It Probably Won’t Matter If The Nintendo NX Is ‘Underpowered’

It Probably Won’t Matter If The Nintendo NX Is ‘Underpowered’
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Video: Last week on Kotaku Splitscreen, Jason and I talked about whether or not it will really matter if Nintendo’s NX is less powerful than the competition.

In the video below, we go more in-depth on the topic and talk about the NX in general. Very short version: Nah, it won’t really matter.

Most of what we’re talking about is informed by Eurogamer‘s big NX report on the from last week. You can find the full Splitscreen episode here.


  • You are completely correct!

    Being an inferior product hasn’t hurt Nintendos product adoption rate this generation at all. /S

    But seriously it probably depends on how inferior it is and how much disdain Nintendo has for third parties; the problem however is that Nintendo has a murky history on both points.

    • How did exactly being “an inferior product” hurt the Wii’s adoption rate? Last time I looked, it was the highest selling console of all time.

      Lack of power and third-party trust merely compounded the Wii U’s issues but are nowhere near being the /cause/ of its failure as they were issues for the Wii as well, and yet, it succeeded.

      • Wii is not current gen, the WiiU however is and it has failed to keep up with its competition (even with a year head start).

        The NX is only happening this early due to Nintendo being just about forced at gun point (financially speaking) to try and get some market attention. The only thing keeping Nintendo in the fight right now is the fan boy addiction to slightly updated handhelds.

        I get the rose coloured glasses are super effective, but in reality Nintendo has had a rough time for a while now; heck a quick check of their last financial quarter shows that they are in a pretty unhealthy position.

        • “For a while”? Allow me to repeat myself, just the previous generation they “won”. They blew the much “superior” PS3 and XBOX360 out of the water, Not only won, they had the (edit: third) best selling console of /all time/. All while being massively underpowered and having even less third-party titles than the Wii U has.

          I’m not trying to argue that the Wii U was not a failure. It is. My only point is that what you point as causes for that failure are demonstrably not, since the Wii, their previous, rousing success had such issues as well. Should the NX succeed or fail it, again, would not be to blame on its being underpowered.

          • The Wii wasn’t a successful gaming console, it was a successful toy. It was sold on the gimmick and had nothing to do with the games. If they want gamers to buy their console they need to start giving a crap about having a non stupid controller and adding more power or they can continue to ignore the gaming market and try their luck at coming up with another appealing mainstream gimmick to sell it as a toy.

          • See, that’s the main thing about people who complain about Nintendo’s consoles. They have their own definition of what a “gamer” is (more often than not, someone who plays Halo17: Gears of Duty and enjoys seeing the grit on an enemy’s realistic skin before putting a bullet in it, in hyper-HD). Anybody else is a despicable, casual kid that enjoys baby toys and gimmicks and no gaming company ever should cater to such worthless dregs of humanity.

            We just, for some reason, seem to need a third platform to play the same old tired games, most of our actual fun coming from boasting the ownership of the console that puts out the most polygons or whatever.

          • For me Nintendo gamers are the ones who are excited for things like Zelda/Mario not Wii Fit/Wii Sports. The problem is that the vast majority of Wii owners got their fill of video games after they grew tired of Wii Sports and they wont be returning for the next Nintendo console.

            I think that most gamers love Nintendo’s first party games and none of those games are fun because of waggle sticks or dinner trays. Nothing of value would be lost if you swapped the 150 dollar tablet controller for an extra 100 dollars worth of power upgrade.

            People could then go back to buying Nintendo consoles for their great exclusives without missing out on the cross platform stuff.

            I don’t even know where you got the idea that Nintendo should start making gritty shooters so I will leave that part alone.

          • So you are saying that there are Nintendo fans, previous customers that actually went “Man, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon and Mario Maker seem really cool. Ah, too bad that the Wii U is not that powerful, as it is, I prefer not to play those games at all!?

