Nintendo announced that its next game console, the long-teased NX, won't emerge until March 2017. And no one will be able to see it at at the upcoming and increasingly less relevant E3 Expo in Los Angeles in June. Instead, according to a Nintendo press statement this morning, the new hardware will be unveiled "later this year."
But I do mind, very much, actually, that Nintendo's game library seems to be slipping. The quality, and even quantity, of games feels like it's in decline. And for a company that's already faced some rough times, it's not acceptable. Not for me.
Games, not hardware, are what makes Nintendo great
Nintendo's always had weird, backwards, borderline self-destructive hardware ideas. The first Nintendo DS with its two screens and stylus seemed like a practical joke. The GameCube's tiny micro-disc drive wasn't even compatible with CDs or DVDs. I won't discuss Virtual Boy, the quasi-virtual black-and-red 3D game system that may well have been decades ahead of its time when it was released in 1995, but flopped nonetheless.
With every Nintendo hardware generation, good games have made the consoles worth buying. Fantastic DS games made that system a massive success, with over 154 million units sold to date. The same was true of the original Wii.
Even the Wii U ended up being something I loved playing -- and my son, too -- because of the games. Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Maker, Splatoon. What comes next? A new Zelda, but it won't be here till next year alongside the new NX. The recent Star Fox Zero was something between "just fine" and a total disaster, depending upon whom you ask. I can't see anything else on the horizon.
There's no rush for new hardware
New hardware, when it comes from Nintendo, is always a step behind in some regards like graphics. But the best ideas have been concepts several steps ahead, like motion controllers on the Wii and second-screen gaming on the DS, 3DS and Wii U.
The Wii U, as a piece of hardware, is fine. It hasn't hit its peak yet. The real problem is the deep lack of continual high-quality games. The Nintendo 3DS is old, but it's not ancient. And there are still plenty of classic Nintendo games that never made it to the 3DS but could.
Mobile games are becoming a distraction
I've always wanted Nintendo to get into mobile, but I hated Miitomo. Its pop-up-plagued micro-transactional style is, to me, an anti-fun anti-game. I'm not confident that either of Nintendo's next mobile games -- mobile versions of Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing coming later this year -- will be any good, either. Will they really be games, or just marketing efforts? I've wanted Nintendo to make mobile games for years, especially Animal Crossing. But all of a sudden, it feels like Nintendo's console games have gone into a dry spell while the mobile goods haven't yet arrived.
Taking a half-step isn't the right move. I'd like great mobile Nintendo games, or great Nintendo 3DS and Wii U games. But I don't see much of either this year besides the new Fire Emblem. I'd rather see no Nintendo mobile games at all if it meant one or two more Wii U or 3DS games worth playing. Can Nintendo do both and not make it feel strained?
What I want to see
I feel like I write an impassioned plea for Nintendo to straighten up and fly right at least once a year. But for now, the current wish list is:
I'd like the Nintendo NX to fuse handheld and console, if it means one less thing to buy. Take 3DS and Wii U, mix together. It would be a system I could take on the go. My favorite Wii U games get left behind while I play a completely different set of 3DS games. That's not great.
One Netflix-like subscription model for older games. Take all those throwback titles and create access across the Nintendo NX, Wii U, 3DS and maybe even mobile. One service, multiple ways to play. I've said this for years, and it needs to happen.
VR optional. Maybe, at some point, Nintendo explores VR. I hope it's an add-on to the NX and not an entirely new platform after that. Nintendo needs to stay committed to NX after what's been a short Wii U run, so extra peripherals need to stem from it.
Backwards compatible, please. I'm sure NX will play old Wii U games, but I hope 3DS is somehow supported if it's a handheld. There are too many good games, and they could at least be offered as digital downloads.
And yeah, make some great mobile games. But really good ones. Animal Crossing (a real version). Pushmo. Mario Picross. Start with any of these. Or, any older games. The underrated Art Style games from years ago. But don't let these games distract. Great games on Nintendo hardware, please. And fast.