We’ve all heard the news by now. Nintendo’s next console is codenamed “NX”, it’ll be unveiled next year and it’s a dedicated gaming system with a “brand new concept”. But what does that all mean, and what does it mean for Nintendo going forward?
First up, let’s look at the timetable. If the NX is to be unveiled next year, I’m guessing Nintendo will follow in the footsteps of the Wii/Wii U and show it off for the first time at E3 2016. It almost certainly won’t be released until some point in 2017 (probably fourth quarter) which would place it exactly five years after the Wii U. Now, Nintendo haven’t come outright and said the NX is going to replace their current console, indeed they could be planning a “third tier” set up along the lines of when the DS first launched – although I’m sure everyone remembers what happened to the Game Boy Advance at that point. It got ditched.
So I think it’s safe to say we’re not about to see a nice happy Wii U/3DS/NX coexistence in the near future – unless, of course, the NX isn’t a console at all.
Nestled alongside the NX in Satoru Iwata’s press announcement was a deal with DeNA, a major Japanese mobile company. They’ve worked with companies from Disney to SonyMusic to create games, sell music and launch manga. They even own a Japanese baseball club, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. But most importantly for Nintendo, they own Mobage – a group of developers of Android and iOS games that also provide a social network platform for deploying and sharing titles. In short, they’re a pretty big player in the mobile gaming world (but their baseball team is pretty average).
The above ties in rather nicely with the rumour that’s been doing the rounds for a while now – that Nintendo’s next console would be some kind of handheld/console-hybrid. Could the partnership with DeNA be specifically for such a device? I’ll be honest, there is something quite intriguing about playing the next Mario at home on my TV, unplugging the handheld component and continuing to play on the train to work (why I’m playing video games in the morning rather than rushing about ironing my shirt and packing a lunch is beyond me). Indeed, one of my favourite features on the Vita is the prevalence of cross-play titles that sync progress across the PS3 and PS4 as well.
Such a device would also fit the “brand new concept” slogan as well. But it’s this last part that has me most concerned. “Brand new concept”? Again? Am I the only one who just wants Nintendo to kick any form of motion controls or weird peripherals to the bin?
I’m just going to come out and say it: for Nintendo to succeed moving forward, they need to ditch the “brand new concepts” and make a console that can compete with the competition. It’s the only hope they have of getting third-parties back on board. As a game company, Nintendo are one of best. There is no getting away from the fact that the Wii U has been home to some fantastic titles, especially over the last year or so.
But it’s utterly failed to capture the public imagination. As of 31 December 2014, the Wii U had sold just 9.20 million units. That’s less than 10 million units in two years. That’s awful. By comparison, the PS4 hit 13.5 million on September 30 2014, less than a year after launch. The Wii U has been an utter failure as a console, and the sad truth is that a handful of great games just aren’t enough to convince buyers.
A major problem with the Wii U has been the controller. It’s all well and good having a 6-inch screen alongside your analogue sticks, but what the hell is it for? I don’t even think Nintendo knows how to use it properly. The Wii’s motion controls captured the public imagination, but tapping into a new region of the market – as the Wii did – doesn’t really mean anything if that new audience aren’t willing to buy your next console, too. And judging by the Wii U’s sales figures, nearly every Wii owner remembered their machine gathering dust in the cupboard and though, “Nah.”
Which brings us full circle. Why did so many people fail to make the jump from Wii to Wii U? Simple – they’d had their Christmas fun playing some sports mini-games and soon lost interest. The “hardcore” users (I hate that phrase) probably lost interest even sooner. A console just cannot survive on Nintendo games alone.
So how can the company turn this around? The only way I can see it is by going after the fans they’ve left behind. Compete directly with the PS4 and Xbox One (or even better, the ones coming after) and give consumers the best of both worlds: amazing Nintendo games and all the multiplatform titles too. Imagine Super Mario Galaxy 3 and Grand Theft Auto 6 on the same console. Now imagine Iwata diving into a pile of money.
Make the NX a complete and utter powerhouse – and most importantly give it a normal controller. Yeah, Mario 64 was amazing with an analogue stick, and sure, Skyward Sword had some really well done sword mechanics, but creating an entire console around one type of game and then hoping all the others will just work is absolutely crazy! If you want developers to bring games to your console, make it easy for them! You keep telling everyone that you’re “doing your own thing”, but guys: nobody cares.
Realistically, of course, it’s never going to happen. There’s more chance of Mario popping up on Xbox than Nintendo making a powerful console with a normal controller. I have no idea what to expect from their new concept, and whilst it could be pretty exciting, I reckon it’s more likely to be something that works well for a couple of games and then just leaves everyone scratching their heads. Which perhaps makes the handheld/console-hybrid rumour that more intriguing. Is it really so crazy for Nintendo to combine their most successful division with their most embarrassing? They’ve got the handheld market nailed down, no doubt about that. Only time will tell if they can work the same magic with home consoles.