The console gaming business is in a state of change and upheaval. As rapidly-advancing technology, changing consumer demands and increasingly blurred lines between once sharply-stratified media platforms, manufacturers are shifting their strategies dramatically to remain competitive – such as Microsoft experimenting with cross-platform play for Xbox One and Sony updating the PlayStation 4 much earlier than expected. But Golden Age of Gaming stalwart Nintendo, having seen its eccentric Wii U console fail to match the success of its Wii predecessor, is rumored to be planning an even riskier shift: Betting the company’s future on a mysterious new device called the NX, believed (among other things) to erase the line between console and handheld gaming.
We may not yet know what the NX is, but now we know when it’s coming: Nintendo has dated the NX’s release for March of 2017.
While announcements like this are typically expected as part of specially-planned press events or carefully managed E3 announcements, especially where Nintendo is concerned, the NX announcement came as part of the company’s annual financial earnings report and was shared on the company’s various international Twitter accounts early Wednesday morning. Shortly thereafter, the company announced a delayed release for the new Legend of Zelda title – which will now launch simultaneously for Wii U and NX in 2017 and be the focus of the company’s presentation at this year’s E3.
The news came as a surprise even to veterans of games industry and gaming journalism, who are by now long accustomed to Nintendo charting its own path in the face of industry trends and technological evolution. While most had expected the company to announce the NX at E3 for a Fall 2016 release, this new schedule would have the console skipping the 2016 holiday season entirely and instead launching in the middle of a typically lean late-winter sales period. Meanwhile, announcing the intent to do so this soon could negatively impact future Wii U and 3DS sales, as potential customers are now aware of a “beginning of the end” date for current gen Nintendo hardware.
Complicating matters is the fact that actual form of the NX itself remains almost a complete mystery for consumers. While rumors have coalesced around the idea of a touch-based controller and a “unification” of the console and handheld platforms, exactly what that looks like or how it works is still a closely-guarded secret. Some have posited that the controller and console are one and the same (i.e. a handheld that can stream games to a full-size TV), while more conservative estimates imagine an upgraded Wii U whose tablet-style controller doubles as a handheld. It’s even been suggested that the device might be sold in two parts, with the handheld arriving first and the console unit coming later. If so, that could explain the logic of launching in March – leaving Fall and Holiday 2017 for the total package – though a release of that type would be unprecedented.
Officially, the company has no plans to reveal any further details of the NX at E3, though fans will no doubt continue to expect some sort of reveal to be included among what news does come out. After all, some were already theorizing that the Star Fox Anime covertly revealed the device last week.
The unusual new announcement and release strategy arrives at a moment where Nintendo has appeared more willing to experiment in areas they had long resisted. A bidding war is currently underway for a live-action Pokemon movie, while the company’s first mobile outing, Miitomo, has seen great success – paving the way for new mobile adaptations of the Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem franchises, which were also announced along with the NX and Zelda news.
The Nintendo NX will be released in March 2017.
Source: Nintendo of America