The recent report from Eurogamer about the next Nintendo console, the NX, has resulted in a lot of different opinions online. If you haven't heard the news already, the NX is expected to be a completely mobile console, more like a PS Vita than a 3DS, that has detachable controllers on either side of the screen. The reason for the detachable controllers is because the NX is also a 'home console', by docking the NX to your HDTV you can detach the controllers and play games from the couch just like you would with a PS4 or Xbox One.
In addition to the interesting form factor the NX also has another large break from conventional consoles, it is expected to run on a system on a chip build by Nvidia for tablets and smartphones. Specifically, the rumors are that the NX will run on the current Tegra X1 or an, as yet, unreleased successor the X2.
As you might expect, responses from the gaming public have been all over the map. I am very excited and intrigued by this, especially because it likely means that all Nintendo franchises will now be available for one device. Being able to play all of Nintendo's new releases on one device, either on the go or at home, is like a dream come true.
The Future of Gaming circa 2011
After reading the news I quickly remembered an article that I had written on the F5 Games blog years ago, and I actually had to go to the Internet Wayback machine to find it. At the time I was trying to decide what the 'future of gaming' would look like. Based on trends in mobile and console game as of 2011 I envisioned a future where mobile gaming would take over, even more than it actually has I'll admit, and that you would be able to use your phone as your on-the-go gaming device and dock it with your TV when you got home to get your high-def home console experience. While the NX isn't a smartphone, if the rumors are true, not only will it fit this usage style but it will also use the exact same chip family that I predicted would make all of this possible 5 years ago!
I'll post a link to the full article on the Wayback Machine at the end of this post but I want to quote a few sections below that are most relevant to the NX announcement.
On closing the hardware gap between mobile devices and consoles
The real reason that smartphones will quickly move up to fill the role of home gaming consoles is parallelization, or multi-core chips.
Recently, at Mobile World Congress 2011, Nvidia revealed their newest mobile chipset codenamed ‘Kal-El’. This mobile processor, designed for smartphones and tablets, is not only a technological monster, it’s a quad-core chip. This chip, which is planned to hit in products before the end of the year, enables not just 1080p video but 1440p, it has support for 3D video, and it has a 12 core Geforce GPU that will run circles around just about every existing mobile graphics chip on the market. Never content to rest on their heels, Nvidia also showed their roadmap for Tegra over the next few years which displays even larger performance enhancements coming on yearly cycles all the way through 2014.
The Nvidia Tegra X1 that is rumored to be in NX development kits has 8 CPU cores, 256 GPU cores, and can display 4K video at 60FPS. If Nintendo uses a newer version, the X2, it is possible that it could reach Xbox One levels of performance when the device is docked and not worried about draining a battery.
On the power of the dock
The second reason it’s hard to think of your smartphone as a home gaming console is precisely because we’re talking about a phone. A phone is something you take with you on the go, it’s something you keep in your pocket and a device that you have a very personal connection with. Game consoles, however, are something that you bring home from the store, stick under your TV, and then sit down in front of when you want to relax and escape into another world. For the last 25 years, even with all the technological advancement, game consoles have stayed the same in one very important way; they plug into your TV and collect dust for 80%-90% of the day.I think it is amazing that this standard view of consoles has persisted as long as it has. After buying my PS4 it sat under my TV for months just idling probably 90% of the day. Then in the evening I may get to spend an hour playing a game, or more likely, 2 hours watching a Blu-Ray. Why do we spend so much money for an expensive, hot, and power hungry brick to collect dust in our entertainment centers?
...the Dock doesn’t just have to be a dumb hub waiting for it’s brain to be plugged in. All of the media streaming functionalities that home consoles provide could be included in the hub itself and used when there is no phone plugged in at all. You could still stream movies, and music, and pictures, still watch Netflix and listen to Internet Radio all without needing to dock anything. Then when you plug in your phone you can tap into all that extra power for gaming and 3D movies, and video conferencing, the list goes on and on. Anything that you can do with a current home console you’ll be able to do with a smartphone and an HD dock in the next couple years.This is all still true of mobile phones, but instead of a unified 'TV' interface appearing when our phones are connected we have settled on streaming content to our TVs on an app by app basis.
The Future ( predicted in 2011)
Imagine a near future where you bring home your new smartphone with 4, or maybe 8, processor cores and a multi-core graphics chip and you dock it with your HDTV. Beyond just providing a new media browsing interface the dock also connects your phone to a power source so it can really crank up the performance and not worry about battery life. That could mean that some of the cores on your phone only activate when docked, or just that the phone overclocks into a performance mode and offers better graphics, sound, and AI when it’s connected to your home system. The dock also acts as a hub for your wireless gamepads, so you can kick your feet up on the couch and start playing your favorite first person shooter, online with your friends. When a call comes in, or you get a text, you can see a little alert in the upper corner of the screen and either accept the call or ignore it until later. If you choose to take the call it could transmit it to your bluetooth headset while you continue to rack up kills in Call of Duty 6. When you’re done gaming you still have access to all of the features of your smartphone, just through a larger screen. You can watch movies, listen to music, check your email, send a tweet, etc. etc. And when you’re done you just pick up your phone and walk away, and you don’t have to leave $400 worth of gaming technology sitting on a shelf not being used 90% of the time.So there you have it. I'm obviously excited about the NX because I predicted this style of gaming taking over the world more than 5 years ago. Here's hoping Nintendo and I had the right idea.
P.S. - Okay, okay, I'll admit that I missed the mark on what number Call of Duty we would be on by the time this happened. What is it now, 12?