Is Nintendo Conceding To The Tablet Living Room Reality?

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When Eurogamer and other publications recently broke all those new details about Nintendo’s project NX, I said in a bullets section last week that I wouldn’t retread the same talking points I’d brought up in every post speculating about NX. The truth is these new, strongly-supported rumors, pretty much back up what I’d been thinking about the future direction of Nintendo hardware. If all this is true though and NX is a console-tablet hybrid, then it’s made me realize Nintendo has realized mobile devices are the future of the living room — they’ve done what game consoles were originally supposed to do.

To sum up what I’ve been speculating about NX, everything Nintendo’s been saying on the subject for the last few years indicated it wants to create one platform to host both its console and handheld games which have become increasingly congruent. The result should focus Nintendo’s software development into a single pipeline instead of two, hopefully letting it make more games which will end up being simultaneously console and handheld games. This might also attract Japanese 3DS and Vita developers stretched between reaching the west’s console audience and Japan’s handheld audience. The final result could end up being a consolidation of the software support and audiences of the Wii U, 3DS, and Vita. That should be NX’s dependable bedrock, but it might try to reach some of the mobile audience too.

Around 2000 or 2001 it was understood that Microsoft was trying to get into the console business because it was afraid Sony was going to use its dominance with PlayStation to open a new front in the computer war — the living room. People were talking about using consoles as gateways for pushing operating systems into the living room and maybe even usurping PCs as a more affordable and more accessible option. That sounds a lot like what mobile ended up doing, which explains why Microsoft is chasing after Apple’s pattern right now.

Mobile is the device of everywhere. People use tablets everywhere now, including in their homes, often on the couch while watching TV or instead of watching TV. The audience that isn’t already playing console games may be lost to consoles. TV streaming boxes never even really blew up, and neither did gaming on them. So I guess Nintendo might be trying to build its own sort of ultimate gaming tablet while treating the TV as secondary, being the console manufacturer currently in the best position to do so. Nintendo has run the dedicated handheld gaming market for pretty much its entire existence and isn’t burdened with maintaining the AAA console market the way Sony and Microsoft are.

If this is how it’s going down, NX is gonna face the same challenge taking over the living room or pocket or handbag that any other video game company has had — coming into the space from the video game market.

Apple took over the games in people’s pockets and on the tablets in their living rooms by accident while selling them devices they’d need for everything else. When something is branded as a video game console and is primarily controlled with traditional game pads, people aren’t going to buy one or boot one up unless they’re specifically setting aside time to play video games. Nintendo originally got people to buy the NES in North America by convincing them it was a toy — not a game console. Sony sort of got some people to buy the PS2 because it was a cheap DVD player. NX is still going to be mainly a video game machine, so it probably won’t pull away a significant portion of the mobile audience. Whatever it does pull away will be on the strength of its first party IP and maybe some strong third party games that either don’t work without buttons or can’t really be sold in a mobile market that’s primarily free-to-play games. Maybe Nintendo can attract some indie and mobile developers fed up with discoverability on iOS and Google Play. And how willing is Nintendo to get non-gaming software on a device like the NX?

Of course, nothing is in stone until Nintendo actually tells all. According to Eurogamer that’s happening in September, but even that’s technically just a strong rumor. It’s probably not healthy to speculate any further than this, but I still think what I’ve put down here is a pretty guess as to what could be happening.

BULLETS:

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