            That’s ridiculous. People who actually enjoy Nintendo exclusives purchased the Wii U and played them. Have you seen Mario Kart 8? It is gorgeous. How much better looking do you think it would have been with $100 worth of better hardware? But disregard that, the question is not “can it look better?” but “does it need to?” No one actually interested in those games stopped themselves from buying them because they couldn’t make every individual hair in Mario’s moustache or whatever arbitrary visible processing power benchmark could be assigned to the rendering of a cartoon character. Have you seen Breath of the Wild? Do you think that having, say, Bloodborne-like graphics would add anything to the game? Again, does it need it? It already looks impressive both in visuals and scope. And you propose that people are holding back because some technical stats could be better?

          • @pylgrim I am saying that if the console was more powerful I wouldn’t have to choose between Mario or the hundred cross platform games that only appear on Xbone or PS4.

            If the Wii U was powerful enough to support all the major cross platform titles and also had all their great exclusives they would be the obvious choice for people to buy.

            The reason I never bought a Wii U was because I couldn’t justify paying several hundred dollars JUST to play Mario Kart.

          • As a fan of Nintendo games, though, that’s a choice I never had to make. I get the Nintendo console and for the /greater/ majority of games appearing in other consoles, I have my PC. From my point of view, there’s more to lose picking any of the other consoles as I cannot play Nintendo games anywhere else.

          • Yeah nah. I didn’t buy the Wii for bowling and tennis. I bought it for some of the best jrpgs ever released. It was a games console for the games.

          • Ok stop, being supportive of a brand is one thing, but blatantly lying in its defence is another.

            The PS2 is the highest selling console and by a ridiculous margin (55+M more units).

            The reason the Wii was popular was because it was a great price at a time when parents and the casual audience was testing the waters, this generation however they have gone in the deep end due to a much fairer pricing schedule on Sony and Microsofts end. The NX will not reproduce the Wii’s success because the market has drastically changed.

            The range of games is important and outside of 1st party gems it will not be able to touch the Xbox1/Ps4 catalog.

          • Alright, I had one fact wrong and should have double-checked. I apologise for that.

            You say that the NX won’t have the success of the Wii because the market has changed, and I agree. If they try to go a similar route, they will fail. But shouldn’t the fact that they correctly identified the state of the market in the Wii era a sign that they are capable of doing it again? That’s the thing about Nintendo, they are always trying to push the boundaries and do something different. They may fail in their experiments but if they succeed, the potential to go big is there, as a surprised market falls to their feet.

            I also disagree with your position about the importance of the “range of games”. I think it is more accurate to identify the “range of exclusives”, which is precisely the reason why Sony obliterated the latest E3. For once, since the very first PS, I myself, a staunch Nintendo supporter, am feeling the pull of a Sony machine on the strength of its upcoming exclusive titles. Do you think that anyone really cared about which of the upcoming improved iterations of the PS4 and The XBone is better? No, the show was stolen by the quality (and quantity) of the games, as it should be.

            Third-party ports? The kind of games that people bash Nintendo for not making machines strong enough to run them? Most people already own a second platform capable of running those games and that indeed gets ports made for it: PC. With a Nintendo console and a gaming-capable PC, I have felt well covered through the last decade, the games truly exclusive to the other platforms and good enough that I really felt like missing out almost able of being counted with my fingers. It does seem as though Sony has finally caught up on that and it’s on its way to becoming truly essential.

          • I am really excited for a handheld with more power than the 3ds. For years I’ve dreams of playing my 3ds games in 1080 on my TV. I hope that this console allows this. I don’t care so much about power just content. Unfortunately I think most third party devs want the power and won’t come to Nintendo unless there is some big Benefits.

          • they had the best selling console of /all time/. All while being massively underpowered and having even less third-party titles than the Wii U has.Ok there’s no way that’s even remotely close to true. In fact we had that article just the other day talking about the size of each Nintendo console’s library, and the proportion of first party titles for each.

          • Maybe I should have been clearer. For sure the Wii had an incredible number of shovelware third-party companies trying to capitalise on the far-reach appeal of the console. AAA ports from big names? Not so much. The Wii U had quite a bit of those, at least at the beginning of its life, before they gave up.

          • Fair enough. But you have to admit that’s what most people refer to when they complain about the Wii U’s lack of power keeping third-party makers away. Or do you think anyone is whining that the Wii U is not capable of running the latest “My Small Pony” rip-off kind of titles? 😛

          • @pylgrim I thought it just meant anything that wasn’t Nintendo content 😛

            I don’t think most people would think of Little King’s Story, de Blob, A Shadow’s Tale and so on as AAA titles, but they’re certainly the kind of content I think of. Sadly the Wii U seems to be heavily lacking on that front, most of the third party titles in my collection are in fact the AAA port type.

