The Nintendo NX - a name that will likely change - will remain a mystery until Nintendo unveils it in 2016, yet a combination of logic and speculation have allowed a partial picture to form. Just recently Tatsumi Kimishima commented that it's "something unique and different" from the Wii U and Wii, a new departure for the company.
Piecing together comments and business moves from recent years we share the view of many that what we could see is a system that has functionality both as a home console and portable. That's one idea, but it's likely that Nintendo is seeking to find a concept that is accessible but diverse, while also capturing the public's imagination and making use of modern online features.
A patent shared on NeoGAF, which was unearthed from its filing in June 2014, is absolutely fascinating on that score. It plays into some ideas of what NX could be or how it may operate, so while it is only a patent that could ultimately mean little, the detail it contains certainly raises intriguing possibilities.
The main feature of the patent is a Supplemental Computing Device (above), which can be combined with a dedicated gaming console. By utilising the cloud and its own internal resources, a game console could use its own device and the power of others through the cloud to boost performance - imagine a console with a set amount of capability, which is then boosted and enhanced by a supplemental device in the house, and potentially further with cloud resources from other people's devices. Some relevant excerpts are below.
A gaming system, comprising: a game console comprising one or more processors configured to locally execute a game and provide video output of the game to a display and audio output of the game to a speaker, the game console including a physical network interface and a wireless communication interface; and a supplemental computing device configured to detachably couple to the game console via the physical communication interface, the supplemental computing device comprising: one or more processors configured to provide, over the physical communication interface, processing resources to the game console to assist the game console in locally executing the game; and memory for receiving data associated with the game from the game console and storing the data for later access by the game console wherein the game console is further configured to couple, via the wireless communication interface, to another supplemental computing device, the another supplemental computing device including one or more processors to provide processing resources to the game console and memory for providing storage resources to the game console.
...Relatively close supplemental computing devices may be able to provide services at a nearly real-time speed (e.g. processing real-time graphics and sound effects), while relatively far away devices may only be able to provide asynchronous or supplementary support to the events occurring on the console (e.g. providing for weather effects in games, artificial intelligence (AI), etc.). In some cases the supplementary support provided by the supplemental computing devices could be based on a best-effort basis. For example, in a computer chess game, some amount of onboard AI may be possible on board the console to provide relatively quick analysis, but supplemental computing devices may perform additional AI analysis. If the additional analysis is not received from the supplemental computing devices within a threshold time, the console can use what is available to it (e.g. the analysis done by the console or by any supplemental computing device that has returned its respective AI analysis).
This patent seems to be aiming to offer an alternative to standard centralised cloud computing, which has only had mixed success, with this system of supplemental devices that provide both physical and cloud-based boosts to performance.
Intriguingly, this device operating as a service - via the cloud - to others seems to be suggested as a tie-in with the My Nintendo account service. We already know that this loyalty program will seek to reward players for time playing games, for example, with rewards varying from eShop unds, to DLC content and more besides. The connectivity proposed here means that, if you allow your device (and internet service) to be used to support other player's systems via the cloud - perhaps when you're not using it - that could bring rewards.
In some instances, a user may be compensated based on an amount (e.g., time, raw resources, etc.) that the user shares his or her supplemental computing device or indicates that he or she is willing to share the supplemental computing device. This compensation may comprise any form of value, include access (e.g., time) to other supplemental computing devices maintained by other users, discounts on games, access to certain game content, points for redemption for digital or physical goods, information for display (e.g., as a badge) on a social network, or the like.
Some feel this may point to a hardware setup in which a system with portability is then given a boost in power when plugged into the supplemental device and played through the TV. That seems plausible, certainly, if Nintendo is to seek ways to provide a good value product that isn't excessively expensive when also providing reasonable power and flexibility for both developers and gamers. Of course, anything using Cloud computing - even if it's a clever workaround like this may be - faces challenges of connectivity and performance, while ensuring that any product is easily understood and embraced by a mainstream audience is vital.
This may not come to bear in NX in any way, though the concept and the mention of My Nintendo-style rewards has piqued our interest.
We think this is a fascinating patent, but let us know what you think in the comments. Could this feasibly be an insight into Nintendo's future hardware, or is it another concept that'll be left to gather dust in the patent office? Time will tell.