Why the Hostility When Next to Nothing is Known about Nintendo’s “NX?”

Posted: March 22, 2015 in Opinion Piece

nintendo-NX

by Tim Maison

During the Nintendo press conference in which president Satoru Iwata revealed Nintendo would be teaming up with DeNA, a Japanese mobile gaming company, to produce mobile content featuring Nintendo’s characters as well as develop a new, multi-platform membership service to replace the currently presiding Club Nintendo, Iwata hinted at the Big N’s next console.

As Iwata explained, Nintendo has far from lost its vision concerning “dedicated video game systems.” “As proof,” Iwata insisted, “let me confirm that Nintendo is currently developing a dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept under the development codename ‘NX.’” Little more information was teased about “NX” outside of the fact that it will be included in the membership service Nintendo and DeNA are developing and that more information will be given next year.

None of this is news, though, so why another article? Simple, with so little information given, its unclear whether “NX” is Nintendo’s next home console, portable console, or something else entirely, despite the massive assumption that this is the successor to the “failed” Wii U. Let’s look at ALL of the facts. The “NX” is presumably going to be revealed at E3 next year, exactly five years after the reveal of the Wii U and potentially released a year later, again following the pattern of the Wii U. So has Nintendo “given up” on the Wii U?

Not at all. Should “NX” be the Big N’s next home console, that would be a five year lifetime for the Wii U, which perfectly aligns with Nintendo’s usual new console release schedule. Don’t believe me? Look at the time span between the SNES and the N64, and then the N64 and the Gamecube, and then the GameCube and the Wii. All of these consoles were in the spotlight exactly five years before the next console came out. The only exceptions to the rule are the first of Nintendo’s home consoles, the NES, at six years, and the most recent, the Wii, whose staggering sales and success probably extended its lifetime to seven years. So why all the doom and gloom surrounding the mystery shrouded “NX”? Even if industry standards dictate longer lifetimes for consoles, Nintendo has proven time and time again that it marches to the beat of a different drum and they’ll do what works for them.

A lot of the fear and frustration permeating around the platform seems to be the term “brand new concept,” that the “NX” is already toting, especially when many consider the primary “gimmick” of the Wii U a failure. The opinion is out there that the Wii U’s GamePad is underused and adds little value. This is not only untrue, it is also an unfair argument. To begin with, some of the GamePad’s brilliance isn’t in operating as a necessary second screen (which it has succeeded in in several titles), but in acting as the primary screen for the console. Am I the only one who has a wife that wants to watch Netflix on the TV while I play Mario Kart, Smash Bros., or any number of games? Or what about secret playing during holiday family movie nights when mom gets to pick the movie? Utilizing the gamepad as a controller and TV simultaneously not only has its uses, but is pretty fun to boot. Bring in the argument that the gamepad comes equipped with a standard headphone jack, and you are set up for complete surrounding disengagement!

Miyamoto-Wii-U-970-80

The argument is unfair in that many of the Wii’s biggest hits underutilized the motion controls (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl) and no one called foul, while a lot of the titles that utilized the motion controls best came late in the Wii’s lifetime. The fact is, the Wii U is only two-and-a-half-years-old, and we’ve yet to see what the console can really do. One simply has to look back at The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword to see a late console entry making full use of the console’s concept, the Wii’s motion controls, and overcoming its graphical limitations by generating a gorgeous, impressionist art style thus fully demonstrating both what the Wii was capable of. While the Wii U has a lot of wonderful games, it hasn’t quite found that title yet, and until I’ve played Zelda Wii U and several of the other titles slated for release this year, I will hold off harsher judgment.

It also seems unfair to criticize the GamePad when it’s only now really making use of one of its hottest features, near field communications, or NFC. That’s right, I’m talking about amiibo. Amiibo, figurines of Nintendo characters that can interact with certain games and save and store data in the figure itself, arrived on the scene late last November. Since then there have been two more waves of figures, with a fourth set to come out next month. As of January, Nintendo reported it had already sold 5.7 million units worldwide. At $13 a unit, that’s about $74.1 million dollars in sales in under three months, all before the release of the New Nintendo 3DS which also has NFC capabilities. If that isn’t counted as a Wii U win, I don’t know what is. Based on the popularity of titles like Skylanders and Disney Infinity, and seeing the frenzy that amiibo has already generated, the Wii U, with its NFC capable GamePad, stands to make a killing and further mark its comeback. Really long story short, if “NX” replaces the Wii U, it is not because the Wii U is a failed console or featured a failed concept, it was merely a matter of time.

Here are the rest of the facts. Where the Wii U has yet to turn three, the Nintendo 3DS is days shy of turning four here in the States (Happy Almost Birthday, 3DS!). Should “NX” be revealed at next year’s E3 and be released the following year, 2017, around third or fourth quarter, the 3DS will be six-years-old going on seven! While many of Nintendo’s mobile consoles have longer life cycles than five years, with more revisions than home consoles, some portable platforms were only given three years to shine, amongst them the Game Boy Color and the Game Boy Advance. The 3DS has already had three revisions (the XL, the 2DS, and now the New Nintendo 3DS), so where will it be in 2017? Always complete with their own “new concepts,” including the DS’s double screen and touch screen (did you forget what “DS” stood for?) and the 3DS’ 3D display, the “NX” could easily be Nintendo’s next portable console. Should that be the case, we shouldn’t be discussing what Nintendo will do to keep up with Sony and Microsoft, but what Sony will attempt to keep up with Nintendo in the portable market. Based on the PS Vita’s track record, not much (just kidding, Sony enthusiasts!).

The fact remains that no one outside of Nintendo knows what “NX” is, home console, portable, or other. We’ll see Nintendo mobile titles before the “NX” is revealed. So, in the infamous words of Heath Ledger’s Joker, “Why so serious?” As it stands, the Wii U is far from dead, the 3DS is better than ever, and, like Pokemon before them, we’ve got amiibo to collect (Nintendo, have you thought about a Pokemon amiibo line with a new Pokemon title released alongside? There’s money in that idea!). So until the Nintendo Entertainment Xperience is announced (totally what “NX” should be called. It’s throwback-y, but still hip because of the “X”), let’s enjoy what we have. Until NX’t time, thanks for reading.

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