Double Take is a series where we take recent announcements and occurrences in the gaming industry and offer our immediate thoughts on them.
A report came out of the Wall Street Journal recently saying that Nintendo has already sent out development kits and is strongly considering a 2016 release date for the upcoming console NX. While there is plenty to say on that alone, it’s the other part of the report that really interested me: Nintendo may plan to make it a hybrid console.
Nintendo would likely include both a console and at least one mobile unit that could either be used in conjunction with the console or taken on the road for separate use
This has been a recurring rumor for a while now, but after this most recent report, it is time to seriously investigate whether this hybrid plan is a route Nintendo should go down. After all, while a cohesive system may sound good on paper, there are many risks and issues that can come from this.
Learn from the Vita
Here’s the thing: hybrid consoles historically haven’t found major success. Sony’s Playstation Vita, while certainly not part of a full hybrid console, was still well on its way; it was meant to play PS3 games and PS4 games via remote play, many games are available on both platforms, and the marketing generally showed the Vita as console gaming on the go. Well, if the apparent lack of sales success is anything to go by, that’s not what people want. Indeed, the past generation of handhelds, the point was frequently made that the 3DS did better because it made handheld specific experiences – not pushed over console ones. And there is a reason for that.
When people play games on the go, they generally want a fundamentally different experience than one they play at home. There are plenty of exceptions to this, of course, and you often find bigger experiences on handhelds, but people tend to want smaller – or rather, more bite-sized – games on handhelds, and meatier experiences on their TV; they want experiences tailor made for the environment they are in.
Of course, the Vita suffered from many other issues that likely hurt its sales, but ultimately a situation where all the games are equal may not be one consumers actually want. Now, the NX situation is bound to be less black and white than this; there would surely be platform specific games and what not. But then again, the Vita is technically the same, and again, it isn’t exactly counted as a success by Sony.
Then there is the fact that this would mean much more challenging development behind the scenes. Now devs would have to make sure the game works not just on the console, but on the handheld as well. That’s an added layer that is bound to make things more challenging as they seek to develop and polish the game. Third party multiplats may not come over because they would need to make it work on Nintendo’s handheld as well as the console, unlike competing systems. And surely the gap between hardware would be notable; a great looking handheld game is a mediocre looking console game, and a great looking console game can’t run on a handheld. That’s just how it works.
Then again, the Wii U and the Gamepad can seemingly pull it off without a hitch; maybe it will be like that sort of a situation, only the controller can be taken anywhere and used independently of the console. But if Nintendo somehow makes that the case, then how portable is this thing going to be? The Gamepad isn’t exactly the smallest device ever; it’s a lot thicker and more inconvenient than tablets, and certainly can’t fit into a pocket like most handhelds. And a device with the power to independently run PS4-level games would have to be even bigger than the Gamepad.
…Which means less third party support
And if the above problems come to pass, that can’t mean good things for third party support. They all but totally abandoned the Wii U, and given another generation of strange hardware that requires extra work to take advantage of – in this case possibly a pressure to support both handheld and console – they won’t be any more excited to come on board.
Still; there are plenty of benefits to a hybrid console, and obviously we don’t have any firm details on what this specific situation might be, let alone if it will even really be a hybrid. But it’s worth considering the risks in this, the challenges to overcome, and the reasons for us fans to temper our expectations before an official announcement. Whatever the case may be, hopefully Nintendo is ready to beat the challenges involved in order to make the NX something to remember.