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Nintendo’s trying to figure out mobile gaming—with a console

Jeff Daly/Invision for Nintendo/AP
Nintendo, on the go.
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Pokémon Go has been a massive mobile gaming hit for Nintendo, a company that’s long been criticized for missing the boat on the public’s shift from console gaming to casual games played on cellphones. But instead of doubling-down on licensing its popular franchises for more mobile games, it seems Nintendo’s next move will be trying to launch another zany portable console.

Nintendo’s next console, which the company has referred to as the “Nintendo NX,” is apparently going to be a handheld console with detachable controllers, that can also plug into a television, according to a report from Eurogamer. The NX will have its own screen, and apparently act like a regular portable console when it’s being used on the move, rather like Nintendo’s past handheld devices, such as the Nintendo DS and the Game Boy. But at home, the NX will be able to connect to a docking station, connected to a TV, so that gamers will be able to play on a larger screen and with proper controllers, like they’re using a home console.

Eurogamer states that the NX will be using an Nvidia Tegra processor—a powerful mobile gaming chip, found in tablets, Chromebook laptops, and Nvidia’s own mobile gaming system. While it’s a very capable chip for running even the most involved mobile games, it’s unlikely that it would be able to produce the same sorts of graphics found on more powerful home consoles, like the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One. The NX, like all Nintendo handheld systems before it, will also use cartridges—rather than optical disks with far more storage capacity as home consoles tend to use. The cartridges will likely only contain 32 GB of storage, which is large for mobile games, but small by home console standards.

There are conflicting reports, Eurogamer notes, about whether Nintendo will be creating a new operating system for the NX, or using an existing mobile system, like Google’s Android. If it goes with Android, it’s hard to see how this console will be particularly different from Nvidia’s Shield Tablet, which hasn’t exactly been a massive commercial success. That being said, the game that Pokémon Go was based on was a moderate hit, but when Niantic, the company behind the game, was able to slap a fresh coat of nostalgia onto the game, it became a huge international sensation. Perhaps Nintendo intends to use a similar approach to this fusion of mobile and home gaming.

On the other hand, while there are millions who purchase Nintendo products out of nostalgia for the videogame characters they remember from their youth, Nintendo’s core audience has always skewed younger than its main rivals, like Microsoft and Sony. Many children don’t have their own cellphones, but do have their own Nintendo 3DS or tablet, so the NX could well be the logical successor to those devices. Children can get plugged into the Nintendo universe wherever they are, on one device.

But for older fans of Mario, Donkey Kong, or Zelda, who already have powerful gaming machines in their pockets, it seems Nintendo will keep them waiting.

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