After being counted out by many game analysts following the underwhelming performance of the GameCube, Nintendo made a major comeback in the early 2000s with the unprecedented success of the groundbreaking Wii. But sales of the console’s follow-up, the Wii U, have proved disappointing – despite the presence of popular, critically-praised titles like Bayonetta 2 and Super Mario Maker – leading many to speculate that Nintendo would have to launch a new console earlier than expected or face a continued slide against competition from Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PS4.
While Nintendo has openly acknowledged plans for new hardware currently codenamed “NX,” specific details of what this would mean have been hard to come by from the notoriously secretive Japanese electronics giant. Now, new rumors are beginning to surface that details of the NX have begun to leak online; offering a tantalizing glimpse at the possible future of the console gaming stalwart, and suggesting that an official reveal could be approaching soon.
While Nintendo’s policy of not responding to rumors or unofficial leaks remains largely in place, the new rumors fall largely in line with previous hints that had already widely circulated. No official confirmation (or denial) has been offered, but the early buzz on the NX has suggested that it will be a “hybrid” device built to allow a console and handheld device to interact directly (and even share the same games) – with a goal of ultimately supplanting both the Wii U and 3DS product-lines and merging Nintendo’s previously-segregated home and mobile gaming branches.
New rumors reported by Extreme Tech and Nintendo Life suggests 900p and 60fps resolution, a new online service with TV and streaming capabilities, exclusive new titles based on Nintendo’s long-enduring classic franchises, and a surprisingly low $200 US price tag. That $200 price tag could make more sense if an additional rumor turns out to be true – specifically that the NX will be released and sold in two pieces, with a handheld system hitting store shelves in November 2016, while the console “partner device” would land later in 2017. Those new (albeit unverified) details align with rumors that the portable device (which may or may not feature touchscreen-based controls) would double as a controller for the console.
Most eyebrow-raising by far, however, is talk that the handheld may also be capable of interacting with Sony’s PlayStation 4 – though exactly how that would work, or for that matter why longtime rivals like Nintendo and Sony would enter into such an arrangement, is entirely unclear. It’s possible, given that other rumors have suggested the NX might also interface with smartphones as part of Nintendo’s new mobile push, that the device could interface with any wireless-enabled device on some level, but given Nintendo’s infamous unease with non-proprietary hardware, even those reporting the initial rumors have cast doubt on that particular feature. Back in the 90s, Nintendo and Sony had considered an alliance to create a CD-Rom add-on for the Super Nintendo, but the deal went south with Sony opting to rework their designs into what became the original Playstation.
With the Xbox One and Playstation 4 already prominently positioned in the market, an attractive price point could give Nintendo much needed edge to make up lost ground – particularly if the device can match or exceed its competition in graphics and processing power. However, Nintendo’s biggest challenge is expected to be winning back third party developers, who have been uneasy about bringing best-selling multiplatform series like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty to Nintendo consoles. While legendary first-party franchises like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda and Pokemon continue to sell well along with popular new properties like Yo-Kai Watch, non-Nintendo developers have tended to look askance at consoles built around underpowered hardware and unfamiliar control schemes like the Wii and Wii U. Thus far, controller rumors have centered on the possibility of a button-free touchscreen, which if true can’t be making third parties any less wary on that front.
Nintendo has thus far had no comment on any NX rumors, and is not expected to reveal anything about the console until at least this year’s E3 – if at all.