OPINION The extensive Nintendo NX leaks have only served to make the next-gen console even less predictable. Chris Smith explains why Ninty's forthcoming machine remains the most intriguing product of this year... and next.
The late, great former professional wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper used to say: “Just when you think you have all the answers, I change the question.”
Down the years Nintendo has made a habit of doing the same.
Despite a slew of recent leaks, Nintendo’s NX console is still wildly unpredictable, a year after it was initially announced – and that’s exactly what makes it so exciting.
I’ve been fascinated by the prospect of the NX since Nintendo first announced it. To me, it’s more interesting than any other product we cover here at TrustedReviews, for reasons I explained in this January column.
This week’s barrage of prospective information, although perhaps undermining some of the mystery, has served only to deepen that intrigue. These leaks haven’t given us definitive answers; just like Hot Rod, they’ve just changed the questions.
Let’s sum up the info from this week's reports:
1) The NX will be a portable handheld console
2) It'll have detachable NES-like controllers
3) It'll come with a docking station enabling games to be played on the big screen
4) Games will come on cartridges
5) It'll be powered by Nvidia’s mobile Tegra processors
6) It’ll be more powerful than the Wii U, but less powerful than Xbox One and PS4
7) It’ll have a completely new operating system
8) It’ll be cheaper than “the vast majority of people expect”
9) It’ll enable users to take their games on the go as well as enjoying them in the home setting
10) If those rumours come to fruition, it’ll be impossible to predict how this is going to play out when Nintendo releases the console next March.... mainly because there’s no precedent.
If the cat really is out of the bag, there are unique possibilities for this to be a spectacular re-imagining of how we play games, or a crippling disappointment that ends Nintendo’s run as a major force in the world of console gaming.
It's an incredible gamble and one that’s going to be fascinating to see played out.
Watch: Nintendo NX rumour round-up
The Holy Grail?
On the surface, it seems like this console could be the culmination of 30 years of work in the handheld and home console markets. From the lineage of the NES and the Game Boy, it seems, will come the NX.
Nintendo began with you having to go to a physical location and pump coins into a machine to play games. All these years on, it appears to be closing in on one console, one high-quality experience, available wherever you go.
The Holy Grail of console-quality gaming on a portable device? The NX could take us there and bring us home to continue playing the same game in front of the big screen at the end of the day.
Amid the big dreams, it also seems like a smart, considered play. Since the end of the Wii’s heyday, most of Nintendo’s success has been in the handheld market. The 3DS outings of Mario Kart, Smash Bros and Super Mario Bros all outsold their Wii U counterparts considerably. This week sure explains why Mario and Zelda don’t appear to be part Nintendo’s mobile line-up!
Equally, Nintendo may not be earning quite as much from Pokémon Go as investors thought, but the DS/3DS franchise is still a goldmine. Why not combine this craze with the existing franchise and make it a fully fledged RPG, where gamers collect the monsters in the real world and then bring them home to enhance the experience on the big TV?
GAMING UTOPIA? NOT SO FAST....
However, with such an approach would come an equal number of concerns – perhaps even more.
There’d be questions over whether it’s the right choice to release another console with less power than the rivals, and questions over whether a portable NX could boast the visual capabilities to satisfy modern gamers, who’re now being steered in the direction of 4K and HDR and VR, rather than 1080p.
If rumours of cartridges maxing out at 32GB are true, is that going to be enough, when games like Uncharted 4 have install sizes of more than 50GB?
Naturally, there’d also be concerns over battery life. Just how long could the company keep such a powerful device running? If it has a high-resolution display, beefy CPU/GPU configurations, Bluetooth and possibly Wi-Fi/LTE connectivity, how long are players going to be able to stay mobile?
What about the size of this thing? Can it possibly boast console-like power in a package that’s still modest in terms of weight and portability? Can it be small enough for people to want to take with them on the go? Sexy enough for them to have out in public?
And if Nintendo really wants to price the NX aggressively, can it do all of this stuff while turning a profit?
THRILL OF THE SURPRISE
Technology launches have become so predictable. A bit like political speeches. They’re leaked, revealed through advanced media briefings or sussed out by a savvy public that knows what to expect.
The result is that we’re often analysing products and judging their eventual fate with confidence way before the big reveal. Just look at the iPhone 7 snoozefest.
As the Comic-Con announcement of the Blair Witch movie proved last week, it’s the thrill of the surprise that still keeps our blood pumping in this information-saturated era.
Nintendo is bucking the trend, just as it always has. It's changing the questions once again, but is the Nintendo NX really the answer? It’s going to be a hell of a ride finding out.