Nintendo is notorious for keeping their cards close to the chest when it comes to releasing details about their future projects. When they announced that they were working on the console codnamed “NX“, they made no mention of what type of console it would be. The deal they struck with mobile developers DeNA led some to believe that it could be their next handheld device, possibly a successor to the recently updated 3DS XL. Given the Wii U‘s focus on the usage of the GamePad, others thought the NX could very well be a bridge between their mobile and home consoles, with equal focus on their eventual mobile presence. Digi-Capital and VG24/7 seem to think the device could place Nintendo back into territory it hasn’t been in since 1996: Virtual Reality.
The short lifespan of the Nintendo Virtual Boy is not a bright spot for the company, but in fairness to the machine, technology as a whole was simply not ready for VR/AR devices in the mid-90’s. Nintendo has often shown innovation in their consoles, but the Virtual Boy was simply two decades before its time. However, the rise of the Occulus Rift and Sony’s still-in-development Project Morpheus highlight the changing landscape for virtual reality in the home. Even the Nintendo 3DS has implemented AR (augmented reality) thanks to the built-in camera with its native apps and select software.
The late Satoru Iwata often called Nintendo’s strategy for innovation the “Blue Ocean Strategy.” In his own words:
“If you do the same thing as others, it will wear you out. Nintendo is not good at competing so we always have to challenge [the status quo] by making something new, rather than competing in an existing market…It’s often called the “Blue Ocean Strategy”, looking for something that no one else is working on…It is an unwritten company credo, something that runs deep in our DNA.”
The NX is not expected to be as powerful as the Playstation 4 or the Xbox One, so Nintendo would appear to be approaching the AR/VR market — a market which, according to Digi-Capital, is expected to reach $150 Billion — with a similar strategy that they implemented with the Wii. After all, their motion-controlled console led to motion controls being implemented in both Microsoft and Sony’s consoles. This time around, though, it’s unclear wether leading from behind in an arena that is already being actively explored by those two companies will payoff as well for Nintendo.
An important thing that Digi-Captial points out is that the DeNA deal seems to be very closely tied to the NX. The two projects were announced in a very close timeframe, and Iwata said at the time of the DeNA deal that “Smart devices have the widest reach and…the strongest potential…to connect with the largest number of consumers. We aim to construct a bridge between smart devices and dedicated video game hardware…dedicated video game systems and smart devices will benefit from synergies created between them.” If the NX is indeed a bridge between Nintendo’s mobile future and existing console hardware, it would seem that the future for Nintendo will be a hybrid strategy of Samsung’s GearVR, Microsoft’s SmartGlass, and Nintendo’s own innovation.
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