There was some big Nintendo news over the weekend: they’ve filed a new patent for a device that many are thinking is the outline for their next console, the NX, or at least a version of it. Discovered by NeoGAF, the US patent is for a stationary games console, but it’s missing one very common feature: a disk drive.
“The example system is not provided with an optical disc drive for reading out a program and/or data from an optical disc,” the patent reads. “An example system includes an internal hard disc drive storing a program and/or data, a communication unit transmitting/receiving a program and/or data via a network, and a processor executing a program stored in the hard disc drive to perform game processing.”
The patent also shows what looks like a controller that includes a display unit, similar to the current Wii U gamepad. Fingers crossed this remains because Nintendo want to utilise it better.
This is, of course, all the information the internet needs to explode into a speculative frenzy. And I’m joining in, again. Nintendo are, as you would expect, keeping quiet, so we’re left digging around like the Sherlock Holmes of gaming trying to piece together a bigger picture. The most important thing to remember is that there is no guarantee this patent is for the NX, and even if it is, there’s no guarantee it will resemble the final product even slightly. But that won’t stop our imaginations running away from us.
So, if the console isn’t going to have a disk drive, how is it likely to work? There are rumours that this means Nintendo are planning to make an entirely digital console. Considering the NX has been described by Nintendo as a ‘dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept’ this idea would certainly fit that description. Of course, remembering when Xbox were going to scrap the disk drive for the XboxOne and the resultant loss of every mind, is it likely that Nintendo, considering the lack of success for the Wii U, would be willing to poke the incredibly irritable consumer bear just to do something different? Not only that, it feels like there is so much to be overcome for Nintendo to produce a digital only console that has any hopes of being successful; poor internet access for many users for one thing, and the fact that people still like physical copies of their games for swapping with friends and collecting; there’s something about a digital library that feels restrictive.
However, that’s where the feature of the card slot described in the patent becomes interesting. Considering the file size of games these days, and the fact that I’m finding my 500GB Playstation woefully under equipped to store everything I want it to, could it be that rather than having a massive internal memory, at minimum 1TB (which Nintendo are not exactly known for), Nintendo are giving players the ability to write their downloaded games and saves onto SD cards, still allowing for physical copies of the games but making them more easily storable and transportable? Without disks, there are less breakable parts both outside and inside the console, and the console itself could certainly be smaller as a result. But then, it would hardly seem right to force players to pay to download games and then pay for separate SD cards to store them because you’ve short-changed them on internal memory, besides, Nintendo seem like the least equipped out of the large console companies to go entirely digital.
This leads me to wonder if, even better, could Nintendo be making a return to something akin to cartridges? I’m not sure whether this is hopeless nostalgia talking, but I think this would actually be a good move. Nintendo have never dropped the cartridge form in their handhelds,so it’s possible that they’re considering bringing them back to the console. Today’s SD cards are more than capable of holding large games, and being able to externalise large games onto flash media cards could be very positive for Nintendo, allowing them to bring games which require large amounts of memory to their consoles, which traditionally have very little internal memory, allowing them to remain competitive with Playstation and Xbox. It could also open up the possibility of a system of cross-compatibility between the handheld devices like the 3DS and the console, which would be nothing short of awesome.
Although nothing is set in stone, this patent certainly makes it look like Nintendo are going to be coming to the market with something different. God, please let it be card-based games.
Main Image: © iStock/abalcazar