          • Uh? But there are also quite a bit of third-party “indie” games available for the Wii U in the virtual console. Shovel Knight, the Binding of Isaac and Minecraft jump to mind. Nevertheless, that’s not the complaint of the people who criticise the Wii U for being underpowered.

          • @pylgrim Marvellous-, THQ- and Hudson-published titles aren’t indie 😛

            Also (pedantry of the differences between VC and eShop aside), I totally forgot that the eShop is a thing.

      • The Nintendo Wii is Curently the 3rd highest selling console.

        Nintendo Wii sales are at 101.6 Million atm.
        Playstation 1 sales are at 102.8 Million
        Playstation 2 is at 155 million.

        Chances of any console overtaking PS2 sales looks more and more slim every Gen of Consoles released.

  • To the major of Nintendo fans, power isn’t important if the games are great. What let the Wii U down to lots of people was the lack of major 3rd Party support & original games.

    Something Nintendo should consider is investing in companies like they did with Rare who can produce games exclusive for the new system or go for new IP that brand their new system with a sense of unique quality.

    Regardless of power, I’ll more than likely be a first day purchaser of the system.

    • If the hardware is shit (or the controls obscure) then they can forget AAA 3rd party support.
      If it sells really well then it’ll get Wii style 3rd party shovelware but the big developers will be putting their AAA resources into the (increasingly fragmented) PS4/ Xbone/ PC cross-development market as they have done increasingly since the Gamecube.

      It’ll be fascinating to see what Nintendo does over the next few years. I saw a report this morning that they’re planning on getting Mario and Pokemon onto the NX (along with Zelda) in the first 6 months!

      I’ve been saying for years that Nintendo were increasingly putting out what could be considered the Nintendo version of Shovelware, short, half-assed adaptations and spin-offs from existing franchises (Toad, Wario, Party games) to fill holes in the 1st party release schedule. With them reporting recently that they’re moving to increase output from 1st party studios it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in practice.

      The difference between a 3D Mario on the scale and ambition of Mario Galaxy or Mario 64 or another 2D rehash/ 3DS adaptation is going to be massive in terms of console sales.

    • This is largely true about 3rd party, but I think power does have a hand in 3rd party developers coming to the table. If a console isnt powerful enough to handle you dream game then chances are you will skip it, just look at the Wii. It sold a tonne but the amount of quality 3rd party titles was really low.

      • Disagree, the Wii got loads of quality 3rd party support. Hell, Sega alone were putting out a whole bunch of great titles back then.

        It didn’t have as much support in terms of “games the other two got”, but there was a nice solid library of non-Nintendo titles.

        • I mean this in the nicest way possible, but name a single Wii exclusive that sold exceedingly well.

          I thought about it for ages and all I could think of was Monster Hunter; which at this point may as well be a 1st party wing of Capcom. Other than MH I just couldn’t come up with anything that solid like hotcakes.

          EDIT; changed because I felt like I moved the goal posts a tonne.

          • That’s a different question entirely. We were talking about quality titles, not popular titles (not sure if that was part of the change to the original post).

            Just looking through the wiki list of top selling Wii titles, there’s Sonic Colours which I haven’t played myself, but seemed to be quite well received. Epic Mickey was… decent I guess, if a little trying with its endless fetch-quests. Damn cool world though. Raving Rabbids sold quite well, but was only passable beyond the novelty factor (as cool as Misirlou is). Huh, they’ve got Red Steel there. Awesome.

  • I think they need to keep up in terms of resolution and frame rate, beyond that Nintendo games have shown that graphics and processing power have reached the point where only ‘realistic’ games are truly benefiting from the power. As far as Nintendo are concerned power increases are becoming as meaningless as sound hardware boosting. They reached the point with the GameCube where most of their great games can be remastered with a simple resolution patch and look fantastic.

