Nintendo has the most unique position out of all the platform makers in the gaming industry. It is the oldest of the ‘Big Three’, and yet, it is also the one that seems to be ostracized the most by the gaming community and media. On a more positive note, Nintendo has still managed to achieve great levels of success time and again, which has helped it to remain an active force in this crowded and incredibly volatile industry. But alas, the levels of doubt and negativity are quite high. The company is currently preparing to launch its next system, the NX. After its last system has proven to be a wild mixture of ‘great’ and ‘oh no’, in contrast to the competing system’s enjoying a mass amount of success, it is nothing short of imperative that Nintendo firmly puts its foot down and deliver a console that even its most devoted naysayers will have to approve of.
Nintendo first made mention of the NX all the way back at an investor’s briefing that was held during the Spring. The announcement was incredibly surprising, seeing that the type of event was not synonymous for mentions of new hardware. Not only was the announcement surprising, it was confusing; the system’s existence was announced, and that was it. It was described as being a “new experience”, and nothing more. Not even the ‘NX’ label is final, for it is merely a codename. Since then, the company has been very careful to not say too much about it. Each time the topic was brought up, whoever was explaining the system would use a very carefully selected words that give a very broad and vague idea. At this point, our confirmed knowledge of the system hasn’t really grown since the day it was announced. Nintendo has kept repeating the same terms over and over again since that time, leaving just about everyone who isn’t a major developer or who happens to be close to the company in one way or another, in the dark.
This incredibly high level of secrecy has created a situation filled with confusion, desperation and lofty expectations. ‘Leaks’ and rumors surrounding the system have continued to dominate headlines for months on end. At this point, many folks appear to agree that the system is a handheld-home console hybrid, and is being powered by a Nvidia chip, instead of traditional AMD hardware. While this information has come from generally reputable sources, it still remains a complete mystery as to what the system actually is. In the midst of this madhouse, Nintendo’s competitors have not only also announced new systems of their own, but they have each given concrete details surrounding them.
Rumors of brand new PlayStation and Xbox consoles first sprung early this year. At E3, both companies confirmed that they were indeed working on new hardware. Microsoft went ahead and did a soft reveal of its next system, dubbed Project Scorpio, at the end of its press conference. There, the general specifications of the hardware were detailed. Sony confirmed its next system before its E3 press conference, but did not actually reveal it until just a few days ago at another press event which was held in New York. First dubbed the PS4 ‘Neo’, the system, which is now officially titled PS4 ‘Pro’, will serve as the premium edition of the already successful and powerful PS4. While both of these systems were announced after the NX, they pose a very real threat.
The large install bases of the OG PS4 and XBO was already a problem, but now the rise of their upgraded counterparts has made the situation even more difficult.
Since Nintendo is constantly being ostracized by many in the gaming community and media, Xbox and PlayStation continue to be the dominating forces, leaving Nintendo to cater primarily to its active fanbase. The company has been pulling away from the rest of the industry since the days of the N64, which has led to it meandering between bouts of success and near-failure. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Sony’s platforms have been doing very well, and are the faces of modern-day gaming. Nintendo’s situation was already worrisome before this generation, but after the performance of the Wii U, the company’s reputation is in dire straits.
Nintendo may not be as financially weak as its former rival SEGA was nearly two decades ago, but it does share a similar position now. Developers seem to be ignoring the existence of the company’s hardware, and the majority of the gaming community is either uninterested in what Nintendo has to offer, or is constantly criticizing it. This thick veil of negativity hasn’t stopped the company from continuing to turn a profit and stay afloat, but it puts the NX in a very tough position, despite the fact that it hasn’t even been fully revealed yet.
Things were already going to be difficult with just the PS4 and Xbox One out in the wild, but now their superior counterparts are also on the field. With two generations of producing ‘simple’ hardware under its belt, many have concluded that Nintendo would repeat the same process with the NX. The announcement of more powerful hardware from Sony and Microsoft have further pushed this notion. Despite the fact that Nintendo has never released a system that was less powerful than previous hardware, many people believe that the upcoming console will under-perform when compared to the competition. This idea has been further pushed by the many rumors that have sprouted surrounding the console’s capabilities.
The NX’s exact capabilities remain a mystery, but many believe it will not be a competent system. Hopefully Nintendo returns to its roots of producing powerful hardware.
In addition to having less powerful systems, Nintendo has also tried to push new innovations in control schemes. The original Wii proved to be a massive success due to its unique motion capabilities, but the Wii U had trouble selling 10% of the Wii’s sales despite having a slightly more traditional set-up. This has caused the ‘core’ gaming community to move away from Nintendo – in addition to the exodus that occurred during the days of the Gamecube. Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft have been gamers almost exactly what they want time-and-again, thus causing Nintendo to be seen as nothing more alternate and optional experience. The NX needs to change this.
Nintendo already confirmed from the get-go that the NX would be a unique system. If the leaks and rumors turn out to be true, then a hybrid system would indeed fit this description. However, many gamers simply want Nintendo to produce another ‘traditional’, powerful system that developers would be keen to support. Although they haven’t said much, a handful of major companies have come forth recently and have spoken rather positively of Nintendo and the illusive NX. While we may know next to nothing about it, those companies most surely do. While it’s great that they seem pleased with what they have seen, that isn’t something to get overly-excited about. Prior to its launch, the Wii U was also spoken highly of by many developers. EA, one of (if not the) biggest third-party company in the industry, was primarily behind the system. Despite all of the positive feedback, most of these companies abandoned the system a little over a year after its launch. Again, the NX needs to change this.
There are many factors of Nintendo’s tough position: it has continued to be incredibly vague and secretive about the NX, and has also almost completely dropped support for the Wii U. Rumors and leaks have left people feeling confused, and have also caused expectations to go all over the place. Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft are busy hyping their own new systems and have the full backing of major developers. Nintendo definitely has its work cut out for it, but it has the means to overcome this situation. As difficult as it may be, it is not impossible for the NX to achieve at least a moderate level of success. It is very hard to determine exactly what chance it has, since we know nothing about it and also because it remains unclear how the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio will affect it. Even so, Nintendo needs to bring the house down. If the system is simple to develop for, easy for consumers to understand and has an attractive set of features, all supported by a healthy line-up of games, then the NX can and hopefully will be a true return to form for the Big N.
Learn from your mistakes, Nintendo. Listen to your fans. Take the advice of developers. Observe what your competitors are doing and emulate it, even if you put our own spin on it. The NX cannot flounder. The N64 was the beginning of the decline and the Gamecube made it obvious. Things went well for the Wii, but it was only successful at the surface. The Wii U continued a trend that had already began well before it was conceived. With the NX, Nintendo needs to pull itself out of that hole. It’s impossible to create a ‘perfect’ system, but this one better be as close to that level as possible.