Video Games

Latest console shows Nintendo’s commitment to gimmicks will never end

Gaming columnist Rory Appleton has reservations about Nintendo’s NX console and says he would rather see the company release a a mobile “Mario Kart.”
Gaming columnist Rory Appleton has reservations about Nintendo’s NX console and says he would rather see the company release a a mobile “Mario Kart.” AP

The final gasp of the last great ’80s console gaming giant will come with detachable controllers and a longing for what could have been.

Thanks largely to Eurogamer, we know that Nintendo’s latest console, the Nintendo NX, will be a hybrid between handheld and traditional consoles. The portable section has a screen and detachable controllers on either side, so it could be played similar to the Wii U controller or with the screen disconnected – similar to a tablet. That section will fit into a docking station, which will broadcast gameplay to a TV screen. The new console is scheduled for release globally in March.

Nintendo hasn’t officially confirmed the leak, but the company doesn’t appear to be denying it, either. I believe it is legitimate, as it represents a predictable and perhaps logical move. Nintendo wants to bridge the gap between its successful DS handhold consoles and first Wii. It had to give consoles at least one more go in order to wash the awful taste of the Wii U from our mouths.

A lot of gaming critics have praised the move. Nintendo is thinking outside the box, they say. It knows it can’t compete with Sony or Microsoft in the traditional console market. The portable console will tap into the ultra-lucrative mobile gaming market. Nintendo’s future is in mobile. Just look at what “Pokémon Go” did to its value, despite Nintendo’s limited involvement.

Most of that is total crap.

This is not creative thinking. Right now, it looks like a few experienced engineers took a Wii U and a Nintendo 3DS into a secret lab somewhere in Japan and said “how do we make these things kiss each other?”

The move will almost certainly hamstring the new console’s graphical capabilities. Because they have to cram all of the computing into a portable system, the chasm between the Wii U’s visuals and what the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 can do will likely widen even further. Nintendo would definitely need to design a docking station that could somehow boost the NX’s computing power.

I also reject the notion that Nintendo can’t compete with Sony or Microsoft on their level. The company should have put together a strong $400-$500 console with guts comparable to the Xbox One or PS4. Pair that console at launch with a new “Mario” game, just like the days of old, and one from “Zelda,” “Donkey Kong,” “Metroid” or “Super Smash Bros.”

Not only would that sell, it would set Nintendo up for years. It could plunder both its own core franchises and those it absorbed from Sega. It could remake classic games such as “Goldeneye” and “Perfect Dark.” And because Sony has loosened its grip on Square Enix, it might be able to reclaim the “Final Fantasy” franchise.

I know the GameCube, Nintendo’s last crack at a traditional console, didn’t sell very well. But it had to compete with the PlayStation 2, still the highest selling console of all time, and Microsoft’s first foray into the market. Sony will likely crush any opponent, but I think Nintendo could challenge for second place.

And the idea that this will tap into the mobile market is ludicrous. Mobile games are popular because virtually everyone walking around already has the device necessary to play them. Developers can create simple, free games that have the possibility of spreading like wildfire and generating millions from microtransactions. That is not at all what the Nintendo NX appears to be.

As I’ve said before, Nintendo would probably be better off leaving consoles forever to focus solely on mobile. Although it has only a partial stake in “Pokémon Go” publisher The Pokémon Company, Nintendo’s stock market value still had an overall net gain from the game. More importantly, people see “Pokémon” anything and still think Nintendo, so the mobile game has boosted the brand in people’s minds. Capitalize on that with a mobile “Mario Kart” or something.

Maybe Nintendo will prove me wrong on all this. Maybe the Nintendo NX will return the company to the forefront. Its last gimmicky departure, the Wii, did very well.

But I doubt it. This is probably the end.