A few thoughts on the Nintendo NX

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new Nintendo console on the way. The NX, as it’s codenamed, will probably be available by the end of the year, and we’re likely to see some sort of big reveal at around the time of E3 in June – or even earlier. The word on the street is that it will be some sort of console/handheld hybrid.

And all across the internet, Nintendo fans are wringing their hands with worry.

It’s a peculiar thing, really. You wouldn’t sit there worrying if, say, Samsung released a new TV and it wasn’t as good or sold as well as the company hoped. But games consoles create rabidly loyal followers, and Nintendo fans are more rabid than most – me included.

The NX - it almost definitely won't look anything like this.
The NX – it almost definitely won’t look anything like this.

It seems the fashion these days is to spout your opinion on exactly what Nintendo SHOULD be doing in order to ‘save’ the company, a pastime that I myself have previously partaken in. The thing is though, Nintendo is doing absolutely fine. They have absolutely tons of money, they regularly turn a profit, and they have an extremely loyal fanbase. They’re not about to go belly up, in other words. I mean, look at the queues for the opening of a new Pokemon Center in Japan the other day.

But there’s also the pervasive feeling that Nintendo’s crown has been slipping over the past few years. Whereas once it led the gaming market, now it ploughs its own furrow separately from the ‘big boys’ of Sony and Microsoft. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since Nintendo offers very different gaming experiences that you simply can’t get anywhere else. But for fan boys like me, there’s the nagging worry that the company is being left behind.

There’s that word again: worry. It’s so strange to be worrying about a highly successful international company. But perhaps it’s not so strange in a way. I’ve heavily invested in Nintendo products over the years: I grew up with the NES, SNES and Game Boy, and I’ve owned almost every Nintendo machine along the way. The company is very much part of my identity, and because of that, I want them to succeed, weird as that sounds.

Or this.
Or this.

Which brings me to the NX. And frankly, I’m not quite sure where they’re heading with this one.

If it’s an ‘all-in-one’ console and handheld, then surely Nintendo are cannibalizing their own market. Rather than buy a separate handeld and home console, Nintendo fans will instead just buy the one machine – which must mean that’s a hardware sale Nintendo has missed out on, right? Rather than buying two machines, customers will just buy one. And I don’t see how that’s going to help the company’s bottom line.

There I go worrying about the company again. But from a consumer’s point of view, this is fantastic news – no more annoying separation of console and handheld. And it IS annoying – especially when Nintendo releases Game Boy Advance games solely for the Wii U when they would be a perfect fit for the 3DS. (I have a particular axe to grind about that one – why can’t I play Advance Wars and Minish Cap on my 3DS, huh Nintendo?)

But zooming out to the bigger perspective, it’s easy to think that the NX will tread the same path as the Wii U before it – eagerly purchased by Nintendo fans but largely ignored by the larger gaming community. Nintendo machines have become niche buys – a ‘second console’ to fit alongside a PS4 or Xbox One rather than a primary purchase. Which is OK I suppose. But wouldn’t it be great to have a Nintendo console on which you can play all of the big third-party titles – your Fallouts and Assassin’s Creeds – as well as the unique Nintendo ones? And surely the company could hugely expand their market if they attracted more mainstream gamers?

And I guess in that statement you have the core reason behind the wringing of hands across the internet. At some point, Nintendo went from being mainstream to being niche. And if you’re a fan, you want to see them leading the pack, not picking up the crumbs that other consoles leave behind.

Who knows what this possible NX controller patent is all about...
Who knows what this possible NX controller patent is all about…