July 9, 2016
Could The Nintendo NX Be Closer To A Set-Top Box?

The Electronic Entertainment Expo has concluded. Nintendo has released it's schedule for upcoming first party games for the Wii U between now and next March presumably. The only question they have to answer between now and the end of the year is what exactly is the Nintendo NX? Speculation has been running rampant on what Nintendo plans to do with their next console, handheld, or hybrid.

It's hard at this point to get a handle on just exactly what Nintendo is planning with the NX. There have been a number of reputable sources that claim to have information on the system. However, many of them contradict one another. As a matter of fact, IGN has dedicated an entire page trying to make sense of each and every prediction.

Part of the reason it has been so hard to nail down what the Nintendo NX is falls on the various patents that Nintendo have filed. While it is common for developers like Nintendo to file patents that never see the light of day, it is hard not to speculate the direction that Nintendo might be going. In fact, some of the Nintendo higher ups may be hinting that the NX is not at all what you might think it is. Is it possible that the Nintendo NX could be closer to a set-top box than a traditional console?

No Internal Optical Drive

A patent filed in February 2015 and discovered by NeoGAF shows a schematic of a proposed console that Nintendo filed a patent on. The particularly interesting technology that is omitted from the diagram is the tradition optical drive support that should be present in a disc-based system.

Image via NeoGAF
Image via NeoGAF

In its place, there is an internal hard drive and a port that would allow for an external drive to be connected. This is a very similar approach set-top boxes like the Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV use. Fire TV does have a port that allows for micro sd cards to be used for supplemental storage. This type of technology could also be borrowed for the NX.

Cartridge Support Possible

As mentioned, the Fire TV deals with storage issues by allowing the use of the micro sd card. The option of putting a cartridge slot on a set-top Nintendo NX is not out of the question. In fact, Macronix, the company responsible for the ROM chips inside the 3DS is expecting quite a bit of growth next year. Chairman Wu Miin reference the NX in the last investors briefing.
"Macronix's ROM chips are usually supplied to video game console maker, Nintendo. Although the sales is in off season during the first quarter, the revenue is similar compared with the same period last year. Nintendo had just announced it will release a new generation console in March next year, and the console will be launched at the same time in Japan, America, and Europe, so ROM sales is expected to increase in the latter half of this year, and it will have a large growth potential."
Considering many feel the 3DS is in the twilight of its life cycle, why would a ROM chip company expect growth? A cartridge slot on the front of a set-top box is not out of the realm of possibilities.

Nintendo Higher Ups Have Hinted At It

A possible problem for most people to wrap their heads around is how can you have the power on par with a PlayStation 4 while keeping the footprint as small as a set-top box. The short answer is it is not possible, but recent comments by Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime to Bloomberg lend credence to the fact that the NX is not about outpowering Microsoft or Sony.
"For us, it's not about specs, it's not about teraflops, it's not about the horsepower of a particular system. For us, it's about the content. We're focused on bringing our best entertainment to both the Wii U as well as the NX in the future. So for us, whatever Microsoft and Sony are doing in terms of talking about new systems, that's for them to fight out in that red ocean."
The fact of the matter is Nintendo is a first party driven company. Few third party developers make games for their systems, and Nintendo has managed to show a profit despite them. What Nintendo has really lost from the Wii to the Wii U is the casual gaming market.

Image via John Sciulli/Getty Images
Image via John Sciulli/Getty Images

It is a realistic possibility that the Nintendo NX will be designed to compete with the Apple and Android market as opposed to Sony or Microsoft. Nintendo makes some of the best games in the world, and if they could bring a set-top box that delivers consistent quality titles as well as open it up to some of the most popular casual games, the NX could very well see the popularity that Nintendo enjoyed with the Wii.

[Photo via Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images]