In both 2007 and 2008, Nintendo had a great showing at their Business Media Conference that took place in Japan and the US almost at the same time. Nintendo used these events to announce new games (Monster Hunter 3, Sin and Punishment 2) and even new hardware (Nintendo DSi). This year, however, there was no such event. I had this article stay put for the whole month of October, in the event that Nintendo really wouldn´t have any big-news event. There is a Shigeru Miyamoto-keynote happening in a day or such, but that´s not a place to reveal anything except for maybe a few info-bits on certain games (and even that is highly debatable). Reality is: No new game-announcements, Super Mario Galaxy 2 sometime at the end of 2010 and a semi-outsourced Metroid-game. Count in S&P2, and you have Nintendo´s offerings for what we know.
That, however, doesn´t mean that I´m going to rant about anything again; the topic of this article is that it hit me hard when I realized that more than ever before it looks like a new Nintendo home system is in the works, which would be no news, but: It really might be coming in 2011, just as Yoichi Wada fantasized in a recent interview.
First, what makes one think about the Wii already being at its end-game is the amount of titles Nintendo itself is developing for the system. As mentioned above, Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid: Other M and Sin and Punishment 2 are in the works, one of them being developed by a third-party developer (supported by Nintendo, though). It´s often claimed by butt-hurt gamers that Nintendo focuses on non-gamers or casual gamers now, but to be honest, I don´t know of any casual-focused Nintendo-game being in the pipeline…at all. Wii Fit Plus just got released, and that´s that. Of course, surely I´m forgetting two or three games, but those are smaller, niche titles anyway. Fact is: If it wouldn´t be too ridiculous of a thought, it seemed as if Nintendo already abandoned the Wii. A Mario-sequel using all the existing assets of the previous game, an outsourced Metroid-game, and some low scale-titles. No sign at all of StarFox, F-Zero, Luigi, or other known franchises (or new franchises, for that matter). The counter argument to all that, of course, is that Nintendo might be giving third-parties a spotlight, but it is a weak point to make. Nintendo wants money. All companies do. There may be short periods of strategic release plans, but no company that can sell so many games holds back for three and more years.
Second point to make is that Nintendo, or rather Satoru Iwata, head of Nintendo of Japan, isn´t blind. He can see both third-parties struggling with their sales, and he knows that HDTV-adoption rates are growing and growing, hitting the casual households by now. The Wii is underpowered in comparison to its two competitors, which is the number one reason above all others that the Wii doesn´t get big multi platform titles.
Other than explicit arguments, there´s also a bunch of interesting legit information about Nintendo´s “doings”. There´s this new Shigeru Miyamoto-interview, where Shigsy talked about some improvements the next Nintendo-system might feature. Of course, at this point it´s just visionary talk, but what he said didn´t sound too unrealistic. He mentioned how he´d like to make the Wiimote-controller smaller, more compact. Which precedents the fact that he´d like to stay with the current overall-concept of the Wii. To put up some down-to-earth speculation, this could mean built-in Motion Plus, Wireless nunchuck and other small upgrades like generally more precise motion sensors, maybe even Motion Plus within the nunchuck.
The next thing I´m going to talk about still has a legitimate base, but speculation from my side grows bigger. Nobody knows what a Nintendo-patent investment in another company means for the future. Sometimes, a patent turns into actual game-content, like the Interactive Player-guide for casual gamers, now featured in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Sometimes, however, we never hear about something like that ever again. One of those mysterious Nintendo-investments is their encouragement in a company called InPhase. Said company is known for working on so-called HVDs, holographic versatile discs. Those new, yet-not-available-for-the-mainstream discs can carry up to several terabytes on a single unit. Without going into too much detail of this new technology, whereas usual media like DVD or BluRay-discs work on a 2-dimensionale plane, information on the HVD is put 3-dimensional. By using not only flat surfaces, but all room dimensions at once, a multitude of information can be place on one area of the disc, where a lot more space had to be used on typical disc-media. Now, even though some enthusiast-hifi-lovers might think differently, no game is in need of a disc that has like ten terabytes of space. Most gamers don´t even have enough games to fill one of those discs. That´s where a bit of speculation comes into play: Nintendo might be using an HVD-based home system as a replacement for not only the Wii´s flash memory, but also the need of an HDD. No current-gen system´s HDD comes even close to the disc-space of a single HVD.
