Apparently superhero movie franchises aren’t the only pop-culture phenomenon infatuated with reboots. That’s the easiest way to view this week’s mildly shocking news that our dear friends at Nintendo plan to release a new console, dubbed NX, in a mere 11 months.
On the one hand, this is good news. Everybody loves new consoles. New technology means new and intriguing games for us to play. And lord knows that Nintendo, a former front-runner that’s now gotten lapped in the ongoing console wars, could use the boost that usually goes along with a shiny new object for consumers to buy.
On the other, it’s confusing as hell. To say that the Wii U, with its depressingly underused touch-screen gamepad controller, failed to live up to its potential would be like calling John Kasich a world beater. In the nearly four years since its release, the Wii U has barely sold more units than Sony’s PlayStation 4 did in that console’s first year on the market. No matter how you want to spin it, that’s disappointing. Graphically, the Wii U caught Nintendo up...to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, just as those consoles was reaching the end of their six-plus-year lives and preparing to slide into LegacyLand. And while the Wii U finally managed to host a few essential and innovative games — we’re looking at you, Splatoon and Mario Maker — the third-party support for the console dried up faster than the Los Angeles Clippers’ championship hopes. Let’s put it this way: History is not likely to be kind to the Wii U.
The only detail tease Big N has offered at this point is that the NX will feature “a brand-new concept” — whatever that means. (Holograms? A Donald Trump simulator?) With Sony and Oculus Rift bringing virtual reality visors into our living rooms in the next few months, it’s unlikely that the Matrix is the direction Nintendo’s heading. Given the company’s recent (and shockingly late) entry into the mobile games market, the smart money’s on it involving your smartphone in some way. Who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise us, the way they did with the original Wii, another console many initially dismissed.
At least they’re planning to ship the NX with a new Zelda game, which theoretically ought to preclude one of the Wii U’s biggest missteps — a woeful lack of essential software at launch. It was months and months before the Wii U saw its first waves of gotta-have-it games, at which point many of us were already looking forward to the release of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.
In the short term, a March 2017 release is likely to re-goose interest in Nintendo’s plans for the future. Still, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the NX is going to end up being a slightly more modern platform on which to release — you guessed it — yet another round of reboots of classic Nintendo franchises. Hey, if Spidey and Batman can get away with it, why shouldn’t Mario and Link?