Nintendo NX is easily the year’s biggest gaming mystery. Speculation and theories have saturated message boards and news feeds in an attempt to uncover the secret to the company’s brand new gaming platform. And after the recent report by Eurogamer, seemingly everyone has an opinion.
The all but confirmed supposition that NX is a high-powered handheld device ripped through the internet when it broke last week. Since then we have had time to create opinions for ourselves as well as listen to the opinions of our favorite gaming personalities. When speaking of any big Nintendo news, two notions always crop to the surface; the news will save or sink the beloved developer.
We at Middle of Nowhere Gaming love good speculation, so in response to all of the recent hooplah I offer two realistic outlooks on how the NX will shape Nintendo’s future. Look at them as a sort of best vs worst case scenario, if you will. And no, the worst case scenario is not the Big N completely failing, nor is the best case scenario the developer being crowned champion of the generation. I prefer a bit more nuance and sophistication. So join me as I peer into the hypothetical ether of Nintendo’s future prosperity.
Don’t say we didn’t see it coming. The Wii U was a catastrophic failure on par with the Sega Dreamcast, so it makes sense that a console based around the same idea would bear similar fruit. Like the Wii U before it, NX was a novel idea. Detach the tablet from the Wii U, make it into the powerful handheld the gamepad never was and create the first true hybrid console. Unfortunately, a misinterpretation of the market and the same Nintendo pitfalls held the console back.
Nintendo has always been the king of handheld gaming. The Game Boy line and the original DS were all mammoths in the gaming landscape. The 3DS was also a big success, although the rise of smartphone gaming limited the audience for the machine. In response, the company merged its development arms together in order to create a seamless Nintendo experience regardless of where the player was. However, once Nintendo put their games on smartphones, players did not see the need to upgrade to the dedicated gaming console in the way that they had hoped.
Players flocked to Nintendo’s offerings on smartphones. Millions of players who owned a 3DS didn’t see the need to invest in an expensive handheld to play Nintendo games when they already had an expensive handheld that played Nintendo games. The dedicated Wii U audience came kicking and screaming, but a revolutionary new Mario game quickly convinced them. Other 3DS owners who loved the hardcore Nintendo experience also came, resulting in lifetime console sales of just under 25 million. While in a vacuum these numbers seem decent, the fact that NX combined the home and handheld consoles into one machine leaves a decrease of 35 million units from the previous generation.
With the smaller than desired numbers, and the quick outstripping of the NX by Xbox Scorpio and Playstation Neo in the graphics department, third parties had no choice than to abandon Nintendo. The NX has an outstanding library supplied by the united efforts of Nintendo’s full stable of studios, but it wasn’t enough to lure the average gamer. Coupled with Nintendo’s lagging online efforts and messy account system, the NX was never able to fulfill its massive potential.
The final nail in the coffin was Nintendo’s continued failure to capitalize meaningfully on their massive, historic library. Gamers finally had enough with continuously repurchasing their old games and just played them on their old systems. Rather than capitalizing on the reasons their fans love them, Nintendo came across as greedy and distant from fans.
Overall, Nintendo failed in their efforts to capitalize on the immense potential of NX, leaving them lost in the console business and buoyed by their booming smartphone catalog.
After the catastrophic failure of the Wii U, many lost faith in Nintendo. Rather than booking passage on a sinking ship, the gaming giant instead retreated out of the public eye and formulated a winning strategy for tackling the evolving console landscape.
The PS4 and Xbox One both dominated the most successful generation of console gaming yet. Meanwhile, Wii U left Nintendo in a position where they would have to launch a new console mid-cycle. Rather than trying to beat Sony and Microsoft at their own game, they decided to play their own. Nintendo has always been the master of handheld gaming, so why not throw all of their eggs in one basket.
Unlike the blue ocean strategy that spelled success for the original Wii, Nintendo decided to sail into familiar waters on the largest ship in the fleet. By going all in on handhelds, the company created a natural progression that successfully brought its humongous smartphone playerbase into the hardcore. The first true instance of console gaming on the go ended up being a perfect compliment to the living room powerhouses.
A powerful handheld/console hybrid found a perfect niche in the industry by combining Nintendo’s mastery of interactive entertainment with strong indie support that made up for the lack of the traditional third parties. NX was able to capture the passionate Vita audience that loved playing incredible indies on the go, the devoted Wii U audience that will never give up on Nintendo as well as the 3DS audience that devoured the hardcore handheld experience that the company would never bring to smartphones. The unified focus of the company allowed for a constant stream of quality Nintendo content that never left a drought that defined previous consoles.
The dark horse of NX’s success was undoubtedly My Nintendo. Because of the unified architecture, Nintendo fans finally had a unified account that tracked purchases and brought them on par with other publishers. It also allowed seamless transfer of data between smartphones and the NX hardware in a way that would have never been possible before. The system gave players increased incentives to purchase virtual console games as well, as the purchase tracking allowed players access to their classic libraries on an account level rather than stranded on the console.
In the end, the NX gave us a unified Nintendo firing on all cylinders that found a perfect niche in the complicated living room landscape.
Both of these outcomes are within reach for Nintendo, as I feel that both are realistic. As a fan, I feel inclined to agree with the optimistic take, although I doubt that it will fully come to fruition. Evidence is pointing toward a calculating Nintendo that will not stand to let the NX fail in the way that the Wii U did, and I believe that they are smart to target a handheld device. They are overwhelmingly dominant in Japan, and there will always be an audience for a more immersive on-the-go experience than a smartphone can provide in the rest of the world. Giving NX the versatility to be anything we need it to be is incredibly novel in a world where we demand flexibility.
That does not mean that the typical Nintendo pitfalls have been paved over. They still will have an under-powered machine, third party support is a question yet unanswered and their enormous pride can often be their undoing. But I have faith in Nintendo, and I cannot wait to see what exactly they have in store for us next year.
Brett Williams is an Associate Writer for MONG finds himself at home in the rabbit hole of hypothetical speculation. If you don’t like an overly congested twitter feed, follow him.