Ryan Smythe ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Early Tuesday, Nintendo dropped hints at a new project alongside its announcement of a mobile games partnership. Codenamed “Nintendo NX,” CEO Satoru Iwata had this to say about it:
“As proof that Nintendo maintains strong enthusiasm for the dedicated game system business, let me confirm that Nintendo is currently developing a dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept under the development codename ‘NX.’ It is too early to elaborate on the details of this project, but we hope to share more information with you next year.”
Announced in part to assuage fears that the company is abandoning its core gaming audience and completely transitioning into a casual games company, the NX may also be Nintendo’s answer to their underachieving Wii U. With less than half the sales of the PS4 and over two million less than the XBone, it’s fair to call the Wii U a disappointment.
But what exactly is the NX’s timetable? All we know right now is that the idea for it definitely exists, but there are absolutely no details about what development stage it’s in. Even without any concrete information, taking a look back at the Wii U’s development schedule could at the very least give an insight to the general timetable.
In a 2009 Popular Mechanics interview with Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto, he said that, “[W]e don’t have any concrete plans for what we’ll be doing with hardware in the future.” This came three years after the Wii’s initial release, the same amount of time the Wii U has been around. No word of a successor came until April 2011 when uncredited sources revealed plans to announce what was then known as Project Café at E3 2011.
The Wii U came out as planned in 2012, giving the massively popular Wii six years as its flagship console and beating Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles to market by a full year.
An interesting thing to note about the NX is that it still isn’t confirmed to be a console, simply a “dedicated gaming platform.” After Microsoft received criticism for focusing on the multimedia functionality of the XBone at its initial release event, it’s not surprising that multimedia functionality will be a background aspect of any announcement for consoles moving forward.
The biggest question Nintendo will most likely avoid until next year’s announcements is how long they are willing to stand behind the Wii U. With games like Project Giant Robot, Star Fox Wii U, and The Legend of Zelda still waiting for official release dates, it’s highly unlikely for the NX to hit shelves before 2017. Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8 increased the popularity of the console to almost acceptable levels, and with Nintendo’s new acceptance of competitive gaming, even 2017 feels a bit early. Sticking to the six-year timetable sounds about right especially given the success of the 3DS, the best-selling console of this generation, and massive demand for the New 3DS keeping sales numbers strong.
In a dream situation, 2016 brings a concept reveal of the NX combined with another Wii U price drop and a few game reveals for the current system. E3 2017 could reveal a fully playable model, along with game announcements for the NX itself. This entire console generation came with thoroughly underwhelming launch titles, so if Nintendo puts together a slate of top-tier games, the hype alone could put their new system in the must-buy column for every gamer. Something like a new Metroid game, a brand new title, or backwards compatibility could easily set Nintendo up for a resurgence to the top of the gaming world.