Nintendo NX: What we know about the specs, price and release date of the next Nintendo game console
Here's everything we know about when the NX will be unveiled, what it will look like, and how the legendary gaming company will try make us say "wow."
Justin JaffeManaging editor
Justin Jaffe is the Managing Editor for CNET Money. He has more than 20 years of experience publishing books, articles and research on finance and technology for Wired, IDC and others. He is the coauthor of Uninvested (Random House, 2015), which reveals how financial services companies take advantage of customers -- and how to protect yourself. He graduated from Skidmore College with a B.A. in English Literature, spent 10 years in San Francisco and now lives in Portland, Maine.
Editor's note: On October 20, 2016, Nintendo announced the Switch, formerly codenamed the Nintendo NX. The Switch, slated for release in March 2017, is a handheld system, gaming tablet, and dockable console, all in one. Check out CNET's coverage of the announcement and preview of what's to come.
The long-awaited Switch looks exactly like rumors (see below) said it would. It's a hybrid of a handheld system, gaming tablet, and console. You can watch the full launch trailer on Nintendo's YouTube channel. And according to Nintendo's announcement, here are some of the highlights:
Two "Joy-Con" controllers convert the tablet into a Wii U-like game pad; the controllers can detach and, with a kickstand, the tablet turns into a tabletop game system
The original collection of rumors about the Nintendo NX follow.
Nintendo occupies a special place in the gaming universe. Since the introduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1983, the company has honed its reputation as a legendary manufacturer of novel, innovative games, platforms and technologies. Since the original Wii era, however, the Nintendo bandwagon has stalled a bit, as the company's newer platforms have lagged behind Sony's and Microsoft's in sales. Nintendo's Wii U and 3DS devices, though characteristically different, lacked the broad appeal of their predecessors, which were able to cultivate traction far beyond the company's hardcore fan base.
That's why all eyes are on the company's next platform, the Nintendo NX.
The NX was first mentioned in March 2015, coinciding with Nintendo's announcement that it would enter the smartphone game market. This timing was intentional; Nintendo was sending a signal that it would remain committed to the console space, even as it dipped its toe in the smartphone waters. In an interview with Time in December 2015, new Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima said that the NX would deliver "a different and obviously a new experience" and that the company is "not building the next version of Wii or Wii U. It's something unique and different." Before his death in July 2015, former Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata told investors something similar -- that the NX would be a "new concept" and not "a simple replacement" for the 3DS or the Wii U.
Watch this: Nintendo stalls on NX console, teases new smartphone games
The company has remained relatively tightlipped since then; there was hardly any mention of the NX at E3 this year. But, as is its custom, the online rumor mill continues to churn out a steady supply of speculation, theory and outright hoaxes. We will be actively cultivating this hearsay in the space below.
Editors' note: This story was originally posted on April 6, 2016, and last updated on July 26, 2016.
Announcement and release dates
Having made the modest promise to reveal more information about the NX in 2016, the company has delivered. "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," the company said in its fiscal year earnings report, published on April 26. (Nintendo also tweeted the news.)
A report last year suggested that Nintendo would begin pilot assembly of the NX in October 2015, with mass production scheduled to kick off in May or June 2016; clearly, that did not pan out. And though we had entertained -- even dared to hope, perhaps -- that Nintendo would pull a full Beyonce, and suddenly deliver a new console this summer, now we know: we'll be waiting until next year.
In any event, true to form, Nintendo will roll out its next console in its own way and on its own timeline.
According to a dramatic report from Eurogamer in July 2016, the Nintendo NX will be a portable game system with its own screen -- not a stationary console anchored to a TV. According to the report, which cites multiple anonymous sources, the Nintendo NX will use a docking station to connect to a big-screen TV set, but the handheld device will house the primary processing power, akin to the Game Boy and Nintendo DS.
This kind of talk is not unprecedented, however. Months ago a NeoGAF reported that the NX would feature a screen controller that would support remote play of console-based games. The poster reported that the controller would not have "processing capabilities" per se though it would support "basic OS functions to access the NX console from anywhere." (This user also reports that the NX would use a "Polaris-like GPU.")
Also backing this claim is a Forbes report by Paul Tassi, who reports having heard of a similar concept: "instead of remote play streaming back to the NX, the screen handheld actually has some aspects of the game transferred to it completely." Tassi suggests that the NX's "main gimmick" is a controller with a display that lets you play games remotely.
In December 2015, reports surfaced of Nintendo employees filing a patent for a new game controller. Though it remains unclear whether such a controller could be related to the NX, the patent filing includes a description of buttons that could be assigned for specific purposes like adjusting for right- and left-handed players. Another part of the application describes a controller that would display whatever images are being shown on a TV screen.
In addition, Eurogamer's report contains two other hot potatoes: that the handheld's controls will be detachable, allowing players to set the NX screen down on a table and play from a distance away, and that it will use cartridges instead of optical discs.
The April 2016 earnings report also revealed that Nintendo has further pushed back the new Legend of Zelda game to 2017, despite previously saying it would launch this year. The game will be available on both the Wii U and the NX. In a sense, this is a replay of the release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which was originally designed for Nintendo's GameCube but delayed until 2006 to correspond with the debut of the Wii.
The Legend of Zelda's Wii U version was Nintendo's main focus at E3 this year; the new Legend of Zelda game is also coming to the NX, but was not shown publicly at the show. A NeoGAF user reports that Luigi's Mansion 3 is now in development for the NX, after being started as a Wii U game.
Under the hood
In a vacuum of verifiable facts concerning the NX's specs, conjecture abounds. Having been "verified" by Reddit moderators as a person with connections to Wii U developers, in March 2016, user "untypedhero" published a list of possible NX features including x86 architecture, Nintendo server data backup, support for a second screen, compatibility with ports of current generation games, smartdevice app interactivity and some kind of involvement with the My Nintendo reward program.
The stumble of the Wii U is at least partly attributable to high pricing (it has since come down from originally loftier levels). Given this, there has been a broad expectation that Nintendo will price the NX competitively, perhaps even below cost, to persuade its dormant fan base to invest.
In a Q&A session with investors, however, Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima's countered the notion that the NX would be sold at a loss (like the Wii U was in 2012). "We are not thinking of launching the hardware at a loss," he said. "When Wii U was launched, the yen was very strong. I am assuming that situation will not repeat itself. Selling at a loss at launch would not support the business, so we are keeping that mind in developing NX."
With its previous generation of consoles, the DS and Wii, Nintendo came out of the gate with very aggressive pricing; they cost $150 and $250, respectively. At this point, however, we simply don't know enough about the hardware or specs to surmise what they will cost at retail.
Scroll down for a reverse-chronological look at the latest rumors.