    • At some point they’ll have to move past rolling out HD versions of games which were structured during the N64 era and that’s where shitty hardware will limit them.
      We’ll learn a lot about where the NX is in terms of power from Zelda when it comes out, but they’re eventually going to have to do similar overhauls for their other big franchises because they are getting stale.

      Being portable (apparently) will be a big help to them though. If there’s one thing we’ve all learnt from the PSP it’s that people don’t want to play complex, high fidelity games on the go. If it’s more portable than console then it matter a lot less.

      • Can you give me some examples of that? I mean they haven’t really exploited their huge back catalogue when it comes to remasters, they tend to stick to the classics that people hound them for like Ocarina of Time, and when they ‘release the same game over and over’ it tends to be a case of games that look the same. I mean it’s easy to say three platformer Mario games is milking the cash cow, but it’s rare to get three Mario games that are the same. It’s sort of rare to get two Worlds in Mario games that are the same.
        For instance the similarities between Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze and Donkey Kong Country are there and they’re intentional, but they didn’t just copy and paste the game. I think they hit a nice stride post-New Super Mario Bros 2 where they figured out how to please people who have played lots of Mario and new players.
        It’s not like when I play the big mainstream titles of the PlayStation/XBOX and (as fun as they are) they’re the same game with a slightly different theme and a few tweaks to the FPS standards. I can appreciate the difference between BioShock and Deus Ex and I love mainstream games, but I find those titles tend to go with the trends of the day while Nintendo focus on exceptional craftsmanship. Hardware isn’t an issue on that front. Captain Toad, Splatoon, Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Pikmin, Animal Crossing, the three different types of Mario platformers, Mario Maker, etc could benefit from XBOX One/PS4 level hardware but they don’t need it at all.

        [Edit: Sorry if that sounds a bit fanboyish, I’m just a fan of that sort of design philosophy. Nintendo themselves are jerks.]

        • It’s all subjective how different a title needs to be before it counts as a significant overhaul, but to me lots of Nintendo games seem to be either stuck closely to formula or (and this is a double edged sword) they were so good in the first place that new additions w/o major changes only make them worse (Starfox WiiU).

          Mario Kart, Smash Bros, the 2D Mario games ect all have common size/scope/gameplay to their N64 year old predecessors. It differs from game to game though and certainly isn’t a purely Nintendo thing.

          I guess the standard for me is: could someone make a low-res version of a 2016 Nintendo game on N64 hardware while retaining the core gameplay and game world? I think for every console Zelda up until now you probably could, Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Star Fox, F-Zero, Mario Sports (all of them), Donkey Kong, Yoshi…. I could go on, but you get the point.

          It’s not all Nintendo games (Splatoon) and you could probably argue with most of the ones I listed, but that’s how I feel. They just stick to simple (but good) gameplay, simple gameworlds, simple stories, simple physics, simple online… at some point they’re going to have to move away from that stuff as we’ve seen with the new Zelda that looks to have more expansive movement, animations, physics based puzzles ect.

          • I’m just not seeing a hardware barrier between what Nintendo want to do and what they’re currently doing/what you want them to do. If they wanted a pure physics based Zelda they could do it on the Wii U. Even with the XBOX One and PS4 I don’t see many in your face examples of new hardware opening new doors. That gap is getting harder and harder to distinguish beyond the surface level graphics.
            I’m not the sort of person who plays Battlefield for the back of the box features like environmental destruction, I play it because it’s fun and engaging. Nintendo bring fun and engaging gameplay with almost everything they do. It doesn’t matter if it’s a brand new IP or a direct sequel.

            I dunno, I just feel like people draw the conclusion that because they’re not aggressively overhauling their stable of IPs they must be stagnating. You’re never going to look at Mario Kart and think ‘holy crap, they changed it!’ but that doesn’t mean Mario Kart Double Dash and Mario Kart 8 are copies of each other. Mario Kart 8 did a ton of new stuff while still staying true to it’s extremely entertaining roots. It’s not a series that needs to blow minds.

          • The thing is a Nintendo fan sees that and outsider like myself just sees Mario 15.
            To succeed you need to be constantly expanding your customer base not just keeping your existing one happy.
            I am not a fan or a hater but when some one mentions Nintendo I think of Mario and Zelda.

