Matt Bowe
Visual Designer

tvOS + Nintendo Virtual Console


tvOS +
Virtual Console

Self Initiated
Portland, OR


Two of my favorite brands, Nintendo and Apple have been a mainstay in my life since I was young. Recently, Nintendo has re-released select "classic" consoles and launched various Nintendo apps in the mobile market. With those mobile launches, Nintendo also forged a friendly bond with Apple for early releases and exclusive content. I decided to create an app based on this new relationship and the popularity of the classic consoles, rolling everything into one easy to use interface for the Apple TV; on former Nintendo consoles, this was called the Virtual Console.

Problem: Bringing Nintendo's classic titles to consumers in a new and innovative way

Solution: I created an app for the Apple TV to purchase and play classic Nintendo titles.

Because of the nature of the project at hand, there was a lot to do and only one of me so I knew I needed to organize myself if I wanted to be successful. I devised a 3 phase plan which would be my roadmap for completing this project. These three general phases would also be broken down to their elemental steps to create my design cycle, illustrated below.

1. User Research and Concept Planning

2. Wire-frames, Interface Design, and Rough Prototyping

3. High Fidelity Prototyping and User Testing


Phase 1 - User Research and Concept Planning

To start, I did a little bit of research to figure out just how intertwined the two companies really are. I created a study which would ask responders which products they owned from the Apple and Nintendo lines. I sought respondents from either side of the equation using the website Reddit and it's specific subreddits. The results were interesting, with much more crossover than I had initially expected. 

Along with the general results above, I found a few other very interesting insights. My sample was over half 16-25 year olds and more than 80% male. This was to be expected since I gathered most the responses through Reddit which is a particularly male-dominated site. The thing I found exciting specifically for this project was that more than 40% of respondents who owned Apple products owned an Apple TV. This was much more than I expected and reinforced my choice of hardware for creating the Virtual Console App.

On the Nintendo side of things, I found a majority of respondents owned a 3DS, Nintendo Switch, or Wii, which pointed towards an interest in modern Nintendo hardware. I also found that the newest SNES Classic ownership (17.1%) almost doubled from the people who owned a NES Classic (9.6%). This to me points to an increased interest in the classic consoles and titles since their re-launch.

Phase 2 - Wireframes, Interface Design, and Rough Prototyping

After collecting my user research, I jumped into wire-framing. I moved from low-definition sketches to sharpened up digital wireframes and then to high-definition screen mock ups. I worked from Apple's Human Interface Guidelines for tvOS and referred to my own Apple TV as often as possible.


I envisioned using the Apple TV Remote in most games as the stand in controller. This would require some button mapping but with the 4th and 5th generation remote, there would be enough inputs for NES and SNES controllers to be mapped.

However, if the user wanted to play N64 or Gamecube games on the Virtual Console, they would need a third party controller. This is already the case with many games on the Apple TV App store so it is not too much of a stretch to require such hardware to be able to play games.

Controller Config-01.png
tvOSStore Home.jpg
tvOSLibrary Home.jpg
tvOSTop 10.jpg
tvOSLibrary Category.jpg

With a few screens fully furnished, I set to creating a quick and dirty prototype using InVision. This was mainly to get a feel for the flow of the app and begin piecing together some of the logic behind everything. This was helpful for what it was, but it felt very lacking since the main interface of the Apple TV Remote was missing. For this to truly "feel" like the real deal, I would need to really dig into the hardware to come up with a good solution for my testing.

Phase 3 - High Fidelity Prototyping and User Testing

Going into this project, I knew this would be the hardest and most time-consuming portion of the design process. Creating content for the tvOS isn't just thinking about where people will click, I needed to factor in a whole input device and limit interactions based on what users can even do with said remote. On top of that, I wanted to be able to test the whole setup on a TV with an Apple TV. My mind first went to jailbreaking my device to let me load custom software onto it. I'm still considering this option, to run some of the games I want to test out. However, as a design prototype, jailbreaking would be too finicky and not the right option for me.

Then I came across this post on Medium about using Quartz Composer to display content on the tv and use a smartphone as the Apple remote. This has been a somewhat simpler solution and I have been hard at work coming up with a solid prototype to begin user-testing. This process has been slow and arduous, but so far things are looking good.

Updates to come once user-testing is underway!