Nintendo faces an interesting dilemma. If it waits too long to release a new console, everyone will just wait to see what Sony and Microsoft do to follow up the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. On the other hand, if Nintendo jumps the gun, it could find itself in the middle of a war with some unexpectedly expensive VR hardware.
In other words, Nintendo is going to have to pick its poison with the NX.
Last week, research firm DFC Intelligence issued a note regarding the release date of the NX. According to the analysts: “launching a new system in 2016 would be a mistake, and under any scenario, the Nintendo NX will not have an impact on the market until late 2017,” mostly due to the impending launch of multiple VR devices.
Although DFC admits that its opinion “is likely to evolve” as more information is released regarding the Oculus Rift, the Vive and PlayStation VR, the influx of new hardware and a potentially strong software lineup from Sony, Microsoft and dozens of third party studios would seem to spell disaster for a reeling Nintendo.
There are a few important takeaways from this report and any other analysis that broaches the subject of VR. First of all, there’s no telling how the consumer market will react to full-fledged, standalone virtual reality hardware. The Gear VR has been an interesting test case, but it’s not a great bellwether for Oculus Rift or Vive sales.
If VR can make the kind of impact that analysts seem to expect it to make, Nintendo’s console might look outdated before the company can even unveil it at E3. If VR headsets become the ultimate holiday gift (for families that can actually afford them), Sony is going to reap the rewards with what will presumably be a more affordable PlayStation VR.
Unless the NX can generate the kind of attention that the Wii generated a decade ago, it might be dead on arrival. Even a new Zelda or Mario or Super Smash Bros. game wouldn’t be enough to turn the tide back in Nintendo’s favor.
Then again, if VR headsets turn out to be niche, ludicrously expensive toys with no killer apps, Nintendo might have found the perfect time to strike. But the NX needs a ton of first-party and third-party support, regardless.
There are far too many “what ifs” to draw conclusions this early in the year, but either way, Nintendo has its work cut out for it if it really plans on launching a new home console in 2016.