Why Nintendo Should Scrap the NX

Nintendo has announced that it’s working on a brand new video game console, currently known by the code name NX. Thanks to a major leak that’s probably true, we have a good idea of what to expect. While I think the rumored handheld/console hybrid is Nintendo’s best bet for the device, it ignores the larger issue, which is that maybe Nintendo should get out of the hardware business altogether. Why? Let us count the reasons.

1. Hardware isn’t Nintendo’s strong suit

The Nintendo Wii U and GamePad controller.

Nintendo Wii U | Nintendo

Ask a Nintendo fan what makes the company special, and chances are they’ll say it’s the games. It’s Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, Animal Crossing, and the rest. We love Nintendo for the games.

Nintendo’s hardware is fine and all, but it tends to lag about a generation behind in terms of gaming power. To make up for the deficiency, each system tends to have a gimmick you can’t find on other consoles. That’s why the Wii was based on motion control, and the Wii U has an extra screen on its GamePad controller.

In the best-case scenarios, game makers find ways to use these unique features to their advantage. But other times the features weigh down the console, like the extra screen on the Wii U GamePad, which went unused for the majority of the games on the system.

In short, you never know what you’re going to get with new Nintendo hardware. Maybe the gimmick will prove to be something gamers didn’t know they wanted. Or maybe it won’t catch on, and third-party developers will stay away, as they did on Wii U when it became clear the console wasn’t selling well.

Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft already have fantastic, powerful machines waiting at the ready.

2. Mario on Xbox and PlayStation

A scene from New Super Mario Bros. Wii U with a giant Mario breaking pipes and scaring goombas.

Mario | Nintendo

Which brings us to point number two: If Nintendo got out of the hardware business and started making games for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 they could harness the power of those systems to create some stunning games. Just think of how gorgeous a new Mario, Metroid, or Zelda game could be on state-of-the-art hardware.

With Miitomo, Nintendo has already begun testing the waters on mobile. The company has several mobile games in the works that are expected to release over the next year or so. Why not bring core Nintendo franchises to other platforms?

3. Nintendo’s bad at online features

Xbox One S and controller.

Xbox One S | Microsoft

If Nintendo made games for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, it would relieve the company of the apparently massive burden of maintaining a network for gamers. To date, Nintendo has never had basic user-friendly features like friend lists and achievements that carry over to a user account outside of any given game. These are mainstay features Sony, Microsoft, and Steam have had for years now, while Nintendo has seemed stuck in the past.

Rumor has it that the NX will address at least some of these issues, but offloading those features to other companies that already offer them would be ideal.

4. No more lulls

Art for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo game | Nintendo

For Nintendo fans, 2016 is basically a lost year, with pretty much no major Nintendo games coming out. The reason why is because all of Nintendo’s development teams are working on NX games. Something similar happens every time Nintendo switches its focus to a new piece of hardware.

If the NX nosedives like the Wii U did, we’re presumably in for another lost year at some point in the not-too-distant future. But if Nintendo quit making hardware, it could continually produce a steady stream of games, with no lulls.

Not having to worry about making hardware means not having to shift gears from one generation of consoles to the next all at once. Even if Sony and Microsoft move to a new generation of consoles — which probably won’t ever happen again for Microsoft — Nintendo can keep cranking out games for the current and next generation, just like all third party developers do.

5. Nintendo’s hardware market is shrinking

A Nintendo Entertainment System and controller on a white background.

Nintendo Entertainment System | Nintendo

If you look at the sales figures for Nintendo hardware, it’s apparent the company has mostly been losing customers with each new system. The notable and major exceptions are the Wii and Nintendo DS, which sold in crazy high numbers in the middle of the last decade. But overall, here’s how the sales figures look, according to Wikipedia:

  • NES: 62 million
  • SNES: 49 million
  • Nintendo 64: 33 million
  • GameCube: 22 million
  • Wii: 102 million
  • Wii U: 13 million

Remove the Wii, and the sales have been trending downward for three decades now.

On the handheld side, you’ll find more fluctuation, but a similar dip between last generation and this generation:

  • Game Boy: 119 million
  • Game Boy Advance: 82 million
  • Nintendo DS: 154 million
  • Nintendo 3DS: 60 million

Nintendo’s success on the handheld side is why the NX is almost certainly going to be a handheld system first and foremost. But taken together, the gaming world seems to be generally less interested in Nintendo hardware now than in the past.

6. Look to Pokémon GO as an example

Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO | REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images

If you want a glimpse into what kind of success Nintendo might find if it brought its software to platforms gamers already own, look at the success of Pokémon GO. It’s based on a Nintendo property, and has turned out great for the game’s makers.

People seem to want Nintendo games, but not enough to buy the hardware. It’s time for Nintendo to bring their games to the hardware people actually want — and already have.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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