Well, it’s official. Grab an oversized wall calendar, preferably the ones they use on MTV’s I Used to Be Fat, and start ripping off the days – the Nintendo NX finally has a release date. But don’t whip out your wallet just yet. Nintendo’s new console won’t hit the market until March 2017, over 10 months from now.
Nintendo has also decided that there will be no NX reveals or announcements at E3, either, the biggest gaming event of the year. The only game that will be playable at E3 that we know of so far is The Legend of Zelda Wii U, which is also coming to the Nintendo NX and has been delayed until March 2017, unsurprisingly.
So, not only will Nintendo miss the holiday season, a prime time to take advantage of the annual buying frenzy that we call “Christmas”, but they’re also keeping shtum about the console itself that, may I remind you, we still know nothing about other than its codename, the NX.
The Wii U, despite having truly fantastic first-party titles, was an unmitigated disaster.
To tide us over during the agonising wait for the Nintendo NX, there’s approximately two games of note coming to the Wii U before the end of the year: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE and Paper Mario: Colour Splash. Yes, you may have a backlog of titles to get through (highly unlikely considering the Wii U’s dire release schedule) but the fact is there’s little to look forward to this year for Wii U owners.
All of this begs the question: What the hell, Nintendo?
You’d be forgiven for thinking Nintendo had just trolled the world with what seems like an absolute shit show of an announcement on paper, but in reality, I’m glad that Nintendo has gone against the status quo. And really, so should you.
The Wii U, despite having truly fantastic first-party titles, was an unmitigated disaster. With only 12 million units sold it’s the company’s worst performing console by some margin, Virtual Boy aside. The timing was wrong, the name: atrocious. Marketing was non-existent and the withdrawal of support from third-parties proved to be damning. Since the moment Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime took to the stage back at E3 2011 (which would coincidentally be the last time Nintendo did so; Nintendo Directs are now the norm), everything about the console’s reveal, direction and attitude was wrong. It was a halfway house that attempted to appease the hardcore gamers that Nintendo had shunned, and hold onto the casual market it had so successfully captured.
In the end, neither party was interested – customers were confused and Nintendo was left to lick its wounds and make the best of a bad situation. With Amiibo, Mario Maker and a fantastic new IP in Splatoon, you could argue they managed to do so. But the damage to the company’s reputation in the hearts and minds of gamers is, for some, irreparable.
The NX Stage
It’s easy to see why, then, that Nintendo has to get the NX right. It needs to step up to the plate, look the pitching public straight in the eye and hit a home run. And if that means missing out on easy sales over Christmas and upsetting a few eager fans who are desperate for something new, then so be it. I’d rather Nintendo took all the time they need to carefully, and strategically, get the fundamentals right – then they can build from there.
With the Wii U, the ship was sinking before it even left the harbour. Nintendo can’t afford to patch things up as they go again. They need to schmooze third-parties, monitor the potential seismic shift Sony may create with PSVR and the PS4K, and then strike fast and hard in a typically unique, unexpected way. That’s easier said than done, admittedly, but if anyone can reinvent themselves it has to be Nintendo. And they certainly stand a better chance by taking their time.
Missing out on E3 is also a minor footnote. Yes, it’s still a huge event that every media outlet covers diligently, but it isn’t the publicity monster it once was. And are we really surprised that Nintendo are disregarding E3? Nintendo has distanced itself from the Los Angeles-based conference in recent years, choosing to march to their own beat with their Nintendo Direct videos. Nintendo Directs are more focused, succinct and smoother presentations. There’s no technical errors to worry about, no boring, uncomfortable presenters shuffling about on stage – just Nintendo’s essential news, refined and delivered directly to you. (God I miss you, Iwata.)
Nintendo aren’t the only ones stepping back from E3, either. EA have decided to host their own conference this year, and several other publishers have followed suit. It only serves to strengthen Nintendo’s decision to do things their way, come what may. Oh, and you can rest assured that Nintendo will more than likely show off the Nintendo NX during a fully-fledged, in-depth Direct presentation after E3.
Let’s also consider the logistics of the Nintendo NX, which will launch globally next year. By all accounts it looks as though Nintendo will finally be able to focus on one development pipeline as the NX is strongly rumoured to unify its console and handheld divisions into one product. With The Legend of Zelda appearing on both platforms, it only strengthens the idea that the NX could be a console, handheld hybrid.
And if Nintendo can pull it off? Well, forgive me if I get chills just thinking about it. Nintendo has done phenomenally well to develop and support two pieces of hardware every generation (just ask Sony how hard it is), so the mere thought of a fully-focused, unified Nintendo creating content for one platform (mobile expansion aside) must be a terrifying prospect for the likes of Sony and Microsoft and an utterly tantalising one for fans.
Wii Will Remember U
As a day one Wii U owner, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the console. When it comes to quality levels, IPs and rekindling that child-like wonder then Nintendo still can’t be beat. The Wii U gave me some of the best experiences of this generation, by far, but the continued droughts between releases, rudimentary online infrastructure and lack of third-party support became too much to stomach in the end. That’s why I was thrilled by Nintendo’s President Tatsumi Kimishima’s honest response when asked why the Nintendo NX won’t be releasing this year: he wants to make sure it has enough games. When it’s all said and done, that’s good enough for me.
Let the countdown begin.