Danish physicist Niels Bohr wisely stated that “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” I have found that to be very true indeed, especially when it comes to the video games industry. Just a couple of months ago I thought I had it all figured out, and I thought I had a solid hunch as to what the near future might look like for Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. My prediction looked a little something like this:
Sony was working on a new console; some kind of 4K PlayStation with a slightly faster GPU / CPU. The reason Sony was working on an upgraded console, I thought, was to remain relevant and have something exciting to reveal when Nintendo announced that the NX was more powerful than the PS4 and capable of 4K streaming. In my mind, industry insiders at Sony had caught wind of what Nintendo was doing and decided that the best course of action would be to produce a PS4 that could at least boast comparable specs and capabilities next to Nintendo’s new powerhouse. For the first time since the turn of the millennium, Nintendo was going to have the most powerful console on the market. Microsoft, on the other hand, was going to produce a marginally upgraded Xbox One – a slim model – with expanded storage and a slightly beefed up processor, but would ultimately remain the underdog when it comes to power.
According to the latest leaks and rumors, it would appear that I was wrong about everything. Sony’s Neo sounds like a fairly substantial upgrade, with a GPU that is reportedly twice as fast as what we have running in our PS4s currently. And Microsoft? All bets are off. Microsoft is doing a little bit of everything: a slim model might indeed be in the works, but now we’re also talking about “Scorpio.” The original Xbox was a behemoth; a powerhouse. It crushed the competition in terms of raw power, and could crush bones if it fell from a high place. It seems Microsoft wants to reclaim the “most powerful console” accolade for itself, and if what we’re hearing about Scorpio turns out to be true, then it could very well do just that.
So where does that leave Nintendo? We have no reliable rumors to go off of, really. Supposed insiders have contradicted certain things we thought we knew about the NX, and supposed insiders have even been contradicting themselves. We still don’t really know anything about Nintendo’s new console, but we hear repeatedly that it will have some kind of handheld component and it might be capable of 4K streaming. Now that everyone is talking about Neo and Scorpio, I can’t help but feel like Nintendo is in a bit of a pinch when it comes to its next hardware reveal.
The NX needs to be something special. While the Wii sold phenomenally well, it didn’t appeal to hardcore gamers who had already moved on to 1080p as the new gaming standard. A lack of third-party support isolated Wii owners as well, and while the Wii may have been like a shining city on a hill to some (Mario Galaxy is still the best 3D platformer) , the Wii U feels more like an island. Nintendo needs to win back some of its long-lost fan base, jaded and burned by generations of under-powered hardware neglected by many of their favorite publishers.
No matter how innovative and clever the NX might be, I’m wondering if it will be doomed at launch if it pales in comparison to Neo and Scorpio in terms of power. Can Nintendo afford to sell the least powerful console on the market four generations in a row? I have a bad feeling that no matter how brilliant or capable the NX may be, the majority of consumers are just going to compare it to the competition and make their judgments based on numbers. I can see the comments sections already: “Why would I buy a gimmicky console with a peak performance of 4 teraflops when the Neo and Scorpio are noticeably more powerful?” Will a genuinely clever gimmick and first-party exclusives be enough to propel Nintendo back to a position of console market dominance? Might Nintendo produce a console that is upgradeable? I can’t wait to find out, and the next Nintendo Direct can’t come soon enough.