The year of 2014 has come to an end and put on display that hardware power is not the answer to our search for more fun. Aligning almost disproportionally to its sales numbers, in many peoples´ eyes the Wii U delivered the highest number of the most fun games released on gaming systems last year. However, such a moral victory cannot stand as a lasting remark. Nintendo is in need of raising their profits, they need ways to further survive, to eventually thrive like they did during the GameBoy-days, during the Wii-/NDS-combo. With the advent of the New Nintendo 3DS, a somewhat beefed up version of the original 3DS akin to the DSi, and the continuing low sales numbers of the Wii U, the gaming world loves to speculate about the real successors to both Nintendo´s home console and handheld console. Will 2016 be the year? Whenever it is, the FlyingFisch has its own conglomerate of ideas to share.
Unlike the obvious proposition of the question for new Nintendo hardware, hardware is the least important aspect of the company´s future plans. Do not read this wrongly, Nintendo needs capable, compelling hardware, they absolutely do. But their first and foremost goal needs to be expansion. And it is what Nintendo has begun with the introduction of their QoL-line. This Quality of Life-brand is a first step into a new area of businesses. It is one of many hardware endeavors that the traditional Japanese company needs to take risk in. Nintendo´s best bet for long-lasting future success lies in the creation of their own ecosystem. You can see it happening everywhere these days. Apple has it (iOS), Microsoft has it and is further building on it (Xbox and Windows), Sony has a store for all their devices. and reaches into various product areas. Disney not-so-recently acquired Marvel, making their overall market appeal so frighteningly broad that most people aren´t even aware anymore that what they´re watching is part of Disney. All of these companies as well as many others are expanding, they´re trying to converge as many assets as possible into their own dna. And who doubts to see Apple and Disney staying around for a looong time to come? As a as-of-yet video game-making only company, though, Nintendo´s next steps need to find a grip someplace realistic. It´s fun thinking about Nintendo simply buying other publishers like Capcom, Sega or Square Enix and use their franchises to form a stronger software lineup, but not only is it far from easily doable, it could also pose a high risk to the company´s overall stability. Moreover, it wouldn´t solve any of the deeper issues within the current Nintendo. If buying up a whole industry was possible, it wouldn´t be Nintendo to do so. No, their next step is internal unification.
The newly built Kyoto building is part of this unification process. By accumulating many of its developers under one roof, all different projects get a greater chance to profit from one another. Software- and hardware teams can work hand in hand. And that´s a crass necessity for reasons that are to follow below. Unification needs to happen with Nintendo´s products, too, however. That is what the gaming community is waiting for at the moment. Hints had been given, near-confirmations been done. Nintendo is expected to be working on NOS – short for Nintendo Operating System. This OS-level software is supposed to bring a long needed independence from specific hardware machines and free the entertainment world of Nintendo´s. NOS could be accessed from a Wii U, 3DS, smartphone or PC. It´d be the unbound central hub of every Nintendo consumer. Away with the fears of losing a certain hardware and therefore losing the games bought for it. NOS lets you see all the eShop-titles you purchased and will let you re-download them as long as you have some device that runs those titles. Your Nintendo hub is wherever you are, all you need is your nickname and password. In a way, NOS could be looked at as the firm´s true next generation vehicle. Hardware is only the executionable part of the experience, but software is what it´s defined by. One big and important aspect of this unification process under NOS is crossbuys and crossplay.
There´s already some games that are released on both 3DS and Wii U. However, consumers usually have to pay twice to be able to play the same game on two different devices. That is especially bad for Virtual Console-titles that by no right should be limited to either device. But future Nintendo hardware must take it a step even further: Major new releases ought to be playable on both the new handheld console and the home console. This is not about some hybrid-console that lots of fans enjoy thinking about. While somewhere down the road a hybrid-device is inevitable, what we´re talking about here today is simply a shared software-lineup between similar, but not exactly the same machines. It makes sense for several reasons to keep certain titles exclusive to one system. But it also makes a lot of sense for a relatively small company like Nintendo to make a large junk of their projects crossplay-compatible. A core belief of this thought-process is our stance that we don´t see third-party relations as something that will ever be part of Nintendo´s dna. Finding ways to get third-party developers back on Nintendo´s console business is bound to end in fruitless attempts. A system that is so samey to that of Microsoft´s and Sony´s that it, in theory, salavages third-parties´ wants and needs would cost Nintendo an absurd amount of money. Moreover, it would not change the current realities, which sees the Call of Duty-crowd with Xbox and PlayStation. And not a single current CoD-player will forsaken his Xbox Live- or PSN- friendslist for the “newcomer” Nintendo. Somebody who has all of his achievements of Assassin´s Creed-games will want to continue gathering achievement points on Xbox Live. Someone who has all trophies of three Mass Effect-games will want to see Mass Effect 4´s trophies next to them. Not one of those players will be willing to give up the comfort of the existing ecosystem for another one that might feature the same basic premise, but lacks all the long built-up environment. Third-party developers are not central to Nintendo´s future sucess/failure. They should always be welcome and be supported in reasonable ways (like Bayonetta 2 or Super Smash Bros. 4), but they should never again be catered to as if they´re required for sustainable success. It doesn´t matter who´s fault it is at this point, all that matters is the realization of the status quo, which is: Third-party developers don´t matter a lot within Nintendo´s business. That´s what we´re starting from.
