The Nintendo NX

There is a lot of speculation churned from the rumor mill about the Nintendo NX.  But we can do better.  By using the facts we can determine what Nintendo’s next console will be.

By Robert Graves

Nintendo is a clever company.  They control both hardware and software, and they surround their secrets with an iron curtain.  Nintendo’s President Satoru Iwata has publicly announced that Nintendo will keep a closed lid on the NX as well, so the competition doesn’t have a chance to create a copy.

Many fans are claiming, both in excitement and disgust, that the Nintendo NX is Nintendo’s next home console. Thanks to an off hand comment by Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Amie calling the NX “console”. But it cannot possibly be.

Let’s take a look at Nintendo’s current console line up.  The Wii U is Nintendo’s home console at the moment.  According to Nintendo, the Wii U has sold 9.54 units as of March 31 2015.  In comparison, the Gamecube, considered to be a flop for its time, sold 21.74 million units.  The Wii, considered by some now to be a fluke, sold over 100 million.  Nintendo expects to sell 20 million units of the NX in its first year. It doesn’t seem likely as a home console.

Nintendo of course also exists in the hand held gaming space. The Nintendo 3DS has sold 52 million units and the DS has sold 154 million units.  Nintendo’s hand held market share could be argued as its dominate arm.  Even still, none of its hand held consoles have broken 20 million units in a year.

Looking at the video game industry as the sum of its parts, we see that console sales as a whole are on the decline, while the mobile market is expanding rapidly.  Because of the success in this area, several Japanese gaming companies have crossed into these greener pastures.  Sega, Square-Enix and Konami have all opened up development into the mobile gaming market.  This year Nintendo inked a $190 million dollar deal with mobile developer DeNA.

If we set our sights to the mobile hardware industry, we can see a few interesting statistics.  The iPhone 6 sold 10 million units in its opening weekend.   The Samsung Galaxy S4 sold a whopping 70 million units its first year.   Apple has sold 12.6 million iPads in 2015.  The mobile hardware market is just as volatile as the video game hardware market, with many “fanboys” on all sides.  The mobile market is much faster paced, with hardware life cycles as short as one year.

It would then seem the most likely that Nintendo looked around at the gaming market, placed a $190 million dollar bet with DeNA, and stepped into the ring as a new challenger.  We know this as a fact for software.  But hardware?  Given Nintendo’s software actions and the announcement and sales expectations of its new hardware,  it makes the most sense that Nintendo is building a dedicated machine to run its own mobile software on.

The Nintendo NX as a 3rd pillar hardware device sticks with Nintendo’s recent tradition.  A tablet makes perfect sense.  Nintendo already has its own OS that the Wii U and 3DS operate on.  The NX will have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Crunchy Roll support.  Miiverse 2.0 will be released by this time, and will offer a more robust system for social networking.  Nintendo already operates the eShop, a place to download a huge library of games.  Streetpass games should also operate as well.  The NX may also carry over Wii U functions, such as video chat and TVii.  It seems 100% likely that NFC function will also be included, as Amiibo has become a large part of Nintendo’s future.

If the Nintendo NX does become a stand alone tablet, it should be clarified by Nintendo that the Wii U and 3DS will not lose support.  Mr. Iwata has already said as much however the clandestine way he handles information has only confused and deterred people from purchasing the console.  The NX is expected to launch in summer of 2016, and Iwata should announce what it is before Christmas as to not cannibalize sales on what gamers assume is the last year of the Wii U.

To be sure, balancing expectations between the mobile and console market while keeping it all a secret will be a challenge. Nintendo has a way of surprising its consumers, and always in a way that is fun.  Let’s hope that the colliding hype trains of the gaming and mobile world don’t overshadow that fun.

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