Nintendo NX: Thinking Big for Their NeXt Console

I recently wrote an article about how the NX and Zelda delay is good for gamers. This post will elaborate on that issue, and discuss why Nintendo has primed their new console for a strong comeback.

To say that 2016 is a quiet year for the Wii U would be a gross understatement. Yes, it’s typical for software production to wane as a console reaches the end of its cycle, but the Wii U barely turned three years old before it was clear that the focus was elsewhere.

Nintendo’s move to delay their big holiday game Star Fox Zero last year was an indication of things to come. Yes, delays can mean that a game gets more polish and ends up better than it otherwise would have been if it were released on time. But the fact that Nintendo basically blew off the holiday season last year – their big title was Xenoblade Chronicles X, a niche title not meant to appease the masses – meant that they simply didn’t have anything else to show us.

Instead, we got seemingly incomplete games like Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash and Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival. Mario Tennis features hardly any modes, and doesn’t even let you choose to play with your friends online – why enable online play but not add this simple feature present in just about every other online game? Amiibo Festival was so stale and simple that it was hardly deserving of the Animal Crossing brand.

Nintendo is a top tier developer. They produce and develop some of the best games ever made, and the Nintendo seal of quality actually does (typically) mean something. These last few games of 2015 were an indication that they had simply moved on from the Wii U and starting investing their efforts elsewhere. True, Xenoblade Chronicles X was by all accounts a solid game, but again, that was a niche title, and had likely been in development for a long time.

At some point last year, Nintendo decided to stop caring about the Wii U. We might have had only suspicions at the time, but their recent decision to opt-out of presenting their regular digital event at E3 put the final nails in the coffin. How can they not use that opportunity to reach such a large audience, instead choosing to only feature a single playable game (Zelda)?

The answer is that they’ve moved on. Nintendo is cutting their losses and looking forward. They have had a resurgence of their brand outside of games lately, and they’re looking to re-establish themselves as the key player that they once were before they lost many core gamers with the Wii (Yes, the Wii brought in droves of casual gamers, but many gamers sat out the Wii generation in favor of more conventional experiences, myself included). Now, they’re adding the Nintendo brand to all sorts of things, from shorts and sneakers to the world of Minecraft and Universal Studios, and even venturing into the mobile space. It seems to me that Nintendo is ripe to regain their throne.

There’s no getting past the fact that this is terrible news for Wii U gamers, especially those who bought the system in the last year thinking that there would be more support for it. Yes, there are many great games on the system, but those who were thinking they would have the sort of triple A experiences delivered by the system’s counterparts are in for serious disappointment.

The silver lining is that Nintendo now appears to be getting their act together, and it seems like they’re making all the right moves to start off a new, healthy generation with the NX.

Nintendo should expand their brand. It’s about time that we started seeing Nintendo characters out there in the world again! They have some of the best, more recognizable IP, and holding them so close over recent years has been a mistake. Why not proliferate your IP in every way possible? The more people see Mario, the more they talk about him, the more support you get for your gaming and toy business. It just makes sense.

But what about skipping E3’s standard digital event? Well, if you have nothing but crumbs to bring to the table, then it’s better just to keep your mouth shut. The same principle applies to only showing Zelda at E3. It’s a pretty safe bet that the future Zelda game will be amazing, so it makes perfect sense for them to showcase that game front and center in times of drought. Yes, people will complain about the lack of software on the Wii U and 3ds, but they’ll also be talking about the amazing new Zelda game along with Nintendo’s next console…which is exactly what Nintendo wants them to do.

We don’t know what the NX is, but it seems like it will have a pretty good opportunity to make a huge splash on the market. Nintendo’s dearth of software means that they’ve been focusing all of their efforts on the NX, which indicates we’ll likely see a very strong launch lineup, or at the very least, some excellent titles advertised on the horizon at launch.

Think about it. Here’s just a few considerations for the NX launch:

  • Mario: When’s the last time we saw a full-blown Mario adventure game? 3D World and 3D Land were good games, but not what many of us wanted.
  • Metroid: After the disappointment surrounding Federation Force, a snazzy new Metroid would have fans salivating to jump on board with the new console.
  • Zelda: The newest Zelda will be a launch title, which will bring people in droves to the new console.
  • Pikmin: Remember Pikmin 4, the game that Miyamoto said was close to completion in 2015 but then all but disappeared? Why would they be holding it back if not to feature it on the new console? The Wii U has next to nothing on the horizon, and they’d surely be advertising a new Pikmin to fill the void if it were in line for this current gen.
  • Animal Crossing: Nintendo releases an Animal Crossing mobile game this fall which will supposedly interact with a console counterpart – it’s been a long time since a full-fledged Animal Crossing game came out, so what came could they be referring to?
  • Ports: Rumors have been flying about a GOTY edition of Smash Bros for the new console, and if it’s possible (depending on the controller), Mario Maker for NX releasing at the outset of a new console launch would be huge.
  • Virtual Console: Pair all of this with a VC that features more games that are purchased under your Nintendo account and available on other Nintendo devices, and 2017 promises to be a big year for Nintendo.
  • Amiibo: Create a compelling amiibo launch game, and watch the profits rain in. Build it, and they will come.

Nintendo’s been responsible for many happy moments in our lives as gamers. Despite some recent frustrations, let’s remember the good times and look forward with optimism to the decisions that are being made behind closed doors.

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