I’m a long time Nintendo fan and have owned every major Nintendo console. Even though they’ve made some pretty bad mistakes, I’ve stood by Nintendo and been happy with the products they’ve delivered. And today, for better or for worse, the Wii U is approaching the end of its life cycle. While it may have underperformed, it still provided me with some outstanding games. Focus is shifting to their next console, codenamed ‘NX’, but we’ve received absolutely no hard information on the system, save for the code name. Naturally, that hasn’t stopped the internet from spewing countless rumors and from the foolish from taking them as gospel truth. Here are just a few of the high profile rumors, many contradictory, and the opinion of a seasoned Nintendo fan who’s heard all it all before.
Rumor #1: 4K streaming with 900p gameplay
For Nintendo to downgrade the graphical capabilities of their console, and to such an odd numbered resolution, just doesn’t make any kind of sense. Even with an emphasis on gameplay over graphics, they are not going to limit their ability to make good-looking graphics. As for the 4K streaming, this is never properly explained by any of the rumor mills and seems yet more improbable still if it is what it sounds like. The only thing this could mean would be that Nintendo is looking to emulate the defunct OnLive service, through which users would play games stored and installed in a cloud platform and stream the gameplay video to their device. Even with numbers below that of their rivals, emulating 4K gaming for their large user base seems grossly impractical. Both the processing power and bandwidth involved for, say, 50,000 Smash Bros 5 or Splatoon 2 players would be overwhelming.
Verdict: My opinion? Not a chance. Even after two generations of somewhat underpowered consoles, this rumor seems to be absurd. Personally, I’m crossing my fingers for 4K native resolution, or at least 2K, if that’s even a thing.
Rumor #2: No optical drive
Based on early patent filings, it’s widely speculated that the NX will not contain an optical drive for loading games off of disks. This would mean that games would have to be distributed digitally, via game cards like the 3DS uses, or use some entirely new medium (360 TB Superman Crystal disks, anyone?). Going all digital would cut retailers out of the equation and allow Nintendo and other developers to keep a much larger chunk of the profits, as well as foregoing manufacturing and shipping expenses. Nintendo is no stranger to shipping trouble, from recent Amiibo shortages all the way back to hiding initial shipments of the Super Famicom from the Yakuza.
All-digital would make sense, but it would also risk the kind of backlash Microsoft faced when they first stated that the Xbox One users would have to always be online. An all-digital move would allow them to kill the resale market as well, though the market has been crying out in recent years to allow selling of pre-owned digital games (such as in an unsuccessful German case and an ongoing French one). Such trends becoming the norm would be great for consumers and be murder to Gamestop; perhaps enough so they refuse to carry Nintendo hardware?
Verdict: Unlikely. I’m no expert at reading patents, but I can’t help but notice the word “Abstract” in bold towards the top of the filing, and it seems strange to patent something the device does NOT have. Also, keywords in the filing may be “The example system is not provided with an optical disk drive for reading out a program and/or data from an optical disk.” Meaning the prototype submitted to the patent office did not have an optical drive, but will not reflect the final product.
Rumor #3: Touchpad controller
As with the Wii U, Wii, and DS systems, the internet loves to speculate on what the next controller will look like. It’s easy to get excited, as virtually every feature on a modern game controller can be traced back to Nintendo’s innovation. Mock ups have ranged from a complete touchscreen with physical shoulder buttons, detachable analog sticks, and grips to a smaller version of the Wii U gamepad. Many people cried bloody murder over the Wii U gamepad, complaining about ‘gimmicks’ and what have you, but if Nintendo continues their trend of keeping their systems backwards compatible to at least one generation, then whatever it is will have to support Wii U functionality.
Verdict: We’ll see it when we see it, and nothing we see before the official reveal is worth our attention. Nintendo did a good job of keeping the Wii, Wii U controllers, and the original DS under wraps. I expect them to do likewise this round. As for the patent images circulating, I don’t think it will be like those listed, whatever it is. Firstly, I have a hard time accepting an oval shaped video screen from a programing perspective. Secondly, there’s little point bothering to have video on the ends where your thumbs will be resting. Thirdly, I just love physical buttons too much, and I would hope they recognize that in their designs and testings.
Rumor #4: It will be a hybrid home console / portable
Here’s another difficult one to wrap your head around. Gaming blogs report that the Wall Street Journal reports (which can’t be read to without subscribing to them and paying money, ell oh ell newspapers) that a mobile unit could be used in conjunction with the home console or taken on the road separately. Not much has been said beyond that. Could it be a two part console? I would have loved to see more 3DS and Wii U collaboration. Given the gamepad could easily emulate the bottom touch screen, it seemed obvious to make an adaptor for Wii U that plays 3DS games. In theory, it could have even played games in 3D on 3D televisions. Unfortunately, this never happened, but maybe the idea is still out there and coming with the NX. If executed properly, this could be amazing.
Verdict: As for if it will happen, again, it seems so very unlikely. Two pieces of gaming hardware means twice the investment, which is fine for some, but not for the majority. If they are separate machines and connecting them is optional, it would be feasible. They could be sold bundled together or separately. If they played the same hardware, again, it’d be excellent to finally seamlessly transition between them. As I stated, there’s no reason the Wii U can’t do anything the 3DS can, so perhaps they would have games that only work on the home console alongside games that work on ether the home or portable console. There’s no reason to limit a game to the portable system, just as the only reason to limit a game to the 3DS and not the Wii U is because the game cards don’t fit anywhere, an easily solvable problem with an extra slot or downloadable media.
