Last year, it was announced that select Nintendo Wii games will be available in China for the first time in HD. The only difference is that rather than a Nintendo console, they would be released through a Chinese version of the Nvidia Shield, which shares some tech with the Nintendo Switch. After a little examination from a group of Zelda glitch hunters, it was discovered that the Shield is actually running a GameCube emulator, an emulator that could theoretically run on the Switch, paving the way for a possible GameCube Virtual Console.
The findings were posted on ResetEra by forum member "dragonbane" who revealed that the glitch hunting community on the site managed to import a $250 Nvidia Shield from China with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess installed. Another member of the group, "Pheenoh," actually streamed the game on Twitch.
The group found some interesting details while watching the stream. For example, the build was incredibly stable, not crashing and maintaining a locked 30 fps throughout the game. The loading times were also incredibly fast, similar to a fast load enabled Dolphin Emulator.
Dragonbane also noted that two consistent game crashes common in the original GameCube version of Twilight Princess were non-existent on the Shield version. Two glitches that interestingly enough also didn't affect the Dolphin Emulator version of the game either until very recently.
Thanks to these clues, the hunter group decided to dump the APK from the Shield. Instead of finding a native executable for the game that matched the GameCube counterpart, dragonbane instead found a GameCube emulator. One they say "runs one of the most demanding games on the [GameCube] very smoothly on the same hardware as the Switch."
They also suggest that there's no way Nintendo made an emulator just to sell two Nintendo games in China.
Obviously this offers up an interesting possibility. Since the Shield shares technology with the Switch, it's possible this GameCube emulator could work for Nintendo's latest console, paving the way for a possible GameCube Virtual Console.
However, this is by no means an official confirmation and we don't know who developed the emulator itself. When the Shield was announced for China, Nintendo issued a statement to Bloomberg that seemed to imply that Nvidia was responsible for the high-resolution ports.
As the Switch enters its second year, we expect more details regarding Nintendo's planned online and digital offerings for the console. A Virtual Console has been a mainstay in Nintendo's digital library for the past several consoles, so we'll have to wait and see if there are any news in that department, especially in regards to GameCube games coming to the Switch.