The year is 2003, it’s late November and Nintendo has just announced that it will release a new gaming platform in 2004. This new platform was a mystery, and Nintendo made a point to mention that it was not to succeed or replace the GameCube or the Game Boy Advance, but to be a “third-pillar” to help hold the company up. This mystery product would go on to be the Nintendo DS, a system that revolutionized the mobile gaming platform.
Does that story sound familiar to you? It should. We’ve heard some of the same terminology to describe Nintendo’s mysterious next venture. A year ago, Nintendo said the same thing about the NX, and noted the the NX wouldn’t mean the end of the lifespan of the Wii U or the 3DS. Looking back at that crucial time for Nintendo, the launch of the Nintendo DS, might help us wrap our heads around the NX in a time where there is almost no news to be had. Hopefully our questions will be answered later this year. In the meantime, it sure is fun to speculate.
The third pillar
The Nintendo DS was never supposed to replace the Game Boy – at least in the beginning. The DS was supposed to help support the company alongside the GameCube and Game Boy Advance. In the end, the DS outperformed the Game Boy and overtook it. I think this was due, in large part, to its backward-compatibility with GBA games. Will NX end up nudging the Wii U out in this same fashion? I think more so and more quickly than the DS did to Game Boy. If the NX is a third pillar, then the Wii U is a weakened one, perhaps ready to crumble once the NX becomes load-bearing.
Code name conundrum
In January 2004, the codename for the Nintendo DS was revealed to be exactly that: Nintendo DS. Over the course of development and before launch, the codename did change to Nitro briefly, before being officially titled Nintendo DS. Now, the NX hasn’t received another codename, let alone an official name at this point, but it’s interesting to point out that the DS shows that Nintendo isn’t a stranger to using the codename as the final, official console title. Honestly, I don’t see the point in not using NX, and I really hope that they stick with it. Yes, it would be a little underwhelming to find out that the mystery of the NX is exactly what it’s been all along, but I think Nintendo is in too deep to change it now. Unless the company comes up with something so mind-blowing that it can somehow outperform the hype that’s become embodied by NX, it’d better stick with it.
Heaven or hell
The DS came at a time that seemed like make-or-break for Nintendo; at least, back in the day it did. Looking back, it feels like there was never anything to worry about. At the time, the GameCube wasn’t exactly a resounding success, and the Game Boy Advance, while it was certainly an incredible platform, felt stagnant. Former Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi famously said, “If the DS succeeds, we will rise to heaven, but if it fails we will sink to hell.” I think now, more than ever, that statement rings true for Nintendo and the NX. If times were dire in ‘03 and ’04, then they are more dire still at this point in time. The DS represented the cusp of a truly innovative time for Nintendo, paving the way for the true revolution that was the Wii.
This time around, the NX rests on the cusp of a new start for the beloved company, and that cusp may be a sheer cliff; it’s up to the NX to decide if Nintendo soars to the next peak, or drops into the abyss. All our hopes rest with the NX, and I have faith that it can carry Nintendo and its fans into a brighter future for gaming.