Rumor #5: Zelda Wii U will be delayed and released on both Wii U/NX or exclusively on NX
This one calls to mind Twilight Princess, which, as is common for Nintendo, was delayed and wound up coming out at the end of the Gamecube’s life cycle. Ultimately, it released for Gamecube and Wii, with some motion control enhancements for Wii that got mixed reviews. Remembering that incident, and running off the fact that it’s supposed to be released in 2016, yet doesn’t have a release date, lends credibility to this rumor. In the past, Nintendo has said that they would only move on to a new system when the current one limits what they want to do, and it’s possible with the seemingly ambitious project of an open world Zelda, they’ve hit that limit.
Verdict: I can certainly see it getting a parallel release like Twilight Princess, and I’m totally okay with that. Baring limitations, it would make much more sense to release on both systems and have a lager base to sell to than only one new system with a limited audience, unless perhaps they want to drive up NX sales with an exclusive. I think there’s a good chance of a parallel release, but a complete shunt to the NX is unlikely.
Rumor #6: Final Fantasy XV and FFVII Remake are coming to the NX, and may be definitive versions
Square Enix has already commented that they have a Dragon Quest game in development for NX, which bodes well for their relationship with Nintendo. Lending a little fuel to this rumor is the fact that Cloud Strife recently joined the roster for Smash Bros. The rumor states the NX’s graphical capabilities surpass that of the PS4, which I would sincerely hope it would, given it is releasing at least three years after. This rumor of course would contradict the first rumor that the NX will max out at 900p.
Cloud’s inclusion in Smash is an honor many think he doesn’t deserve, myself included. It was very frustrating to me as a Nintendo fan to see Square abandon Nintendo in the fifth generation of gaming, especially after all the success Square had on Nintendo platforms previously thanks to Nintendo’s then aggressive marketing. My understanding that it was Nintendo who convinced Square to release Final Fantasy (1) in America, though I cannot currently find sufficient documentation to support this belief. Sure, Cloud has cameos in Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, but that’s hardly what he is known for, and to me, he just represents a big old Buster Sword in Nintendo’s back.
Verdict: Cloud being in Smash would make sense, though, and all would be forgiven for me if he would turn up on Wii U with this definitive version of FFVII. I’ve no doubts that FFVII on NX would get gamers to stop turning their nose up at Nintendo and take the console seriously again. On this rumor, I really hope it turns out to be true.
Now for the Dual Pixels rumors that came out, literally minutes after I thought I had finished writing this article!
Rumor #7: Wireless HDMI dongle
We have the technology. And it’s not too different from sending video to the Wii U Gamepad, though I think it wouldn’t bode well for 4K. Hmmm…
Verdict: Reasonable and plausible, though one more piece to lose and annoy uninterested parents with irresponsible small children.
Rumor #8: Analog controls with haptic feedback
Such controls would resist you when, say, your character walks into a wall, fires a gun, or grapples with another character.
Verdict: Unlikely. Even if Nintendo really is playtesting this right now, I can’t see it actually working in practice. They just don’t sound fun. I don’t really want my controller resisting me, short of a mild rumble. Experience tells me that people resisting such controls will likely wear them out, and it would be just one more thing to break. I have to imagine the vast majority of people turning this off, given the option. Then again, I haven’t tried them yet, so maybe it’s unfair to judge.
Rumor #10: It can literally Bluetooth sync with everything
Abstract and confusing. Sure, I can see NX having functionality with tablets and phones. Perhaps after years of being accused of being behind the curve, Nintendo is trying to overcompensate? Nintendo’s new president Tatsumi Kimishima claimed to have anticipated many of the problems the Wii U encountered and may now be overcompensating for the shortcomings of the last few generations.
Verdict: The tech is all still there, so there’s no reason not to make it all play as nicely as possible, but ‘everything’ is very broad. Will it sync with my car? Will it sync with my Xbox One system? With my PS4 controller? Surely, the line has to be drawn somewhere, however impressive the thoroughness of the Bluetooth connectivity is.
Rumor #9: Similar tech to PS4 and Xbox One, with emphasis on the Unreal Engine and Android OS
The idea behind this rumor is to make it as easy as possible to design for the NX. This console may have the greatest hope of attracting third parties to return. An admirable goal, as most of the industry has been sticking their nose up at Nintendo the last few generations, often due to perceived “gimmickyness.” An unspecified quote from the leak claims “It’s the easiest device we’ve ever developed for. You just take your code, compile it and it works.”
Verdict: While I certainly want NX to be easy to develop for and win back third parties, I very much want it to surpass what is on the market now and not have Nintendo stuck in a perpetual game of catch up. I hope it is easy to develop for and I’m fine with it embracing the Unreal Engine, but I sincerely hope it has more under the hood.
Rumor #11: More social features in line with Pokémon Go ‘that will take multiplayer, AR and the StreetPass concept to a whole new level.’
Again, vague and abstract.
Verdict: Well, if it is portable, I would indeed hope it would build on and advance existing features. I know I love Streetpass and hope to see more done with it. People are thrilled with the early announcements on Pokémon Go and clearly Nintendo has a winning concept that can be expanded with augmented reality. So, yes, I’m sure whatever NX is will build upon what is already established. That should go without saying and require no ‘leak.’
It’s good to be excited, but we should wait until we hear official word from Nintendo before we start forming our opinions, and until we get our hands on the device before finalizing them. Nintendo is expected to reveal the NX at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, but could release a Nintendo Direct video on the topic any time. I’ll be watching, and hoping to usher in a new golden age for the storied company.