Based on last week’s report and the market that Nintendo is trying to re-conquer for maybe the first time since the SNES, here are a few things the Nintendo NX pretty much has to have when its reveal comes.
Pity the poor Nintendo Wii U. Nintendo’s first HD console is home to the best Mario Kart and Smash Bros. games Nintendo has ever made (plus two top-tier Mario platformers), but just three years after its release, Nintendo is gearing up to reveal the Wii U’s successor, currently codenamed “Nintendo NX.” The notoriously secretive Japanese company hasn’t released any official information beyond the NX name and plans to release more information next year, but several tantalizing details about the system were reported last week. Based on that information, here’s what to expect from the Nintendo NX reveal when it finally comes.
6. A console and a handheld in one
This is the Nintendo NX’s worst kept secret after the Wall Street Journal piece. The Wii U dabbled in this concept with its off-screen play on the gamepad that let someone else use the TV while you played a game, but Nintendo needs to embrace console-to-portable gaming full bore and learn from its Wii U mistakes.
An oversized, overpriced, battery-draining controller isn’t good enough; the NX should have a dedicated controller plus a portable handheld that works with the console but can function completely independent of the main system. That means that it doesn’t need to be in the same room as the console (a major problem when trying to game on the Wii U tablet) and definitely ought to surpass the standard of cross-play between the Playstation 3/4 and the PS Vita.
As for the portable unit, don’t be surprised if Nintendo sticks with the double-screen design that has served it well for the past decade. Although it was rarely used well, the dual-screen concept of the TV and gamepad worked well for some Wii U games. Still, it could never be relied upon because developers had to account for the possibility that gamers were playing on the gamepad screen. A packed-in dual-screen gamepad that could work both independently and with the console seems like a natural next step. Oh, but don’t count on it having a 3D display – Nintendo has put less emphasis on this feature on recent and upcoming 3DS releases such as Pokemon and Hyrule Warriors.
5. Backwards compatibility
It took an outcry from fans to convince Microsoft to add backwards compatibility to the Xbox One, and Sony refuses to add the feature to the Playstation 4, but Nintendo has consistently embraced backwards compatibility over the past two console generations and all of its handhelds. There wasn’t anything in the Wall Street Journal article about this this feature, but given that the NX will probably include a portable that could emulate the Wii U’s second screen, it shouldn’t be very difficult for Nintendo to include it.
4. Exclusive Mobile Games
Nintendo announced in March that it was teaming with another Japanese company, DeNa, to bring its properties like Mario and The Legend of Zelda to “smart devices.” Nintendo hasn’t said anything else about this deal since then, but given that a handheld will be packed in with all NX consoles, Nintendo could debut these games on a portable that has functions similar to a smartphone, then port the games that Android and iPhone down the line. It’s also notable that the word “phone” is completely absent from the original Nintendo-DeNa press release, so Nintendo could be planning to release these games solely for an NX portable that functions similarly to a smartphone while leaving Android and iPhone behind.
3. Better Third-Party Support (At Least at First)
Both the Wii and Wii U saw strong third-party support soon after their launches, but that quickly dried up for the Wii U when sales faltered (and for the Wii when developers realized people weren’t buying their games like they were the Marios and Zeldas of the world).
Third-party developers receiving NX dev kits were the source of much of the information in last week’s Wall Street Journal article, and it’s likely they’re excited to see what they can do with a system more powerful than either the Xbox One or PS4. If the NX architecture is based on PC components just like those systems are, that would also give developers added incentive to bring multiplatform games to all three consoles, rather than leave the underpowered Wii U behind as they currently do. Still, if the NX sales drop off in a few months like the Wii U, don’t expect those developers to stick around.
2. The Most Powerful Console on the Market
Nintendo has been criticized for its underpowered consoles since the N64 era but is finally looking to fix this with the NX, according to the Wall Street Journal. If the NX launches next year, it’ll come at a point when both the Xbox One and PS4 will have spent three years on the market. Already multiplatform games look and run better on high-end PCs than on either Microsoft’s or Sony’s offering. Expect Nintendo to target high-end (yet affordable) PC specs for the NX that outpace its rivals. It’s also likely that Nintendo will incorporate some sort of cloud functionality to rival the power of Microsoft and Sony’s current consoles, particularly given it’s supposed plans for portable/console interaction.
1. A Modern Online Infrastructure
Even though the Wii U hasn’t been a commercial success, Nintendo has continued to make wonderful, innovative games for it like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker. But despite Nintendo’s incredible creativity on the software side, the company is strangely stuck in the ‘90s with its online network. Nintendo was pulled into online gaming kicking and screaming in the Gamecube era, shipping a modem and broadband adapter to support Phantasy Star Online, but refusing to put any first-party games online.
When more Nintendo games went online with the Wii, Nintendo refused to institute a unified account system that would make it easy to play with friends or redownload games on new consoles (the standard on the last two generations of Xbox and Playstation systems). With the release of Wii U, Nintendo stuck to those backwards ideals, and things don’t seem to be getting much better. Splatoon has brought a ton of new ideas to the tired third-person shooter genre, but its lack of voice chat is baffling. Super Mario Maker is a lot fun, but finding great levels online is a mess.
If the Nintendo NX is going to compete on the same level as the Xbox One and PS4, Nintendo needs a similar online network, or it new console will be dead on arrival.