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Is Nintendo Researching VR For A Handheld Or The NX Console?

At Nintendo's 76th Annual General Meeting of Shareholders, several of the company's executives participated in a Q&A related to Nintendo's current and upcoming products. The answers given by these company representatives point to upcoming VR/AR hardware, and increased efforts by Nintendo to grow its presence in the smartphone market.

The NX Console; Or Not?

According to Nintendo's President, Tatsumi Kimishima, Nintendo is currently researching VR technologies.

"We are well aware that other companies are developing games and game-related products using VR technologies, and that consumers are interested in all of this. I cannot say anything specific at this time, but understand that we also consider VR to be a promising technology, and we are conducting research with much interest," said Kimishima.

A statement by Nintendo's Senior Managing Director, Shigeru Miyamoto, indicated that the company is also conducting research into AR. "As for VR, we are researching not just VR, but AR and many other technologies," he said.

Although this gives the impression that Nintendo's upcoming NX console will incorporate VR technology, it might actually point to another new device being developed by Nintendo. According to the General Manager of Manufacturing Division, Hirokazu Shinshi, the company is preparing to manufacture the NX console, which points to the system being out of the development stage. If the company is still conducting research on VR technologies, then its findings will likely not be incorporated into the upcoming NX console.

"We are now preparing to manufacture NX and hashing out details like the extent of automation. We hope to create the optimal production environment," said Shinshi.

Another statement by Kimishima gives further evidence that development of the NX console has ended, as he said that the company is anticipating sales of the NX console and NX software to make up for declining Wii U sales in this fiscal year. That means that the NX console would have to ship either around Christmas or early Q1 2017 in order to have noteworthy sales figures at the end of this fiscal year.

"While we announced our shipment forecast of 800,000 Wii U hardware, we are forecasting total sales of ¥500 billion for this fiscal year, about the same as last year. I am not currently able to talk about concrete figures for unit sales, but we are planning for NX to make up for falling Wii U sales. Software for NX will also contribute to sales and profit," said Kimishima.

Could It Be A Smartphone VR Device Or Home System?

Although it could be that NX console will use VR technology and Nintendo's representatives are simply being ambiguous to make it less obvious, if Nintendo is truly still researching VR, then it points to another new device in development by Nintendo. There are three likely suspects for what this new device could be: a home console, a mobile peripheral similar to the Gear VR, or a handheld game system.

In truth, we don't know if the NX console will actually be a home console. Everyone expects it will be, but Nintendo has not officially said so. Nintendo previously announced that the NX console is not a successor to the Wii U. If the NX console is not a home game system, then eventually Nintendo will need a new console to replace the Wii U. If the NX console is a home system, however, then it is unlikely that Nintendo is already developing another system targeting the home gaming market.

The mobile peripheral is probably the least likely of the three. Nintendo stated that more than 10 million unique users have downloaded Miitomo (the company's first smartphone app), and that it has plans to release four additional apps for smartphones between now and March 2017. Nintendo's General Manager of Entertainment Planning and Development Division, Shinya Takahashi, also pointed out that the company may develop physical controllers for smart devices in the future. These two pieces of information, however, give the impression that the company plans to keep its presence in the smartphone market relatively limited for the foreseeable future.

"Physical controllers for smart device applications are available in the market, and it is possible that we may also develop something new by ourselves. On the other hand, I believe Nintendo's way of thinking is to look at whether action games are really not impossible (without a physical controller for smart device applications) to create and how we can make it happen to create such a game," said Takahashi.

A Nintendo VR Handheld

It is probably most likely that if Nintendo creates a new VR device, it will be a portable handheld game system as a successor to its 3DS product line. Nintendo previously attempted to make a portable VR system back in the 1990s known as the Virtual Boy. Its existing 3DS line is also several years old at this point, and although it has been highly successful, sales of 3DS hardware and software are currently at the lowest point since Nintendo introduced the system in 2011.

Nintendo's line of handheld gaming devices has also historically been the company's strongest position in the market, often with sales figures more than 40 million units above the company's home console products for the same period.

This fact makes it all the more likely that if Nintendo is working on a new VR gaming device, it is focusing on the mobile market and not the home gaming market.

Until we know what the NX console will be, however, it is hard to say what Nintendo will do with its VR research.

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  • turkey3_scratch
    You have "Nintendo's line of handheld gaming devices has also historically been the company's strongest position in the market, often with sales figures more than 40 million units above the company's home console products for the same period." two times in a row.

    It'd certainly be nice if the NX did release before the end of this year; possible, but unlikely. Yet Christmas time is always a great time to launch a new console, though the real question is if they will have actual games ready or not upon release. I think the upcoming Zelda game is also going to be released for the NX, so that alone can be used to narrow down what the NX can do.
    Reply
  • IInuyasha74
    Weird, that must have been some sort of odd technical glitch. Thanks for pointing that out, I will fix it.

