Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is fact. It is all speculations and opinions on some fairly recent rumors about the Nintendo NX.
The Nintendo NX, at this point, is simply mythical. It exists on paper to everyone that isn’t Nintendo and select individuals. We have no announced reveal date, we have no official name, no official specs, and only a handful of confirmed titles like Zelda, Pokemon, Mario, Dragon Quest, Just Dance, and Sonic. Supposedly it releases in March and that it is just now entering its production run or at the very least a trial production run. We know so little, officially, about what the NX is that every rumor or leak we supposedly get, we jump on and analyze to satiate that hunger for information. For all I know this latest batch of rumors is just that, rumors, nothing real. But the NX is now supposedly entering production in some capacity and that means that more people are getting a look at what this thing actually is and what it can do and that in turn means we’ll likely start getting more truthful leaks. That is what I’m hoping this is, but some of the information strikes me as odd and I’ll go through each point individually. So lets stat this.
1) Console/Handheld Hybrid that uses Cartridges
A rumor that has been circulating for months is that Nintendo’s new system combines their handheld systems with their home consoles, and this rumor echoes that once more. The device consists of three parts: A dock for TV connectivity, the actual console which is a handheld device and contains its primary processor and power(The screen is 6 inches and outputs a 720p image.), and a separate processing/performance unit that can boost the power of the system at home or on the go. And of course on top of that the system supposedly uses cartridges with both the handheld device and the dock having cartridge slots. We’ve heard that rumor for months as well and this is merely yet another echo.
Most of this sounds plausible. At this point its more or less undisputed that the NX is a hybrid, and as a hybrid that primarily acts as a handheld device, cartridges like what the 3DS uses(albeit able to hold more data.) make sense. They won’t be the bulky cartridges of old, they’ll be more like SD cards. It also makes sense that the primary battery and processing is in the handheld device because if you’re going to be taking it on the go, that is where it needs to be. A dock also makes sense for TV connectivity, making it look more like a normal console than, say, plugging a Vita into a TV or something. The dock can have the HDMI outout and ethernet port which might not fit on the handheld device depending on its size profile. The only part of this that I’m taking with a gigantic amount of salt is the external secondary performance unit. That doesn’t quite make sense to me mainly because it probably isn’t going to be something that you can simply slip into your pocket. It’s going to be a brick and that won’t be very practical for taking on the go. If it isn’t meant to be taken on the go, then it should be inside the dock itself to boost power when connected. I’m just having a hard time buying into this part of the rumor because it makes it sound like Nintendo either had no idea how to get that extra power to the handheld in a practical fashion, or they’re just throwing a bone to power hungry gamers as an afterthought. An additional point of the rumor was that even with the secondary performance unit, the power still doesn’t match up with the Xbox One, which begs the question as to what the purpose of that external unit is if the bump in power is not that great. The XBox One is supposedly six times as powerful as the Xbox 360, and the Wii U is only slightly more powerful than the Xbox 360 and PS3. The NX is supposedly hovering around the Wii U in terms of power if previous rumors are to be believed, which is quite powerful for a handheld device I have to admit. But if that is true, and that its true the performance unit doesn’t boost the NX’s power by 6x, then it only provides probably a 3x boost. Depending on what that can actually do, maybe it’s worth it. But if the PS4 Pro is any indication, double the power is not enough to make a big difference.
2) Nintendo has yet to choose between NVIDIA or AMD
In the past, Nintendo has always made their own custom chips for their consoles, but if past and recent rumors are to be believed, they’re finally letting someone else design the chips used in their consoles. Previous rumors stated that NVIDIA had won and that the dev kits had an NVIDIA Tegra X1 chip with a cooling fan, something the X1 doesn’t use and that in turn led to speculation that NVIDIA’s Tegra X2 was what would really be powering the NX. Earlier in the year, AMD stated that they had 3 design wins, two of which are obviously the PS4 Pro and likely Microsofts Project Scorpio next year. The third is still an enigma. I doubt it was the PS4 Slim, but there has been no indication whatsoever that it was the Nintendo NX either. Everything has so far supported NVIDIA, however this recent rumor suggests that Nintendo hasn’t even decided yet. That doesn’t quite make sense to me because they should have a chip decided this late in the game if they plan to release in March, especially if they’ve got dev kits out there. The dev kits have to have something in them and I doubt NVIDIA would give Nintendo temp X1 chips if they hadn’t already decided to use NVIDIA. Why invest that kind of time and money if Nintendo were just going to flip flop over to AMD at the last minute?
Something to keep in mind is that this rumor is also a translation, meaning something could have been lost in translation. So while the translator interpreted it as “Nintendo has yet to decide between NVIDIA and AMD”, it could have actually been “Nintendo has decided on NVIDIA over AMD.” Stuff like that happens and I wouldn’t doubt if it happened here. So take this bit with a grain of salt.
