|A Nintendo Wii in it's natural setting|
The Next N...
First of all, lets get on thing straight. Nintendo's next console is hitting first. Ignore all that fanboy inspired rant-age online about the release dates of the next few consoles, the facts are that console releases take time, engineering, and a substantial amount of money. Say what you will, but no company throws a few engineers in a room and has a new console ready to ship in a few months. Modified versions of an existing console, like the PS3Slim, or the 360S are also exempt because they are not new consoles, simply redesigns of existing material. Especially in a market where developing a new console can now spiral into the billions, console development is set in a firm timeline with little room to move. As a result, the current release dates for upcoming consoles are expected as follows.
Nintendo: Based on Nintendo's prior consoles (from official unveiling to shelf space) I would expect to see their new console hit around Thanksgiving 2012. Nintendo likes to benefit from the holiday rush, especially Black Friday, and they tend to show off their new console's more then a year in advance to give the public time to shift their mindset over to the new console.
Microsoft: The relative newcomer of the console scene is quite successful, but don't expect to toss your 360 anytime soon. From the sound of things coming out of Redmond, we've got several years to wait on the successor to the X-box 360. Expect it in 2015, maybe 2014 if things get lucky.
Sony: The once giant of the industry is playing the long shot with their dedication to a ten year console lifetime cycle. Given the difficulties the PS3 has had with making a net profit, a ten year development cycle may be the best Sony can hope for. 2017 at the earliest.
Now, on to Nintendo's next console!
So what's in a name? Actually, quite a bit. Believe it or not, Microsoft spent massive amounts of money on the name for the X-box 360, most of it test marketing that showed ordinary people would choose a Playstation 2 over an X-box 2, as well as believing that the PS2 would be more powerful graphically (because it had come out first and had the name, it must be better was the general thought). So Microsoft went to the 360, and the same tests came back positive for the 360, coming in ahead of even the PS3.
Currently a lot of news agencies are simply calling Nintendo's next console the Wii2 or the WiiHD. Personally, I don't think either of those are likely. While their new consoles name will likely retain a semblance of the Wii monicker to encourage their current console base to pick one up, I'd expect Nintendo to have a largely different name. The Wii 2 is a little 2 classic in today's market, and won't grab enough of a mindset against the PS4 and whatever Microsoft is bringing to bear. Likewise the WiiHD simply sounds like a small modification, too similar to their current console. No, Nintendo's next console will carry a new name that still says Nintendo, but isn't a retread of what the Wii is.
The Big Change:
Right here I'm going to move into the realm of pure speculation, because nothing has been said on this topic, but Nintendo would have to be stupid at this point to not make the change. And Nintendo normally isn't stupid. Normally. The big change that Nintendo needs to make is launching with an Online system.
HD graphics are a given. I don't know why you though that would be the big change.
|Wouldn't a multiplayer Zelda be neat? Image courtesy Nintendo, linked VIA IGN|
So what will it be like? I can't say. I'm predicting something a lot like X-box Live or the PSN, with demos, easy to manage friendlists and of course, vastly streamlined systems. It's Nintendo, so it'll hopefully be clever a full of little touches, but at this point, if they don't overhaul their online system they're planning to shoot themselves in the foot.
Graphical Power and Price:
Comments and predictions on the new N have been raging fast and fierce over the last few days, but when all the bluster and posturing is strained out, there's little room for Nintendo to move. Nintendo has earned a reputation with its current market as having an affordable console, something they're willing to stretch, but not break. Just look at the 3DS and it's pricing. It's a stretch, but not so much that they've alienated their support base.
So anyway, the next N. I see it going down only one way. It'll probably be at lowest only slightly more powerful hardware wise then the X-box 360, putting it somewhere in the realm of the PS3. Affordable hardware prices will be able to keep the system costs low, perhaps lower then $250 which will put another nail in the competing market systems (which are still high in order to recoup production costs). If the system decides to go the high powered route, expect something with a substantial leg over the PS3, but not enough of a boost to break the $350 price point. Nintendo could make a $400 console sure, but they know they'd be alienating a large portion of their current user base.
|Remember Me? People believed!|
Look, everyone knows Motion Controls are in to stay for a while. But Nintendo knows when to call it safe. Just like the weeks before the Wii's official unvieling (see right), rumors are flying thick and fast, such as this rumor claiming that the new systems controllers are an "...iPad with buttons."
I say no. Nintendo's smart. I'd be astounded if that rumor holds to be true, and it sounds far to similar to rumors surrounding the Wii controller back in the day.
|I was "the real thing" reported at one point|
The Bottom Line:
Nintendo can't change too much about the core parts of their console (the style, the controller, the costs) without alienating a solid portion of their current user base. At the same time, I'd expect what they can change (namely online play and the internal components of the machine) to make a rapid shift in order to move people over from casual to hardcore. Nintendo has grabbed a massive new user base of players with the Wii, but it's a user base they can't keep unless they ever so slowly move that base over to being more like the normal gaming market. At the same time, the Wii is criticized for not catering to that same market that put them in the position to make the Wii in the first place, and I would expect the Next N to work at remedying that problem. Hopefully it works. If it does, Nintendo's next new console could end up being it's biggest, pulling together those new to the industry alongside those who have been longtime fans for years.