For a few years now, myself and others have speculated on the potential future Nintendo console that would bring together it’s home console and it’s handheld business as one machine. Just a few weeks ago in a big announcement that sent their stock soaring, Nintendo announced they’re working on a new console code named “NX”. If the speculation is true and this is one device to bring Nintendo’s ecosystem together, I wanted to do some exploration of what something like that may look like. I’ve broken my feelings down into three basic categories of desire.
I’d personally like to see nintendo return their more nostalgic, iconic look. Since I got my Super Nintendo when I was a kid, I remember the iconic profile of it, a rectangle standing vertically inside of another, larger horizontal rectangle. From the first Nintendo controller, to the current 3DS and Wii U, Nintendo consoles have always had a strong feeling of geometry in it’s design, even if they’ve traded the harsh, square edges of the original NES, in favor of a friendlier, more approachable industrial aesthetic. I want a Nintendo that’s still friendly, but a little more modern, and willing to embrace it’s heritage ascetic. That is my first desire.
For my second desire, I want to have something that feels familiar. If someone has logged hours with a Wii U or a 3DS, I want them to feel like they’re at home — anywhere. A shared control scheme would do wonders for the system, something that can be navigated by a controller in full screen, on my television, and a mobile offering that doesn’t compromise those controls. Nintendo designs wonderful easy to control games, and many times buttons on their controllers end up being redundant as there’s no use being made of double shoulder buttons and second screen touch controls. I want to play my games anywhere, at home or on the go, with the same control experience, no compromises.
In terms of design familiarity, I think Nintendo has accomplished quite a bit in terms of design with their handheld and console business. The consoles are well vented and reliable, the 3DS has embraced the circle pad, which feels like a completely viable alternative to a joystick. The new 3DS’s c-stick is an interesting evolution on the 3DS control design, but ultimately I find it lacks the satisfaction of the larger, more manageable circle pad. The Wii U feels innocuous under my TV and is tiny in comparison to my other two consoles.
The last thing I wanted was something that felt like Nintendo. This is by far the hardest part of the idea, because I don’t work at Nintendo, I don’t live and breathe their values, aesthetic and mindset. I do know what I think Nintendo feels like, so I’d just have to give this part my best shot. When I think of Nintendo, I think of fun. I think of playing games that I can hand a controller to my brother, or even parent and say “here! you try!” and that experience for them isn’t one of anxiety, it’s one of genuine curiosity and entertainment. People ages six to ninety-six should feel like they know how to turn it on and off, and how to play their favorite games. It’s at that point I realized I’d have to go in and also do some work on Nintendo’s OS as well.
Before we get into software, here’s a look at what I’ve come up with for the NX hardware.
It’s a classical Nintendo “box” with our iconic rectangle erecting from near the center of the object. Our “cartridge” has returned, but with a twist. The hardware is actually two devices that work in conjunction.
Let’s look at the handheld, for the sake of argument, I’ll talk about interesting fantasy specs to make the story a little more real. It starts with a familiar face, a slimmed down Nintendo 3DS, still capable of glasses-free 3D, but now with a gorgeous 5” HD display, and hardware inside equivalent to something like an iPhone a few generations from now. Since Nintendo can optimize their own hardware and software this device could theoretically be able to play something akin to current Wii U graphics power.
In terms of changes from the current 3DS I’ve dropped the second screen in favor of one 5” touch screen that’s capacitive, rather than pressure touch that serves as the display screen as well. The whole device ends up a little wider than a new 3DS XL today, and I’ve removed the cartridge port, and stylus in order to help make the unit thinner (just half an inch) and make room for a larger battery and a built in hard drive. I’ve kept an exposed Micro SD slot at the bottom of the unit, along with a headphone jack and charging/data port. The extra space also buys us the room for a second, full circle pad on the right of the unit for more console-like control. I’ve dropped the ZL ZR buttons and moved the start, select and home back to the bottom of the device from before the new 3DS re-design, but kept them as more classic nintendo protruding buttons to make pressing them easier, and moved the volume and 3D sliders to the sides of the device. We also include other standard things with the device, Wifi, NFC cameras and IR The new handheld clocks in at 7” wide.
Now let’s talk about the dock. Adorned with two buttons on top of the unit, “Power” and “Eject” The handheld actually slides into the slot at the top of the device with a satisfying click, a semi-soft rubber circle at the bottom of the console makes the impact smooth, keeps the unit from slipping, and gives the whole unit clearance for some venting at the bottom. A non-slip rubber back has been added to the back of the handheld so you can always get a reliable grip when connecting or disconnecting it form the dock, the bay which houses the handheld augments the antenna of the device to boost wi-fi performance. When the handheld is docked, it’s being charged and providing the hardware that plays the games on your TV, as well as turning into a virtual cartridge, displaying the games that’s being played with beautiful artwork.
For outputs we’ve got an one HDMI, four USB (two in the back and two on the side), Sensor Bar and Power ports. The dock contains the same hardware that’s inside the handheld with some differences. A relatively large hard drive and support external storage and USB inputs, and wireless for communicating with Wiimotes, pro controllers and other previous gen Nintendo Hardware. The complexity the dock can get is up in the air, perhaps it’s added power can be used augment and scale up your graphics to an even higher resolution experience for the next generation of displays.
The large hard drive also serves as your way to manage one, large digital only games library. Where you can transfer games from your console to your handheld and take them with your, or download a game while you’re on wi-fi away from home, play the first few levels to try it, then pop it into your dock and keep the game going on your big screen. The dock can also have NFC for placing Amiibo directly on top. Having the dock as separate units also means that anyone can bring their personal handheld over their friends house and instantly share their games and play them with friends. A handheld unit not docked with a system can serve as a wireless controller for the dock if it’s not connected to it directly. Since the dock alone is theoretically powerful enough to play at least Wii U level graphics, a separate wireless handheld communicating over wireless could serve as a way to even support backwards functionality with Wii U. The handheld even has the correct amount of inputs to be able to trick the software into believing it’s a circle pad pro, pro controller, classic controller, and more.
So there’s a lot of speculation in all of this, and of course it would take a lot of people a lot of time to put something like this together. While things like this can be fun, I fully acknowledge that I’m in no way burdening myself with making this actually work, but my goal is for something that feels like it’s within reach of current technology, especially with the advances being made in computer miniaturization and device connectivity.