It's been more than a year since Nintendo announced its next hardware was on the way ... and we still don't know very much about it.
As its reported March 2017 debut inches closer, the codenamed Nintendo NX system remains, in large part, a mystery. Polygon has collected the facts — and fictions — that we've heard since Nintendo confirmed its new game console was on its way.
We've been calling it Nintendo NX, but only because we don't have an actual name to go by. NX is the hardware's codename; like the codenames for systems like the Wii (nee Revolution) and GameCube (Dolphin) before it, it's catchy, but NX is not here to stay.
Play games, obviously. Nintendo has constantly referred to the NX as a "dedicated game system" since announcing it in March 2015. A patent filed that February, however, suggested that the console lacks an optical disc drive, leading many to wonder if Nintendo is going download-only or even back to cartridges, if it chooses to stick with a physical format.
The only one we know for sure is The Legend of Zelda. We've already seen a bit of the game, albeit on Wii U. It's expected to launch on both consoles in March 2017, probably alongside the NX.
Square Enix said it was considering bringing Dragon Quest 10 and 11 to NX too. Industry analyst Serkan Toto suggests that Bandai Namco is also signing up for several NX games, and that the next Super Smash Bros. could be a launch title.
The NX will also connect to smartphones, PCs and other Nintendo systems thanks to the company's newly unified membership service. First announced alongside the NX in March 2015, Nintendo launched the Nintendo Account platform earlier this year. You can register for one now; it connects to your social media and Nintendo Network accounts. It's still unclear how the cross-platform functionality of the Nintendo Account will be realized across the NX and Nintendo's other consoles.
Nintendo has maintained time and again that the NX isn't "the next version of Wii or Wii U," as president Tatsumi Kimishima said in December. "[NX] is something unique and different."
That doesn't mean that the NX will be backward compatible with Wii U, or that it won't replace it. In fact, reports have pointed to the system being a very different kind of thing indeed: a console and handheld hybrid. In October, the Wall Street Journal reported that the hardware "would likely include both a console at least one mobile unit," using — get ready for it — "industry-leading chips," ensuring that it's more powerful than Wii U. (It won't run off Android software, however; Nintendo denied that rumor about the system's internals last June.)
Based on that, rumors swirled that NX would take up the mantle of both Nintendo's home and portable consoles. But just last month, a Japanese publication reported that a potential portable console successor was in the works, codenamed MH.
It is! And it only gets more confusing. Go ahead and ask us about the controller.
This is one of the NX's weirdest mysteries. Nintendo filed a patent for a potential handheld system, gaming controller or both last June. The application details a piece of hardware that has an elliptically shaped touchscreen embedded within a standard controller. The touchscreen's display would feature virtual buttons alongside the standard, physical control sticks and shoulder buttons. Another patent filed earlier that year, in February, suggested Nintendo would just iterate on the Wii U GamePad, introducing scrolling click wheels for shoulder buttons.
There's no confirmation that either one is NX's controller, but these patents does speak to the hybrid reports and the company's claims that this is a "unique and different" system. That's what compelled two separate tricksters to pull a fast one on Nintendo fans earlier this year: Photos surfaced of the alleged NX controller, which appeared to match the touchscreen hybrid patent's description pretty closely. Turns out they were just very elaborate fakes created with a 3D printer.
Nope. We have yet to actually see the NX in any capacity whatsoever. Again: We don't even know what it's called. We do know that Nintendo expects not to sell the hardware at a loss once it's on the market, however; it's intent on keeping the manufacturing costs down.
Nope. We won't. Although Nintendo announced ahead of June's E3 event that it will dedicate its showing solely to the new The Legend of Zelda, except the only playable version that the company is bringing with it is for Wii U. The first official details about NX are expected later this year.
President Kimishima said in May that having a solid library of games ready at launch is a key reason why. The company is passing on shipping the console in time for the holiday season, as originally thought, so that it will have a number of titles available when the console arrives.
You know, it does. That doesn't assuage our anxiety about not actually knowing what the NX looks like, or is called, or really anything else about it. We'll have to hang on until sometime after E3 to learn more.
E3 2016 begins on June 14, with press conferences starting June 12. For the big announcements, make sure to check out our one-stop shop for the show's streams.