I want things to work out for Nintendo, I really do. It’s no secret all of us at Pixelrater have a deep gaming connection with Nintendo and it’s various wonderful IP. A connection that harkens back to the 8-bit days and got some of us, if not most of us, into video games. There’s a respect and nostalgic appreciation there that Sony has only recently acquired, though not quite to the same degree, with PlayStation surpassing twenty years and Microsoft one is naturally working towards with the Xbox brand. When any new piece of hardware launches in the gaming space it’s a time of excitement, whether it’s a full console or a peripheral like VR. Rarely do console launches have a stellar lineup, especially for Nintendo as of late with 3DS and Wii U, but that hasn’t always the case. One of the best lineups I can recall was Nintendo 64 launching day one with Super Mario 64. That game alone was the sole reason I wanted the console and is still one of my favorite games to this day.
Okay, so let’s talk NX. With Wii U, things looked iffy from the start. I remember watching the E3 reveal and being impressed with the company’s sizzle reel, particularly pertaining to third party support. The gamepad seemed like a novel idea if used creatively, but as time would tell things wouldn’t pan out the way the house of Mario had hoped. First off, and I know it’s been said before, but the name was a horrible idea, especially when the Wii U looked remarkably similar to the Wii. Using largely the same design while incorporating the previous console’s name lead to confusion that some consumers still have to this day. And that mass confusion ultimately cost Nintendo its bottom line. But most of us already know this, so I want to dive into the freshest NX rumors and what I think the company needs to do to stay relevant.
Nintendo NX is a name that not only sounds cool but also reinforces the brand by putting Nintendo in the system’s name not unlike Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Nintendo 64. Sure, they were widely shortened to NES, SNES, and N64, but everyone still knew Nintendo was in the name. It does’t hurt that the console we officially know so little about up to this point has garnered massive press and buzz among the community. The name has been out there in headlines for a couple years now and I think Nintendo would be foolish not to capitalize on it or at the very least have the company’s name the console’s name.
We only have one confirmed first party title but it’s a powerhouse, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which will see a simultaneous release on Wii U and NX. We don’t know what the differences between the two versions will be, but we reckon the NX will have better graphics. The big seller for the NX version may be portability. The latest batch of rumors from Eurogamer, later backed by [The Wall Street Journal](Wall Street Journal: Nintendo NX Is A Hybrid That Will Run Mobile …), indicate NX will be a handheld console with detachable controllers. I’ll touch on the hardware later on in this article, but good hardware is nothing without standout software to run on it. This is something Nintendo itself has no issue with, but I can’t stress enough how much they need indie and third party developers on board through the life of the console. Nintendo can’t afford to have a lackluster lineup like most console launches, including their own, have suffered from. Zelda was originally slated to release on NX but the date was later changed to 2017 on their press site indicating Breath of the Wild may not be a launch title at all. NX needs a stellar title like a new Mario, or hell, even a HD remake of Mario Galaxy 1 and 2. I imagine people would die to take those games on the go while they wait for the next big Mario adventure. I know I would. I know Tristan would. We’ll have to wait and see what aces Nintendo has up their sleeve. I might mention something about the rumor that there are 5 ports of Wii U games coming. This also hints that it won’t be backwards compatible.
This one is tricky to talk about because we have virtually no concrete information about NX other than it launches in March 2017 and will have a new Zelda title. I think Nintendo needs to put gimmicks on the back burner, or at least prevent them from stealing the show. They struck gold with Wii and DS but the news ways to play those systems offered were immediately recognizable. Since the Wii, Nintendo’s home consoles and handhelds have been underpowered and that’s hurt the company in regards to third party support, specifically on the Wii U as the 3DS has sold quite well. At launch, most third party support for Wii U were rushed, downgraded ports with the exception of the overlooked Zombi U. The Wii U is proof that while Nintendo’s first party offerings are remarkable (Super Mario 3D World, Smash Bros. U, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon, Mario Maker). Trying to pitch a console with next to no support from other developers while also lacking the thriving indie ecosystem Sony has managed with PS4 is a tough sell, and it has landed the company in a tough spot. History shows when the big N’s back is against the wall is when the company is often most innovative.The company’s new slogan is “There’s No Play Like It” along with the classic red/white logo and marketing materials appears to be a rebirth of the company. A return to form. They’re calling out to those of us like myself and Tristan, Daney, Will, and Alex (He doesn’t even own a fucking DS, what a nerd.) who love Nintendo deeply as well as those whose relationship has grown stale over the years.
