Nintendo has started to distribute software development kits that software developers will use to erect digital experiences for the company’s next game console, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Nintendo hasn’t laid out in detail the ecosystem of third-party software that it plans to build around its upcoming console, code-named “NX.” The company plans to tie together the NX with a digital platform for smartphones, tablets, PCs and its own hardware.
Along with news that the seed for NX games has been sown, the Journal’s report also offers new details about the hardware itself. It should be good news for those who like their Nintendo characters dressed in high-pixel-count clothing.
The NX will employ “industry-leading chips,” according to the report. Its processing units should rival the power of Microsoft’s and Sony’s latest offerings, which could answer long-standing critiques about the graphical power of Nintendo’s consoles.
The NX will marry the handheld and set-top box form factors, the Journal said. The console is expected to take the Wii U’s format a step further by offering a full-featured console and handheld unit.
“I think it’s definitely time for Nintendo to enter the fray with updated console and handheld technology,” said Mario Kroll, principal analyst atberStrategist.
“Its last generation, particularly on the console side, while innovative in many ways, continued to be plagued by a lack of the latest components, especially in the graphics realm,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Making the NX a hybrid handheld and console device is a prudent move, said Matthew Diener, analyst atEEDAR.
“I think that’s the direction Nintendo’s going to move with it, simply because it’s the smartest way for them to unify the strengths of their currently isolated handheld and console gaming experiences,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Nintendo’s Next Star
Nintendo’s portable and full-size consoles in many cases have followed a “lackluster, landmark” formula.
On the portable side, Nintendo had a hit with the GameBoy. It followed that with the 3-D Virtual Boy, which was discontinued quickly. Then came the well-received Color, the forgettable Advanced and the company-buoying DS series.
After three strong consoles in a row, Nintendo released the slightly disappointing GameCube and followed that with the revolutionary Wii. The Wii U fell short of expectations, and now the NX looks primed to make up for that.
“If the NX can correct the Wii U’s missteps and create a truly seamless experience that allows players to take console games on the go with a standalone handheld and bring their handheld experiences to their consoles, I think Nintendo will definitely have a hit on its hands,” said EEDAR’s Diener.
Core gamers want the best and most innovative experiences, and that usually requires chips near the front of the technology curve.
Nintendo, a “master of gameplay,” has struggled to address the desires of core gamers who seek mature content, said Kroll.
“Based on my own experiences, I have always been excited about Nintendo’s hardware when it first launched, but quickly found I ran out of content that really held my attention, instead playing more mature, focused games on Microsoft and Sony consoles,” he said.
As for capability and connectivity, including multiplayer gameplay, the NX should fall somewhere along the lines of a beefed-up 3DS, predicted Joost van Dreunen, CEO ofSuperData Research.
“I hope that Nintendo manages to capture both the magic of its franchises and the affordances of mobile gaming in a single experience,” he told TechNewsWorld. However, “I fear that Nintendo will prove to be too slow moving to bring the full potential of its franchises to life on smartphones.”
The Costar and Supporting Cast
After dismissing the idea of going mobile and deriding it as a threat to the health of its dedicated handhelds, Nintendo earlier this year announced that it hadpartnered with DeNA to bring its intellectual property to mobile devices.
“I’ve long felt that Nintendo IP, be it on the handheld or console, would be great to play on other devices, including my iPhone, and regretted that it hasn’t been available,” Kroll said.
“I don’t know yet what the monetization model will be, nor what IP Nintendo will first launch in this DeNA partnership with, but we all have our hopes that prominent fan favorites like Mario and Zelda will be among the first,” he said.
As for the handheld side of the NX, the 3DS has been a “quiet juggernaut” of sorts in terms of the quality of games it has to offer, EEDAR’s Diener pointed out. It doesn’t have an installed base as big as its predecessor, but it has nearly 20 platform-exclusive games that have a Metascore of 85 or higher.
“Giving those types of games a place in the living room, at a more modern graphic resolution, represents a significant business opportunity for Nintendo,” he said. “It’ll also be a huge win for players as well, since they’ll be able to choose how they experience their content.”