Early this morning Nintendo
teased their next gen hardware, codenamed “NX.” Nintendo only revealed that it is “a dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept,” and that there are plans to reveal more information next year. Wii U launched just over two years ago, but it has been selling at a historically low pace, and many in the industry have been calling for Nintendo to abandon it and start fresh. With the teaser of NX, many gamers are worried that Nintendo is doing exactly that, but that’s not what’s happening here.
If you recently just spent $300 or so of your hard-earned cash to buy a Wii U or you’ve been planning to get one soon, it’s understandable that you’d be concerned to hear talk of a new console replacing it, but this isn’t something that’s going to happen soon. Hardware manufacturers essentially
never stop working on their “next gen” hardware. As soon as your product has launched (if not sooner), you begin work on the next one. It’s how Nintendo has always operated.
This isn’t the first time that Nintendo has talked about working on Wii U’s successor, but it’s the first time they’ve mentioned a codename or given a timetable for details to be revealed. However, Iwata only says that they hope to reveal some details next year. Looking at Nintendo’s last two consoles, you can get a pretty good idea of what this means for a launch window. The Nintendo Revolution was teased in 2004 as the codename for new hardware, but Wii wasn’t revealed until 2005 and didn’t launch until 2006. Wii U leaked as “Project Cafe” or “Nintendo Stream” in early 2011, and Nintendo gave it a sort of “soft reveal” with a few tech demos and a look at the GamePad at E3 that year, but it didn’t get its full reveal until 2012 and launched that holiday season.
In the case of Wii, the time between the codename being teased and the actual release was over two years. With Wii U it was over a year and a half. Given that Iwata isn’t even expressing a hard commitment to a reveal next year, it’s pretty safe to assume that NX isn’t coming out in 2016. Keeping in line with past consoles, a holiday 2017 launch is likely, giving Wii U a full five years on the market. Nintendo home consoles typically spend five to six years in the spotlight before their successor launches. In other words: this is all normal.
Normal or not, some are concerned that this will mean decreased support for Wii U. When a company starts working on new hardware, they have to work on new software to go with it, so it stands to reason that a console often receives less support later in life as focus has shifted to the next big thing. At a certain point it’s inevitable that Wii U will begin to lose some support, but that’s not an immediate issue either. Just in 2015 alone the console will be supported with games like Mario Party 10, Mario Maker, Splatoon, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Devil’s Third, Star Fox, and Zelda. Additionally, Iwata says there are even more unannounced Wii U games in the works. Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime also stated that Nintendo has a lot more ideas for content and innovation on Wii U before they can move on to another platform just a few months ago.
Iwata understands the position he’s in with Wii U. The console hasn’t sold the way they hoped, but abandoning it would hurt Nintendo’s reputation, which would make it even harder to convince consumers to buy their next product. He addressed this topic at an investor’s meeting last year, stating that Nintendo can not release new hardware until existing fans are satisfied.
So, yes, Nintendo is working on new hardware that will eventually replace Wii U, but there’s no need to panic or get upset. This is business as usual for Nintendo, not a desperation move forced by poor Wii U sales. Before Nintendo can launch a new console, they need to live up to the standard that’s expected of them on the old one, and they are well aware of that. It will likely be 2-3 years before NX hits shelves. In the meantime, Nintendo has a lot more planned for Wii U.