Nintendo NX. Consider for a moment – like Dolphin, Revolution, and Project Café – this is a code name that will soon be just a footnote in Nintendo history.
For months, many have speculated that the Nintendo NX reveal would take place in September – six months ahead of the announced March 2017 release window. And yet, it is now October. Whenever the reveal event occurs, NX will have the quickest turnaround time from announcement to product launch in video game console history.
As we approach the reveal of Nintendo’s next game platform, the video game news cycle makes it seem as if we already know quite a bit about what NX actually is. Before we reflect on these reported rumors together and make hypotheses regarding what the reveal needs to accomplish, it’s best to get on the same page, regarding the fundamental details of what Nintendo NX supposedly will be.
REPORTS SUGGEST THAT NINTENDO NX WILL…
- Be designed as a handheld with the capability to dock to a TV, in order to act as a console
- Play games digitally or off of cartridges, instead of discs
- Have two small, detachable controllers which are normally connected to the handheld, with motion control similar to Wii Motion Plus remotes, as well as “advanced force feedback”
- Feature an approximately six-inch, multi-touch screen at 720p resolution
- Run on a custom Nvidia graphics processor
- Include 32 GB of internal storage, but will also support SD cards for further expansion
There are different aspects of this proposed device that make me feel excited, curious, concerned, and skeptical. That said, assuming that the points above are the system’s selling points, here are topics and features that Nintendo needs to cover when we watch the Nintendo NX reveal.
We need to know for sure what makes NX different. Why should we care? At the same time, can you imagine the prospect of one of the most powerful handheld devices ever created, which you can attach to your TV at any time to continue play on the big screen? A hybrid device that plays the latest Nintendo games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? How can Nintendo fans not love the idea of playing a Nintendo game library anywhere, at any time? Consider me EXCITED.
For years, Nintendo has always had to balance its console game lineup versus its handheld title offerings. On top of that, the studios that Nintendo works with had to be carefully assigned to these titles. No longer! All of Nintendo’s teams now get to work on NX games, so there’s no debating whether or not that presumed next Metroid title will be coming to console or handheld. It will be on both with NX! Consider me EXCITED.
EXIT FROM THE POWER STRUGGLE
The last time that Nintendo had the most powerful home console in the industry, it was the GameCube era, with PlayStation 2 and Xbox as its competition. The industry landscape has obviously changed since then, with talk of iterative consoles within the same generation, while Microsoft teases a six-teraflop Scorpio on the horizon. This is a losing power struggle that Nintendo has no chance of keeping up with, so it’s refreshing to see them take a different approach. Uniting the portable and the console space seems to be the perfect mindset. Let Nintendo be Nintendo and have them convey this message. Consider me EXCITED.
A game hardware platform is nothing without actual games. If you have followed Nintendo news over the last couple of years, you are well aware of the overall drought of Wii U and 3DS games. Clearly, this is because of the buildup that is necessary for a sustained NX game library, through launch and beyond. In addition to The Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara confirming that Pokémon games will be on the NX, a new 3D Mario title is surely in the works. Plus, what is Retro working on? To look at nearly each and every Nintendo studio and think “what if?” is a fan’s dream come true. Hopefully the NX can have one of the best launch lineups in recent memory. Consider me EXCITED.
Come to think of it, NX wouldn’t be a bad name for the console. Unfortunately, that won’t be what sticks. Most importantly, Nintendo will move beyond the Wii branding, which is most important for the kind of reboot that the company will be going through. It’s tough to think about what kind of original name will be universally accepted by fans, but it’s not imperative for it to be immediately liked. Earlier this year, I predicted the Nintendo Cross, but I wonder if that has been crossed off the list for religious reasons. This will be one of the most interesting aspects to watch, simply because we know the least about it. Consider me CURIOUS.
There’s a lot that Nintendo has to get right here. The aesthetic look for marketability. Ease of portability. Thumbstick placement. Bumpers – perhaps with a scroll wheel – and triggers for enhanced game flexibility. Simplicity and stability with the detachable controllers. There’s a lot to get right and there’s a lot to get wrong, especially after the questionable ergonomic design of the Wii U gamepad. If Nintendo can take some design cues from PlayStation Vita, however, they would be on the right track. This is big to get right, though, and Nintendo wouldn’t release the product without testing it thoroughly. Consider me CURIOUS.
OPERATING SYSTEM AND INFRASTRUCTURE
This is what the DeNA partnership is all about. We’ve heard talk from Nintendo before about how they want to be more like Apple and releasing Super Mario Run on iOS shows how they have taken notice of the mobile market. Does this mean that NX will be able to also run Nintendo’s mobile games? As the company moves beyond the Wii U and 3DS, they need to figure out a simple online infrastructure within a conjoined operating system. Purchase history tied to a Nintendo account is a start. Will an achievement system be in place? How well will the My Nintendo website and its coins interact? Will 3DS games somehow be compatible? There’s a lot to sort out in order to get back to the industry standard here. Consider me CURIOUS.
