[Update March 23, 2016: New HD photos of potential Nintendo NX controller leak online]
For many gamers, this current game console generation is beginning to be thought of as a do-or-die moment for old-school stalwart Nintendo – the last Japanese console/developer giant still standing from the medium’s 1980s “Golden Age.” Though flush with capital from the massive mid-2000s success of the Wii and the continued popularity in both gaming and multimedia-merchandise markets of legendary IPs like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon and others, the company has struggled in recent years to overcome consumer apathy that greeted its unusual most recent console, the Wii U.
For over a year, the hopes of the company and longtime Nintendo fans have been pinned to rumors of a mysterious new device (still) codenamed “The NX,” widely expected to be unveiled at this year’s E3 event in June. Now, images have surfaced claiming to be the first look at an finished NX controller – which, if authentic, resemble an attempt by the ever-innovative Nintendo to change the way gamers think about control all over again.
The image, which was reported on by Destructoid (who claim to have run it through a program to determine whether or not it was likely to have been photoshopped) and attributed to an anonymous post on Dual Pixels, appears to show a controller design roughly faithful to rumored NX patent images revealed several months ago and that would line up fairly closely with other rumors about what the NX actually is and/or is meant to do.
Specifically, the image shows an oval-shaped device whose face is taken up almost entirely by what looks to be a touch-screen, with a pair of thumbsticks set into the face of the screen itself on either side, a smartphone-style camera/mic placed at the bottom center, two shoulder buttons on the device’s top rim and a power (and/or data transfer?) cord between them. There do no appear to be any other physical-input buttons on the device’s face, but the blurry image of an unidentified game/app running on the screen appears to show a “B” button displayed with other unmarked buttons on the screen itself.
While it would be highly unusual for a finished device to so closely resemble a patent sketch, the image is otherwise consistent with many of the rumors and vague allusions that have preceded the console’s supposedly-impending announcement. While there is little consensus among the various leaks and unsourced reports, the general sense based on what little Nintendo has actually said on the matter has been that The NX could be an attempt to “unify” the company’s handheld-gaming business (a field which it has largely dominated since the release of the original GameBoy but has seen eroded by the growing popularity of mobile phone games) with the console side; with many predicting a handheld-gaming device that could stream gameplay to a television-unit (or vice-versa) and then double as a controller. Other rumors had suggested that The NX could stream its gameplay to non-Nintendo consoles or other WiFi-enabled TV-based devices like DVD players or even “rival” consoles, and that it could be sold in two parts, with the main handheld unit coming first and a Nintendo-branded TV-based receiver console hitting shelves later.
If authentic, what will surely raise the most eyebrows among traditional gamers is the lack of conventional physical buttons on the controller-face. This would be consistent with other rumors of Nintendo’s technological ambitions that pre-date the NX announcement, namely that the company was interested in an interface whereby mapping a game’s controls to a pre-set button layout would be replaced by a dedicated touchscreen that could display a theoretically-infinite variety of digital buttons for each specific game or even for each specific game-scenario (i.e. a different set of controls for when a player-character is walking than when they are operating a vehicle, for example.)
Nintendo is famously reticent to comment on rumors or leaks, so it’s unlikely that a formal confirmation or denial will emerge from the notoriously-secretive industry legend. Gamers will likely have to continue waiting for E3 (and maybe not even then?) to hear any official word on The NX – to say nothing of whether or not it could be the savior that Nintendo (and Nintendo fans) have been hoping for.