Immediately after the Game Developers Conference concluded on Friday in San Francisco, rumors began to surface that Nintendo may reveal its next console in June at E3 2011. The news isn't surprising given that the current Nintendo Wii is now coming down off the console mountain as reigning retail king, giving way to Microsoft's Xbox 360. The Wii also turns 5-years-old this year, meaning Nintendo is due for a hardware refresh soon.
The rumored new console from Nintendo isn't anything new. As Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata said years ago, "We are always preparing for the next hardware. We are under development." Indeed, that's the case with all three: launching one product while beginning on the next. Given that, unless otherwise stated (like Sega did just a few years after the launch of its incredible Dreamcast console), development of new hardware is simply a given.
That said, it's a matter of when and what's it got? Over the last year, the company has beaten down speculation that it was working on an HD version of the Wii console. Instead, Nintendo claims it's working on something completely new that's now rumored to feature a Blu-ray optical drive, a quad-core processor, and a mobile projector. That's right, a projector that will shoot HD (and 3D?) graphics onto a wall. That's an interesting concept, eliminating the need for an additional HDTV, but how will the built-in projector affect the overall cost? Will it be a peripheral instead? Will gamers even have enough wall space to even utilize such a feature?
In any case, E3 2011 seems to be the logical date for revealing the next console if Nintendo plans to launch the device this holiday season. But an E3 2011 reveal also depends on the current number of Wii units sold in the States thus far, as Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said that "after we've reached an installed base of 45 million here in the U.S., we can have a conversation about the next generation." Surely Nintendo will have raked in its required 45 million before June-- more than 30 million units had sold as of December 2010.
Nintendo has also stated in previous years that it won't reveal the next console unless it can truly set itself from its market rivals in a surprising way-- just as the Wii did, sparking copycats from Microsoft and Sony like the Kinect and Move. On the other hand, various developers have indicated that Nintendo may bring stereoscopic 3D to the next platform. 3DS project lead Hideki Konno, who pointed to Nintendo's experiment with 3D on the Famicom consoles (aka NES), said that the company has been considering 3D for over 20 years.
"Nintendo doesn't give up," Konno said. "That's the Nintendo style, the Miyamoto style."
Unfortunately, we may not know anything truly solid until right before E3 2011. "It is really important for our business to positively surprise people," Iwata previously said. "Will you be surprised by our completed product if we told you how it is surprising three years in advance? Therefore, we basically disclose information on our products as late as possible."
Get ready, gamers. It's going to be a long three months.