Nintendo could yet again redefine the home console.
A similar sense of mystery and intrigue as we saw with the Wii surrounds the yet-to-be-unveiled Wii U successor, codenamed NX. No console manufacturer is able to rile up as much discussion and fan theory as Nintendo does, partly due to the company’s conscious effort to establish itself as a lone wolf with no direct competitors. This philosophy allows it the flexibility to innovate and the patience to evolve its prototypes, something the likes of Sony and Microsoft aren’t afforded in their side-by-side battle for mainstream domination.
With the NX, Nintendo undoubtedly has some ground to recover. In attempting to maintain and service the audience that propelled the Wii to the top of the all-time best-sellers list, Nintendo created and marketed a Wii U console that lacked differentiation and ultimately failed comparatively next to Nintendo’s more successful platforms. Ultimately, the Wii U’s branding was at odds with the console’s ambitious two-screen offering, a conflicting philosophy that damned the console from beginning. Nintendo has admitted as much.
With its planned March 2017 release window fast approaching, it’s apparent that Nintendo plans a quick turnaround between reveal and release. As it stands, some eight months out from launch, we have no word from Nintendo about what the console will actually look like, how it will play games, how powerful it will be, or how much it will cost.
However, a constant stream of rumours over the past few months point to one thing: a “portable” console that may, in keeping with Nintendo’s tradition of changing how we engage with home consoles, reignite interest from a fleeting fanbase.
A recent report on Eurogamer suggests NX will be unlike any console released before. Here’s what the leak proposes:
- The NX will be a “high-powered” handheld.
- It has two detachable controller “sections”.
- The system can be connected to and played via a television display by way of a “dock”.
- It will use cartridge media, with reports that the recommended size is 32gb.
- It will not be backwards compatible due to the nature of the technology.
- It will run on a new Nintendo-made OS.
- The company is reportedly not chasing graphics parity with the Xbox One and PS4.
- NX will utilise Nvidia’s powerful mobile processor, the Tegra.
- It will be unveiled in September.
Based on this report, I have a few questions and queries about Nintendo’s plans, and I hope to initiate some discussion in the comments below, so please do sound off with your thoughts.
- Can the NX, as acting as the company’s only platform, maintain the market power of Nintendo? Nintendo has always had both a handheld and console on the market, and while the Wii U hasn’t sold particularly well, it adds some beef to Nintendo’s market share. The mobile and console markets are completely different. We saw a few days ago that Microsoft was initially planning an Xbox handheld, a plan they obviously never went ahead with. In hindsight it was a good decision, as the dedicated gaming handheld has been replaced by the smartphone. That said, the 3DS has done remarkably well in that smartphone era, and Sony’s PlayStation Vita struggled arguably due to the handheld’s attempt to bridge the gap between smartphone and gaming handheld with a smartphone-inspired OS. I wonder if Nintendo is prepared to concede market share for the sake of simplifying its platforming strategy around a single platform that doubles as a handheld and home console.
- How much will it cost? Nintendo’s marketing strategy will surely be simplified after the Wii U fiasco. I’m guessing it would be along the lines of “take your gaming with you” as a means to remind the gamer that it is both a home and portable platform. But if the NX is to double as a home console, it has be powerful enough to look good in the transition between portable and large television. It’ll certainly cost more than a standard handheld, which complicates Nintendo’s marketing strategy. That takes me to my next question.
- Who is it for? If Nintendo markets NX as a handheld, it’s too expensive. If they market it as a console, it’s probably not powerful enough. A middle ground is surely what they’ll need to find, and it seems easier said than done. The Wii U seemed like a home run when it was revealed. It had the “Wii” name, and it utilised second-screen functionality during a time of strong market interest in tablets and second-screen gaming. However, Nintendo muddled the message, and, consequently, the console struggled. It can’t afford that with NX, and the message might be harder to produce.
- Can it compete with Scorpio and PS4K? I personally think it can, but this is a question I want to put to gamers generally. Both the Scorpio and PS4K are being touted as “upgrades”, not new consoles, and I actually think Nintendo can exploit this and run with the whole, “We’re more than just an upgrade: We’re new” angle. Cheesy, I know, and I get that it’s a different market, but you can’t ignore the fact that so many Nintendo diehards have jumped to either Xbox or PlayStation in the lull between Nintendo software and hardware. They may be inclined to invest in one of those upgrades, but Nintendo’s key element of differentiation is that it’s, well, Nintendo. Something tells me that the NX will be more appealing than Scorpio and PS4K during the Christmas 2017. It’s just all about Nintendo’s messaging.
- Will developers and third-party publishers get on board? The Eurogamer report says Nintendo isn’t aiming for parity with other consoles, so how powerful will it be? The Nvidia processor suggests that NX will be a portable device first, a console second, so if developers are approaching it that way, they may be more inclined to jump in. Again, it all depends on Nintendo’s message, and it just goes to show how tough it’ll be for the company to hone in on the console’s true identity.
What are your thoughts on the leaked NX details? Do you like the idea? Hate it? What questions do you have? Sound off in the comments below!