Rumours were buzzing around this week about the upcoming Nintendo NX, specifically that it has more power than Bane on methamphetamines.
Terms like “cutting-edge technology” were being thrown around, with NX dev demos apparently running on super high-end PCs and all that jazz.
My question is – does any of it matter? Or is the NX doomed to fail before it’s even begun?
I know, I know, I’m kind of a pessimist. I’ve said several things will fail before – the Vita, the Wii U, the Oculus Rift. In my defense, I feel like two of those kind of did, and as for the Oculus well… let’s just say I’m still feeling good on that one.
To try and bolster my argument then, I’ve come armed with a few points. I’m no expert, just a cynical opinion writer with column space to fill, so feel free to debate these with me in the comments, there may be a lot of things I haven’t considered.
With that lengthy disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to it.
Wii U Owners Got Burned
The Wii U released in November 2012 – less than three years ago. In console time, that’s nothing. Remember, PS3 and Xbox 360 owners have been whining about next-gen exclusive content and getting phased out, and the gap between the PS3 and PS4 was a decade.
For Nintendo to stop supporting the Wii U now would be absurd – the console has barely had a handful of decent releases as it is, stopping support for it would burn a lot of bridges.
So what incentive really is there for Wii U owners to jump ship? Most people who do own Wii Us play games on another platform as well – be it another console or a PC. After all, the Wii U is good for Nintendo games, and not much else.
If the NX gets the next Call of Duty, those Wii U owners will buy Call of Duty on their PS4. If the NX gets Mario, the Wii U will too.
The installed userbase isn’t much incentivised to blow another wad of cash on a new Nintendo box, but what about those who don’t currently own a Wii U?
Their Timing is Awkward
The console battle is at fever pitch right now, and for a new console trying to break in it’s a bloodbath.
Remember, the NX isn’t out now – it’s out in a year or so – maybe a little less. Right now we have people buying into the next generation of consoles at an absurd rate – gamers on the old hardware are no longer being supported, and more and more people are being forced to turn out their pockets for the new, shiny tech.
Nintendo has missed the big window of opportunity to convince people to buy into the NX instead – they’ve missed the opportunity to compete with Sony and Microsoft on a level playing field.
So we have a bunch of Nintendo fans who already have a Wii U and don’t feel the need to switch, and a bunch of long-time Sony/Microsoft fans who are now being asked to buy into a new, untested and uncertain platform instead of the big name consoles that already have big libraries of next-gen titles to go with them.
Who is this actually being marketed to?
It might be powerful, but it’s still a Nintendo
The Wii U was powerful.
That seems like a joke now, but when it came out it was packing more punch than the PS3 and Xbox 360. Of course, not enough to really wow anybody.
But it was there. Utilising it, however, was another issue entirely. Developers were on board at first, bringing Call of Duty and the like over – Ubisoft in particular threw the Wii U a few massive bones.
The thing was, nobody really wanted to play Call of Duty on a giant iPad. The controls felt awkward for that, and the touchscreen wasn’t utilised properly since it was just a port.
We don’t know much about the NX yet, but rumours are already starting that it utilises some kind of take-the-controller-with-you-boom-its-a-handheld technology, or TTCBoom for short.
Whatever it is, it’s clearly very… Nintendo. It’s unique, it’s different, it snubs the usual trends that controllers and consoles follow, and it’s quite happy doing its own thing.
“Its own thing” usually entails a lot of first party content from Nintendo to make it work. And do we really need super powerful hardware to play Donkey Kong and Pokémon?
Lack of faith from developers
This is the other negative to “doing your own thing” all the time – developers are hesitant to buy in.
After all, the devs that did give the Wii U a shot (on the promise, no doubt, of a “powerful” console capable of managing third-party content like military FPSes) got seriously burned in the process.
Support quickly dropped off as sales were nowhere, and today the Wii U chugs along on the back of a few key releases from Nintendo, with little to no third-party interest whatsoever.
Considering the selling point of the Wii U to third party developers was “POWER!” and the NX looks to be adopting the same mantra, what reward is there to the risk?
It’s a circular problem, really – without a decent installed userbase developer aren’t going to want to touch the NX, and without the games consumers won’t want to either.
This leaves Nintendo in the position of trying to drum up interest with a whole lot of first-party content – something they’re not too good at doing in a particularly speedy manner.
I guess what I’m trying to get at here is basically, who wants this?
The developers don’t need another platform, they’ve got three huge ones already.
The Nintendo fans aren’t clamouring for a new way to play Mario Kart.
The general consumers already have next-gen hardware, or will be looking to spend their money on the consoles they can trust with the games they know.