Nintendo patent filing suggests disc-based consoles are doomed

Will Nintendo be the first of the big three to embrace a download-only future?

When it comes to software formats, Nintendo has typically been pretty conservative. The Nintendo 64 is the best-known example, as the company's decision to stick with cartridges as rivals embraced compact discs ultimately damaged the then-powerful console's chances with consumers and developers alike.

But Nintendo has taken more chances with its gaming hardware over the last decade, finding great success with the Wii, Nintendo DS, and 3DS (less so with the Wii U). Will it also be the first to release a major modern console without a disc drive or cartridge slot? That's the suggestion found within a recently discovered patent application that the company filed in February.

The filing calls for a "stationary game apparatus" that has an internal hard drive and capability to support external memory cards (and hard drives), but doesn't accept any form of traditional software media. Instead, Nintendo would rely on the expanding reach of high-speed broadband connections to allow owners to directly download games of all sizes to the console.

Anyone who owns a Wii U or particularly the original Wii or Nintendo 3DS may grimace at the thought. After all, Nintendo's entrance into digital storefronts has been more of a constant stumble than anything. Getting around any of the eShop interfaces is a real pain thanks to clunky menus, slow transitions, and little in the way of clear organization.

Still, it would be a daring move were Nintendo to strip a disc drive from its next console, codenamed the "NX," which it says we'll hear more about next year. Then again, this could even be a revised Wii U re-release, with a slashed price to better compete against its higher-tech console rivals. Whatever the case, we're intrigued - and very curious to see if this patent application leads to an actual hardware release anytime soon.

[Source: USPTO via NeoGAF and Engadget]