After all of the rumours, analyst reports and speculation, we do have some concrete information about the Nintendo 'NX' system - it'll launch globally in March 2017 and will not be at E3. It won't be revealed or shown before or during the LA extravaganza, with that event to be focused on The Legend of Zelda for Wii U - which is also coming to NX.
The NX 'delay', as it feels considering the anticipation around a Holiday release, is certainly important. It means that 2016 is left to the Wii U and 3DS, which is a tough task for the declining systems, but does mean the new Nintendo platform should avoid a direct clash with PlayStation VR and the strongly rumoured PS4K.
It's a major topic for fans of the company, so editor Thomas Whitehead, editorial director Damien McFerran, operations director Darren Calvert, managing director Anthony Dickens and YouTube man Alex Olney all share their personal opinions on it below. At the end you'll find polls and, of course, a chance to air your views in the comments.
I'd been assuming for some time, mainly because of the decline of the Wii U and 3DS in terms of sales and game releases, that the NX would hit in the Holiday season. Of course, with the likelihood of PlayStation VR and PS4K both landing in that window it would have been a crowded period, yet I still thought it would happen. While it's not the biggest surprise that it's fallen back to March 2017 - I suspect there could be manufacturing and logistical issues at play here - it feels like a mighty blow to Nintendo's prospects for the rest of 2016.
While the 3DS is projected to fall away, albeit with some Pokemon-fuelled software sales, the Wii U's hardware estimate of just 800,000 sales in a year shows how far it's plummeted. Outside of Pokemon (considering the Zelda delay too) Nintendo will likely struggle to make much of an impact in stores, and the longer the company is on the periphery of the mainstream the harder it will be to regain momentum and achieve success in the future. Much pressure, surprisingly, will likely rest on smartphone releases rather than anything Wii U and 3DS will do this year.
The shift to early next year isn't fatal to NX, but I think it's a blow. Nintendo will be trying to generate hype and sales after the spending splurge of the Holidays, and the last time it launched a system in March (3DS, and New 3DS was February 2015) it had serious issues. The big N will need to pull out all of the stops to make this 2017 arrival a major success.
Still, we all know the Shigeru Miyamoto quote on the importance of giving development the time it needs. That applies to consoles as well as games.
I'm actually quite shocked that NX is being delayed until next year. All of the signs have been pointing to a Christmas release - Wii U and 3DS are winding down and Zelda and Pokemon aside, there are arguably no big AAA titles coming on either platform. Without NX, Nintendo is facing a bleak Christmas, and its own financial projections show that.
Missing the holiday season this year might not be a fatal mistake, but Nintendo will certainly struggle in the face of renewed competition from Sony and Microsoft. Christmas 2015 was bad enough - this year Nintendo could well cease to be a realistic option for many buyers, although a timely price cut on both Wii U and 3DS could help give the systems some momentum as they enter the final straight. This is making the best of a bad situation of course; I'd be shocked if this delay is all part of the plan, and I wonder if Nintendo has encountered production issues or software delays with NX.
Of course, the delay of NX could also be seen as Nintendo putting more emphasis on its mobile ventures; Miitomo has over 10 million registered users and Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem have both been confirmed for release on smartphones. I think Nintendo sees mobile as a way of steadying the ship somewhat while the Wii U and 3DS reach the end of their lifespans.
Nintendo is at least being realistic about the impact NX's delay is likely to have on its bottom line, and we always knew that this year would be one of transition - not only in terms of hardware, but also with mobile taking off and Kimishima trying to make his mark on the business. The delay is perhaps most annoying because the rumours seemed to indicate that we'd all have NX in our hands by the time Santa comes to visit this year - and sometimes having your personal expectations dashed hurts more than anything else.
When I heard the news that the Nintendo NX will be launched in March 2017, I can't say it was a massive surprise. It looks definite that Sony will be releasing their supercharged PS4K along with PlayStation VR for the all-important 2016 holiday season. With their marketing budget and clout it would be perhaps unwise to go toe to toe with them.
When the Wii U launched in November 2012, it didn't really have any system-selling titles to support it. Speaking to Polygon during E3 2015 Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime gave his take on why the Wii U failed to take off:
This industry is all about content, I can map out why the Wii took off at launch, it had two killer pieces at launch: Twilight Princess, Wii Sports. Look at our DS business. Our DS business was OK, but it was the launch of DS Lite, the launch of Nintendogs, the launch of the first New Super Mario Bros. where that system sort of dramatically took off.
So having those killer games ready for launch will be vital to the success of the NX platform. In addition to this, Nintendo has experience of launching hardware after the holiday season. The Nintendo 3DS launched in March 2011, of course that was a rocky launch and saw the handheld price slashed by ⅓ in July and the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program brought in to appease early adopters. But Nintendo will have learnt from this, by the time it came to Christmas 2011 the 3DS had excellent sales, supported by killer games such as Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 which, crucially, were ready for the holiday season.
We've also learnt that The Legend of Zelda game will now be a simultaneous release for both Wii U and NX in 2017. Zelda will likely end up timed to be a day one NX launch title. It's my guess that Nintendo will simply be devoting all its time behind the scenes creating a killer launch line-up of games for the Nintendo NX along with a steady stream of regular releases to build that momentum as 2017 unfolds.
My gut feeling that the March 2017 launch will turn out to be a wise move for the success of Nintendo NX in the long run. Getting the right mix of games ready for launch is going to be crucial, so personally I am glad that it's not being rushed out for Christmas 2016 to fall flat on its face. While the Wii U isn't likely to get much new software support this year, it already has a very strong library of games, so I would expect Nintendo to discount it heavily with bundles of its best games and just muddle through the holiday season this time.
Okay, so the cat is finally out of the bag and March 2017 is the current release window for NX. Like the others, I was hoping to see a Holiday 2016 release to make the most of the traditional console selling period - however I don't think it's all bad considering some people were predicting a Holiday 2017 release. It gives Nintendo some breathing room and extra time to really get the marketing right this time (sorry, Wii U) and frankly, if the NX software isn't ready then there's no point releasing the console until it is.
We still don't know exactly what NX is, but given the likelihood that it will replace both console and handheld the combined consumer investment for both devices could be upwards of £400/$500. With that figure in mind, releasing the "platform" away from the already-expensive-for-everyone holiday period should be welcome news for many. For me the only real downside to the "delay" is that the slate of games coming pre-NX is shockingly bare at this point. I'm not sure the shareholders would agree though.
Those are our thoughts - let us know where you stand in the poll and comments below.