There are so many rumors about the upcoming Nintendo NX console that it’s not really even worth trying to sum them all up. Nintendo has kept this project so quiet that people have invented enough different ideas to build several generations of future consoles. It wouldn’t even be that farfetched to assume that the NX doesn’t even really exist and that this whole thing was a ploy by Nintendo to get free feedback about how they should build their next console. It was announced two to three months ago that the new console would be released the first quarter of this year. That’s the most ludicrous announcement in gaming I’ve heard since Microsoft said the XB1 would be always online and not support used games. Anyone who has even the slightest bit of knowledge about how the gaming industry works knew that wasn’t gonna be true. Nintendo may like to pretend they’re that amazing when it comes to production but I’m pretty sure I’m still waiting for a new console Zelda that was announced and shown three or more years ago. And literally the day I started writing this, Nintendo announced the NX would now be released later this year around October. Still don’t buy it, but my point is none the less valid.
The only way that a new console that hadn’t been shown publicly at any trade shows, was going to get released that soon after its initial announcement, was if the NX had already been completed sometime last year, meaning that this was all a ploy and that Nintendo was just waiting for the right moment. While that’s not impossible, it’s highly unlikely for a number of reasons. First of all, that’s really hedging your bets and while I know it’s not actually true, I’d like to think that Nintendo has learned something about console production and shipping in the last two generations, both from its own problems as well as those of its competitors. Secondly, no leaks? Come on, it’s 2016! When was the last time something that important in the entertainment industry was kept under wraps for that long? It’s almost impossible today to keep a secret like that. My point is that the NX is currently nowhere near hitting the public market. I do believe there’s at least one prototype currently pretty far along, but if I was a betting man I’d say the NX will be released sometime between Christmas 2016 and Christmas 2017. And that’s still giving Nintendo a lot of credit for a still unseen console.
Even if the NX really is ready now, it would be insane in today’s market to just release it out of the blue with no proper marketing, announcements, or even just a list of release titles before hand. People don’t just go out and buy consoles. And as the Wii U has shown, they especially don’t do it for Nintendo hardware. It would be shocking to see such flagrantly bad business practices thrown around today by a company as old and well established as Nintendo. And yet at the same time, I wouldn’t put it past them when you recount some of the things that were done during the life span of the Wii U. In any case, the NX will be out before you know it and we’ll all have to decide if it’s worth paying for.
I have owned every Nintendo home console since the NES and I also own or have owned at least three of the handhelds. There was a time when I would have called myself a diehard Nintendo fan, but that stopped being true during the Wii era. I still love Nintendo and I still happily buy many of their products. But no longer do I do it blindly. I own a Wii U, but I didn’t purchase it until October 2014. I spent two years waiting for both a price drop and a hefty catalogue of games worth playing to warrant me buying a new console. I did want a Wii replacement because I hadn’t used that box of disappointments in quite some time. Eventually they made a bundle that worked for me at a price I liked and I bought one.
To this day, less than two years later, I have no regrets about buying the Wii U. I have played a number of really excellent games such as Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong: Country Tropical Freeze as well as indie titles like Shovel Knight. There is a list of critically acclaimed games I currently own that I need to play such as Super Mario Maker and Xenoblade Chronicles X and there are still games I want to buy such as Devil’s Third. Assuming us Wii U owners don’t get the shaft once the NX comes out, there are some games in the near future that will be worth playing such as Star Fox Zero. That being said, the Wii U is by no means a perfect console. If I could change a number of things about it, I absolutely would. But it does fulfill its role in my home as a useful piece of gaming equipment that I actually do use and plan to keep using on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. So let’s talk about why or if gamers like me who do own a Wii U should even consider purchasing an NX in the next year or two.
First thing to note is that the Wii U has been out for less than four years. It just passed three years in November 2015. The current life span of the console is shorter than the amount of time I actively used my Wii. The amount of time I’ve personally owned the Wii U means that I don’t plan on buying a replacement for at least five years from the purchase date, but really I like to go almost a decade before “upgrading”. PS2 to PS3 was six years. PS3 to PS4 was seven years. XBOX to 360 was four years. 360 to XB1 was eight years. Gamecube to Wii was five years. Wii to Wii U was six years. The Wii U hasn’t even been around for the low side of that range of generation change schedules. I know Nintendo has said that they haven’t given up on the Wii U but to release a new home console now is doing just that.