The Operating System
Another aspect the company simply can’t ignore is software. The Wii U’s OS is still pretty slow to navigate and doesn’t offer multitasking or sleep mode like its competitors which is an odd omission given the fact that the 3DS has it. Nintendo has stated NX will have a unified account system that will talk with Wii U, 3DS, and mobile and all I can say is It’s about fucking time. Seriously Nintendo. I love you, but Microsoft, Sony, Apple, Google, and Amazon have had this down for years now… Years!
Another necessity is cloud saves; all it takes is a formatting mistake, liquid spill, or botched software update to render your years with of game saves useless. Trust me, I found out the hard way and it blows. Rather than linking game purchases and their saves to a console and assigning it a random encryption key, how about linking my purchases to my Nintendo Account or Nintendo Network ID (they really should be one in the same) and letting me have peace of mind knowing my saves are in the cloud safe with Lakitu. It was rumored NX will sport Android as its OS (what a grave mistake that would be) but the company later stated that will not be the case. Newer whispers point to NX running a custom OS, maybe called Nintendo OS—or as I think they should call it—NintendOS. Everyone is stressing the importance of hardware, which I get, but software dictates most of the experience you’ll have and no other company knows this better than Microsoft. Look at where 360 and Xbox One were at launch and look at the complete overhaul the company gave both OS’s. They’re faster, better, and significantly more refined than the what came before (although the One’s could use more work). Nintendo absolutely needs to nail this and have perfect synergy between hardware and software. If they were smart they’d also integrate My Nintendo’s (Nintendo’s rewards program) achievement system called Missions into NX. Imagine gaining points by playing NX and Nintendo’s smartphone games or apps. Or while visiting Nintendo’s Nintendo NYC location or their attractions coming to Universal Studios and not only unlocking awards and building up some kind of trophy room or gamerscore but also unlocking digital and physical goods and discounts. That’s absolutely brilliant—Club Nintendo meets Xbox Achievements.
With Wii U, it just hasn’t been in the interest of developers to port their games to Nintendo’s hardware because it’s so underpowered with nothing more than the gamepad separating it from PS4 and Xbox. I want to see Nintendo get back to bleeding edge hardware and lead the industry like they did with NES, SNES, and N64. Believe it or not the rumor is NX will return to cartridges which is brilliant (although my well respected friend Ryan disagrees). In the original PlayStation era optical media was significantly cheaper compared to cartridges and offered significantly better audio and video quality. Fast forward a few decades (my heart) and optical media , for games, actually pales in comparison to cartridges. What a crazy world we live in.
Ever wonder why both PS4 and Xbox One require games be installed to a hard drive? It’s because their processors are able to crunch through data faster than the disc drive can read it. The speed gains from cartridges would eliminate this bottleneck and is something that is considerably more affordable now that back in the N64 days. Removing a mechanical power hungry disc drive also bodes well for a system that wants to be portable (I’m looking at you PSP with your UMD’s). The hottest tidbit is that NX will be powered by Nvidia’s Tegra X1 SoC which is no slouch and is actually more powerful than PS3, 360, and Wii U, although it’s not quite as powerful as PS4 and Xbox One. It’s entirely possible one reason Nintendo is releasing NX in 2017, other than to ensure a solid software lineup, is to use a newer Nvidia Tegra chip. This would make NX even more powerful than the impressive tech found in Nvidia’s Shield, and may be more in line with this generation of consoles.
Perhaps the biggest and longest running rumor is that the system will be a hybrid handheld home console device that’s said to include a docking station to connect NX to your home TV. This would allow you to dock/charge/play on the big screen and then pick up and play the exact same game while you’re out and about. NX may not be on par with Xbox One or PS4 but it could still be relatively easy to port games over to as evidenced by Nvidia’s Shield console. I’d take a slightly scaled down version of a game if it meant I could also play it anywhere. I’m picturing playing Zelda or Mario on the train to work, detaching the controllers and propping the system up (maybe it has a kickstand?) to play during lunch, and then hooking it up and picking up where I left off from the comfort of my couch and TV.
If these rumors become reality, then this sounds like a console and an experience I can get behind. I want Nintendo to thrive and see success because they aren’t afraid to try new things and their properties mean so much to me. A world without Mario and Zelda on a Nintendo system seems wrong and isn’t a world I want to live in. I know Tristan and I will be there day one for NX launch, will you be?