Ever since rumors surfaced of a new Nintendo console, it’s been assumed that Nintendo would launch a new platform before either Microsoft or Sony could finalize their own next-generation offerings. Nintendo’s annual fiscal year report just dashed those hopes — a brief line in the earning’s report states: “For our dedicated video game platform business, Nintendo is currently developing a gaming platform codenamed “NX”
with a brand-new concept. NX will be launched in March 2017 globally.”
Nintendo also confirmed it would not show the NX at E3 2016, as had previously been widely expected. In fact, E3 won’t be a major focus for Nintendo at all; the company will only show one game, the upcoming Zelda open-world title. The demonstrations will all be done with the Wii U version of the game, though the final version will be available for both the NX and the Wii U by the time the new console launches.
We can’t fairly call this a delay, since Nintendo hasn’t previously set a target for its NX launch. But waiting to launch the console until March 2017 has definite pros and cons. Even if Nintendo is playing coy with its phrasing (the console could go on sale in Japan before its global launch in March 2017), the Nintendo NX is going to launch after the PlayStation 4 Neo — and that’s assuming Microsoft doesn’t have its own super-secret project to reveal.
This is a bit of a switch for Nintendo, which has made something of an art of avoiding face-to-face battles with its rivals. The Wii launched at the same time as the PS3, but its lower price largely insulated it from the $500-$600 battle being fought by Microsoft and Sony. The Wii U launched in 2012 in an attempt to grab a first-mover advantage that largely fizzled.
Going head-to-head with the second-generation of the PS4 could be a rough ride for Nintendo. It can’t count on an advantage on its home turf and while its first-party franchises are still the envy of the gaming world, the Wii U’s low sales means Nintendo needs to really capture the imagination of the gaming world — at a time when Sony already has an entrenched ecosystem and will be launching VR support in the fall. If gamers opt for the PS4 Neo and PlayStation VR during the holiday season, there may not be a lot of cash left over for the Nintendo NX when it launches next March.
One thing this does settle is whether the Wii U’s production will continue through this fiscal year, as per Nintendo’s previous comments. If Nintendo launches the NX in March and discontinues the Wii U at more-or-less the same time, it can fairly claim to have fulfilled its literal statements regarding Wii U production while still dumping the console extremely quickly once the new machine is ready for prime time.