Nintendo isn’t like Sony and Microsoft. They don’t cross gen release good titles like the others do (with the exception of Twilight Princess). Based on their track record you won’t be getting Super Mario Galaxy 3 on Wii U if it’s an NX title. Especially not if it’s being sold as a flagship sales booster title. One of the biggest worries among Wii U owners right now is the fear that we won’t end up getting the Zelda we were promised on the console it was originally announced for. Wouldn’t be the first time. Still waiting for The Last Guardian and Kingdom Hearts III almost two generations later. But how much motivation would that give Wii U owners to go buy a new Nintendo console? How could we trust that this new investment would be any more stable than the previous one? I’m confident I speak for most gamers when I say that I will absolutely not be buying a new console from Nintendo every three to four years at $300 plus each time. It’s just not worth it to play a game or two from your favorite franchises and not much else. We’ve gotten one Donkey Kong platformer this gen and at this point no Metroid, Zelda, or Star Fox. Not counting Hyrule Warriors. We are supposedly getting the Star Fox soon, but I’ll wait till I have the disc in hand before I credit them for that. If the NX really is a replacement for the Wii U then I don’t see that many Wii U owners purchasing one any time soon. If not for the lack of need then definitely for the lack of funds and trust in the company.
Now again, we don’t actually know what the NX will end up being. We are assuming that it’s meant to replace the Wii U, but for all we know it’s a pure handheld meant to replace the 3DS which wouldn’t be totally insulting if they hadn’t of just released the 3DS XL less than a year ago (February 2015). There are seriously a lot of problems with releasing a console right now that will ultimately demean an already crumbling user base. And Nintendo is all about loyalty buyers. Yes they do pull in new kids with games like Yo-Kai Watch every so often, but for the most part people who play Nintendo have done so for a long time. Especially those with the money to just go out and buy a console after having just purchased one from them. At this point it just doesn’t seem like a well thought out plan for Nintendo.
Let’s just say for the purposes of argument that time wasn’t a factor. We’ll pretend that the timing is perfect and the price is acceptable to the public and that all that matters is need and/or desire. What would the NX have to do to convince all current, practical Wii U owners to buy one? I am of course making the assumption here that the NX is meant to be a home console, which again is just speculation at this point. I have heard a number of people say that it may be a full replacement that will take the place of both your Wii U and 3DS at the same time. One person even described it as being an XB1 that you can hold in your hands. I actually don’t believe that such a thing will exist in the current/next generation of consoles for a number of reasons.
First of all, that’s a complete waste of money. If it’s a purely handheld console then there’s little to no reason for it to be that powerful at this time. Not only would such a costly console be impractical to build, but no one would want to pay for it. Does anyone want to play Metal Gear Solid V on maybe a 10 inch screen? The games that you play on the XB1/PS4 are meant to be played on a TV. And while yes, remakes of TV games do get released on handhelds all the time, we’re not talking about an old N64 game that can slide on the graphics. If you’re building something that powerful as a handheld and people are gonna pay probably $4-600 for it then they’re going to want the top shelf new AAA titles on it and most people wouldn’t want those on handheld. Secondly, there’s the fact that console and handheld gamers are not the same group of people nor do they buy the same types of games for the same reasons in most if not all cases. People who own 3DS’s own them for a reason. And people who chose to get Wii U’s instead of 3DS’s also did so for a reason. You can’t just shift those markets over because the technology is there. You gotta be able to move units and that most likely wouldn’t sell that great to either group for various reasons. But this is based on the idea that it’s a pure handheld. That being said, let’s move back to the original idea of it replacing the home console.
For the NX to sell it would have to improve on the Wii U in a number of noticeable ways or it would have to simply ignore it and take gaming in a completely new direction. For the purpose of argument, let’s work based on the theory that it will shoot to improve on the Wii U and not revolutionize gaming as a whole like the Wii did. When compared to the Wii, the Wii U is a solid console. Yes it does have a horrible online social system, a flash drive sized internal HDD, and very weak app support, but compared to its predecessor console it’s still in my opinion the most next gen thing you can buy. It added a second screen, solid peripherals and accessories, a vast improvement on the graphics, online multiplayer, and much better, but admittedly still lacking, in third party support. But what could/should Nintendo do to improve it that would warrant another console purchase? Remember, I am still actively using my Wii U and PS4.
Right off the bat that internal HDD needs to improve. And they better not insult everyone like Sony and Microsoft did by offering up only 500 GB. While that actually would be a lot more practical based on current Nintendo releases, they would need to just do the right thing and start with no less than a 1TB internal HDD, which is now the new standard. I have a 2TB HDD in my PS4 and I’m not alone if we’re being honest though.
