- By Joel Hruska on February 29, 2016 at 4:39 pm
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It’s shaping up to be a major year for Nintendo if the rumor mill is even partially accurate. The company has already announced that it will showcase its new NX console at E3 this summer, as our sister site IGN reported, but fresh rumors suggest we’ll see the NX launch by Christmas of this year. That’s somewhat less time than either Microsoft or Sony gave themselves for ramping up the PS4 and Xbox One, both of which held launch announcements in February and May, respectively.
Exact dates for the launch are still being nailed down, and it’ll showcase the new Zelda title. Nintendo has previously promised its Legend of Zelda title would debut on the Wii U, and it plans to keep that promise by offering the game as a launch NX title and a Wii U game. This would seem to suggest that the game will be scaled up to match the NX’s hardware capabilities rather than designed for that platform and scaled down to fit the Wii U’s less powerful hardware.
This is supposedly a major rethink of the classic Legend of Zelda concepts and gameplay, with a new, Elder Scrolls — Zelder Scrolls? — style of open-world exploration.
Supposedly the new Zelda will receive a mammoth marketing push, with a $ 10 million earmark out of Nintendo’s $ 34.5 million budget for the Wii U. Nintendo will spend an estimated $ 56 million on marketing the 3DS, and may be planning a further price cut for the platform this fall. That would fit speculation that the NX platform is meant to at least partly replace the 3DS as Nintendo’s handheld of choice, but even if that rumor proves true, it raises others. If the NX is both console and handheld, will users be able to play 3DS games they’ve already purchased?
The Nintendo NX
We’ve previously rounded up the Nintendo NX’s capabilities, controllers, and positioning, so if you’re looking for background information, that’s where to start. Our understanding of the hardware is still limited. Nintendo has said that the NX is a clean break from its past, which heavily implies that the company will finally break away from the 20 year-old CPU architecture that it’s been using since Clinton was President. As capable as the old 750CXe was in its day, Nintendo has made only modest modifications to the CPU core since it debuted.
A 2016 debut would line up with AMD’s claims that it secured another semicustom design win with revenue expected later this year, since Nintendo would begin ramping up production several months before shipping hardware. If AMD built the SOC, there’s a very good chance that it handled the graphics as well, but there’s still much we don’t know. Of course, it’s also possible that AMD’s semi-custom win is merely coincidentally timed. Either way, Nintendo has historically done a good bit of customization work on its SoC designs, and we expect it would do so here, as well.
Whatever ideas Nintendo is fielding with the NX, it needs to do a better job marketing the final product than the Wii U managed. The GamePad was an interesting idea, but it never matured into a must-have peripheral, and lifetime Wii U sales have been far below the Wii. If Nintendo pushed for an aggressive update, it could easily field a console to match the PS4 and Xbox One, but the company has previously preferred to maximize hardware profitability, with consoles that, while capable, lagged behind their peers in terms of sheer horsepower. The Wii U is built on 40nm technology, for example, even though 28nm was available when the hardware was designed. Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo typically does fewer die shrinks and other revisions, but that could change if the firm decides to go head-to-head with the dominant players in the console industry.