Opinion: Nintendo NX is a software platform, hardware irrelevant

While nothing has been set in stone, let alone announced, there is a lot of talk about Nintendo’s next console, currently named NX.

The platform recently had an outing via a patent application for a disc-less gaming console, potentially making it the first of the major home consoles to go disc-free.

While the rest of the world seems to be analyzing every minuscule detail about the patent and what it could mean for Nintendo, we’d like to take a moment to say that it probably doesn’t matter. A disc-free console lets Nintendo and its developers do what it should be able to: make games. And in Nintendo fashion, a move away from physical media means that it can focus on its platform as a software product rather than a hardware product.

The NX is going to be like a set-top box device that plays games, if that much wasn’t clear. But rather than looking at NX as a piece of hardware, we should understand that the box will just be the conduit to carry the NX platform.

What we’d guess to be Nintendo’s larger vision is a platform that transcends the living room and makes its wares available on multiple platforms. Something like the PlayStation tries to achieve with its CrossPlay functionality between the PS4 and Vita.

But is Nintendo able to pull it off?

Online functionality has never been Nintendo’s strong suit. They’ve been coming into their own with games like Splatoon and Mario Kart 8, but platforms like Miiverse haven’t exactly been the Xbox Live they’ve been hoping for. Then again, even Xbox has its missteps: The Master Chief Collection didn’t exactly have a smooth launch.

Assuming Nintendo can pull off the infrastructure it needs to create a proper online experience (and admittedly, that is a big assumption), the NX could very well be the platform to beat. We’re heading away from the hardware war and into a battle between who can produce the best platform.

From a timing perspective, analysts and gamers alike seem to think that NX could launch at the end of 2016. While that seems a bit quick to us, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. If the company could somehow muster up a new portable within a year after launch that properly capitalizes on the NX’s software features, we’d bet the company would be much more likely to rebound from its Wii U woes.

There’s a lot of conjecture floating around, and we’re all part of it. Our hopes for NX are that Nintendo is focusing on creating a software platform that will finally do what Nintendo tried to do with Wii U: create an incredible home for games to live, have them integrate with each other (especially with the company’s upcoming iOS and Android titles), and get back to the company’s focus: gaming.