Today Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata revealed during a presentation that the next ‘dedicated game platform’ from Nintendo was in development.
Naturally, the main response to this should be “no shit”.
Video game hardware doesn’t just appear out of thin air, it takes an extremely long time to develop and perfect. PS4 lead architect Mark Cerny once confirmed that his console, released in November 2013, was in development as early as 2008.
So yes, of course Nintendo’s working on new hardware. We all knew that. What we didn’t know was its (code)name and when it’s coming out.
Today’s announcement at least answers part of that. The new system has been codenamed the Nintendo NX and is due to be properly revealed in 2016, which – given Nintendo’s usual routine – means we’ll probably see it on shelves in 2017.
What we still don’t know is whether the NX is a handheld or a home console… or even the much-rumoured hybrid system that acts as both.
In fact, here’s the full extent of what was actually said about the NX:
Not a lot to go on, I’m sure you’ll agree. Still, that hasn’t stopped the gaming press jumping on it with some deciding, among other things, that it’s a new home console designed to replace the struggling Wii U (i.e. the console everyone who has one loves and everyone who doesn’t thinks is shit).
I’m not about to get into speculation, because that’s just daft and frankly unprofessional, but what I will do is share a list of things I hope the NX implements.
In short, if I was in charge at Nintendo and the NX was my dream system, here’s what I’d want Nintendo to do with it.
Make it a hybrid
First and foremost, I hope the rumours are true. I want the Nintendo NX to be a handheld that also doubles as a home console.
As an example of how this would work, take a look at the Neo Geo X and see what it does:
Essentially, then, you’d have a 3DS style handheld (albeit a far more powerful one) that you could play on the move. Then, when you got home, you’d plug it into a dock which is already hooked up to your TV, HDMI and all, and enjoy your games on the big screen with a separate controller.
This does raise the question of power: nobody wants to see the console side of Nintendo take a dip in visual quality, and I think it’s safe to say we aren’t yet at the stage where a handheld game can look better than a Wii U game.
Perhaps, then, the dock could also act as a sort of expansion port (much like the 4MB Expansion Pak from the Nintendo 64 days), offering more power and making games look better when the NX is plugged into it.
This of course would throw up numerous problems – how will the need to downgrade a home console game to a handheld version affect physics, AI, etc – but I think it could be fun to see how they’re solved.
Imagine games that may almost act like two different titles, though. Imagine a 3D Mario game that was played on the TV, and then unlocked Captain Toad puzzles that could be played on the move.
Or imagine a version of Animal Crossing that’s played as a handheld game but can then be plugged into the TV to access a beautiful MMO-like online hub area.
Or, of course, a Pokemon game that plays as you would expect on handheld but when played on TV the battles turn into beautifully detailed Pokemon Stadium style HD scraps.
It would make sense. Nintendo’s handheld division is clearly making more money than its console home division now, and a successor to the Wii U will be a hard sell, especially among ‘core’ games (lulz) who will refuse to accept a Nintendo console no matter what.
By making the NX a hybrid, then, Nintendo could have something that (if successful) may encourage some of its massive handheld audience to accept Nintendo as their console provider of choice too.
It would also have these other benefits:
• Parents console-shopping for their kids would be more likely to buy the NX if it meant they wouldn’t have to buy them a separate handheld too.
• Would no longer split Nintendo’s development teams into handheld and console titles. In 2014 Nintendo published 12 games on 3DS and nine on Wii U. With a hybrid system this theoretically could lead to over 20 first-party published games a year regardless of whether you prefer handheld or home console games.
• Customers will be more likely to buy a multi-format title on NX if they’re essentially getting a console version and a handheld version for the same price.
• It would be dead good and that.
Don’t compete visually with the big boys
Inevitably, when Nintendo finally shows off its first NX games, you’re going to get a section of the internet saying they look underwhelming. This is par for the course now.
Nintendo has long made it clear that it has no intention of trying to compete with Sony and Microsoft in terms of power, and instead makes its hardware to suit its game ideas.
One thing this strategy has shown on Wii U is that Nintendo knows its own hardware inside-out. Despite the Wii U being clearly less powerful than the Xbox One and PS4, there are very few racing games more beautiful than Mario Kart 8, 3D platformers more full of character than Super Mario 3D World or fighters with more sheer spectacle than Super Smash Bros.
I would hope, then, that the NX doesn’t change this policy. The DS and 3DS (when compared to the PSP and Vita) have already shown that game quality will always trump visual quality, and as long as we have the now-standard HD support (if it’s a console) then I’ll be happy with that.
Yes, there will always be a hardcore group that will analyse every new Nintendo game’s frame rate and native rendering resolution. But as long as the games look pretty anyway (and they usually do), most of us couldn’t give a twelfth of a shit.
Make it region-free
It’s time now, Nintendo. I enjoyed a world of import goodness on my Game Boy Advance and DS back in the day but the 3DS killed all that by becoming the first ever Nintendo handheld to be fully region locked.
This is one area in which Nintendo really should compete with Sony and Microsoft, who have both done the right thing and made their consoles completely region-free. Sony first did it with the PS3, while Microsoft made it standard on Xbox One (it was optional on 360 depending on the wishes of each game’s publisher).