          • As opposed to the other platforms, where outsiders just see Call Of Shooty Clone #3462 and Third Person Action Game #1277 Part 2? 😛

          • But they do constantly expand their customer base, they just aim at a more general group rather than gamers. Sony and Microsoft fight for the loyalty of people like you and I, where Nintendo just throw a wide net with enjoyable, easily accessible games.
            At the end of the day this isn’t a new image problem for them. People were saying this with Mario 3. It’s hard to say they’re on the path to ruin here when their games managed to negate an incredible amount of the damage caused by the Wii U’s mistakes. I mean you see Mario Kart 8 on the level of Friday the 13th Part 9 because you’re used to the way most series decline in quality after the third game, but Mario Kart 8 sold through the roof and was received really well. People didn’t just mindlessly buy it they really enjoyed it.
            I think ultimately Nintendo just doesn’t need people like us. They’ve got a constantly refreshing playerbase where they retain a good chunk of their supporters thanks to the high quality of their games. It works for them.

  • Its not underpowered, it is a platform for classic and retro gaming :p

    No one complains about graphical down grade on an retro game clone or an indie title 8 bit sprite style.

  • Eurogamer have reported that it’ll have either the existing Tegra X1, or possibly the upcoming Tegra X2. This would give it more power than the 360 or PS3 had, possibly a fair chunk more if it’s the X2. That would make it the most powerful handheld on the market by a looong way, which is probably the point, given that in Japan the handheld is king. I’m mostly a PC gamer, and a graphics/tech whore, but if the NX will let me play Monster Hunter on the go and on my TV, I’ll get one for sure.

    • The problem is porting. With every other major platform running A: x86, and B: AMD GPU’s, the NX would be seen as a difficult target. Combine in if its underpowered, and the NX will suffer a dearth of AAA titles again unless it manages to capture the market like the original Wii.

      • What you say is true. I was thinking of the NX as more of a successor to the 3DS than as competition for the Xbone and PS4. If they’re aiming to compete directly with those on things like cross platform ports, then it’s probably a doomed enterprise as you say. But, if they can roll it out the gate with a few signature titles (Zelda, Mario, Mario Kart, Pokemon, Monster Hunter) following close behind then it’ll probably shift boatloads of units in Japan. It doesn’t necessarily need a huge library (the 3DS library is pretty modest) so long as it delivers a few basics early on. Then again, I could be completely wrong…

      • But… the Wii never had a great selection of AAA third party games either! That’s the point. It triumphed in its unique strengths alone plus that of their own AAA catalogue. Third party support stopped being a component of success (and conversely, lack thereof) since the SNES. The N64 had it even worse after being abandoned by literally every major publisher and it still managed to be a memorable and decently successful console.

  • I was thinking about this just earlier today after even more reports have come out saying there will be some portable element. The Wii U was the weakest of the 3 this generation, launching first and using older hardware, but I never had any real issues when playing. Nintendo manage to squeeze a lot out of their hardware and come out with beautiful games and some pretty great art styles.

    I’m not worried at all with it power wise. Day one purchase and can’t wait to see what great games they end up making for it. Just hoping that the Pokemon game has been in development for some time and it not a recent reaction to Pokemon Go hysteria. A portable component might mean a fully fledged Pokemon game coming? Probably not.

    For the mainline Pokemon players – if you want to collect them all, how are you meant to get all the starter pokemon? Do they still have one encounter parts where you have to choose only one like the fossils etc?

    • You can breed all the starters with a ditto so its easy to trade a copy of your starter for a copy of anyone elses starter.

      You can find most fossils in the world now but if there are any one off choices you can just breed a copy of yours and trade it for the one you don’t have.

      • Ahhh, cool. I didn’t think about breeding. The last one I played to completion was Yellow which had a whole heap that you couldn’t get easily. Pokemon Stadium was awesome back then.

  • Question for the “their new console better not have shit hardware so they better WATCH OUT” people:

    So, you want to buy a third or fourth identical looking game for what’s clearly going to be your third or fourth-go-to games system?

    That’s what you want? Something that’s as powerful as your most-used system but of course you’re not going to actually buy the ‘best stuff’ for it?


