controller and Steam Machines is also allowing a greater level of PC player choice, attempting to bridge the gap between PC and console.

Steam Link and Controller

It remains to be seen how successful any of these strategies are, particularly when there has been criticism of Steam Machines and Valve’s baby steps into the home console world. However, remote play and stream functionality has the possibility to make a big difference to how video games are played. Indeed, it could be a battleground on which devices make their mark on the industry as a whole.

There has been a concentrated shift towards options – and ease – for devices on which games can be played. PS4 owners currently have four options to choose from, whilst Steam’s new flexibility could help make PC gaming more accessible for entire households. Delivering an affordable, easy remote option with a strong library could help create a commercial powerhouse in the next few years – whether Sony, Microsoft, or Valve.

There is, of course, one major company missing from this discussion: Nintendo. Yet strangely enough, the Japanese publisher was perhaps one of the earliest adopters of allowing gamers to transfer their gaming pleasure over to another device with ease. Previous strategies have allowed Game Boy games to be played on home consoles, via add-ons such as the Super Game Boy and Game Boy Player. However, the biggest steps were made in this console generation. In fact, the Wii U has long been a proponent of giving its owners a good level of remote play through its Off-TV Play ability.

The Wii U may have proved to be disappointing in terms of sales, in spite of recent bumps, but Nintendo’s console does have one very useful feature. Off-TV Play allows the controller’s touch screen to act as an alternative screen for compatible games. This actually allows for a smooth and easy transition between TV and console play – perfect for those sharing the big screen with family or friends.

Wii U Off Screen Play

Personally, this functionality is ideal. The Wii U is a great console for socialization, not only because of the extensive level of co-op and split screen games on show, but also because it allows the user to stay in the same room as peers using other devices. Playing Super Smash Bros. for Wii U whilst another gamer uses the television for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate on PS4 has managed to keep everyone happy – at least in my household.

Unfortunately, Nintendo doesn’t allow games to transition to a non-Nintendo device. Whether down to Nintendo’s determination to keep content solely on its own hardware, or whether the lower rate of high-speed internet in 2012 when the console released was a factor (after all, 2014’s figures show that 8 in 10 Americans now have access to high-speed internet), many may wonder whether Nintendo missed a trick.

Of course, who knows where the company’s next console will take them? Details surrounding the Nintendo NX are thin on the ground, but what has been revealed is interesting. In particular, Nintendo’s suggestion that the console will act as both a handheld and home device poses some intriguing questions about remote play – particularly when reports suggest there could be a mobile component.

There does seem to be a shift in the way that Nintendo looks at its intellectual property of late. In spite of its previous strict controls over sharing Nintendo products, the publisher is planning to bring Nintendo games to mobile devices. With the company clearly more open to work with other external hardware, perhaps the NX will bring Nintendo up to speed with its competitors in the streaming circuit.

Source: United States Census Bureau