I appreciate that Nintendo may want to keep its digital stores region-specific, so Brits don’t just jump on the US eShop and get games for cheaper. I don’t like it but I get it.
But at least make the physical games region-free so there’s an option for us. It would kill the need for reputation-damaging campaigns like Operation Rainfall flat and would only make Nintendo more money.
In 2013 Nintendo released Daigasso! Band Bros P on 3DS in Japan. I, and other Nintendo fans, want to play it. We’re sitting here waving money in your mustachioed face, Nintendo: lean over and grasp it with your quivering hoof.
That online account thing everyone’s always going on about
Nintendo is getting there when it comes to online ownership of digital files, but it isn’t quite there yet.
The introduction of the Nintendo Network ID was a good first step: now people who own a Wii U and a 3DS can sign into both with the same account.
We’ve also started to see some examples of both eShops being linked: anyone who buys OlliOlli from the Wii U eShop can download the 3DS version for free.
However, what some of us are still waiting for is the ability to sign into multiple different devices with the same account.
As I stated in my New 3DS review, for those of us who buy games digitally there’s still no option to have, say, a standard 3DS for playing on the move and a 3DS XL for playing at home.
Your digital games are locked to a single 3DS and can’t be played on another without doing the painfully slow system transfer process, which then renders them unplayable on the original device.
It also means that should you lose your 3DS, all your games are lost and can’t be downloaded onto another system without an annoying to-and-fro with Nintendo’s customer service department. Granted, anecdotal evidence suggests they’re usually very helpful, but it’s an unnecessary hassle.
The next hardware needs to have a system in place where you can log into any system with your NNID, pop onto the eShop and re-download anything you’ve bought before with no hassle at all.
If Nintendo wants to push digital it has to make it as flexible as physical. A parent with two kids (each with their own 3DS) is going to buy a Mario game on cartridge so they can share it: they aren’t going to buy the digital version if it means they have to buy two.
It would appear that fixing this is one of Nintendo’s big plans for NX. Its announcement of the hardware came as part of a larger presentation in which it confirmed a partnership with DeNA, which is essentially a Japanese mobile gaming portal (like Google Play).
According to Iwata, DeNA will help Nintendo set up “a new membership service which encompasses the existing Nintendo 3DS and Wii U systems, the new hardware system with a brand-new concept NX, and smart devices and PCs”. Sounds promising to me.
Keep the Miiverse
It’s a popular misconception that Nintendo still doesn’t know how to ‘do’ online. However, just because the Wii U doesn’t have headsets or any of that pish doesn’t mean it isn’t innovating.
Miiverse is that console’s killer app. Any time you do something amazing in a game you can hit the home button and share a screenshot with the rest of the community, complete with your own little hand-drawn note.
Sometimes I’ll boot up the Wii U or 3DS just to check Miiverse, with no intention of playing a game. It’s a lovely wee world where almost everyone is nice to each other, anything questionable is quickly moderated and it just puts a big smile on your face.
It feels, quite frankly, like what internet forums would be if Nintendo had designed them: light-hearted, friendly and fun. There’s nobody screaming obscenities into your ear or calling you a faggot, it’s just drawings of characters and players proudly showing off their accomplishments, usually to a round of ‘likes’ (or ‘Yeah!’s as they’re known on Miiverse).
It’s charming. That’s what it is, charming. And I hope Nintendo sticks with it.
Add an achievement system
I am fully aware that only a small number of people will care about this, but this is my wishlist so nyaah.
I am a self-confessed achievement fiend. Ever since the Xbox 360 launched in 2005 I have been obsessed with achievements and building my ever-growing Gamerscore (I recently passed the 150,000 mark).
The reason why people like me love achievements is well-documented but, to recap, they essentially turn the entire system into a big meta-game where the hunt for a higher score can lead to the discovery of new titles you wouldn’t otherwise play.
Here’s a sad fact: when a multi-format game is released, I will buy the Xbox One or Xbox 360 version before I’ll buy the PS4 or PS3 version, even if the latter performs technically better, because it’ll increase my Gamerscore.
This is not a condition exclusive to me: there are others like me. Not a lot, granted, but some.
The reason I didn’t get into PlayStation trophies was there was a point in my life when the PS3 was underwhelming me so much it was sitting under my telly doing nothing. By the time I got properly into PS3 gaming again, the trophy system had been in place for so long that I felt like I was constantly lagging behind my friends.
If Nintendo was to introduce a new achievement system, which would start me off on equal footing with everyone else, I would lap that shit up like a cat with a shovel-shaped tongue.
It’s not like Nintendo is against the idea of achievements, as some suggest. It’s already featured achievement systems in some of its first-party games, like the Stamps in Wii Sports Resort and the Challenges in Smash Bros.
The natural progression is to take these one step further, adding them to games as standard and then tying them into your Nintendo Network ID so friends can compare them.
Look, I just want everyone to see how brilliant I am at Picross, really.
Put Night Trap on it
Goes without saying.
So there you have it. These are just the things that have come to mind today following Nintendo’s announcement: I’m sure there’s other stuff bouncing around in my head that I’ll think of in the future.
If there’s anything else you’d like to see the Nintendo NX do, or if you think any of my suggestions are goatshit, do let me know in the comments below.