The Nintendo NX is going to be a very strange system, if you believe any number of the dozen or so patents Nintendo has filed in the last few months. We now know the release date of the console, and even a few of its new features, but there’s still an air of mystery about Nintendo’s next piece of hardware.
We’re not totally in the dark, however. A report published by Eurogamer has given us our most detailed look yet at Nintendo’s new system. Mostly the report confirms much of what we knew previously. The console looks set to run its game off cartridges (a feature not seen in a Nintendo console since the Nintendo 64), and appears to be something of a console-handheld hybrid.
Users will be able to carry the console with them while they’re out and about, but will be able to dock it when at home in order to play games on a big screen.
Also interestingly, the report claims that the console will come with detachable controllers which will clip onto either side of the device’s screen and use a modular system to swap out control components.
It was reassuring to read the report, after the console’s completely absence from E3 2016, where Nintendo didn’t share a peep about its new console.
Nintendo’s response? ‘We have to do better’
Nintendo hasn’t revealed much about the Nintendo NX, but a recent interview with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime might give us all the information we need to know.
“One of the things that we have to do better when we launch the NX – we have to do a better job communicating the positioning for the product. We have to do a better job helping people to understand its uniqueness and what that means for the game playing experience. And we have to do a better job from a software planning standpoint to have that continuous beat of great new games that are motivating more and more people to pick up the hardware and more and more people to pick up the software,” Fils-Aime told Eurogamer.
The company has hinted at a dramatically different system in the NX, and that will mean it will take extra effort on Nintendo’s part to sell it to the already-leery gaming public.
Another interesting fact that came out of the last few months is that Nintendo might have its eye set on making the NX the company’s first VR console. In a shareholders meeting the company admitted it was “researching” VR technology, according to someone who was present.
Twitter’s NStyles attended the meeting in Kyoto and claims Nintendo’s Shigeru Minamoto said Nintendo was researching VR but has concerns about users playing for long periods of time.
He also added that Nintendo wants to release a device that carries value, is affordable, and wants parents to “feel at ease”. Typical Nintendo to care about our eye health while the rest of the market charges forward haphazardly.
Further, the Nintendo NX may support some form of heart rate-monitoring hardware. According to Commercial Times, a Chinese integrated circuit design company called Pixart has been ramping up production of itsCMOS-based hear-rate monitoring sensor that will go into several next-gen VR headsets and – more interestingly – Nintendo’s next home console.
What we know so far:
The Nintendo NX will be unlike any console the company has on the market, according to new Nintendo President Tatsumi Kmishima. In one of his first major public interviews since transitioning to President of Nintendo, Kimishima opened up about the Nintendo NX to Time’s Matt Peckham.
“As far as NX goes, I’ve said it’s different and obviously a new experience,” Kimishima said. “That being said, I can assure you we’re not building the next version of Wii or Wii U. It’s something unique and different. It’s something where we have to move away from those platforms in order to make it something that will appeal to our consumer base.”
There’s good reason for the expediency: while Sony (and to a lesser extent, Microsoft) can potentially match their earlier successes with their latest batch of consoles, the Wii U will almost definitely go down in history as Nintendo’s worst-selling console.
Just how dire is Nintendo’s need to jump ship on the Wii U? It’s currently sitting at around 10 million units sold, and even a new Legend of Zelda game won’t likely double system sales to the point where it can match the GameCube’s near 22-million sales mark, let alone the Wii’s 100 million unit high-bar.
The path to the NeXt Nintendo system
Nintendo’s greatest successes were due to the company taking its biggest risks. Its top-selling portable was the Nintendo DS, a portable console with a second, touch-enabled screen that many scoffed at before it revolutionized handheld gaming.
Likewise, the original Wii far outpaced every previous TV-tethered system, and it did so by treading its own path, eschewing the standard controls with a revolutionary motion-controlled setup that some competitors are still attempting to mimic.
If Nintendo wants to see the NX succeed it’ll need to etch these lessons into memory. Should it follow in the footsteps of the 3DS or Wii U, however, all hope may be lost.
The Nintendo 3DS originally stumbled, and Wii U has outright failed is truly differentiating themselves from their direct predecessors. Both assumed that the previous generation’s record-breaking install base wanted more of the same, so they both came with extensive backwards compatibility and names that recalled the previous generation.
The 3DS only broke out of its funk after drastically dropping its price while also debuting a new Zelda and 3D Mario game. The same might be in-store for the Wii U, though the reveal of the NX means its clock is ticking.
How will the NX be different?
For the NX, a new control method is in the works after the Wii U’s controller/touch-screen hybrid failed to inspire widespread developer support.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata even said as much when first announcing the console, saying it will incorporate a “brand-new concept.” When you take into account the other major change Nintendo revealed during that same event (a commitment to develop smartphone games), Nintendo’s 25-year-old dual-pronged strategy of leaning on both a portable and home console could come to a close this decade. Even though the 3DS is currently Nintendo’s saving grace, developing a games-only portable device is becoming more and more of a risk in this day and age.
Ever since the release of the GameCube Nintendo has consistently had the least-powerful system on the market. Given how much stock Sony and Microsoft put into creating cutting-edge tech, that’s not likely to change. They’ve done touchscreens, they’ve done motion-controls … heck, Nintendo was doing VR two decades ago, so what’s the next possible realm to tackle?
With the NX, currently rumors are suggesting that Nintendo will create a console-portable hybrid. The Wii U dipped its toe in letting users take their games on the go by letting them play on a Gamepad as long as they were in proximity to a Wii U console. But if Nintendo creates an Xbox One/PS4-level system that you can take on the go, then you’re playing with power.
How powerful will the NX be?
Without an official announcement from Nintendo, it’s hard to say exactly how powerful the Nintendo NX will be, but we can make some assumptions based around the reports that are available.
According to the Eurogamer report, the NX is set to contain a version of Nvidia’s Tegra chip which was last seen in the company’s Nvidia Shield. Unfortunately the nature of this chip means that it’s not possible to draw direct comparisons between it and the competition from Sony and Microsoft.
The Tegra X1 (which reports suggest is currently running inside NX dev kits) might be the most powerful mobile chip currently on the market, but at the end of the day it’s a mobile rather than a desktop chip, and this means that it’s unlikely that the console will match the power of the PS4 or Xbox One.
However, we should stress that we currently don’t have any more specific information on the exact specifics of the Tegra chip that will make it into the final console, and as such all of this information is subject to change.