Without delving into any absurd speaking-around-the-bush, we´d like to outline drafts for some of the possible future products of Nintendo´s. With the exception of one of them, those are all products that have a reasonable chance of becoming exactly what Nintendo might do – this is not purely fantastical speculation, it is what we truly believe might be in the coming. The devices (given names for fun) that we will go into detail below consist of:
– (The) Nintendo /home console
– (The) Nintendo Go /handheld console
– (The) Nintendo Fun /handheld console
– (The) Nintendo Q /smart device
– Qudy /companion device
A simple box is all that’s needed
The Nintendo /home console
Before we paint a clearer picture about the next home console, let us tell you that we think the Wii U will be alive for longer than most people would believe at the moment. The Wii U will never be a great success, it won´t magically turn things around – but it also is just enough for the company´s purposes. This is an important finding: Nintendo does not need a high end-hardware for fanciest graphical detail. Mario 3D World and Captain Toad look like a perfectly realized Mushroom Kingdom-game. Pikmin 3 and Mario Kart 8 look fantastic. And both Zelda U and Xenoblade Chronicles X manage to create breathtaking worlds. We expect a Wii U-successor to match or slightly trump the PS4´s graphical capabilities, but not much more than that. With third-party developers out of the bigger picture, a Nintendo-home console with PS4-power is just enough. When Xenoblade Chronicles X Infinity and Metroid 5 are released on this next gen-system, people will be in absolute awe, despite Xbox Two and PS5 being capable of significant better graphics on a purely technical level. And it won´t matter one bit. Since graphics are only part of the equation, anyways. By simply calling the system “Nintendo”, the company will position its system as an integral part of the living room. Featuring not only the latest AAA-games, but also granting access to a Virtual Console-catalogue of hundreds of games, from NES to N64 and even GameCube and Wii. As well as GameBoy, Nintendo DS and certain systems from other manufacturers, such as Sega. Offering 4-player local-coop gaming. And finally getting multimedia features right, such as video-stream services, Karaoke-services or letting you play videos/mp3s from your own collection. Also accepting Android. Instead of trying to fight hundreds of millions of customers that already use Android in their daily life, the new Nintendo-system should incorporate it as part of their own. No, Android won´t be the OS of any Nintendo-hardware, but it will be accessable quickly and naturally from your Nintendo. Letting you play all your favorite Android-games with a controller. This also means access to a near fininite amount of non-gaming apps. To finish the feature set of the Nintendo, it will also act as a hub center for all of your other Nintendo-devices. Offering overview of your streetpass encounters or organizing your QoL-data. This home console is the go-to point in your living room that will serve all gaming purposes and more. It´s not a fancy hardware, but it is the ultimate convergence of everything that is Nintendo, past and present. A neat, perfect Nintendo box, relatively low in cost and well-built.
A capable 2016-hardware and a Nintendo logo is all that’s in need of change here
The Nintendo Go /handheld
Unlike past portables of the firm, this next generation handheld is not intended to play second fidel to its home console counterpart. The Nintendo Go will be slightly weaker in terms of raw hardware power when compared to the stationary system detailed above. However, these differences only matter for a small portion of games. Being born from the changed Japanese market, this handheld is a fully realized portable entertainment device, built for fullfilling gaming experiences that aren´t compromised in any way due to being displayed on a smaller screen. After over a decade of dual-screen gaming, Nintendo releases its first single-screen handheld console since the GameBoy Advance back then. This is no flashy hardware, think of it as a different-flavored PlayStation Vita in terms of design. One big screen, dual-analogues, four shoulder buttons, d-pad and four face buttons. Also a capacitive touchscreen and the usual features such as camera in the back and front, gyrometer, nfc, and so on. Whereas Nintendo relied on fresh gimmicks in the past to sell its handheld devices, the Nintendo Go is an attempt to simply offer the perfect handheld build, including everything that gamers want, not wasting ressources on “weird” stuff. Thanks to the crossplay philosophy, gamers will be able to choose to play games like Fire Emblem, Kirby or Mario Kart on either the home console or this handheld console. And if you own both hardwares, you can freely switch between both and continue from the same save state, only paying once for the game. Only the most complex home console-titles might not work on this handheld. Meanwhile, you can play all the Virtual Console-games and access Android on the Nintendo Go, too. Accept the competition, don´t fight it, that is the mindset behind the inclusion of Android. People want to play CandyCrush, AngryBird or PlantsVSZombies, so let them play these games – on a Nintendo-device.There´s not a whole lot to add here; the Nintendo Go marks the perfection of the traditional handheld, while opening up to market realities. It is a final attempt that will decide the fate of future handheld projects.
