Well, that was about the most interesting news I’ve ever woken up to on a Wednesday morning.
Nintendo’s next console, codenamed “NX” is confirmed to be a thing, as per an official statement from Nintendo earlier today. It launches March 2017, but it won’t be shown off at this year’s E3 event.
Okay. What the hell is going on?
The March release date is disappointing for any fan who was hoping to get their hands on Nintendo’s new platform later this year, but it’s not inexplicable. Nintendo has released handheld consoles in the spring/early summer of the years before, such as the original Gameboy and the 3DS. There’s been a lot of talk that the NX is some form of home console/handheld hybrid, so perhaps it’s following the path of its mobile predecessors.
There’s also been talk that the NX is less of a console and more of a streaming service. If that’s true, it may explain why Nintendo is showing no reservations about missing out on the 2016 holiday season. Game-related products fly off store shelves during the retail rush—especially brand new consoles—but how would a nonphysical platform fare at that time?
It’s hard to say, but that March release date is making a big suggestion that, as we’ve surmised, the NX is no ordinary system. In Nintendo’s own words, it’s a “brand-new concept.”
Of course, being unordinary doesn’t mean you to have to outright skip E3. Among the numerous announcements that Nintendo proclaimed this morning, this is the most baffling. I can’t wrap my head around why Nintendo would refuse to show off the NX at the year’s biggest gaming event.
It’s not as if the NX is years away from release. Nintendo has confirmed that they’ll reveal it sometime later in 2016; whether that’s at Gamescom, Tokyo Game Show, or their own event is completely up in the air. You’re telling me that they’ll be ready to boast about it six or so months before its March 2017 release, but there’s absolutely no way they can be ready to do that eight months before release at E3 2016? It’s an absolute head-scratcher.
Especially when it’s biggest launch title is apparently going to be their headliner at E3 2016! To the surprise of no one, Nintendo also confirmed this morning that the mysterious, grandiose Zelda Wii U will be ported to the NX and released on both platforms simultaneously in March 2017. The unnamed title will be playable for the first time at E3 2016, but it appears that only the Wii U version will be shown off. It’s hard to imagine that the NX version is going to be dramatically different, so why it and the platform that it’ll be released on will both be MIA this June is both confusing, and somewhat aggravating.
And that doesn’t even begin to tread on the aggravation that Zelda Wii U/NX has been delayed yet again. There’s times where I wonder if I’ll ever be able to play the damn game. By the end of all this, it will have seen a five year development cycle, possibly longer than that. If Nintendo has taken this long to make the game, it needs to be more than excellent. It needs to be pristine. Immaculate. Anything short of that will be unacceptable.
I sympathize with fans who are upset at this particular delay, because it heavily implies that the Wii U version of the game is ready to go, but Nintendo is holding it close to its chest simply for the NX version. In theory, we could be playing the biggest Legend of Zelda game ever right now. Instead, we have to wait nearly a full year to experience it because launching it as a brand new game for the NX is what’s best for Nintendo’s business.
All of this puts Nintendo in a very interesting position for the rest of the year. Aside from a handful of unspectacular games, the Wii U has nothing on the way in 2016. To take a line from Superman – “The Wii U is dead. Bury it.”
Nintendo’s new console isn’t hitting this holiday like we anticipated. For just about all gaming companies, this would be a disastrous scenario, as, at first glance, there’s no heavy hitters for them to bring in money.
But Nintendo will have plenty of revenue coming their way from the Pokemon franchise, alone. Sun and Moon should be yet another massive hit for the 3DS later this fall when they launch, and there’s no hyperbole in saying that Pokemon GO will attract the largest audience of any Nintendo software ever due to Pokemon’s universal appeal, and the fact that just about everyone owns a smartphone.
They have more than just Pokemon when dipping their feet into the mobile phone waters. Lost in the shuffle of the wacky Zelda and NX announcements was the news that Nintendo will release both a Fire Emblem and an Animal Crossing mobile game this fall. According to Nintendo, these aren’t apps like Miitomo; they’re actual games like traditional entries in their respective series. On paper, both franchises are perfect fits for the mobile platform. Animal Crossing, in particular, seems at home on smart phones, and it has quietly been one of Nintendo’s biggest sellers over the years.
Not all is wrong in the world of the Big N. It’s just really, really bizarre at the moment.
Now, please excuse me while I take out my frustration from Zelda Wii U’s umpteenth delay on a bunch of hapless Super Smash Bros. opponents.
Jeff Pawlak is the Nintendo Expert on the Geekiverse, and he’s been exploring dungeons as Link and leaping across obstacles as Mario for the past 23 years. You can find him on Twitter @JeffreyPavs, where he’ll definitely share more thoughts in the near future on Nintendo’s plans going forward.