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Speculating on the Purpose of Nintendo’s NX, and its Relationship to the DeNA Mobile Service.
Before the recent news of Ninendo’s desire to expand into the vast mobile gaming scene, as announced by company president Satoru Iwata, there has been much uncertainty regarding whether or not Nintendo would continue to focus on creating home consoles at all; let alone what a theoretical Wii U successor might be like. However, such an uncertainty was swiftly put to rest with the announcement of Nintendo’s next dedicated gaming project, the NX.
But first things first, just what is the NX? Thus far, very little is known about what the device or project could be, aside from the fact that it will indeed be a dedicated gaming platform of some kind by Nintendo, and that it will, at the very least, be quite unconventional. The term “dedicated” seems to imply that this will be a separate entity from Nintendo’s new mobile service with Japanese mobile giant, DeNA.
Iwata even took things a step further, emphasizing that Nintendo would not only be continuing its long run with home consoles, but that they are perhaps more dedicated and passionate about dedicated machines than ever before. Straight from Iwata during a Tokyo press conference:
Nintendo has decided to deploy its video game business on smart devices but it is not because we have lost passion or vision for the business of dedicated video game systems. On the contrary, now that we have decided how we will make use of smart devices, we have come to hold an even stronger passion and vision for the dedicated video game system business than ever before. As proof that Nintendo maintains strong enthusiasm for the dedicated game system business, let me confirm that Nintendo is currently developing a dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept under the development codename “NX.”
This is all encouraging to hear as a dedicated Nintendo fan who has always noticed a certain difference in quality when it comes to games found on dedicated console games (especially on the Nintendo front) vs many mobile and “freemium” games. But just how will this briefly-alluded to new console, the NX, differentiate itself from Nintendo’s mobile titles, if at all? Where exactly does the NX come into play with regards to this new mobile service?
Drawing from little information we currently know regarding Nintendo’s apparent new mobile and dedicated console hybrid strategy, I see the NX as perhaps being Nintendo’s more “sophisticated” gaming entry, which could serve as the exclusive home to more core-based franchises and overall more fleshed out games. Think franchises like – Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime, Super Smash Brothers, and Xenoblade. The games that adhere more to the Wii and DS style of mini and micro games (ala Brain Age, Nintendogs, Warioware, etc), which appeal to more of a mass market audience, would likely find their new home on the mobile platforms.
These platforms may perhaps be meant to replace and out-phase Nintendo’s dedicated handheld machines; the 3DS, as well as the DS and Gameboy before it. After all, the purpose of the current Nintendo handhelds would essentially be replaced and improved upon by the various smart-devices. While Nintendo would of course miss out on the hardware profits, they would most likely make up for them as they would be exposing their hit franchises to a much larger and more diverse audience. One would also assume they could be enabled to crank out these types of games quicker, since they would seemingly require less man hours and resources than their more traditional handheld games.
With that said, what I see being the primary function of this mobile strategy is, not so much to replace a market, but to help supplement another. Nintendo games on mobile devices could prove useful as a certain form of advertisement for their home console business. The idea may be to get a wave of potential new customers hooked to their franchises and style of games by giving them a access to various cheap and free titles, providing more incentive to take the financial plunge on Nintendo software. Then once they’ve warned up to these, this could perhaps encourage many to “migrate” upwards to the NX and its more in-depth games.
While it remains a possibility that you could be able to stream your purchased mobile games through the NX and display them on that glorious 70 inch 3D TV of yours, the hardware will probably also come with plenty of exclusive games that will take advantage of its unique hardware (whatever that may be) and its added horsepower.
However, even though it seems likely that NX will be designed to focus more on the traditional TV setup, it seems likely that it could also double as a handheld as well, further blurring the lines between Nintendo’s handheld and console fronts. One only needs to look at the recent history of Nintendo’s consoles and emphasis on handhelds to see that they have shown some desire to “disconnect” from the TV screen as it were, and that they have begun this process with the Wii U’s gamepad. The next step, as I view it, would be to implement a system much like Sony’s PS4 – Vita streaming and enable gamers to stream their NX games anywhere they go using a controller similar to the gamepad – though perhaps more compact for convenience sake.
Even though the lines between handheld and console seem to be blurred with this new plan, you would still essentially have two separate “hubs” for Nintendo software. The first would be the DeNA service, which would be accessed from mobile and smart – devices, in addition to PCs, and would be able to reach out to a much wider audience. The second would be the dedicated hub of the NX, which would provide deeper gaming experiences that could only be played using this machine. This would adhere to the more traditional relationship between game and console, and will likely have the option to use physical retail games as well.
While I could be off base with this assumption, this seems to be a probably scenario and potentially a very prosperous one for Nintendo.
In the Wii era, Nintendo wanted to get its controller in as many hands as it could to help advertise their product. Now, thanks to smart-devices, the controller is already there. Nintendo just needs to provide the games, and if they are of enough quality as I believe they will be, they will sell themselves. The mobile service with DeNA could provide a great opportunity to get many people on board with Nintendo software, while the NX platform could keep them coming back for more.