Why the Nintendo NX could actually be a stroke of genius
The latest leaks suggest an under-powered weirdo, but dig deeper and there are hints at greatness
If you’re like us, your first reaction on reading the latest Nintendo NX leaks was: No, not again. C’mon now.
Weaker graphics than the current crop of consoles? Cartridges? (Seriously, cartridges?) We’ve seen these moves unfold poorly for Nintendo in the past, and the idea that the company had learned from those missteps has seemingly been thrown out the window. Maybe.
But maybe there’s upside here, after all. In fact, by our count, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic: if the NX really does resemble these leaks, Nintendo’s next concept could be its strongest in decades, offering a unified home and portable platform and undercutting the competition on price and sheer hardware heft. One console to enjoy wherever you are, with all the games that used to be split between multiple Nintendo devices.
Not convinced? Here’s why the supposed Nintendo NX details have us more excited than dismayed.
One system, one focus
Nintendo has been juggling multiple current hardware models for nearly three decades now, ever since the launch of the Game Boy in 1989. Right now, it’s the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS, neither of which have lived up to the immense sales and popularity of the prior tandem of the Wii and Nintendo DS.
Despite some great in-house games, the Wii U has been a bust in terms of sales and third-party support. The Nintendo 3DS, on the other hand, has sold 60 million units over the last five years – but is unlikely to near the 154 million systems sold of the original Nintendo DS line. The rise of smartphones and tablets hasn’t killed the appeal of handheld gaming platforms, but it has made the need for a dedicated, on-the-go gaming device a lot less essential.
Merging Nintendo’s gaming businesses into a single device could be a brilliant move. It’s risky, betting the farm on a single system that can be played on the go or plugged into a home dock for TV play, but it also lets Nintendo focus on a single, incredible experience. Imagine buying one system that lets you play at home and then take that same game on the road.
Done right, it’s hugely appealing. Obviously, that “done right” part is a big question mark, especially following the uninspiring Wii U hardware and the middling 3DS system designs.
Also Read › The 15 best Nintendo Wii U games
All games, one platform
For ages now, Nintendo’s software has been split between two very different devices: a reasonably powerful home console and a much weaker, much more limited handheld. By unifying the experiences with a single device, we’ll not only have games that can play anywhere, but also break down that barrier between platforms.
Right now, the Wii U’s software lineup is nearly nonexistent, and the 3DS schedule isn’t much busier. It’s a grim year for both platforms as Nintendo focuses on ramping up the NX and third-party developers are… well, let’s face it, paying more attention to other platforms.
But think of any other year: what if all of the great Wii U and 3DS games were on a single platform that you could play anywhere? That could be the reality going forward. All the big first-party games (like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild here) would be on your handheld, and all of the games that typically go portable – like engrossing RPG and strategy titles – could be on your TV, as well. And we might finally get a mainline Pokémon game that’s playable on a home console.
Imagine how much more appealing that is for third-party developers, too. No longer would AAA studios or even indies have to create different experiences for Nintendo’s home and handheld platforms, but instead just make one great game that can be experienced wherever fans want to play it. That saves on costs, plus exposes those games to a potentially larger audience too.
According to Eurogamer’s sources, the NX will be a portable device with two control modules that can snap off to be standalone controllers. A concept drawing shows each remote with an analog stick and either a d-pad or similarly-arranged set of four buttons. If true, the NX might be primed from the outset to be an ideal multiplayer machine.
Imagine pulling it out of your bag, leaning the NX system against a wall, a bench, or a tree, and throwing down in Smash Bros. when you run into a friend? You’d still have the classic home multiplayer experience, of course, but this innovative-sounding design would make on-the-go matchups much less of a hassle.
Surely additional controllers could connect, as well, and what about making iOS or Android devices into makeshift gamepads using virtual controls? That’s just speculation on our part, but it seems like it’d be a smart move to encourage even more communal fun.
Cheaper is better
We totally understand being frustrated at the leaked news (via Eurogamer) that Nintendo plans to use an Nvidia Tegra X1 chip to power the NX. Rather than try to compete with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – or rather, Project Scorpio and the PlayStation 4K – it sounds like the NX may be closer to the Wii U in visual quality. This is a classic Nintendo move, and not traditionally in a good way.
However, there are a couple of reasons why we like this move. First, it should make for a much cheaper device. By using existing tech used to power set-top boxes (like the Nvidia Shield), it’ll cost less to make the NX and the console should be cheaper than the Xbox One or PS4. We hope so, at least. Nintendo must undercut the competition on cost to have a chance here.
Second, competing directly with Sony and Microsoft at this point on the classic console experience seems like a losing battle. Fans who want traditional, gamepad-and-TV games have two great options with the PS4 and Xbox One, and third-party developers have made their allegiances there as well. Nintendo’s not going to win on sheer muscle here.
Nintendo’s biggest hook over the years has been its creativity and innovation, both with hardware and software, and it’s a company that is willing to take big risks on both. It hasn’t always worked out, as we’ve sadly seen with the Wii U, but offering a cheaper, all-in-one console that stands apart from the pack sounds like a potential winner here.
According to the Eurogamer report, a source claims that Nintendo won’t use Android to power the NX, which had previously been rumoured. However, since the Tegra X1 chip is used for other Android devices, we wonder if there might be the possibility of some interplay.
What if you could play Pokémon Go on the NX when on the go? Better yet, what if there was some level of interaction between Pokémon Go and whichever Pokémon game inevitably comes to the NX?
On the flipside, could Nintendo NX games run on smartphones and tablets coming down the pipeline? Nintendo makes most of its money on software sales, and the company seems eager to dig into the Android and iOS marketplaces… so what’s stopping them from releasing these games for other devices? It sounds unlikely, but then again, Nintendo has been making unexpected moves of late. Anything is possible.
It’s important to remember that no matter what happens with the hardware, Nintendo is pretty much guaranteed to make some amazing games with it. The company has done this with every single system it has put out, excluding the Virtual Boy, and Nintendo will surely do it again.
Obviously, that’s not the primary conclusion we want for the NX – we want it to be a big win for this classic gaming company, and a console that sells in droves because it’s the place to play for all sorts of games. But if that doesn’t happen, and it ends up being a Wii U-like misfire, then at the very least we can count on Nintendo to make some serious winners and justify the purchase.
Given all the reasons listed above, however, we think Nintendo’s got a chance to do something amazing here with the NX. Let’s hope so, at least.