The Nintendo Network would have to be completely overhauled from the ground up. From a hardware standpoint, a new console needs a built in Ethernet port. I love the fact that the Wii U gives you four USB ports, but I hate that I have to waste one on an Ethernet adaptor because Nintendo won’t just build one in for God knows what reason. I get that they want to push wireless online, but cabled play is still the way hardcore gamers play on all platforms including PC because it’s reliable and easy to setup. Not to mention the fact that a lot of networks in places like colleges won’t allow you to connect gaming consoles to them wirelessly.
I should also mention that the actual online framework is trash. The store is ok, but highly inefficient compared to the PSN and XBL stores. It’s also not nearly as pretty to look at or as well organized. I’m talking about the American store in all three cases. I can say from firsthand experience that the Taiwan PSN store looks like crap. Adding and communicating with friends on NN is very inconvenient. The process has so many seams in it you’d think it was made in a middle school sewing class. First, you have to get you friend’s ID which, by the way, is not ok to share on the Miiverse. Then you have to go to the friends page, which requires loading time, manually enter the friend’s ID, and send them a request. Then you have to wait till they respond. But the console doesn’t tell you via notifications or anything, also requiring a loading time to check. You have to keep manually checking the friends section to see if they added you.
Then there is messaging. Sending messages to friends is such a complicated, inconvenient process that I won’t even take the time to explain it. But again, it requires going to a specific section and manually checking for messages because there’s no automatic notifications for that either. Imagine going through that every time you wanted to play a game with someone. I’ve literally not known I had time sensitive messages waiting for me until days later. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I added a friend because the process is just that bad.
Now onto the Miiverse. Suffice it to say that it is a crappy, Orwellian nightmare complete with censorship (you can’t even use the word crap), content gates which are super difficult to navigate, and the play journal which doesn’t work nearly as well as Nintendo hoped it would. The more recent changes have actually made Miiverse worse. The old version wasn’t great, but it was at least a lot easier to write, find, and respond to posts. The new version makes it really easy to keep track of your own posts, but it also limits what you can post a lot more and makes it really hard to connect with people you don’t already know. For any future console Nintendo should just hard copy what XBL and PSN have and admit that original doesn’t trump convenience in this case. Also, the Miiverse auto text works like it was coded by an intro to Java student. Please, let people control stick type as well as use the touch screen. I would like to not have to change from my pro controller to the gamepad every time I want to post a pic.
Nintendo’s consoles definitely need to see a smoother interface. This is the age of broken gaming. No longer is it ok to make people have to completely exit out of games to send messages, check who’s online, or look up information. People just want to be able to seamlessly do all that stuff with as little loading as possible. The Wii U makes everything into a special, long winded process. Gaming shouldn’t seem like a chore on a gaming console. Nor should connecting with other people. There’s no recently played with list, no add friend command and you can’t even send private messages to people without having them add you as a friend first. Plus, there’s no voice chat lobby. I’ve played maybe two games that actually made use of the built in mic for actually talking to other people. Usually I just use it to raise platforms in Mario games at this point.
Next thing the NX would have to have is some serious app support and improvement. PS3 Netflix is so convenient, I like it even better than on PC. PS4 Netflix is just as if not more convenient. Wii U Netflix is terrible. I’m not talking about the quality, I mean actually navigating and using the system, which is surprising since it does have a touch screen. A new console would also need easy access and posting/streaming capability with Twitch, Twitter, and YouTube. While it may not actually be gaming related in scope it is now the standard expectation for what consoles can do. People now want to interact with social media while gaming and the easier that is the happier they will be with a console. I’m still using my Elgato game capture solely for the Wii U.
As far as core gameplay from a hardware standpoint is concerned, I think the Wii U is perfect. There are definitely bad games on the Wii U, such as Sonic Lost World and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, but I don’t in any way fault the console for that. The hardware is sound and thus I don’t really see any easy fixes on how to improve it. The only thing I would like to see improved on a technical level is increase the playable range of the gamepad from the console. I can’t even go the bathroom without stopping my game and I can see it from my couch. The gamepad is great because you can play most games directly on it without a TV, but the fact that you have to be in the same room as the console puts that power to waste. If I could play from other rooms in my apartment like the bedroom before falling asleep, I definitely would. My PS VITA allows me to play from my bedroom and bathroom through walls with no lag. But that is a self-contained unit, so on some level that makes sense.
