Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Power vs hardware design: assessing the Nintendo (NX) way

Following a report by Digital Foundry on what is supposed to be the hardware design of the still mysterious Nintendo NX, gamers have flooded the wide spectrum of social networks - be it forums, sub-reddits, Facebook or anything else - with opinions on whether the company's alleged new design is going to make it or break it. Especially when I read comments about consoles being underpowered, I realize how poor is the general understanding of why they were designed the way they were. In the same way, talks of the NX being either dead on arrival or a godsend sounds a bit silly to me. Internal software library, third party support, functions and price are what defines success in this market space, and the points every new console should be judged upon.

Sure, having 1080p/60Hz out of the box is nice, but it comes just as late in the generation as the WiiU did, with the consequences we've all seen. The NX is relatively close to launching, yet third party support looks sparse and despite the uniqueness of Nintendo's internal offering, its appeal towards an extremely diversified mainstream market doesn't seem particularly strong on the software side. For instance, I'd like to see Nintendo experiment outside of their historical brands' comfort zone, either by creating actual new IPs or better valorising the neglected ones.

Internal software library, third party support, functions and price are what defines success in the console market space, and the points every new machine should be judged upon

What about Nintendo's approach to hardware design? I believe the informations coming through Digital Foundry to be accurate: providing controllers that you can either use at home and interface with a TV screen, or carry outside of your lounge at any moment's notice caters to the same, immense smartphone users demographic that is so engaged with Pokemon GO these days. This could influence the company's home software plans massively, and I'm really interested to see if this is actually the direction Nintendo wants to go for.

It's not a matter of hardware, really. It's all about vision, strategy and contents - these are the fields where Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony are going to clash hard, no matter how (or even if) they'll try to distance themselves from one another.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

#RAPIDFIRE - 3: On the need for elegant game design