A new year, a new Nintendo? It’s certainly looking that way when considering that Nintendo’s new console endeavor, codenamed NX, is not only rumored to be showcased at E3 in June, but could well be released before the year is out. Speculation surrounding the new console has been rife ever since the late Satoru Iwata announced its development at last year’s E3. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to gather together what we (think) we know already about the NX and its many possibilities.
Given the numerous reports last year that Nintendo was moving into the mobile gaming market with the help of popular Japanese mobile gaming company DeNa, it was thought that Nintendo’s new venture may not be a console at all. This idea was soon quashed, however, when Nintendo revealed that the NX was indeed a “dedicated gaming system” that will fall naturally alongside existing Nintendo systems, as well as the company’s new smart device software and membership service. Further to this, current Nintendo President, Tatsumi Kimishima, confirmed in an interview last month that the new console will be “something unique and different,” whilst also stressing that the system will not be a new version of Wii or Wii U.
Whilst confirmation that NX is Nintendo’s new system, what’s still unknown is whether this will be handheld or a home console. It’s worth noting that 3DS has been on the market now for almost five years, and some would say that the time is right for a successor. However, Wii U’s disappointing sales figures, coupled with Kimishima’s comments, could mean that Nintendo wants to make right on its last home console’s failings.
A safe bet would be on a combination of the two, and although this may not be hard evidence, it’s worth noting that Nintendo merged its handheld and console teams back in 2013. This move could indicate the development of a new, powerful home console which is also fully mobile, with the added ability to access Nintendo’s soon-to-be released smartphone software. This does then raise the question: dose this fit the brief to produce something unique and different?
Well, it all sounds great, but maybe it’s a little too familiar, conjuring up images of a more powerful and mobile Wii U, and in turn contradicting Kimishima’s earlier comments. However, if recent patents filed by Nintendo for a mysterious new controller are anything to go by, this may not be completely out of the question. The below image surfaced late last year and show what looks to be a newer version of the Wii U GamePad, complete with scrollable shoulder buttons. Could this be a new peripheral for the NX? Could this actually be the NX? Or maybe this is nothing to do with the NX at all. Maybe this is actually some sort of Wii U Lite, produced to coincide with the NX launch in order to maintain interest in Nintendo’s existing console whilst also releasing a new one. Check it out for yourself below and see what you think.
Speaking of hardware, based on past form, Nintendo’s previous consoles were not on par with their Microsoft and Sony counterparts in terms of power, but this didn’t really matter. Wii and 3DS were considerably less powerful than Xbox 360, PS3, and PS Vita, but both have stood up well, particularly Wii, having annihilated its competition in terms of sales due to its unique motion controls and accessibility. Wii U, however, has suffered against current generation consoles as a result of this trend, and no amount of unique features look to be able to save it. A real shame, given that Wii U seems to be having somewhat of a renaissance of late due to exclusive software such as Super Mario Maker and Xenoblade Chronicles X (not to mention the upcoming Zelda title). So what does this mean for NX? A different approach maybe?
It’s clear that the NX, whatever its guise, will be a powerful beast, and it’s a case that it needs to be. Wii U is a great console with some amazing titles, but its inability to run current generation game engines such as Unreal 4 has meant that third party developers quickly ditched the platform. NX needs to keep these developers on board, and if you believe the whispers coming from the inside, you’ll have heard that NX development kits are apparently already out there, and with some promising feedback. Talk of “industry leading chips” and “more powerful than PS4 and Xbox One” has already been quoted through various online channels, but like anything rumor based, it’s best to reserve judgment until all the facts are in place.
Nintendo has and (hopefully) always will make products that are not only of the highest quality but also that innovate and move the industry forward. Whilst I don’t believe that Nintendo will simply produce a powerful box of tricks, offering nothing new or exciting to what current generation consoles cater for already, I also believe the company has learned from mistakes made with Wii U, and will do everything possible to not only please the people playing the games, but also the people making them.
Nintendo appears to have already been knocking on plenty of third party developers’ doors, too, with Square Enix possibly being one of the first to produce a title for the NX. Dragon Quest XI is currently being considered for the system, and the fact that the game runs on Unreal 4 on other formats only helps to fuel the fire surrounding NX’s potential. Developer Slightly Mad has also expressed interest and suggested that the cancelled Wii U version of Project Cars may well lead to the title being released on NX. All very encouraging for a system that has yet to be revealed.
Of course, we can also expect a host of first party games to boot. Popular franchises such a Smash Bros., Zelda, and Mario are guaranteed to make an appearance somewhere along the line, ideally at least one of them at launch going on past traditions. Two other interesting speculations, both of which are perfectly feasible, are the potential that NX will be region-free and backward compatible with Wii U titles. Not only would this put an end to Nintendo’s age-old habit of region locking its hardware, but will also offer a wide range of existing software titles to consumers from the outset, and, in theory, aid in the transition from Wii U to NX without harming Wii U software sales.
Finally, we come to its release date, and I feel that Nintendo is in a precarious position with this one. A Christmas 2016 release has been teased; however, this has not been confirmed by Nintendo. Whilst the company won’t want to delay the console unnecessarily (I think we have all had enough of delays just lately), Nintendo must make absolutely sure that it gets this one right and not rush the NX to sale with little in the way of marketing or available software at launch. Inevitably, a Nintendo Direct will be due soon, and it’s possible that Nintendo may decide to showcase the NX in some way during the broadcast, giving the company a head start before all the hullaballoo of E3. If this be the case, I believe that it will stand Nintendo in good stead for a Christmas release, giving ample leeway to market the hell out of this intriguing new console and put the company well and truly back in the game.
So there you have it. The NX, based on pure speculation, is a powerful, region-free, backward compatible mobile/home console hybrid with access to Nintendo’s new smart device software and host of first and third party games, all in time for Christmas 2016. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and earn a little extra cash, I have a console to save for!