That’s the kind of improvement I would have to see to warrant me going out and buying a new Nintendo console. If they just pull the “corner you in for a new Zelda” thing many people will probably just pass this time around. I know I will. $360 ($300 for console + $60 for game) to play one game just doesn’t work in this economy. And the Wii U can already run 1080p graphics so there’s not much room left to grow on that front if we’re still talking about common Nintendo IPs.
Making the NX replace both would be expensive, but it wouldn’t be too hard. It would simply be the aforementioned XB1 portable with an HDMI port and at least one USB port with hub capabilities. Give it a powerful internal battery that could run for at least 8 hours of continuous play. The current 3DS NN/StreetPass social system actually isn’t too bad so that wouldn’t have to change much. The important thing here would be making sure it has a big enough screen to play legitimate home console games on while still being light and compact enough to carry in a practical way. Certainly not pocket sized but no bigger than a laptop and definitely not folding. This would look a lot like the current Wii U gamepad in an ideal scenario.
Again, this isn’t impossible today, but it is quite expensive. It would also have to be sold at a manageable price point. A company like Microsoft would try to sell it for the combined price of the 3DS and Wii U plus a markup but that wouldn’t work for Nintendo in this scenario. They would have to sell it for no more than the current competition which right now would be a low of $300 and a high or $400. That’s the only way you’re gonna get a bunch of console gamers to consider paying for something which will be seen as a glorified handheld at first glance. And handheld gamers wouldn’t even want to pay that much because they’re used to paying about half the price of home consoles. The current rumor mill is saying it could release for as little as $150. This makes me think even more that it’s meant to replace the 3DS because a home console release at that price in 2016 seems like either a Christmas miracle or a cheap box of shit, and if the last three gens has taught us anything, it’s that the latter is more than likely.
The biggest issue would of course be software. This would require some really delicate work on Nintendo’s part. As I mentioned before, people who own Wii U’s don’t want to be forced into buying a console just to play new games when they very recently bought the predecessor console. The worst, but most likely thing Nintendo could do is pressure loyal customers into buying a new console to play games that could run on the console they currently have. So the real way to sell the NX to old and new customers is to implement two software based changes that would revolutionize Nintendo gaming. The first is to finally get that third party support that Sony and Microsoft get. Nintendo goes out of their way not to compete with XBOX and PlayStation , but we all know that on some level they are still always competing. They all go to E3 for instance. The secret is not to end their first party exclusivity, it’s simply to build a framework that will easily allow AAA third party developers like say, BioWare and Ubisoft, to make games on the NX with little to no hassle. That’s how you convince Wii U owners to upgrade early on. You say “you can play the new Zelda on your Wii U, but the NX will let you play Zelda and Final Fantasy.”
The second big thing is to completely end region locking of consoles and software. I live in Asia and I can say without a doubt that Nintendo still has the strongest international catalog of games between the three with Sony in a commanding second. Microsoft isn’t even in the running if I’m being honest. The problem is that I can’t actually play any of those region 3 games. I bought my Wii U when I was still living in America. That means every game I buy has to either be shipped from the US, used, or a digital copy. But I’m not saying that kind of problem is why region locking needs to end. That’s a very niche issue that very few people have to deal with. But there is actually a large import market in the US and Europe because many people do intentionally buy Japanese consoles. The bigger issue though is that many people want to play non-localized games. There are tons of games that only appear in Japanese that I wish I could play, but can’t because I have an American Wii U and refuse to purchase a second one from Asia. Lots of people in the west would love to play games that are only released in Japanese or Chinese but literally can’t because of the region locks. The fact that both last gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony got rid of this problem (games but not DLC) makes it even less tolerable for Nintendo to keep up the practice. Removing region locks would be a simple way to instill confidence and save face with gamers of all types because it would show a modernizing of business practices that more aligns with the current expectations of consumers.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, we don’t actually yet know what the NX is going to be. For all we know it’s just a new handheld and this whole discussion will have been pointless. But if it is meant to replace the Wii U, then it will definitely be an uphill battle for Nintendo. The timing is bad and the expectations are very high, but if they make the right enhancements and improvements, get the right support, and manage the whole project better than the last two, then I believe that the NX could be something worth buying for old and new Nintendo users alike. I won’t say that I believe that’s what’s going to happen, but if they do right by the gamers, we’ll certainly do right by them as we always have in the past when they deserved it, and often when they didn’t.
What do you need to see on the NX in order to convince you to buy one?