    • I don’t think it matters so much for 2nd or 3rd console / system people want, I think it’s people who only buy 1 system.
      E.g. If you are going to buy PS4, Xone, or NX and NX can’t play anything but 1st party titles, then those people are most likely to go with PS4 or Xbox (or PC).

      Edit: I’m not suggesting that Nintendo need to watch out! I’ll probably get an NX regardless of specs.

    • Do you honestly think that the new Zelda has gained nothing over the Zelda’s that have been released in the last 20 years?

      More power allows larger more populated worlds with more interesting AI. It allows you to have more connected areas without load screens.

      If a game developer can make a great game on an underpowered system then you should be wishing they had the chance to apply those skills on a more powerful system to see what new things they come up with.

      It baffles me that nintendo fans try to spin the systems poor specs as a GOOD thing.

      • Neither of these statements make any sense.

        1-system only people who rate specs above all else are proven to be the fickle ones, as they gravitate towards whichever machine gets the most support, and sometimes specs don’t even factor in to that.

        And as far as ‘spinning poor specs as a good thing’ that’s just silly. Ever heard of Minecraft? A good game is a good game, no matter its specs.

  • Lack of power has only ever been a problem for people who are not Nintendo customers. They really want to play some of the critically acclaimed Nintendo games without having to commit to a console, so for them, the ideal would be a console that can play the games that they already play plus the Nintendo games they want. That’s why you usually see them going back and forth between wishing that a Nintendo’s console was more powerful or that Nintendo bankrupts and has to become a mere games maker for the consoles they already own.

    The amount of investment, research and work necessary to make a Nintendo machine capable to “convert” those people would be ridiculous (as I usually point, Nintendo is not, unlike its competitors, a multi-national, multi-business brand with near infinite pockets) and would perhaps come at the cost of investing that time and money into making the console “uniquely Nintendo” as their already established customer base expects. And then, shortly after, Sony or MS would throw some more money at that problem, releasing something with even more impressive technical stats or securing exclusives from some big name and that type of customers would quickly switch boats again.

    The tech-stat race is a ridiculously expensive, fickle and risky (anybody remembers the PS3 case?) endeavour that runs almost parallel to what really matters in games. I am, for one, glad that Nintendo intently refuses to participate in it.

    • I don’t think its as bas as it used to be, everyone this gen seemed to just buy a CPU/GPU from AMD its just that Nintendo chose to use all their budget to include a tablet in the box.

      • That’s pretty much the argument-ender every time.

        It’s no secret that the current arms race isn’t exactly horsepower, but killer app paraphernalia like VR, account system perks like sales and free games, or sharing/streaming/social facilities. The industry is thriving, but those in it are definitely trying to segment and break off a majority of the audience into something they can have all to themselves.

        Why people want Nintendo to compete with not just a Sony or Microsoft machine but also Oculus/Facebook, Samsung, Valve, Apple, Google is beyond me.

    • Just pandering to your customer base and not trying to expand it is how you kill a company.
      I’m not saying they should directly compete but they do needs things to try and increase market share not just sell new consoles to old customers and these days one way to market a product is via technology and these days performance is king. They did that with the wii and motion control. Used better technology than their competitors. From what I have seen on the NX there isn’t a big draw card as of yet in that area.

  • The wii succeeded because it hit before the smartphone took over the casual gamer market. The console as stated by Eurogamer isn’t competing with PS4 or XB1 it’s competing with Android phones and Iphones and it WILL lose. Nothing is ever going to overtake smartphones for casual gamers because the smartphone is already in everyones pockets. If the reports on what the NX is are true Nintendo is forgoing Hardcore gamers and anyone who is interested in AAA 3rd party titles. This console is aimed at current 3ds owners and nintendo fans. Which is great except thats what the current 3ds and wii u is aimed at and they have record losses. The casual gamer is gone they’ve been lost to cell phones. The Nintendo fan is already in their pocket they’ll get them regardless but they are not enough. Nintendo needed to aim at the more dedicated home console market. I have owned every Nintendo Console since the NES but I stopped getting Gameboys after GBC. If this NX rumor is true I’ll be playing BotW on my Wii U and hoping nintendo either develops a home console or starts releasing games for real consoles like the PS4.

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