Nintendo shake up could mean the end of Nintendo hardware as we know it

2 mins read

MCV just posted an incredibly interesting story. The news story itself just reports a merging of console and handheld hardware R&D division at Nintendo in Japan, but what is on the surface a dry organisational restructure news story has some dramatic between-the-lines ramifications.

It means that no longer will Nintendo work on handheld and TV hardware separately. In turn it could very well mean the next generation of Nintendo hardware doesn’t separate the two styles of gameplay.

So, in other words, imagine a console that you carry around with you, like a DS or 3DS, but bring it home and play the exact same game on the exact same hardware, only this time streamed through the TV in high definition?

Or, if I was in the mood to be negative, perhaps this is a sign that Nintendo is going to focus on just the one stream of hardware in the future. It’s hard to imagine the company stepping out of the handheld market that has been so lucrative for Nintendo for so long, so I’m certain some pundits are going to take this as a sign that the Wii U will be Nintendo’s last TV console.

I’m more inclined to see this in the positive, former light however. Having one unified R&D team means greater resourcing to come up with even better products. And given that the technology to stream data from a portable device (such as an iPhone) to the TV in 1080p resolution (via Apple TV) already exists, there’s no reason to think this isn’t the future of console gaming anyway. In such a scenario Nintendo is simply working towards a likely future.

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  • I have been playing with a portable/home game console since 2010 all I needed is RGB component cables to connect it to my HDTV…its called the PSP

  • This is, of course, true, but there is a lot of innovation that can make that specific experience far more seamless than any current solution. I really like the potential, I hope that is where Nintendo is heading.

  • Well this author is making speculation so let me make some too.

    Since the Wii U and the DS now use similar controls it is a no-brainer to merge the two entities.

    Likely the Wii U controller will become the Portable system in the future.

  • I don't think this news is good thing. Firstly, it shows that the dedicated gaming industry isn't fully stable any more. Secondly, I think it could be a window into the fact that Nintendo is indeed pulling away from the home console market, which I think is more of the case here. I expect the next console to be very similar to Wii U, minus the streaming console.

    Actually, now that I think on it – is it not impossible for Nintendo to make the Wii U portable in a revision (sort of like they do with all their handhelds)? Hmm…

  • I don't think Nintendo could make the Wii U a portable – it uses disc-based media for one, which is too bulky in the modern era to be portable, and the streaming technology relies on close proximity between console and gamepad. There's no way Nintendo's infrastructure is ready for Cloud delivery services and the like, which would be necessary for the redesign I think you have in mind.

    Furthermore, many Wii U games require two screens. I can't see that working in a redesign unless the 3DS becomes a thin client style device.

    I see this move as simple future proofing – if Nintendo arrives at the point where it needs to focus on a dual-purpose, single device, now it will be ready to do so. I don't read it as an admission of any kind of defeat right now, since there are none of the job losses that you would expect from *that* kind of move.

  • I think this is just a part of the larger restructuring that Iwata has had planned for a couple of years now. If I am correct the teams will be moving into Nintendo's new facility which is meant to house 1500 developers.

    I think it is a sign of how Iwata plans to approach the realities of HD game development. Nintendo games are fast becoming multi-studio affairs. It becomes much easier to move and share resources between studios when they are housed in the same facility. I believe the reason Monolithsoft opened a Kyoto studio was for the express reason of being closer to Nintendo.

  • Oh, I was only throwing undercooked noodles at the refrigerator – they never stick. I do, however, think that this is a discussion that has most likely been talked about within Nintendo's HQ – even if it has no substance.

    In the end – I absolutely agree. I don't think we will see Nintendo focus on two consoles again. Their consoles are now mostly supported by their own games and they're starting to balance a fine line of burning out their core franchises in the hopes of keeping two consoles alive and kicking – remember, 3DS jumped off a cliff prior to Super Mario 3D Land. Also, the NSMB series isn't exactly flying game boxes/consoles off of store selves either. Third party support is already starting to look spotty on the Wii U and I don't think Nintendo can sustain two consoles with their own franchises for another generation, without seriously burning out fans or a drop in the quality/innovation we've come to expect from first party Nintendo, which I dare say that we're already starting to see this generation.

  • I don't know if this is a game development thing though. The MCV/ Nikkei articles talk about the R&D and hardware teams, not developers. They'll all be working out of the same building, but also operating together as one unit.

    There's no reason to necessarily think the combined team can only be working on the one piece of hardware at a time, but I have got a gut feeling that there's more to this story. I do suspect Nintendo is preparing its organisation for a new approach to its product lines.

