In 2013, Nintendo merged their two game development buildings into a single unit. Up to that point, their handheld games were being developed separately from their console counterparts, and the move at the time seemed like a fairly inevitable bit of housekeeping at best. Yet what followed from that point forward was a series of well informed, trivialized, and up-in-the-air conjectures that had given birth to borderline fan fiction: The Nintendo Hybrid. A new combination of all Nintendo R&D that would rule them all.
Well, that gestalt has a name now.
Welcome, Nintendo NX and DeNA, whatever you are.
In an investor's meeting last year, Iwata explained the derision of having two altogether different development teams. The architecture of both the DS/3DS and Wii/WiiU were significantly different, which disallowed for easy ports and required a "ground up effort". Neither to be discounted was also the fact that Nintendo employed talented and inventive game developers that never crossed paths, which certainly must have cut into their creative potentials.
Iwata said here in March of 2014:
In this perspective, while we are only going to be able to start this with the next system, it will become important for us to accurately take advantage of what we have done with the Wii U architecture. It of course does not mean that we are going to use exactly the same architecture as Wii U, but we are going to create a system that can absorb the Wii U architecture adequately. When this happens, home consoles and handheld devices will no longer be completely different, and they will become like brothers in a family of systems.
Media outlets like Forbes and others suggested point-blank that Nintendo ought to combine their two products into a single, you might say, "Super" Nintendo product.
In isolation, this made sense; Why compete against yourself when you could have it all?
In generations past, Nintendo paved their own paths forged by their own rules. The original DS was underpowered and quirky, some thought to a fault. With the fate of the Sony PSP and Vita as its witness, Nintendo proved themselves the smarter ones, and did so again in similar fashion with the Nintendo Wii. But holding their bottle to the air a second time has not resulted in any more of that lightning, and the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, separate from any critical analysis of their individual games, are not the successes that Nintendo had hoped. Not even close.
But Nintendo instead is not making that "hybrid" so many were convinced was being broadcasted through the tea leaves. That apparently wasn't what Nintendo meant when they made moves to consolidate their offices and their employees. Instead, they have revealed their plans to make a network of all things Nintendo.
Better late than never. And maybe better than what we thought, too.
Their announcement was vague and still left a great many details up to the imagination. A worthy FAQ for anyone uninitiated is here, and is recommended reading. There's plenty of debate to be had about the merits of their new partnership. It is not known what exactly the codename "Nintendo NX" truly is outside of a "next generation" machine, nor exactly what their partnership with DeNA is intended to produce.
This much is most evident: Nintendo couldn't beat the overall gaming trends, but now are not only joining them, but are providing a list of rules for which they plan to abide by.
A unified account will purportedly act as both their data mine and user account system (which not to brag, but I totally called.) They will be producing smartphone content with their IP's attached, which is the first modern example of Nintendo extensively developing for any architecture not their own. In turn, the market for their newly implemented IP's expands, which changes the landscape for their ongoing brand on console making.
It's an ecosystem of Nintendo.
No, this maybe isn't an all-in-one machine of the future. This is a (less you get too excited, hypothetical) "Falcon PUNCH" app developed by a Nintendo team, a market of players playing "Falcon PUNCH" on the train and on their Nintendo 3DS's (or newer portable Nintendo device), and a newly developed market for the coinciding F-Zero game staring Captain Falcon on the "Super Duper Nintendo".
This is all new for the 125 year old company, but theoretically ideal. Since Nintendo is "challenging" what platforms mean to them, going all in with their IP's leading the way is specifically the challenge at hand for the Kyoto based hit makers. To reiterate, the N64 was built to run a game like Super Mario 64. Wii Sports was the beacon of the Wii's intentions. But now, the Mushroom Kingdom is set to take on a handed set of rules for the first time, with the hopes that their cooperation not only makes a stake in the mobile market, but more importantly to the company, acts as a two way bridge back and forth between pockets and living rooms.
Still, we arrive from one conjecture to another: if Nintendo is making a new system so soon, and if they are pushing an emphasis on a mobile market, where does this leave their future handheld? Much like the many iPads, iPhones, Macbooks, and others that share their respective iOS underpinnings, will their new efforts launch simultaneously? A 2017 release would give the Wii U an identical lifespan to that of the Gamecube. And as unlikely as this would be, anything faster would be unprecedented from Nintendo in terms of hardware brevity, Virtual Boy not really withstanding.
Ultimately, Nintendo had already invested in the Wii U and 3DS, and their overall plan failed in context of market value. They have been led by the ear to the market they now say they hope to disrupt, altogether different from the business of making markets that previously were not there.
Hopefully Nintendo can make something interesting of the smartphone gaming world. They learned the hard way they couldn't make a world without it.