Everything We Know About Nintendo’s Mysterious Next Console, the NX
For Nintendo fans, things haven’t been great for a while now. The Wii U is selling at a historically terrible rate, and is going to be Nintendo’s worst-selling home machine ever by a long shot. The company’s portable 3DS sold well, but is long past its peak. Put those two things together, and you’re looking at a paucity of software on any Nintendo platform. In that absence, people have been desperate to find out anything substantive about the company’s new game machine, codenamed NX—and the E3 Expo was going to be that chance. That, at least, was the thinking before Nintendo announced it would skip the game industry’s biggest trade show.
But that doesn’t mean we didn’t learn some things about Nintendo’s next piece of gaming hardware, which it says it will discuss later this year and release in March 2017. Through examining various statements made about NX by Nintendo’s developers and executives at E3, we can tease out a little bit more about what NX is—and even better, what it’s not.
It can play Zelda.
Forgive me for starting with the obvious, but Eiji Aonuma, producer of the Legend of Zelda series, told us that the saga’s new open-world entry, Breath of the Wild, will be the same experience whether you’re playing it on Wii U or NX. That shuts down any theory that NX is some wacky contraption like that patent Nintendo filed with joysticks poking up out of an oval-shaped screen. That doesn’t mean it’s only sticks and buttons, but it does mean it’s not an iPad.
It can play Just Dance.
We know this because Ubisoft has now announced the second known NX game, a version of its popular motion-controlled dancing game. But wait! Doesn’t that mean NX will have motion controls? Not necessarily, actually. The current console version of the game actually uses your cell phone as the controller, via a special app. So NX doesn’t necessarily have native motion controls.
Nintendo’s not fighting Xbox and PlayStation on specs.
You’d have to have pretty tuned out over the past decade to realize that Nintendo’s biggest competition isn’t Microsoft and Sony, but Apple and Google. For Nintendo to play catch-up and match the extensive, hardcore-gamer-oriented feature sets and horsepower of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (to say nothing of the upgraded versions announced at E3) would be an incredibly expensive undertaking that is likely to fail.
If simple common sense doesn’t persuade you that this isn’t Nintendo’s tack, here’s its American president, Reggie Fils-Aime: “For us, it’s not about specs, it’s not about teraflops, it’s not about the horsepower of a particular system,” he told Bloomberg. “Whatever Microsoft and Sony are doing in terms of talking about new systems, that’s for them to fight out in that red ocean.”
That “red ocean” terminology should be familiar to anyone who followed the launch of Wii, when Nintendo put forth the book Blue Ocean Strategy as a means of explaining what it was doing: Rather than fight in the tiny section of the ocean growing red with the blood of competition, it was going to court the rest of the world, those who weren’t being aggressively pursued by gaming companies already.
But that was 2006. In the post-iPhone era, is any part of that ocean still blue? Regardless, it’s clear Nintendo wants to sail into the part that’s maybe still a little pinkish, and not the deep crimson waters between Xbox and PS4. (Further comments from Fils-Aime to Bloomberg indicate that NX is definitely not a VR system, either, just in case your predictions were truly off the deep end.)
My prediction for a long time has been that NX will replace both Wii U and the portable 3DS, perhaps by being a portable device that can also display games on your television. Combining its two separate platforms into one would make an incredible amount of sense for an embattled Nintendo, which faces an uphill slog trying to convince consumers that they need another device that plays games.
Not having to split its development resources between two incompatible machines would make it much easier for Nintendo to fill NX with quality software. Nintendo stripping out every last bit of second-screen functionality from Breath of the Wild is another indication that the NX version of the game might be one that you can take outside the home.
The single downside to this plan would be that such a machine would be underpowered compared to Xbox and PlayStation. And now Nintendo’s said that it doesn’t care about that.
NX is replacing Wii U, and fast.
Nintendo has already said that it only plans to sell a paltry 800,000 units of Wii U this year, a huge drop from the 3.2 million units it sold the previous year. Such a massive dip indicates that Nintendo doesn’t even want to sell more Wii Us. What’s the point? It’s so dead in the water that Thoros of Myr looked at it and just kept walking.
Nintendo vice president Scott Moffit told the Financial Post in no uncertain terms that the mercy killing will be swift: “We will be transitioning production to NX, so our message to fans is to grab a Wii U while you can, because they won’t be around forever.”
A new Mario is coming—but not at launch.
Of course, original Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto was on hand at E3. He didn’t let much slip about NX, but did tell IGN that Nintendo was looking to shake up the conventions of the Super Mario series just as it did with Zelda.
“We’re always challenging ourselves to create something new, so hopefully you’ll see a new kind of Mario in about a year or two … Maybe next E3 we’ll be able to share something.” Cool, but with the next E3 taking place in June 2017 and the NX launching in March 2017, that means it’s unlikely we’ll see this new take on Mario when NX debuts.
What we do see on NX later this year is still anyone’s guess, but after E3 we’re a bit closer to understanding it.
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