With the HVD, Nintendo would have several opportunities at once. Most obviously, no space-problems ever again. More importantly, though, such a system could really be an HDD-driven system for the first time (using one high-space HVD as an HDD). Said discs also have the advantage of featuring enormously fast read-times at a low spinning-speed, thus not making much, if at all, noise. It could also be argued that a single HVD would be cheaper than a big, typical HDD. However, Nintendo never puts features into its consoles they´re not going to use (oh well, GameCube broad band-adapter). But that´s exactly why an HDD-driven system would be ideal for Nintendo. This company often gets called out for ripping people off, being focused on getting more and more money only. If that was the case, we´d see a new Smash Bros.-game ever single year. Because it would sell. Same with Mario Kart and other, similar franchises. Yet, Nintendo is keeping their lineup diverse (though the general amount of output sucks, that´s what I talked about in the beginning). By using a system that´s totally based on HDD-installed content, Nintendo could keep the “one entry per franchise”-philosophy BUT still go all out and release new content for already released games. Not only on a low scale like adding a new character to Smash Bros. or new mini-games for a WarioWare-title, but presenting full new stories for games like The Legend of Zelda or Fire Emblem. You finished the new Fire Emblem-game already? No problem, Nintendo releases a new mission each month for a few WiiPoints, telling an ongoing-story that goes beyond the initial release. Ganon already defeated? Then download chapter one of “The second Arc”, featuring the beginning of a new adventure. The whole idea is, obviously, a non-brainer for multiplayer-based games.
That´s not the end of physical media, though. Another thing Nintendo isn´t stupid enough to try. Which brings us to my last point that is one hundred percent speculation. I went on about this idea in an older article already. Basically, when the Wii Too (let´s call the next system that) is launched, Nintendo doesn´t send the current Wii to die. Normally, mainstream and casual gamers won´t buy a new video game console when they already have one that was up-to-date until just now. That´s why Nintendo could follow an Apple-like model of releasing their new system, while featuring a multitude of offerings. That´s where the current Zelda Wii comes into play. I fully expect this game to be a hybrid-title that will run on the current Wii, but when started on a Wii Too, features HD-textures and other small upgrades to its visual appearance. This new business-model I´m painting here is a chance for Nintendo, but also smaller developers. Three options of selling your game become available: 1) Make it a full-fledged Wii Too-title, great graphics, using all the new features, etc.. 2) Make it a Wii-game, which will, of course, be able to run on the Wii Too as well. And 3) Make it a hybrid-title that runs on the current Wii, but has certain nextgen-features that will come into play when you start the game on a Wii Too. Yet again, Nintendo would shake the entire industry by actively persuing such a business-model.
To conclude the above:
Nintendo may or may not release their nextgen system in 2011. There are, however, many points to be taken that make it seem likely, or at least possible. Nintendo is the current gen´s market leader, and usually a market leader doesn´t introduce their next system first. However, it´s also historical fact that the company to release their system first has an ultimate advantage (see PS1, see PS2, see Xbox360). Also, Nintendo´s upcoming software-lineup look extremely bland. Just WHAT is Nintendo working on? Their inhouse-studios are known, but not what they´re working on. Super Mario Galaxy 2 will be a great game, that´s for sure, but it cannot shoulder an entire lineup alone. Meanwhile, third parties still fail to make up for the lack of Nintendo-developed games. There are more interesting looking efforts now than there were last year and the year before, but it´s still laughable compared to what Nintendo´s competitors are getting. Wii Too in 2011, fiction or not, would also finish the usual five-year-circle that´s been used until now (Wii was released in 2006, 2011 makes that five years, to point that out).
Is that fact that I´m expecting, or at least pointing out one possible future, a new Nintendo-system in 2011 being negative or just realistic? You decide.