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Nintendo NX: everything we know so far

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Back in April Nintendo announced some big news: the company's next home console, code-named NX, will be launching globally in March 2017. That's a quick turnaround from the Wii U, which launched in November 2012. However, even though it's releasing in less than a year, we know very little about what the NX actually is. Nintendo has been very quiet about what the device will be, but thanks to a number of reports and rumors, we can at least piece together some details on the Wii U's successor.

Hardware

The only thing Nintendo has really said about the NX so far is that it will be very different from the company's last two consoles. "I can assure you we're not building the next version of Wii or Wii U," Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said in an interview with Time last year. "It's something unique and different. It's something where we have to move away from those platforms in order to make it something that will appeal to our consumer base." He also called it "a next step in our dedicated device strategy, the core and primary focus of our business."

But what will the NX actually look like? According to a report from The Wall Street Journal last October, the device will "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 suggests that it will be some kind of hybrid console / portable device that brings together those two sides of Nintendo's business. In fact, former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who passed away last year, revealed in 2013 that the company's R&D groups for handheld and console gaming had been merged into one division.

That same WSJ report also claimed that the NX would feature "industry-leading chips" that would put it in line with current consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Japanese newspaper Nikkei Shimbun, meanwhile, has reported that the device could feature an operating system based on Android.

Fake NX controller One of several elaborate-but-fake NX controller images (Imgur)

Given that it's a Nintendo machine, there's been much speculation about what the controller will be like — Nintendo isn't a company that's afraid to experiment with new types of controllers, after all, otherwise we wouldn't have curiosities like the Wii remote or Wii U Gamepad. Last December a Nintendo patent emerged for a strange, elliptical controller that was almost entirely a touchscreen and could potentially support glasses-free 3D, much like the 3DS.

In March a handful of "leaked" images surfaced suggesting that this design was in fact real — though they turned out to be elaborate fakes. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Nintendo isn't creating something similar, as the company is reportedly the first customer utilizing Sharp's Free-Form Displays, screens that can be cut into virtually any shape.

More recently, Eurogamer reported that the device would primarily be a handheld console that could connect to your television using a docking station. The site also shed some light on the controller issue, claiming that the portable part of the device would feature detachable controllers, which you could then use to play games on your TV. Eurogamer also says that the NX will use cartridges instead of discs, not support backwards compatibility with older Nintendo consoles, and will be powered by Nvidia's Tegra mobile processors.

Eurogamer NX illustration Eurogamer

"It's a machine that will be easy to use."

But what do developers think? Unlike us, many game creators have already seen the NX, and they seem largely excited about its potential. "I think, once again, the interface is very attractive," Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told IGN. "It's a machine that will be easy to use for all gamers. They have built in something that will give us chance to really have a different experience from what exists today. That's what I like — that they come with something new that is adapted to what we actually want now."'

Games

That same report from the WSJ in October also claimed that Nintendo was already distributing development kits — the hardware developers use to make games — for the NX. Despite this, very few developers have said they are making games for the console. We do know that Dragon Quest XI, the next entry in Square Enix's long-running RPG series, is planned for the NX (it's also coming to the PS4 and 3DS whenever it does release).

Legend of Zelda NX art Nintendo

Dragon Quest, Pokémon, and Zelda

There will also be a new title from The Pokémon Company, though what exactly the game is isn't clear. But given the company's experience with portable devices, it's a platform that makes sense. "The NX is trying to change the concept of what it means to be a home console device or a handheld device," Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara told The Wall Street Journal. "We will make games for the NX."

Outside of that, we only know of one game: but it's a big one. Nintendo has revealed that the upcoming new Legend of Zelda game will be coming to the NX. The game was originally slated to come to the Wii U in 2015, before being delayed to 2016. Now Nintendo says that it will be coming to both the Wii U and NX simultaneously in 2017. It's similar to the strategy used for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Originally a Gamecube exclusive, Twilight Princess eventually released on both the Gamecube and Wii simultaneously, with new motion-control features added to the Wii version. For the new Zelda, Nintendo says that "both versions of the game have been in development in tandem."

The Future

Nintendo says that it will release more information on the NX later this year, though it won't say when. Eurogamer claims that the device will officially be unveiled in September. The industry's biggest trade shows — E3, Gamescom, and Tokyo Game Show — have already come and gone this year. But with the NX's launch less than a year away, it shouldn't be too long before we finally get a look at it.


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