Nintendo is in dire straits. The Wii U absolutely tanked and profits for the company are at an all time low. Nintendo’s future seems to hinge on the success of their new home console, the NX. Nintendo has a penchant for doing strange things with their consoles, with varying results.
Rumors abound about this mysterious new console. One rumor, in particular, is very interesting. The console may forgo discs in favor of a cartridge based system. Cartridges have not been used in a major home console since the N64. What is Nintendo thinking?! And how might this be an ingenious idea?
This rumor originated in a few sources. First, a listing for the much anticipated new Zelda game shows that it will have a cartridge, some leaked plans of the NX show that it does not include a disc drive, furthermore, a source at a Chinese factory that makes the ROM discs for Nintendo’s other handhelds states that they are expecting a drastic uptake in orders at the same time as Nintendo launches the NX. While each of these prices of evidence could point to a preponderance of possibilities, the most simple answer seems that Nintendo is going retro with their newest and most advanced console.
Nintendo fans cried out when this first hit the Internet. It brought back bad memories of the N64. Nintendo made a real bonehead move by not going with CD-based media, which is what all of its competitors did (namely the PlayStation). CDs were cheaper, could hold more, and just seemed more cutting edge. Cartridges, on the other hand, were more expensive, making the games more expensive as well. Many games were originally priced at US$79.00! They also could not hold as many data as CDs could. Nintendo’s game design genius Miyamoto complained at the restraints of cartridges. Many Nintendo fans can’t understand why Nintendo seems to be putting a metaphorical gun to their heads.
As strange as a decision it may seem, there are some very good reasons for Nintendo to use cartridges. Have you played a new game recently? You buy the new game you are excited to play, you put it in your game console, wait for day one patches to download (10-20 minutes later)… Now you pick up the controller ready to get into the action, and the game has to install data on your console in order for the game to run smoothly (another 15-20 minutes)… The game is all ready to go, and you have to go to work.
Playing modern games is not a simple as it once was. Remember when you simply put the game in the machine and turned it on, and the game worked? For us older video game players (20-30 year-olds), we have been dealing with this for the last 2 generations so it’s not too big a deal. But let’s say I want to play a game with my 4-year-old daughter, is she going to want to wait that long to play?
This might be Nintendo’s genius. They have always focused on games for younger players. How many AAA game titles are intended for younger players? Almost none. Most game companies are focusing on my generation who have been playing games since we were kids, are pretty tech savvy, and can deal with a lot of game hiccups. But now many in my generation are parents who want to share games with our children, and really the only games that are good for them are smartphone games because they are simple, easy to start, and fun.
In that sense, cartridges are superior to disc based games. First, no long annoying load times. Second, it is simply plug and play. Thirdly, cartridges are more mobile. Rumors abound that the NX will function as both home console and handheld. With cartridges, you can pull the game out of the console and slide it into the handheld section and continue your game.
Now to be sure, we don’t know anything about the NX yet. But it seems clear that Nintendo is continuing to push the envelope and trying to innovate their way out of the difficult financial situation they have gotten themselves into. And I wish them the best of luck!