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It can often be the case that patents point to way to what's on the way or, potentially, ideas that go unfulfilled. A recent patent spotted on NeoGaf does give some cause for great intrigue, seemingly outlining a concept for console hardware; considering the timing, the phrase 'NX' is naturally in many minds.

The new console is still shrouded in mystery, and we have very little solid info about it - and no confirmed Nintendo NX release date to speak of.

The patent was filed in February but was only available to view online this week. The basic abstract is as follows:

An example system includes an internal hard disk drive storing a program and/or data, a communication unit transmitting/receiving a program and/or data via a network, and a processor executing a program stored in the hard disk drive to perform game processing. The example system is not provided with an optical disk drive for reading out a program and/or data from an optical disk.

The patent itself is, like many of its kind, rather tricky to grasp accurately. It's evident (as is clear above) that the unit itself wouldn't have its own optical disc drive, with the focus on delivery of software through network services or through a memory card; the latter appears to be a backup of sorts, with card-based memory (for example SD) being an option for delivering key updates. To our eye it appears to portray hardware that's primarily online and download focused, with the backup option of memory media to take the place of downloads for those with limited online access. Some are also interpreting this as referencing potential cartridge-based media; while reasonable considering the use of carts in the 3DS, for example, we're not quite making that same interpretation from our initial read-through.

Moving beyond that, this points to a controller that - like the Wii U GamePad - would have its own screen. Multiple internal memory sources - including flash drives - would manage different areas such as the operating system and software (such as games). Intriguingly, there are also references to it supporting apparatus and hardware with optical drives and running them through the prospective new system. Naturally this raises talk of backward compatibility.

The following two diagrams are also of interest.

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It's worth looking at the full patent to see for yourself, and we'll be considering what it could represent for a follow-up article soon. Like with all patents it can either be a legitimate indication of hardware on the way from Nintendo, or it could ultimately come to very little. Our early instinct is that it does tie-in with some of our thoughts on what the codenamed 'NX' could potentially be when it arrives, but of course there's no conclusive evidence.

Let us know what you think of all this in the comments.