The Nintendo NX has had a few details slip out in the gaming press over the last few weeks, with news of a March 2017 release date, port of the new Zelda and a no-show at E3 being the highlights. After the disastrous run with the WiiU (and I say that as a WiiU owner), a new console may just be the thing Nintendo needs to help revitalise their business. A big new powerful console with a slew of new games could help them gain ground on the runaway success stories of this generation in the PS4 and X-Box One. But... is it too little, too late?
When I first saw that March 2017 release date, I immediately grew concerned for the console. Traditionally, there is one time of year for a bit release like this: Christmas. It guarantees you the early sales, and allows you dedicate the next year to improving your software library in time for the second Christmas rush the following year. By releasing in March, Nintendo are almost guaranteed to have a poor opening sales period. Sure, there'll be diehards and gaming fanatics who still buy the console, but the majority of the audience will wait for Christmas time for the new machine. So, I have to ask, why not simply delay the release?
Sure, no-one likes a delay, and it seems weird to have a finished console just sitting on a shelf waiting to be released, but by delaying to Christmas Nintendo can improve the launch games and make sure the console is as perfect as they can possibly make it before unleashing it onto the world. With so much time since the PS4 and X-Box one releases, they can market their console as the hottest new thing and easily make sales, even if the console itself sucks.
Before anyone gets their keyboards out, I'm not predicting the NX will suck. But my worry about a March release for Nintendo is that if it did, there's going to be a lot of press about it before the Christmas period, which will completely obliterate their sales. This is why you release at Christmas: People buy up quickly, and negative press won't affect your sales as much. I mean, maybe the console will be great and will get a lot of positive press leading to Christmas which may improve their sales, but still it is what it is: A risk.
Risks are fine though if they're calculated and you have contingencies. But not showing up at the E3 before your new console is released is a bull-headed and idiotic move. The gaming world will be watching E3 with eager eyes, and not having your new console at the centre stage shows either a real arrogance from Nintendo or naive foolishness. Good E3 conferences can make or break a company - Sony got a huge lead over Microsoft at the beginning of this generation because of a great conference. Nintendo aren't going to be showing off their new console at all, which just leads me to wonder how the hell they expect me to actually know what they expect me to buy.
Software wise, we only know for sure that a new Legend of Zelda is coming out as a launch title, alongside the WiiU version. The game was originally announced as a WiiU game, and was a major selling point for the console for a lot of people. I know if it wasn't for the promise of more Zelda down the line, I probably wouldn't have been so eager to purchase a WiiU. Still, having a new game in the franchise coming out alongside your new console is a good start, but it does present a wider problem.
While I'm sure this will change over the coming months, the only game I can say for sure that is going to come out on the NX is a port of a game from their previous console. If the NX boasts better hardware or a new controller gimmick, we can assume that the new Zelda title will not be able to show this off as well as a major launch title should, simply because it wasn't developed with that in mind. Twilight Princess suffered a similar fate when it was ported from Gamecube to Wii - without the 1:1 sword controls, it became an exercise in developing Repetitive Strain Injuries in your wrist.
On its own, the new Zelda wouldn't be a huge problem for the NX. We see previous generation games ported to a new console all the time, and I'm sure Nintendo will announce a slew of Mario titles and other games to generate hype for the NX. But with no real presence at E3 I can't help but wonder there's only so much they can do. Throw in with that the incredibly strange release time, the initial skies look foreboding on Nintendo's horizon.
Despite all that, Nintendo is one company you can never quite rule out. Incredibly stuck in their ways on a lot of things, but also willing to innovate and surprise on others. March 2017 is definitely going to be a very interesting month for the gaming industry, as it could spell out the resurrection or downfall of one of gaming's most beloved companies.