At the end of the day, the power of the system does matter, but it will be the games that drive the sales. If the power is great enough, third parties will make NX versions of their games so long as they don’t have to axe anything important. Bethesda has already stated that they’ll consider supporting the device if its power matches the Xbox One at least. Nintendo games are great system sellers, but many people can’t afford two systems and having third parties on board with their big brands will make the system more appealing.
3) Fusion of Ideas
Now, this section isn’t entirely related to the rumor article. I wanted to also give a general idea of how the system works when it comes to actually playing games, not just the specs. The new rumor adds on that the handheld device can also function as a GamePad with second-screen functionality. Nintendo never really seemed to know what to do with it on the Wii U, and we likely won’t get any dedicated second screen games this time around, but at the same time it likely isn’t going to be the big gimmick for this system either. Streaming from the dock to the handheld for short range handheld play makes sense. I loved Nintendo Land’s use of the GamePad as a fifth sort of game master player and seeing the potential for that to return is intriguing.
On top of that are the rumors that the sides of the device, the controls, are not only detachable, but also configurable and they act like a Wiimote & Nunchuk. Essentially, you can swap the buttons on the controller for your desired control scheme, but they can also be used as motion controls for games that require them. The Wiimote/Nunchuk and GamePad were essentially condensed into a single device, reducing clutter and improving portability. Now, the swappable controls I’m taking with a grain of salt, but if it’s true that should be interesting. The rest of it I can believe. Nintendo has a decent sized back catalog of Wii and Wii U games, none of which can be played on the NX due to a lack of a disc drive(not to mention BC only goes back one generation meaning only the Wii U would be compatible.), the detachable motion controllers allow for backwards compatibility with Wii and Wii U games, while the handheld device acts as a substitute for the GamePad allowing full backwards compatibility with the Wii U should games for either system be released on virtual console. The detachable controllers can also act as players one and two when on the go. Detach the controllers, prop the display up, and play two players on the device.
4) NX Pricing
Recently, Tesco accidentally set their NX pre-order page to live and, well, we didn’t get a release date, but we did get possible pricing. According to the Tesco page, which was taken down soon after, the price of the NX is supposedly 349.99 euros, which translates roughly to US$392.48 which will likely be rounded up to US$399.99, which would put the NX at the same price as the PS4 Pro. Nintendo said they wouldn’t take a loss on the device and if true, they weren’t kidding. Nintendo is generally one to go cheaper to make their console more accessible to those either not willing to buy expensive systems or those unable to spend so much. So this would be a dramatic departure from their last few systems. I’m not against this high pricing because I want to believe that Nintendo knows what it’s doing. Sure, the higher price could be detrimental to their launch sales, but Nintendo more than likely knows that, which means they probably have something up their sleeve to try and sell the console to gamers. In fact, I’d say they picked a good launch window for the NX. Releasing it this fall would put it up against the PS4 Pro, not a wise idea even if the PS4 Pro doesn’t fly off the shelves. Releasing it next fall would put it against the Scorpio, and that would be an even worse idea because the Scorpio is vastly more powerful than either the Xbox One or PS4, which means it far more powerful than the Wii U and possibly the NX. The NX would not survive that battle, especially if Microsofts price is between $400 and $500. Releasing the NX in March, or more generally the spring, puts the NX by itself. Sure, the Pro will be on the market, but mass adoption of it likely won’t hit for a while due to its main selling point being upscaled 4K and HDR. The NX, meanwhile, is an entirely new concept and a new system that is releasing in the gaming slow period. People will have more money around that time, especially thanks to tax returns. If Nintendo can nail the reveal, nail the marketing, and have a stream of quality titles ready to be released on the NX, they can succeed in selling a decent amount of consoles. In my opinion anyway.
The NX has a lot of potential. Regardless of who they choose/chose to make the chip, regardless of if it’s as powerful as the Wii U or more, it’s still the most powerful non-tablet handheld device that will be on the market. Being a hybrid system it’s in a category all its own and that gives it some leeway when competing with Microsoft and Sony because it can’t be a direct comparison. On top of that Nintendo has, if the rumors are right, merged the concepts of their previous two systems into a single device that can support various different kinds of experiences. The NX is promising, to say the least, and I hope quite a bit of this turns out to be true. However, Nintendo show very few signs of breaking their silence any time soon. Retailers are supposedly starting to get the information they need to put up their pre-order pages for various things like Zelda Amiibo and the NX itself, so perhaps an official reveal is on the horizon. Some rumors say October, but then again there were rumors that said September and September is pretty much over. Lets just hope that Nintendo breaks their silence soon.