Nintendo, Legend of Zelda

If nothing else, there are plenty of rumors swirling around about Nintendo’s new home console system, currently codenamed “NX.” As a matter of fact, there’s even been an image circulating that was supposedly a leaked photo of the new system’s controller. The small handheld display is a design choice that hasn’t been seen since Sega’s Dreamcast’s tiny LCD screens. Luckily, that piece of speculation has been mostly debunked. While the rumors are exciting and indicative of a fanbase looking for the longtime console maker’s resurgence, they don’t address a very troubling issue: why is Nintendo having to move on from the Wii U so soon?

If the NX is released this year, as expected, it will easily make the Wii U Nintendo’s shortest lived home console. Released in 2012 and unceremoniously dumped in 2016 makes for a discouraging epitaph for Nintendo’s eighth generation home console. Even the notoriously underselling GameCube was able to stick it out for about five years until Nintendo was able to release its industry changing Wii system. You’d have to go back Sega’s Dreamcast to find a system that had its plug pulled in shorter period of time. The Dreamcast didn’t quite make it even two years.

With a new system on the horizon, Nintendo’s Wii U doesn’t at all parallel Sega’s Dreamcast, but the NX might. There are a lot of competing theories as to why the Dreamcast failed, and why Sega exited the console business. Sadly, many of those narratives are being perpetuated by people who have no clue about what Sega or the game industry was going through at the time. To be fair, It has been about 15 years now. The most important thing to know about that situation is that many of Sega’s problems had almost nothing at all to do with the Dreamcast. As a matter of fact, the Sega Dreamcast launched with a healthy 18 titles and broke the 24-hour sales record for consoles in the United States.

Sega’s real problems started with the Dreamcast’s predecessor, the Saturn. Like the Wii U, it too only launched with a couple of first party titles and over its three-year lifetime, had only a couple of memorable games. Most notably, there was never a Sonic game released for the system. Similarly, the Wii U doesn’t have its own Mario game, Zelda game, Metroid game, or even a real Animal Crossing game. Yes, there was New Super Mario Bros U at launch but it was just a remastering of the original retro-themed Wii game. There is also an under-appreciated Mario World game, but honestly, that game is more of a Nintendo-flavored version of Portal than Mario Galaxy, or Sunshine. I also didn’t forget about Mario Kart, Smash Bros, and the upcoming Star Fox, but do those really serve any purpose other than to distract the existing hardcore Nintendo fans?

Sega, Sonic the Hedgehog

By not developing a flagship game for the Wii U, Nintendo has shown other developers that they don’t have confidence in their system. If even the console builder doesn’t believe, why should anyone else? I personally think, that Nintendo has kind of painted themselves into a corner, where they can’t spend the money they need to on development, and are just hoping that something magically happens. It’s also why I suspect the new Zelda game will be launched in much the same way as Twilight Princess. If you don’t remember that controversy, the finished game was held up for months, to coincide with Nintendo’s new system launch, and then released for the old system months later.

The problems the Sega Dreamcast did have were all rooted in its predecessor. The Dreamcast actually had a pretty formidable software line-up considering its very short life and was even able carve out a niche for sports gaming, despite a boycott from EA. It was also the first online console. Unfortunately, none of those successes were big enough to erase the Sega Saturn’s total failure in everyone’s mind. With the announcement of the PlayStation 2, all eyes were on Sony. Eventually, it was a growing lack of consumer and publisher confidence in Sega, the company that snowballed and eventually forced them to totally retreat from the console business.

To say Nintendo has a lot riding on the upcoming NX is quite an understatement. While they are in a slightly better financial position than they were just a couple of years ago, the pressure is still on. The Wii U has never been a hit and the previously successful handheld, the 3DS, is pretty much near the end of its life. Nintendo’s biggest assets by far are its intellectual properties. The problem it is having is in figuring out how to deliver those properties. After being somewhat sidetracked with the success of original Wii, I don’t really have much confidence in them being able to figure it out on their own. It is encouraging to see them make overtures toward mobile, and end in the end, I really do hope they figure it all out.

What are your hopes for the Nintendo NX? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to follow us on Twitter (@Official_OnlySP) and Facebook where you can also sound off your opinions.

The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.

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Lance Roth
Writer, musician, and indie game developer in the Land of Enchantment.

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