Nintendo's NX console is officially launching in March 2017, but nearly everything else about the highly-anticipated games machine is still a mystery. The NX (which is just a codename) is expected to be significantly more powerful than its Wii U predecessor, and its rumored to introduce a bold new design that could fuse console and handheld. Here's what we know, what we think we know, and what we'd like to see from the Nintendo NX.
Hardware: Portable Design, Nvidia Graphics and... Cartridges?
A substantial July report from Eurogamer seems to all but confirm what we've been suspecting all along: the Nintendo NX will be a portable console that you can both play on the go and hook up to your TV at home. Citing multiple sources, Eurogamer says that the NX will work as a fully standalone handheld console, and will feature detachable controller buttons on either side. That last bit is the most interesting, as it suggests that the NX might look like a smartphone or tablet in its most basic form.
The report goes on to claim that you'll be able to play the NX on your TV using some sort of docking station. The system is expected to run on Nvidia's Tegra mobile processor, which is the same type of graphics chip that powers Android consoles such as the Nvidia Shield. That leads us to believe that the NX won't be a huge step up from the Wii U in terms of graphics power, which may disappoint Nintendo fans hoping for something as powerful as the Xbox One or PS4. According to Eurogamer, Nintendo is "not chasing graphical parity."
Eurogamer's report also suggests that the NX will run on cartridges, which lines up with previous rumors. This would make sense if the NX is indeed a portable system, as even Nintendo's newest 3DS handheld uses game carts. It would, however, mark the first cartridge-based Nintendo home console since the Nintendo 64. If cartridges aren't your thing, you shouldn't worry -- both the Wii U and 3DS offer digital game downloads, and it's hard to see that stopping for the NX.
Nintendo itself has given us virtually nothing to go on, but The Pokémon Company's Tsunekazu Ishihara gave some weight to the system's hardware rumors in a September interview with The Wall Street Journal.
“The NX is trying to change the concept of what it means to be a home console device or a hand-held device,” Ishihara told the WSJ.
A Cornucopia of Controllers
The latest NX rumors all coincide neatly with the slew of patents and reports that suggest a handheld-esque console. As discovered by Ars Technica late last year, Nintendo patented a controller design whose entire front panel is an interactive display. An older patent discovered by NeoGAF user Disorientator shows a different controller design that looks like a smaller, simpler Wii U GamePad, complete with physical controls and a touchscreen in the middle.
A more recent patent published in late June further reinforces the possibility of the NX having a handheld component. The images in this particular patent show what looks very much like a traditional portable console, with a 3DS-style control stick and a button layout that brings Nintendo's classic Game Boy Advance to mind. The patent mentions such features as integrated speakers and built-in vibration.
A Second Stab at Virtual Reality
Nintendo's 1995 Virtual Boy console ended up being a colossal failure, but that might not stop the Big N from diving back into VR. According to a June report from Digitimes, mass production for the NX has been delayed from mid 2016 to early 2017, possibly to add virtual reality support to the upcoming console. PlayStation VR is launching this fall, and Xbox One VR support seems like an inevitability, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Nintendo embrace one of gaming's biggest trends. Let's just hope it turns out better than last time.
Games: Zelda, Mario, Pokémon and Sonic
The NX has only one confirmed first-party title thus far, but it's a big one: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The latest installment in Nintendo's beloved action-adventure series will arrive for both the NX and Wii U some time in 2017, presumably during or after the new system's March launch.
Zelda will headline what could be a huge first year for Nintendo's new system. According to an August report from MCV, the console will also see brand new Pokémon and Mario games within six months of launch. It wouldn't be a Nintendo console without some kind of Mario launch title, though we're curious to see what form the NX's Pokémon game takes — especially with the much-anticipated Pokémon Sun and Moon releasing for 3DS this fall.
That report seems pretty accurate, as The Pokémon Company chief executive Tsunekazu Ishihara confirmed with The Wall Street Journal that the studio will make games for the NX.
As far as third-party stuff, Square Enix has confirmed that upcoming RPG Dragon Quest XI is coming to the NX. Sega's just-announced Project Sonic 2017 will also come to Nintendo's new console. MCV's report claims that Ubisoft, Activision and Warner Bros. are also working on NX titles.
The rest of the NX library is a mystery, though this begs the question of whether or not Nintendo will bring some of its biggest Wii U hits -- such as Splatoon, Super Smash Bros. and Super Mario Maker -- to its new console. The Wii U is backward compatible with Wii games, but if the NX is indeed cartridge-based, those hoping to carry over their Wii U titles may be out of luck.
Serkan Toto, CEO of Japanese games consultancy Kantan Games, tweeted that "Bandai Namco is currently developing several NX titles," and that some version of Smash Bros. will be a launch title. Popular Nintendo franchises such as sci-fi platformer Metroid and futuristic racer F-Zero have gone a long time without a proper core installment, and the company would be wise to bring those titles to Wii U.
Both the Wii U and Wii allow you to buy and play classic Nintendo games via its Virtual Console platform, so we wouldn't be shocked to see something similar on the NX.
MORE: Best Wii U Games
Price and Release Date
We know for sure that the NX is launching in March 2017, but we don't know what it'll cost. The Wii U currently retails for $299, and Nintendo would be wise to stay in that general price range to compete with the $349 PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
The NX might find itself competing with the rumored PlayStation Neo, a souped-up PS4 that could offer 4K gaming. Microsoft just launched its 4K-ready Xbox One S, and has an even more powerful console slated for next year. Nintendo's biggest advantages over those two titans have typically been more affordable hardware and fantastic first-party games -- we'll have to wait and see if that trend continues.