I was away on holiday in Japan when Nintendo said its first words about its new console, code-named the NX. Actually, I was climbing a mountain. But in the week since, I've had plenty of time for serious and not-so-serious conversations about what it might be and what it might do.
Given that Nintendo has said nothing about it except that it's a "brand-new concept", it really could be anything. Even wild speculation might not turn out to be completely off the mark. I asked some of my esteemed Future Games colleagues what they might like to see as well. Here are our far-fetched wishes, which range from the encouragingly possible to the mildly absurd.
Keza MacDonald (Editor, Kotaku UK)
Do you remember this video from 2005? It appeared on the Internet shortly before the real new Nintendo console - the Wii - was announced. It's fake, obviously; I think we all knew that even then, even though it was incredibly convincing. I have to remind myself that the person who made this did it without all of today's fancy video tools. But hell, it still gives me goosebumps.
A Nintendo virtual reality headset was pretty far-fetched in 2005, but guys! We now live in the future! Virtual reality is here, and it will be on the market VERY soon, and although I still think it's enormously unlikely that Nintendo would jump in at this early stage (especially as Miyamoto has practically said there's no interest)... wouldn't it be great if it did? Nintendo's got lots of experience with motion controllers, too. I know Nintendo could do interesting things with VR.
My less-unlikely dream for the new Nintendo platform is a unified platform: something that works at home and outside, like a Wii U gamepad that you can take with you. I'd be really into a PlayStation TV-style teensy box that sits unobtrusively under the TV and can stream things from or to a handheld. I'm not sure what it is that's standing in the way of Nintendo taking full advantage of its back catalogue (the Virtual Console still leaves so much to be desired), but imagine an attractive little console that played everything from Nintendo history, streamed from the Internet. Given Nintendo's history with network technology I think this is monstrously unlikely, but it's what I want, dammit.
Justin Towell (Reviews Editor, Gamesradar+)
Nintendo's new console will basically be the Wii U. As it did with the Gamecube and Wii, Nintendo will rework the innards of the Wii U to create a new console - likely rebranded. Or, more accurately, a range of new consoles. By using the same operating system and software system for home and on-the-go, Nintendo solves its problem of having to make games for two different machines. They will just make software for one platform, which can be played in a variety of ways.
The first version of the new hardware will replace 3DS as the latest Nintendo handheld. I expect it will come with an HDMI dongle that allows you to play the games on the TV screen, in as-good-as-Wii-U clarity. There might be a dedicated, smaller, handheld-only version later when miniaturisation allows it.
Basically, this makes all the sense. 3DS gets a next-gen step-up replacement, Wii U gets complete dedication from the software teams (which it clearly needs), Nintendo's work on Miiverse, Virtual Console and everything else will carry over to the new machine, and your new machine will already have loads of games available for it at launch. Perfect.
Matt Gilman (Games Editor, Gamesmaster)
I want to see the no-nonsense, games-first approach of the GameCube, with the functionality of both living room-based console and handheld device. I give you: the GameFrustum.
OK, so the name is up for debate (though it's still better than the Wii), but the functions entail everything I would want from a Nintendo machine. It's a box with all the faffery of second screen controllers and plastic wand-waving sliced away. In the absence of these peripherals Nintendo would be forced to look long and hard to innovate at a fundamental level, ensuring that online services are up to snuff, that voice chat and social systems work across multiple devices, and that its third-party offerings in-between its own sizeable gaming events are enough to ensure its machine isn't the first thing I unplug when considering which HDMI to free up.
Let's fling just a bit of hardware wizardry in there. The top section of the machine can be completely pulled out, and is basically a 3DS, capable of playing the hefty back catalogue of Wii, GameCube and N64 games that would crop up on the new eShop. Oh, and as we're due to get Nintendo games and services on phones now, how about having each slanted side of the device also act as a charger? Just rest your phone/tablet/pad against the machine to charge when not playing.
Dan Dawkins (Editor-in-Chief, Future Games)
How do Nintendo move forward? Stop looking back. It's hard to create a sustainable business around crafting silver bullets, where your key proposition is out-thinking your competitors with radical technical solutions during every hardware cycle. Apple do this about as successfully as anybody, but only the iPod and iPhone stand out as true 'game changers'. Apple have spent a decade re-sizing, re-speccing and rebranding existing tech, but their enduring success is the umbrella brand, and their ecosystem — first iTunes, now the Apple Store.
Why do Nintendo need to stop looking back? Wii might be their greatest, and most damaging, success to date. The motion controllers were simple and sublime — like all the best innovations — opening games to an untapped mass-market audience, but this success has almost dared Nintendo to out-engineer itself. Wii U's tablet gamepad is confusing, functionally restrictive and — above all — harder to sell as a benefit.
The NX console 'only' needs to be an off-the-shelf, ergonomic and attractively-priced home 'hub' for a new Nintendo ecosystem, which connects its audience, wherever they want to play. That might be on mobile, tablet, NX console or 3DS, but there needs to be unifying 'Nintendo-verse', with one sign-in, where you're permanently connected to your friends. The NX console has to be easy to program for above anything else, with just enough power to run 'best in class' third party ports mooted for PS4 and Xbox One. If I can play the next Elder Scrolls on Nintendo NX, but the hardware is only £150… and it allows me to access Nintendo's true selling point, their software, then that feels like a winner.
Oh, and not that they would, but Nintendo can't lose sight of their core market: families and children. Sure, sure, Nintendo games are designed by adults, with ultra-mature mechanics, but look at Mario, Toady, Layton, StarFox, Pikmin and, well, every Nintendo character, will you? We shouldn't try to fight the fact that Nintendo serve children — or our inner child — better than anyone. More of that, please.
How 'bout you? Feel free to share your thoughts/MS paint mockups in the comments.