"Nintendo's new console will be so powerful that Sony and Microsoft will be left in the dust!"
"Nintendo is making a retro console and banking on nostalgia to sell their systems!"
"The Nintendo NX is a smartwatch that also files your taxes!"
It seems like each week brings a brand new rumor about what the NX might or might not do. And up until this point I haven't really posted any of them because it just seemed like desperate grasping at straws or gross misinterpretations of statements from Nintendo. After all, when they said that the NX "would not just replace the Wii U or 3DS," battles were fought over whether that meant that the NX would NOT just replace them (meaning it wouldn't be the next gen console or handheld but something else entirely), or that the NX would not JUST replace them (meaning that the NX would render both the Wii U and the 3DS obsolete).
However, the time has come when a rumor has been reported by more reputable sources. This rumor is being spread not by shady guys on street corners opening up their trenchcoats to passersby, but instead by respectable gaming news sources like Eurogamer and IGN. The people most of us go to for our knowledge on what's going on in the industry. You know editors wouldn't allow that sort of story if there weren't some serious credibility attributed to the sources of these rumors. So while it is unlikely that I am the first person you hear this rumor from, I thought I would share my perspective on the matter.
According to the rumor, the NX is Nintendo's next handheld device. It would be a successor to the 3DS, but only in the sense that the Nintendo DS was a successor to the GameBoy SP. It would be part of the overall handheld legacy, but represent a new direction. The NX will be a handheld device that comes with a tv docking station. When the device is placed into that docking station, the image is blown up onto the television screen so you can enjoy your ordinarily portable game on the big screen.
So how do you play if the system is plugged into a dock? Well, apparently the controller portions of the NX detach from the sides, allowing you to dock the screen while still holding the controls in your hands. There's a sketch of a potential design for this controller on Eurogamer's website, and these side controllers look quite a bit like a familiar Nintendo controller...
Of course, that's not the only familiar bit about the NX. The idea itself seems a lot like what they were going for with the Wii U. Or well, a backwards version. The Wii U allowed you to condense the full screen onto a smaller screen if someone else in your family wanted the television. This is a bit of a different angle - instead of just shrinking your game down because your dad wants to watch football or your wife wants to watch the Oscars, you pick it up and take it with you so you can enjoy the game on a train, on a plane, or at your grandma's.
On the technical side, the NX is rumored to use cartridges and to be powered by nVidia's Tegra chip. Now I'm not a hardware guy, so that part of the rumor is pretty much in a foreign language to me, but from estimations that I have read we'll be looking at a handheld with more power than the Wii U but not quite as much as the PS4. Which honestly is pretty satisfactory for a handheld, in my mind. That is, of course, if this Tegra chip really does make the device that powerful.
At this point we leave the realm of rumor and enter the realm of opinion. Specifically, my opinion. I love this concept. My main device for playing games has been the 3DS for a long time. Due to college, marriage, and becoming a parent, I haven't had the resources to pick up any next gen consoles. And honestly, most of them didn't interest me all that much until recently when their libraries finally had something special to offer. In the meantime, I have played a ton of games on the 3DS, from Nintendo classics remade to new masterpieces for my favorite series. I do handheld gaming WAY more often than console gaming, and honestly a big part of that has been that the handheld device has had a better library of games to offer. Multiple Zelda titles, multiple Fire Emblems, unique RPGs like Bravely Default, great entries in the Pokemon series - there's a lot to like with the 3DS. Nintendo excels when it comes to handhelds, so investing their energy into a handheld-console "hybrid" sounds like a really good idea to me.
Portability really just appeals to me on a personal level. I haven't had a home computer in six years - when I graduated high school my family gifted me a laptop for college, and after I graduated college I got a tablet computer for Christmas. And they work great for me. As a writer, I love being able to carry my ideas everywhere in a convenient and comfortable package. I don't need the kind of juice that a home computer offers because I don't use my computer for anything particularly taxing. So for me, being able to take my computer with me is more important than being able to enjoy peak performance.
With the NX, I see myself enjoying the ability to take a quality game like Breath of the Wild and enjoy it anywhere. But the amazing thing about the NX as a "hybrid" is that you're not just able to take your handheld anywhere - you can take a console anywhere. Think of how much easier it is for a tv dock to travel compared to a full home console. You can pack up your NX and the dock and take it to a hotel when you go on a work trip and BAM, you've got the home console experience with a lot less hassle than what it would be to transport a PS4 or an X-Box One.
Now for bonus points, I would love it if the way the detachable controllers work is that each one is a whole controller by itself. I doubt this will be the way of things - I'm guessing each detachable piece will be one-half of the controller a la the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. But if each controller stands alone, you can immediately create a multiplayer experience just by plugging the NX into the tv dock. That would be pretty awesome, and would fix what I consider the biggest weakness of handheld systems - the multiplayer. I have no desire to buy two $40 copies of the same game just so my wife and I can play multiplayer, but if we can buy one game and the NX automatically comes with two controllers...now that's a whole different ball game. In an ideal world, not only would the controllers work this way, but the NX screen would have some way to stand on its own so that if you didn't have access to a tv, you could still do multiplayer with a friend without having two separate NX systems. Do I think that'll happen? Nah. But a guy can dream, right?
I'm stoked for the design of the NX, but there's one thing more important to me than anything that we still don't know much about: the console's library. In my mind the single biggest weakness of the Wii U was its total lack of a strong game library. And I don't mean that in the sense of "oh, there's no third party support, yada yada yada." Because for me personally, that doesn't matter. I don't enjoy Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty or anything with the word "sports" in it, so third party support means very little to me. I understand that for a lot of people the ability to play those games is an important part of console selection, but for me it doesn't matter.
Where the Wii U really fell, in my mind, was the lack of the great first party titles that Nintendo is known for. How long has it taken for the Wii U to get a main series Zelda title? There is still no dedicated single-player 3D Mario title (a la Galaxy), no main series Fire Emblem, no Metroid game. They finally announce a new Paper Mario and it is not the game that most fans wanted from the series. The Wii U definitely has a couple of jewels, don't get me wrong - but when you've got to shell out hundreds of dollars for a game console, you want more than a handful of titles to justify the purchase.
For me, this is where the NX still really has potential to falter. If the game doesn't launch with a solid set of games, or if it takes years for some quality games to finally come out for the NX, it's definitely not going to appeal to me. And I doubt it'll appeal to many other folks either. What gives me hope, though, is that the 3DS library is chock full of incredible games. Since the NX is a handheld device, I think there's a good chance that this trend will continue with the upcoming console.
Overall, I'm excited for what the NX could potentially be. At this point I want to hear from you, readers. What do you think of the rumors about the upcoming Nintendo system? Do you think the rumors are true? What are your personal wishes and desires for the system? Feel free to discuss your ideas in the comments! And if you enjoyed this article, be sure to head to my blog at ianshepard.wordpress.com to see more stuff like it.