With the Playstation 4 and Xbox One both approaching their second birthdays there's not a lot to speculate about in terms of Sony or Microsoft gaming hardware. Thank goodness for Nintendo!
As we all know, the Wii U failed to make much of a splash beyond dedicated Nintendo fans and at this point it's hard to imagine the machine "recovering" even as it slowly develops a pretty nice library of exclusives.
Nintendo has already talked very briefly about the next console generation: they've making a machine code-named the NX. We know (or at least, we think we know) that the console comes with some kind of hybrid controller/handheld system. In other words a controller that can work apart from the parent system. (It's not a new idea, the Sega Dreamcast controller had a little module that you could remove and take with you to play simple games.)
The latest rumors come from the Wall Street Journal's Takashi Mochizuki, who reports that Nintendo is starting to send Nintendo NX dev kits to game developers.
The WSJ goes on to quote Macquarie Capital Securities analyst David Gibson: "We are increasingly of the idea that Nintendo might launch the NX in 2016 because of the softness of 3DS and Wii U."
I'm not sure how well these two bits of data fit together. If Nintendo wants to launch the NX in 2016 it seems relatively late to be sending out development kits, doesn't it? Unless they've previously briefed developers on what to expect so that work on the launch library is already well underway. There's some evidence of that since Square Enix has announced that that their upcoming game Dragon Quest XI will come out for the NX, 3DS and PS4.
The latest rumors about the NX concern how powerful it will be. For the past several console generations Nintendo has produced hardware that has some kind of a hook (motion controls for the Wii, the tablet controller for the Wii U) but isn't as powerful as the hardware the competitors put out there.
That might change with the NX but the sources are anything but solid. Wii U Daily quotes Mochizuki as saying:
“Several people who said who have seen a demo said what they saw is impossible to run on a computer without a “industry-leading” or “cutting-edge” chips. Cutting-edge in what way, they refused to elaborate.
And an important thing to remember, probably you know well already, is that chip specs won’t be finalized until much closer date to the release.”
He follows up speculating that the 'cutting edge' chips mentioned might refer to those inside the Xbox One and PS4. If that's the case, well I would certainly hope a console that comes out (at least) three years after the XB1 and PS4 would be more powerful.
But over at NintendoForums the admin for the site shares this salacious (to we gamer-nerds anyway) quote: "Specifically, one software demo included with the kit crunches so many polygons that it's currently impossible to run at 60fps using a current-generation Intel (we're assuming a Core i7 Skylake) CPU and a nearly top-of-the-line graphics card (no specifics provided, but they probably used a single graphics card)."
My pragmatic mind rejects the idea that Nintendo could produce a gaming console more powerful than an i7 and top-of-the-line PC GPU and still keep the hardware affordable but my inner gamer wants to believe so very badly!
Nintendo doesn't plan on talking about the NX until 2016, so we have plenty of time for more rumors and speculation, and I'm sure the Internet won't disappoint! I'm trying to imagine a universe where the Nintendo NX is the lead platform for Destiny 2 or that year's Call of Duty. Crazy, right?