What Can Nintendo NX Really Offer For PC Players?

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Rumors and other information on Nintendo’s next hardware cycle appear to be heating up, all pointing to the transition happening this year on in both the living room and in consumers’ pockets. A question that always arises is: what can Nintendo do to keep you specifically, interested in its hardware?

The answers are pretty straightforward if you’re the kind of person still heavily invested in consoles, whether they be from Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft. Nintendo has always needed to pretty much do what any console manufacturer needs to do: sell valuable, reliable hardware with support from lots of developers. These days that also includes offering a reliable and fully-featured operating system along with smooth online gaming. Maybe most people have already accepted the idea of Nintendo hardware only being worthwhile for Nintendo’s own games, but discussions about Nintendo plausibly regaining third party support and thus multiplatform games remain heated to this day. A Nintendo console becoming the primary platform for anyone who currently owns a PlayStation or Xbox is probably a pipe dream for the near future, but people still wonder about it. What caught me off guard recently is that this is the first time I’ve had to ask myself “what does Nintendo need to do for me?” since mainly switching over to PC gaming.

I still haven’t bought any current-generation console, though I still want to get a Wii U later this year. The reasons for me to get a PS4 are few. An Xbox One? Near-nonexistent. For a lot of people, everything outside first party games is just better on PC if you have the money for a graphics card and the patience to tweak software. When asking myself what I could get out of Nintendo’s project NX, the answer I arrived at was another good handheld system.

For the last few years for dedicated gaming I’ve been able to survive on just PC gaming and the 3DS. Handheld gaming is the one area PC (or rather Windows) can’t touch yet, and happens to still be where Nintendo is at its st rongest. Other people might put mobile gaming in this position but I still prefer games like 3DS Smash Bros. and Shin Megami Tensei IV to Threes and Super Hexagon. So, the one thing I really need the most from Nintendo this year is a good successor to the 3DS.

Nintendo bringing its first party handheld games to the next technological level  is the obvious minimum expectation right now, next up being keeping those Japanese third party handheld developers from sliding further into mobile gaming. I also think a 3DS successor could pull over some of the developers currently supporting the Vita in a way similar to how Monster Hunter transitioned to from the PSP to the 3DS. The real game-changer however could be the theorized cross-compatibility between the NX handheld and console.

Some people think we’re getting a kind of hybrid machine, but I think it’s just going to be a bunch of games you’ll be able to buy once and play on two different machines. If the handheld is my main concern, something like that could still be a strong incentive for me to get the console as well. Ultimately, it’s a plus if it boosts the size of the library for both machines beyond what they would have been as two independent platforms. Cross-compatible Virtual Console alone though will be a game-changer for me. If I can get an NX handheld and play the copies of Super Metroid and Super Mario RPG I already bought, it’s going to be worth it from day one.

Technically Sony has already tried this approach with cross-play. I have to admit I like the idea of being able to play Rogue Legacy or Nuclear Throne on a handheld and then using the same save file on a console. I just don’t think that alone is a selling point for both the Vita and the PS4, not when those kinds of indie games are usually games I already bought on Steam months earlier than their PlayStation debuts at lower prices. I also don’t think cross-play is nearly comprehensive enough on PlayStation to be a big selling point on its own. If Nintendo on the other hand were to present developers with a console and handheld sharing one architecture, I think it would give rise to a much more ubiquitous type of cross-play where developers don’t really have to port between two platforms.

To be honest I wouldn’t even care that much if the NX console turns out to be merely an extension of the handheld in some way. Handhelds have already  gotten powerful enough to run the kinds of games Nintendo makes, and because of it we can see Nintendo sliding further and further into its niche of handheld gaming. From the perspective of a mainly PC-oriented consumer, that’s just fine.

The only way any of these priorities would change for me is if one day someone actually did make a competent x86 handheld that can run Windows and with it Steam. Attempts at this are already being made and I believe that goal might be reached within the next few years. Even if  it doesn’t run the latest high-end games, an x86 handheld that can run lower-end Windows games would, in my experience, complete the PC’s domination of dedicated gaming devices. Until then, Nintendo’s portable software library is the standard to beat.

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