This was inevitable if the system was going to be portable. As we learned from the PSP, small discs don’t work, mostly because they load terribly. If Nintendo can configure the right kind of cartridge size with the games that need to be stored on it, this can work very well for those that still want to use physical media. However, what will that design be and how will it integrate into the unit? Consider me CURIOUS.
Everyone who follows the video game industry knows that this is crucial. Yet, Nintendo doesn’t need to win over partnerships from big, Western studios with mature games – Rockstar, Bethesda, EA, etc. Japanese publishers such as Square-Enix, Capcom, and Sega are expected to be on board, and with how important the mobile space is in Japan, that may be enough. All we know is that we can’t take Ubisoft’s words of encouragement at face value here, considering it’s also we saw with Wii U. Consider me CONCERNED.
As far as the handheld goes, I’d like to think that I don’t have very high expectations. If I can play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the go in 720p at minimum 30 frames per second, I will be thrilled. Yet, this should be the expected minimum for a mass-market consumer device that is launching in 2017. The issue lies with Nintendo’s past power precedents and how the company balances the graphical power with a variety of other factors – battery life, price point, etc. If the portable device is the focus of play, though, there needs to be some inherent power behind it. Plus, if the Nvidia partnership is true, what kind of custom chip is in the handheld? Time will tell. Consider me CONCERNED.
EXTRA CONSOLE POWER
If a handheld console is expected to be at 720p resolution in 2017, a console is expected to run at 1080p. No questions there. Nintendo doesn’t need to worry about 4K, HDR, or other advanced, PC-level graphic benchmarks, simply because like HD in 2006 with the Wii, these aren’t the widely-adopted consumer standard yet. However, to reach 1080p, an additional computing power boost is necessary when the handheld docks into the home console accessory. While this technology has been suggested through Nintendo patents, we need to see it confirmed, because a 720p console just won’t be sufficient in today’s market. Since we won’t have a 1080p handheld, the uncertainty and dependency of this power boost is unsettling. Consider me CONCERNED.
It’s a relief to see that SD card support is heavily rumored for the portable NX device. And why wouldn’t it be? It has been supported with the 3DS, so it only makes sense for it to carry over. However, how high will the storage limit be? Sure, this depends on the size of the games on the NX, but when many Xbox One and PlayStation 4 games require 40+ GB installs, a 64 GB SD card limit just won’t cut it. In order to future-proof the device, there should be no limit set, in order to adapt to what technology and the customer can provide. It likely won’t be mentioned in the reveal itself, but hopefully reporters can dig deeper shortly thereafter. At least Nintendo doesn’t typically use proprietary storage media. Consider me CONCERNED.
It’s the ultimate tradeoff. We want a powerful device, but we also want the battery to last a very long time. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Looking at the 3DS’ 5-8 hour range is a good starting point. Now, the NX screen won’t be rendering two images for a 3D effect, but the enhanced graphical power may easily make up for it. Since the eight hours was accomplished through DS game playback, it would be wise to expect the NX’s battery to be closer to five hours. The key questions will be whether or not the battery life will be mentioned, if it will be less than five hours, and how people will spin it to be a bad thing, despite the system’s portable power. Consider me SKEPTICAL.
GIMMICK IN GAME DESIGN
The very last thing that the NX needs is a gimmick that developers feel that they have to design their games around. The Wii’s motion control only worked for so long because of the system’s big of a commercial success. As we know now, the Wii U was never able to figure out the second-screen experience on a consistent basis, and it’s why consumers and developers never really caught on with the concept. If NX has detachable controllers built into the halves of the handheld, then that’s fine, but developers should not feel obliged to design games solely for that feature. A focus on the flexibility of the location of play is essential for NX’s success. Gimmick-based game design will likely doom this machine and it has to be an optional means of play at most. Consider me SKEPTICAL.
It’s the ultimate sign for a device’s success in the market. Sure, Nintendo would love to sell NX at $249.99 once again, to recapture the Wii’s success, but with everything that we think the NX will be, is that even possible? A 720p handheld, plus a TV dock with supplemental power, a game, and other needed accessories, all for $250? If that’s the case, we have to really question the power of the device itself. Granted, the price point will likely not mentioned during the reveal, instead leaving it for a couple months before launch. However, it will be the ultimate indication of how well the device will do. And while I would still buy it at $399, not many will. Consider me SKEPTICAL.
What else would you like to see in the Nintendo NX reveal? Let me know and post your system name prediction in the comments below!
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