Nintendo NX Thoughts

Originally published on Trevor Trove on March 24, 2016

Earlier this week, my Twitter feed exploded with talk of allegedly leaked images of the NX controller for Nintendo’s next console. While reports of their authenticity varied, they did appear to match the also alleged patent design introduced a few months back.

Let’s assume, for the purposes of this article, that there’s is some truth to this design. Many gamers were left feeling betrayed and abandoned by Nintendo at the sight of these images. “Why can’t they just make a ‘normal’ system?” “How is this going to compete with Sony and Microsoft?”

Nintendo, since before the Nintendo Entertainment System, has been a Toy company. When they launched the Famicom/NES, the system was equal parts innovation and under-powered technology. It innovated over some of its predecessors by introducing new inputs than something like the single joystick/button of an Atari but it wasn’t the most powerful tech on the market. Yet it dominated because it was affordable enough to get into peoples homes.

As Nintendo continued to innovate in the console space (more inputs with the Super Nintendo, the analog stick with the Nintendo 64) they found slightly less success. The more complex their product became, the smaller their audience. By the time the Gamecube came around, Nintendo’s most similar offering to the modern-day competitors of Sony and Microsoft, it floundered.

When they doubled down on innovation with the Wii, they managed to tap into the zeitgeist again and suddenly everyone had the system from kids to retirement homes. With smartphones and tablets on the horizon, Nintendo developed the Wii U and its Game Pad but couldn’t figure out how to capitalize on the success of the Wii. The typically downward trend of Nintendo’s consoles returned and to date, the Wii U has sold fewer units than the Gamecube.

There are a lot of people out there who just want Nintendo to fall in line with Sony and Microsoft and make a system comparable to the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One. But those people haven’t been paying attention to what Nintendo has been doing for 30 years. I would submit Nintendo stopped competing with those two back during the PlayStation 2/Xbox/Gamecube era. With the rumors surrounding the NX and Nintendo’s decision to move toward the mobile space, Nintendo hopes to cut out a piece of the ever-growing mobile gaming market.

Within the so-called “hardcore” gaming circles, mobile tends to be a bad word. But every now and then, titles come along that these players are willing to admit to playing. Two stand-outs from last year, for example, were Fallout Shelter and Lara Croft GO. Two mobile games, built on incredibly popular IPs by respected console development teams. Now imagine if Nintendo put their billion-dollar IPS and developers into the same strategy. The low-cost of development combined with the nearly ubiquitous install base of the mobile market provided the company with a far better value-proposition than the increasingly costly race to the be the most powerful console (which will never last longer than a couple years with the rate technology improves) and avoids the increasing costs of Triple-A development.

Based on the rumors, it would not surprise me in the slightest if the NX strategy is built around developing mobile games that can and most-likely will be played on typical cell phones through the Apple Store and Google Play. But for the “best” experience, you can pick up the NX controller (a la the pictures above), designed to fit comfortably in your hands and provide more precision controls than the faux D-pad and buttons of a smartphone, and play the titles there instead. And if the console/handheld hybrid rumors are true, you can take that on-the-go experience and transfer it directly up to your television through standard screen mirroring, while still using the controller in the same way.

Innovation and quality is all you need to make a name for yourself in the underpowered mobile market and rise to the top of the mountain, even garnering respect from the “hardcore” crowd. Throw in name and brand recognition, and Nintendo could soon be overthrowing juggernauts like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans in no time.

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