Ever since Nintendo revealed that it was working on a new gaming platform, code named the Nintendo NX, fans have been speculating as to what form it would take. The company has been very tight lipped about the NX, however, claiming that it wouldn't reveal details about it until 2016.
This doesn't mean that there aren't potential clues as to what form the NX will take, however. A recently discovered patent application that's been linked to Nintendo gives us a look at what might be a major part of the NX platform, though, and it could mean exciting things for the platform's games.
The patent, first revealed in the NeoGAF forum, details an innovative controller that could potentially double as a handheld gaming system. The controller features a Sharp freeform display touch screen as its main surface, allowing it to dynamically generate buttons and display game content on the controller itself. Unlike the Wii U gamepad, this controller would fit easily into the player's hands and could possible even be taken on the road for use as a handheld gaming system (a feature that's been rumored for the NX for a while.)
Two analog controls stick up through the touchscreen surface of the controller, giving players access to physical controls in addition to on-screen buttons. As seen in some of the patent application's images, the display could even offer alternate points of view (such as a first-person viewpoint after equipping a ranged weapon or changing views based on whether the character is in a vehicle or not) to allow for better correlation between the controls and the action that's taking place on the screen. Menus, submenus and alternate orientations are also shown in the patent application, showing how the device could potentially function both as a gamepad-like controller or as a handheld gaming system.
Have a look at the image of the potential Nintendo NX design, below:
The controller kind of makes sense as part of the next Nintendo system, since it's somewhat of an evolution of the Wii U's gamepad - and Nintendo has stated in the past that it had no intention of abandoning the gamepad as a concept. There had been some speculation that the gamepad would be compatible with the NX, and it's unclear whether the discovery of this patent will affect that. The NX controller could be used in lieu of the gamepad if the system is backwards compatible with Wii U games, though the games likely wouldn't be able to utilize the entire screen area. (A cropped game view is also showcased in the patent's images, so this is entirely possible.)
Of course, it's worth remembering that this is just a patent application and doesn't necessarily reflect the final form that the technology might take (assuming that it is used with the Nintendo NX at all.) Screen sizes and shapes could change, the specifics of the controller could change or be combined with other technologies and the entire concept could be scrapped and replaced with a different controller option before the system goes into production. Still, this does show that Nintendo is still trying to innovate with its new platform and is trying to find better applications for some of the underutilized innovations of its past.
The Nintendo NX is still closely guarded by Nintendo, but the company has promised to do a full reveal in 2016. When that happens, we'll certainly have plenty of information to share.