Nintendo has had a turbulent few years. After the huge success of the Wii, which introduced millions of new players to the joy of video games, its follow up, the Wii U, hasn't performed anywhere near as well. Criticised for lack of games, underpowered hardware and having not really found a use for its chunky tablet controller, despite only hitting shops in late 2012, the console is already on its way out. Even Pokemon Go can't cure its ills. And this is where the Nintendo NX project comes in.
What is the Nintendo NX?
The NX is the codename for what we expect to be Nintendo's next home console -- the successor to the Wii U. Nintendo has traditionally given different console projects codenames. For example, the Gamecube was known internally as 'Project Dolphin' and the original Wii was known as 'Revolution'. The Wii U was 'Project Cafe'.
Early reports have, on the whole, been extremely frustrating, with some sources describing the NX as a portable games console and others insisting it wasn't anything of the sort. Though Nintendo's been playing its cards close to its chest and the gossipers have done their best to confuse the hell out of everyone with their weird, conflicting predictive babble, the latest intel says the console will be a both a portable and home console all-in-one.
You weren't expecting that, were you? Part Wii, part Gameboy, the NX looks set to continue in Nintendo's tradition of pushing the boundaries of what a dedicated piece of gaming hardware actually is.
How Will the Nintendo NX Work?
The honest answer is that we don't know for sure yet, but we have an idea. It's believed that the extremely unusual NX will double up as both a portable console and a home one to sit next to your TV, docked with it. Controllers will snap to its sides, while the core central unit can be taken out-and-about for on-the-go play thanks to its own display.
Nvidia's powerful mobile Tegra chipset is expected to run the show, making it a stonking handheld –though perhaps not quite as impressive as a home unit. Still, that's a 4K capable chip. It'll also mark the return of cartridges for a Nintendo sorta-home console, while the mad new design means backwards compatibility is unlikely.
So much for all that talk of a heavy VR focus, but Nvidia's interest in VR (and its chip being used) would perhaps explain the whispers at least.
Nintendo NX Design
Picture what a 'new concept' would look like. Now describe it in the comments section. We don't have a scooby what the NX will look like -- sorry! -- so your guess is as good as ours. From that latest Nintendo NX report, you can piece together some sort of mobile central unit (perhaps not unlike the Wii U gamepad, with its own screen), with controllers that connect and snap off from either side when it's being used at home.
There's a teeny bit more to go on on the controller front, though the outlook is messy. Brace yourself.
Numerous black and white depictions of would-be NX controllers have made their way from patent offices to the press over the past six months or so.
One of these shows off a handset that looks a lot like the current Wii U controller, featuring a pair of control sticks on either side of a touchscreen display. However, the A, B, X and Y keys have been replaced by two buttons, and the left and right shoulder keys have been changed into scrollable wheels you can also click on. A new way of selecting a weapon, perhaps? To make matters even more confusing, some people reckon it's the core NX console itself.
Moving on, another possible design for the NX controller shows a futuristic-looking thing that appears to be heavily reliant on motion and touch controls. Once again, there are no A, B, X or Y buttons to be seen, but there are two thumbsticks, which appear to be embedded in the screen, and shoulder controls.
A bonkers-looking picture of an undeniably pretty, oval-shaped controller (above) that sort of matches the details of second patent was also making the rounds online earlier this year, but it's now been identified as a fake. Good thing too, as it had fans worried.
Told you it was messy.
Nintendo NX Games
Once again, Nintendo has been annoyingly quiet on the games titles front, though we do know that Zelda, Dragon Quest X and Dragon Quest XI will come out with the NX next year. Call us crazy, but we'd probably expect to see a new Mario platformer, new Mario Kart and maybe even a new Smash Bros. game on the new system at some point during its life cycle.
Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima recently said that the March 2017 release date for the console should help the company ensure a solid line-up of software at release and beyond. "One of the reasons for choosing the launch timing that we did is so that the software line-up will be ready in time for the hardware launch," he said. "Not only at launch, but we also need to be able to continuously release titles after launch. We are planning for this to be a platform that consumers can enjoy for a long time."
Financial statements from Macronix, the company behind Nintendo's ROM chips, have added fuel to the rumours that the NX could drop optical disc drives for cartridges. The firm revealed it was bracing itself for heavy orders from Nintendo, and they can't all be for the 3DS. Such a move would also support the heavy suggestions that the NX will be a portable games machine. This was again backed up in the latest leak from insider sources.
Worryingly, a January GDC report suggested that only 1% of games developers are currently working on titles for the Nintendo NX. That's a shocking figure, but we must stress that the sample group was relatively small, and the survey was carried out before Nintendo announced the console's release date.
Nintendo NX Price
Though early ball-park speculation pointed at a £200 launch price for the console, comments from Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima suggest that the £300 mark might be more accurate. "When Wii U was launched, the yen was very strong," he told investors. "I am assuming that situation will not repeat itself. Selling at a loss at launch would not support the business, so we are keeping that mind in developing NX."
Not dirt cheap, in that case. That said, with the NX said in some corners to be as powerful as the PS4, you wouldn't expect it to be.
Nintendo NX Release Date
Less than a year away now. Nintendo has confirmed that the NX will be released in March 2017, which means that the company's going to miss out on an enormously important Christmas holiday sales boost. That's pretty terrible news for Nintendo, despite spirits being raised by the success of Pokemon Go.
However, we're sort of glad the company's willing to take its time over the product, even if rushing it to market would surely prove more sensible in a business sense.
As for when we'll first see it in the flesh, good money is on a September 2016 reveal for the Nintendo NX.