Recently, an internet Sherlock did some sleuthing and discovered that in 2014 Nintendo filed a patent for some pretty sweet new gaming technology. This is most likely going to be released to the public in the form of the Nintendo NX, the next gen console hopefully coming in late 2016.

The patent in question includes a lot of pretty technical stuff, and this video by The Know manages to explain it all much better than I ever could. However if you don’t have 10 minutes to spare, here’s a quick rundown of the console’s features.

  • A performance-enhancing controller
  • A cloud-based system, in which offline consoles can work together to improve each others performance 
  • The ability to connect together local consoles, to create one super console
  • A controller which can operate as a portable handheld you can play without the home console

This might sound too good to be true, and I don’t blame you for being cynical. I am too. All of this information is pretty speculative at this point, and the technology could well follow in the footsteps of the Virtual Boy, and become a total flop.

But what if it’s not? Just for a moment, lets be optimistic. Let’s switch off our damn inescapable cynicism, and pretend for a second that this technology is going to work exactly as we’re all dreaming it might.  What impact would the NX have on the future of indie gaming?

The Good News

Currently, PC is the go-to platform for indie game development. One of the biggest weaknesses of the PC as a platform, is the variability of the hardware. There’s a pretty much infinite number of hardware combinations that could make up a PC, and a lot of smaller indie developers struggle with programming games to make the best use of hardware. Often games require more powerful graphics cards than necessary, simply because of bad programming. I can’t begin to describe the number of games I’ve played that feature atrociously low framerates, while running on a system that can run games like Bastion without a hitch.

In theory, the NX could solve this problem. Using its cloud-based system, each NX consoles would be able to daisy chain itself with other offline consoles, and work together to render the game. This means that the NX could be (probably making a giant leap of faith here) a console of potentially limitless power. This would mean inexperienced programmers would be able to create games without worrying about performance issues as much as before.

The Bad News

In spite of its infinite power, the NX will create a new issue for developers to struggle with. The NX will require games to be scalable. Games will need to be able to adapt to the power the console currently has available to it. If you’re playing a game in offline mode, it will need to be able to run using just the system’s base power. If however, the game is being ran on a system which is working in tandem with 6 other consoles, then that game will need to be able to adapt to the system’s increased power. Now, I’m not even going to pretend that I have any programming expertise, but I’m pretty sure that will present a massive challenge for a lot of programmers.

Games will need to be able to adapt to the console increasing and decreasing in power mid-game, and this unstable development environment could prevent 3rd party developers working on Nintendo games altogether. Creating a console which shuts out 3rd party support would be a surprising move from Nintendo, who have in recent years dramatically increased there support of the indie gaming scene, awarding Shovel Knight with his own Amiibo, allowing titles such as Binding of Isaac to appear on the Nintendo store, and even giving Indie gaming its own showcase at PAX Prime 2015.

The NX- the future of Indie Gaming?

It remains to be seen how Nintendo solve the issue with 3rd party support. I think it’s highly unlikely that the NX will replace the PC as the go-to console for indie game development. However, it could serve as a great platform for Indie games to be accessed, allowing them to be experienced in both portable and home formats. If Nintendo carry on improving their support for indie gaming, then the NX could serve as a great new platform for indie gaming.

Of course, this is all dependent of Nintendo’s ability to follow through on its plans. When it comes to industry leading technology, their track record is something of a mixed bag. While the Virtual Boy, their first venture into VR technology, was a total disaster, their usage of motion-controlled gaming with the Wii was a revolution.

Essentially, what I’m drooling over here is the holy grail of games consoles – a low cost, high powered games console, which will be able to play the Legend of Zelda. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. The NX could potentially represent the future or the death of indie gaming on Nintendo consoles. And I for one, can’t wait to find out which.

About The Author

Contributor

As a composer and video game enthusiast, Philip has spent years searching for a way to combine his passions for both music and gaming. Then, one day, he figured he could just write about them. He loves to over-analyse the way music helps to shape the player's emotional response in a game. He also loves to criticise bad control schemes, because... Well, they just get on his nerves.

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  • This sounds like A) a viagra distributing controller, B) maybe the hardware has something to facilitate cluster computing, which is a very old thing that PS3’s were used for (because of the CELL processors) and maybe even PS2s? But it isn’t related to gaming. It’s usually done on campuses to build ad hoc cheap super computers. But when you “render” something, that’s done on one computer, called a graphics client, and it never ever makes sense to do that across separate computers…. which could only do something like cobble together the very slow changing background of Shadow of the Colossus that never quite blended together properly with everything else, because that is a very simple non-real-time task. It doesn’t make sense for a consumer product to be daisy-chained as part of its basic intended use.

    NIntendo’s hardware tends to always be behind, but not necessarily playing catch up. They seem to pick the smart compromise between cost, power consumption, reliability, and raw power. This just sounds like Nintendo saying its hardware will be doing what everyone else’s was doing a decade ago; but very economically, if past is prologue.