A look ahead to the far, far future.
A few interesting stories appeared this past week (and no, I am not talking about Nintendo’s financials). First, a rumor popped up on NeoGaf suggesting that Nintendo has been working on a new hardware project since early 2013. Second, Kotaku posted up concept art of a next-generation Game Boy created by artist Justin Quinn. This got me thinking: even though we are likely years away from seeing the reveal of Nintendo’s next handheld, I wonder what it would look like?
Let us first look at the rumor from NeoGaf, which can mean one of three things. First, it could be referring to the 2DS, which hit store shelves in October alongside Pokémon X and Y. This would be unusual, however, given that hardware design and testing often takes years to complete. Second, it could mean Nintendo is working on another revision of the 3DS. This, at least in my opinion, seems equally unlikely. Nintendo does not need another model of the 3DS right now; it already has three, and a fourth one would prove meaningless unless the hardware went through some drastic changes. The final possibility is that Nintendo is already working on a successor to the 3DS. Of all the options, this last ones seems the most likely.
So, what will Nintendo’s next-generation handheld look like? This is where the Kotaku article comes in. First, it likely will not be that. The concept art created by Justin Quinn looks sleek and shiny, but it goes completely against Nintendo’s design principles and hardware manufacturing ideals as a whole. It is too flimsy and fragile; put that thing in a child’s hands and it will not last a week. It also looks too thin and uncomfortable to hold; as people, we want our products to feel connected to our hands, whether it be a water bottle (ever wonder why we do not see triangular bottles?) or a game controller/gaming handheld. If it is not comfortable to hold, it also means less time the product will be in our hands, which means fewer games will be played, which means less success for Nintendo.
So if not that, then what will Nintendo’s next handheld actually look like? Some say they will combine their handheld and home consoles together, creating a superpower console that can conquer both markets. The idea is that the controller itself can play games on its own without the need of a box sitting next to the television but can also be hooked up to a television set via an HDMI cable for that big-screen home console experience. Many media outlets, including Kotaku and NintendoWorldReport, have suggested this idea as a possible route for the Big N. It would also make sense given the current condition of Nintendo’s financials; if they combine both markets, they only need to focus on one console, and in turn deliver the highest quality of games to their consumers without splitting their resources. In addition, Nintendo could take this opportunity and cut the Wii U’s life short if it indeed ends up becoming a financial failure for the company.
However, suppose Nintendo is indeed working on another dedicated handheld gaming device a la the Nintendo 3DS and DS before it. What will Nintendo’s next portable look like then? Will they continue with the clamshell design seen since the Game Boy Advance SP, or will they revert back to the original “hingeless” route like we saw with the Game Boy and, more recently, the Nintendo 2DS? The latter seems to make little sense; part of the point of the DS’ original design was to allow twice the screen size with the same amount of real estate. Nintendo’s trademark clamshell also protects the screens from major damage if dropped (and scratched if you do what I do and just throw it in a backpack). Going back to just a simple slate would be seen as a step backward, so do not expect some major changes to the form factor of the device. In other words, prepare for the 4DS.
What will be the killer feature of the 4DS? It could be holograms, or peripheral projections, or an interactive camera system. Or it can be nothing at all, a simple machine that strives only to provide the best portable games in higher definition. Indeed, it seems so premature to talk about this now, especially when we may not see the 4DS until at least 2017. But until then, there is no hurt in speculating, no issue in making wild predictions, so who is to stop us now? That is part of the joys of being a gamer.
What do you think Nintendo’s next handheld will look like? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!