Nintendo NX Release Date Soon? Development Kits Being Sent Out

A WSJ report dropped some serious hints about when we’ll get our hands on both parts of the Nintendo NX.

The Wii U looked cool, but terrible branding and underpowered hardware drove it into the ground quick. Can the NX do better?

The Wii U looked cool, but terrible branding and underpowered hardware drove it into the ground quick. Can the NX do better?

Nintendo has maintained through mountains of speculation this year that they won’t be ready to talk about their new console, codenamed the NX, until next year. That includes everything from hardware to games, but a Wall Street Journal report gives us clues to the Nintendo NX release date.

Let’s start by saying up front that this has not yet been officially confirmed, but it is the Wall Street Journal, so we have some faith their sources are solid. According to a story this morning by Takashi Mochizuki, Nintendo has begun sending out development kits for the NX. That means they’re giving third party game developers NX systems that are close to final hardware and firmware specifications so they can begin developing games (or porting old ones) to Nintendo’s new system. This is standard industry practice, but the timing does seem a bit strange.

Nintendo keeps saying the next Zelda game will be on Wii U, but if the NX is out next year, could we have another Twilight Princess situation?

Nintendo keeps saying the next Zelda game will be on Wii U, but if the NX is out next year, could we have another Twilight Princess situation?

Generally speaking, gaming hardware companies look to launch new consoles in the lucrative holiday season to maximize early adoption, positive buzz about the new system, and developer confidence that the new system will be financially beneficial to develop for. You have to go back nearly 15 years to the Nintendo Gamecube to find a major home console that wasn’t released in November. From the original Xbox to present, it’s all been November releases.

That’s why this announcement is so interesting. The NX isn’t magically coming in two weeks, but sending out dev kits is one implication that the Nintendo NX release date will be sometime next November. That’s unexpected for a couple reasons.

First, the horrifically branded Wii U would be only four years old, which is definitely on the short side of a console’s expected lifespan. But as poorly as the Wii U has been received, that wouldn’t be altogether strange.

Yes, the Wii U has had some spectacular games...but not nearly enough.

Yes, the Wii U has had some spectacular games…but not nearly enough.

Second, it’s unclear how much information about the NX Nintendo might have already shared with developers. That includes both in-house teams and major third parties like EA, Activision, and Ubisoft. Videogames take a long time to make, and if the Nintendo NX release date really is sometime in November 2016, that leaves barely a year to complete a game.

Which brings us to the other interesting tidbits from the WSJ report. According to the Nintendo sources it references, “Nintendo would aim to put industry-leading chips in the NX devices, after criticism that the Wii U’s capabilities didn’t match those of competitors.” that means being at least on-par with the Xbox One and Playstation 4. That’s not out of the realm of possibility given that high-end PC’s are already outstripping both consoles in terms of performance. Comparable tech would also make it easier for developers to port existing games to the NX for simultaneous release, just like most games currently enjoy on both Xbox One and PS4.

But here’s the wrinkle. In addition to the supposed top-of-the-line chipsets, Nintendo’s NX will “likely include both a console and at least one mobile unit that could either be used in conjunction with the console or taken on the road for separate use.” The PS4 does something similar with some of its games, which can also be played on the PS Vita, but if Nintendo required this cross-play feature (and let’s be clear – there’s not been anything yet to suggest they will) it could make developing for the NX much more time- and cost-intensive. On the other hand, a unification of Nintendo’s home consoles and portable handhelds in the NX has long been rumored.

In either case, Nintendo is maintaining they’ll talk more about the NX and the NX release date in 2016. In the meantime, let’s look forward to a likely playable NX console at E3 2016.