When a new game console has been dropped nine months before launch, the console maker has usually already softened the ground for its impending debut with trade show announcements, hints at exclusive games, and at least some public discussion of the tech specs. Still, Nintendo’s NX is currently nine months away from launch (if the current March 2017 launch roadmap is to be believed), and we still know next to nothing about “the new hardware system with a brand new concept” that was first mentioned publicly . about 15 months ago.
That state of affairs has left us swinging wild, patent-based guesses at the console’s design and reaching for extremely small crumbs of concrete information when they rarely appear.
At least Nintendo has a public excuse for keeping the details of the NX under wraps for so long. Speaking at a meeting of Japanese investors this week (As translated by Twitter user Cheesemeister), legendary Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto said the company is “concerned about imitators” if it shows off the console’s new ideas too early. Miyamoto also spoke about protecting those new ideas in a recent interview with the AP. “As for NX, there’s an idea we’re working on. That’s why we can’t share anything at the moment… If it was just a matter of following the technological progress, things would come out much faster. . “
We’ve seen this movie before
If this sort of excuse sounds familiar, it’s because Nintendo said practically the same thing back in 2004 and 2005, when the upcoming Wii was still codenamed “Revolution.” While Nintendo showed off the system at E3 those years as a non-functional black box, the company only made vague hand gestures about its “revolutionary” new controller. Take this statement from then-President Satoru Iwata:
“Controllers for current consoles have more than doubled [in complexity] from older console. They can satisfy the hardcore gamers, but they have become too difficult for more casual gamers. For the next-generation console, we plan to introduce an easy-to-use user interface so that, say, a mother watching her child play a game could say, “Oh, I’d like to try that too.” However, user interfaces are devices that can be easily mimicked by other companies, so I can’t divulge details at this time. [emphasis added]”
Was Nintendo rightly afraid of early imitation of the Wii Remote? Yes and no. Both Sony and Microsoft ended up copying Nintendo’s motion control idea to some degree with the PlayStation Move controller and Kinect camera, respectively. But those technologies didn’t hit the market until 2010, about four years after the Nintendo Wii became an instant hardware sales force. The “edge” those imitators got through early demos at trade shows probably didn’t affect things too much, especially when you consider that Sony and Microsoft used vastly different technologies for their own motion controllers.
Nintendo may have had more to worry about because of shoddy, bootlegged “Wii clones” that flooded the market with cheap motion sensors and even cheaper generic processors and games. But these gray market units also likely drew inspiration from actual Wii retail hardware rather than early prototypes shown to the press and industry.
Anyway, Nintendo didn’t publicly show the “Revolution” controller until September 2005 at the Tokyo Game Show, about 16 months after the system’s existence was first publicly announced at E3 2004. demonstration took place more than 14 months before. the rebranded Wii hit store shelves in late 2006. There was a similar 17-month gap between the demonstration of a playable Wii U GamePad prototype at E3 in June 2011 and the system’s launch in November 2012.
Then again, we got our first close look at the Xbox One just six months before the system’s launch in 2013. And Sony’s grand reveal of details about the PS4 happened about nine months before that console hit stores. But those systems both saw some major leaks and hints of relevant information long before those official reveal events.
Let the countdown begin
If the NX does indeed launch in March 2017, Nintendo won’t have much time for the press, the public and the wider gaming industry to get used to the idea that what the company says will be a very different kind of game. game console. Nintendo says this is designed to fend off copycats, but it could also be seen as a warning that the system is still not ready to be seen by the public. It could also be a sign that we should expect a last-minute delay for the NX before March 2017 rolls around (much like the Nintendo 64 did so many years ago).
Perhaps retailers, developers and publishers will get early closed-door briefings on Nintendo’s plans ahead of a public reveal (GameStop seems to know for sure something about the system). If so, however, only a few third-party games have been announced for the system so far (Dragon Quest X and XI and Just dance 2017) is a worrying sign.
With E3 in the past, Nintendo is also running out of major trade shows that can provide a large enough platform for a splashy, headliner-grabbing NX debut. Rumor has it that September’s Tokyo Game Show could serve as the NX’s media launch pad, even though Nintendo traditionally doesn’t attend the show (but again, it made an exception for the 2005 reveal of “Revolution”) . Nintendo could also show the system at the Gamescom show in Germany in August, but the company has yet to confirm its plans for that event. Or maybe Nintendo will go it alone and create its own reveal event similar to the Nintendo “Space World” shows of the 1990s, which served as the first launch pad for the Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, and Gamecube.
Whatever the reveal plan, Nintendo better get it done quickly. It’s not impossible to launch a console just a few months after its initial public reveal, but it would be a bit unprecedented. It would be an even heavier lift for the kind of “unique” and “revolutionary” console Nintendo is promising for the NX.