Courtesy to neogaf-user Yurinka
The Nintendo Fun /handheld console
Remember all the rumors about Nintendo and Sharp working on some weird doughnut-shaped screen, a new kind of free-form displays? The idea here is that the whole front of the device would be a screen, only broken up by those areas where analogue sticks and buttons are placed in. The Nintendo Fun would be a low-cost product, that increases its actual value by virtue of the gimmick free-form screen it features. Well-made mock-ups have shown how cool this can look. Yet we wouldn´t really want it as the single go-to handheld of Nintendo´s, simply because the whole buttons-breaking-up-the-screen kinda ruins the atmosphere for games that rely on immersion, exploration and escapism. But a cheap, 99 Dollar-handheld with a screen that´s made from brand new technology, that allowed you to play tons of Virtual Console-titels as well as many of the less hardware-intensive retail games, say Mario Kart, could very well position itself as a fashion product. Yes, its target audience would be children and … hipsters.
A dual-touchscreen device for Nintendo-fans´ everyday life
The Nintendo Q /smart device
Heavily supporting all future QoL-plans, the Nintendo Q is a chic portable device that focuses on many non-gaming features such as keeping track of weight, your daily diet and making notes about whatever you choose to write about. An extensive diary app would conclude the attempt to turn it into an everday-device that people keep with them despite already having a smartphone in their possession. What´s most interesting is the Q´s form factor. Finally bringing to reality the concept of Microsoft´s forsaken Courier, a dual screen device that was supposed to feature two touchscreens and be held like a book when opened. That is exactly what the Nintendo Q will look like and Nintendo is in the fortunate position to claim that this is a natural evolution of the NDS-design, not a rip off of Microsoft´s Courier. Lucky them. Anyway, another central feature of the Q would be its system-wide pseudo-A.I. that exists to interact with the user in a helpful and playful manner both. This A.I. would be capable of learning about its users preferences, remembering important calender dates and reminding the user of his schedule. Voice-recognition and voice-to-text features make it a well-rounded experience. Of course, the Nintendo Q wouldn´t be completely devoid of actual games. Due to the lack of any physical buttons, it´d be limited to touchscreen-only games, making it a prime candidate for puzzle-games or visual novels. Once again, Android-compatability would ensure a variety of software offerings. To summarize, the Nintendo Q is the perfect hardware for the matured Nintendo-fan who´s tired of sterile, boring GUIs found in smartphones, yet doesn´t need a full-on gaming device any longer. This is as close as we´d ever get to a “Nintendo phone”. And depending on Nintendo´s willingness to cooperate with an experienced partner, a version of the Q with SIM-card support might not be outside the realm of possibilities.
Qudy – the first mainstream robotic companion
Qudy /companion device
We left the only completely out-of-nowhere option for last. Qudy is the name Nintendo registered a couple of months ago. Nobody knows what it is supposed to be used for, but … doesn´t it sound kinda – cute? Maybe we´ve watched too many anime series, but one recurring element in Japanese scifi-shows are pseudo-intelligent robotic companions that will always support the hero in acquiring much needed information. Now, we don´t have any such companions in our everyday lives, but we do have smartphones. Smartphones with Siri or Cortana or any such voice-supported apps. It´d take only one more step to go the full mile and give people their companion, a device centered around a smartly coded A.I. that keeps learning its user´s/owner´s behavior, thus being able to operate without any user-initiated input. For more detail on this, honestly, weird concept, we recommend reading our full-length article on Qudy.
That concludes TheFlyingfisch´ pitch for Nintendo´s future hardware endeavors. Of course, no company often appears as unpredictable as Nintendo, thinking back at the sudden revelations of motion controls or glassless stereoscopic 3D. But now is not the time to release another major home console iteration that´s based on a risky, unproven gimmick. The incredible demand for Sony´s PlayStation 4 shows that gamers are perfectly fine with just a typical upgrade in power. It´s not quite as simple for Nintendo, since hardware power cannot work as their primary driving factor in selling units. They need to focus on what makes them special, makes them unique. Which is: Their incredible first-party software and unparalleled history of making said games. Unifying software-lineups between all available devices as much as technically possible; offering a range of different valued devices that are targeted at different audiences/age groups; continuing attempts at crazier, riskier concepts, but putting it a bit to the sidelines. All that could become a fantastic, economically viable way for building a strong and successful business for the foreseeable future. Unification, Distribution, Innovation – people want Nintendo, all Nintendo´s gotta do is provide it to them.