Nintendo is one of those companies that is such a historical force in its respective industry that even the vague suggestion that it might be doing something is enough to send headlines fluttering across the internet.
In this particular case, it's the news from anonymous sources that development kits for the next Nintendo console, codenamed NX, are probably being shipped out to publishers and developers right now, according to the Wall Street Journal.
It's more than likely to be true, though. While a formal announcement of the console and what it does won't happen until next year, developers will need some time to actually play around with the hardware and tools in order to create game ideas and tech demos to showcase at the console's eventual unveiling.
With a lack of third party support being one of the Achilles's Heels of the Wii U, Nintendo no doubt wants to get devs onboard the NX bandwagon as soon as possible so it can tout their support (and possible exclusives) at the big announcement.
Aiming for a piece of the increasingly lucrative mobile pie, and tying it in with a traditional console, makes perfect sense
Of course, even if the dev kits are going out, it doesn't answer the burning question on everyone's mind: what is the big selling point of the NX, anyway?
In 2014, Nintendo's former president Satoru Iwata said that going forward, "home consoles and handheld devices will no longer be completely different," and when Nintendo first announced the NX, it also described a game service that will work across console and handheld devices. According to the new report in the Wall Street Journal, the NX "would likely include both a console and at least one mobile unit that could either be used in conjunction with the console or taken on the road for separate use."
Speculation matches up with the market reality, though. Nintendo's been making some moves into the arena of smartphone gaming, teaming up with Japanese mobile game powerhouse DeNA for upcoming mobile titles based on Nintendo properties. The 3DS continues to do well both in Japan and the West, though it hasn't reached the tremendous mass-market penetration of its predecessor. The Wii U, however, hasn't been the sales juggernaut Nintendo has hoped for. Despite some strong-selling, fan-pleasing titles like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker, the Wii U has sold only a small percentage of what the consumer-beloved Wii did.
Nintendo needs another groundbreaking console concept to set it apart from the pack, but it has to be a concept that the mass market is eager to accept, like the original Wii's motion controls. Aiming for a piece of the increasingly lucrative mobile pie, and tying it in with a traditional console, makes perfect sense.
Of course, Nintendo isn't going to say anything specific about it until it's ready, and the developers and publishers who have received dev kits are probably buried under a mountain of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). And honestly, that's for the best for Nintendo, because nothing gets gamers more excited than the anticipation of an announcement. Excitement and speculation are what drives eyeballs to press conference streams and Twitter feeds come trade show time, as millions are eager to confirm or deny the rumors that have accumulated. Nintendo no doubt knows this: It's played this game for years.