  • Matt, thanks for bringing this to my attention…totally missed when this story broke in Nikkei a couple days ago.
    This is kind of what I have been waiting for…a sign of Nintendo's future plans or, shall we say, a sign that their heads are not stuck in the sand!
    Having read your mobile games coverage, I know that Digitally Downloaded sees the writing on the wall…we are finally close to seeing "mobile" gaming converge with "at-home" TV gaming. Recent Android forays aside (Ouya, GameStick, NVidia Thing, etc), I don't think the user experience is there yet to displace our beloved consoles and PCs. Graphics, for one, sure is not yet up to par even on the most powerful mobile devices.

    That said, 4-5 years down the line is a whole different ballgame. Just look at where we are now compared to 5 years ago! Steam, iOS, Android and other PC and mobile platforms is where the growth is. Now, with this significant reshuffling of their internal development teams, I can see that Nintendo knows this and will be ready to respond even if it means making the hard choices and shedding entire revenue lines in order to refocus.

    Matt, where I disagree with your points in the article is that I do not see going "one converged hardware" as necessarily a negative. Sure, if you are a company shareholder, the loss in revenue such a move would portend (ie selling just one Mario Kart SKU instead of a separate console and portable title) is not a warm feeling. If you a customer, such a move would be terrific: more value for your dollars and better games since resources can be concentrated on fewer titles. Heck, if you are a Nintendo fan, such a move would reflect well on the company's stewards…forward thinking and pragmatic instead of meek, reactionary and late-to-the-party.

    Can't wait to see how this next several years unfolds, but despite all the ongoing upheaval one thing is for sure: customers are the big winners.

  • Hopefully the company's digital business infrastructure is significantly built out a few years down the line because Steam (among others) has made a strong case that the bulk of sales will move to digital.
    Nintendo would be well positioned as gatekeepers to all the content that has appeared on their platforms.
    Chris, by the time this resource reshuffle starts to show its effects, I would think a portable platform that out-performs the Wii U would be very much feasible. Maybe it could be a beefed-up Wii U that plays digital versions of it's games in addition to souped-up software?
    What all this talk has got me thinking…how much would I be willing to pay for a Nintendo system that serves as both portable and console…that is a ton of value right there!

  • Nintendo's R&D and Hardware teams work very close to their development studios which is how stuff like Wii Sports and Wii Fit became reality. As I said I think this is just the first step, with the end goal being the majority of Nintendo developers(both hardware and software) operating as a single unit and staff being shared between projects. After all Hideki Konno was in charge of both the 3DS hardware and the development of Nintendogs+Cats and Mario Kart 7.

    I think Super Mario 3D Land is the perfect example of what will soon be the norm for Nintendo titles. Whilst the bulk of development was done at EAD Tokyo, artists from Brownie Brown(another Tokyo based development team) contributed to the work. I think that they are seeking to increase freedom of movement for staff members which will allow them to contribute to more projects.

    I also think sharing of technology is key here(and is an important part of why R&D and Hardware teams are being integrated). This will potentially give smaller developers access to resources such as mo-cap studios, new peripherals and even new SDKs and systems at the same time as they become available to the bigger developers.

    Although the teams may be integrated I do agree that it doesn't necessarily mean that they are working on less projects than before. However it should mean that in the future hardware shares an ethos and increased synergy. For instance the 3DS could have been closer designed to the Wii U gamepad (widescreen touch screen, two analogs, four shoulder buttons) so it could be used for multiplayer purposes.

  • I agree with most of what you've said here.

    Nintendo doesn't have a great deal of experience with HD game development, and doesn't necessarily have the resources to simply double the size of each of its teams to continue the same rate of development. By sharing workloads between studios (something Ubisoft does remarkably well) the rate of development should remain roughly the same, even as the workload to make the games increases.

    On the hardware side of things we're going to have to wait until the next generation to see whether this will really have an impact on what Nintendo will do moving forwards, but I do think Nintendo has seen the writing on the wall – when you've got a Japanese market that doesn't much care for home consoles, and you've got a western market that doesn't much care for portables, what do you do? Combine them, I would think.

    You could be right of course, and it could be that the next gen of Nintendo hardware simply involves two devices cut from the same cloth, but we'll see.

  • I didn't mean to imply that I thought it was a negative – in fact I think an all-in-one console would be a remarkable move from Nintendo that would ensure longevity even as its rivals try and sell dozens of devices to customers simultaneously. For the people that only want the one game console, the company that isn't competing with itself would be the logical choice.

    Mobile gaming at home on the big TV is a reality and it's already possible. I can stream games from my iPad at 1080p to my TV via AirPlay. Real Racing 2 looks as good as anything currently on the Wii U.

    The technology is somewhat primitive right now (AirPlay is not a seamless experience), but we can assume that the minds at Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and Apple will make it a seamless experience in the next few years. By next gen it'll be almost expected by the majority of gamers, I suspect.

  • Yeah, the difference would be that while that product later had this functionality added in, it wasn't designed to feature this. It works, gotta give it that, but of course the UX (ease of connection, perhaps even wireless would be sweet, tv output format and then there is the use of secondary controllers) can see a healthy range of improvement in future products.

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