    Yes Nintendo itself stated Q1 2017, but if they want to make it on this fiscal year, they can't really launch it in March and have it make a significant impact before March 31st. As Christmas is such a major shopping holiday, I wouldn't be surprised to see them push it out early if possible. You are right, the new Zelda has the same time period. Nintendo might even be planning it as a launch title come to think of it. Hard to say for sure though, though also might just push forward with a handful of games ported from the Wii U. They are keeping so much secret, that it is impossible to tell.
    Reply
  • Merry_Blind
    Nintendo have already stated that Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be released on Wii U and NX on the same day, and that it would also launch alongside NX on its launch day. They are targeting March 2017 for the release. They were probably aiming for Holiday 2016, but couldn't quite make it, and they can't afford to wait until Holiday 2017 since the Wii U is pretty much dead already, so might as well release it whenever it's ready. They just need to make a massive marketing impact with it though, which is something Nintendo often struggle with...

    We'll see! Can't wait!
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    18230636 said:
    Nintendo have already stated that Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be released on Wii U and NX on the same day, and that it would also launch alongside NX on its launch day. They are targeting March 2017 for the release. They were probably aiming for Holiday 2016, but couldn't quite make it, and they can't afford to wait until Holiday 2017 since the Wii U is pretty much dead already, so might as well release it whenever it's ready. They just need to make a massive marketing impact with it though, which is something Nintendo often struggle with...

    We'll see! Can't wait!

    I won't mind if Nintendo even waits until Q3 or Q4 of 2017 honestly as long as they actually have a good amount of first-party games upon release. When the Wii U came out, there was one game, New Super Mario Bros U, that was first-party. There was also Nintendo-land, but nothing big, really. Pikmin 3 was supposed to be a launch title but was delayed until March. It took Super Smash Bros a good while to come out. Mario Kart, too, did not come out for quite a while. They didn't get games out fast enough, and they did a poor job of marketing the console, by making its commercials targeting strictly 4-year-olds. The Gamecube, not that it sold well, had better commercials, and everybody remembers the "Wii would like to play" commercials back in 2007. The Wii sold very well, and was marketed for all ages, not just little kids.

    Nintendo can't just release another console and have one first-party game. As huge of a game Zelda is, that can't be the only popular game upon release. We can't expect a Smash Bros, history shows that to come out generally one year after the release of the console. Rumor has it we may be seeing a Super Mario Galaxy 3. There is always one solid Mario game upon release: N64 had Mario 64, GCN had Luigi's Mansion (followed by Mario Sunshine a year later), Wii had... actually, the Wii did not have a first-party title upon release, but it did come with Wii Sports, which is, I think, the best-selling game ever (since it was bundled). Wii U had New Super Mario Bros U. We won't be seeing any of those anymore since Mario Maker is out.

    I don't know what the NX will bring as launch titles, but I just hope it has more than just Zelda and other random games.
    Reply
  • therealduckofdeath
    Wouldn't it technically be a face-held, if it's a mobile device? :)
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    18231283 said:
    Wouldn't it technically be a face-held, if it's a mobile device? :)

    You're not holding it on your face.
    Reply
  • IInuyasha74
    18231283 said:
    Wouldn't it technically be a face-held, if it's a mobile device? :)

    Funny point, but it would technically be something in between. I'm calling it a handheld, because if they go this route it would be the successor in the handheld line. It would probably involve some sort of HMD and a controller or gamepad or something of that sort.
    Reply
  • hixbot
    I think Nintendo would be smart to see if VR actually takes off commercially. Good chance it will flop if the technology isn't perfect and developers don't figure out how to make it fun and comfortable without compromises. If I were a console maker, I'd wait to see if the HMD trend becomes a huge success*. Sony is in a position to take the risk, but Nintendo can't afford to make more mistakes.

    *Huge success does not only mean the hardware makes profit. It must continue to sell games, and universally enjoyed by consumers for more than the initial, honeymoon phase. It needs to be adopted by developers as the medium of choice.

    Ie. the Kinect 360 made a ton of money and it sold extremely well initially and made a ton of money but was wrongly assumed to be a huge success. Yes, millions bought it, but it did not take off due to lack of quality content and general disappointment.
    Reply
  • bettsar
    Why does everyone seem to think the NX is a new console? Nintendo has said that the NX will not replace the Wii U, and hardware-wise, they are due for a new handheld system. It seems pretty clear to me which direction they are going.
    Reply
  • IInuyasha74
    18262447 said:
    Why does everyone seem to think the NX is a new console? Nintendo has said that the NX will not replace the Wii U, and hardware-wise, they are due for a new handheld system. It seems pretty clear to me which direction they are going.

    Because Nintendo exclusively refers to it as the "NX console."
    Reply