Nintendo has had great success with both the Wii and the DS. However the numbers don’t lie. The DS has hit saturation in Japan and the Wii’s star is on the wain. Everyone that wanted either of these consoles has bought one.
Back when the DS and Wii launched Nintendo was in the worst position has been in a LONG time. The Gameboy Advance was looking awfully underpowered compared to Sony’s rumoured PSP and the GameCube just failed to be mainstream in any sense. Money was tight. Nintendo couldn’t afford a loss leader system in either bracket. In the home console arena things were even tougher, the twice crowned champion Sony looked like it would be on to an unstoppable third strike, Sega Nintendo’s previous main revival had packed in the hardware game and Microsoft had started showing its old time 90s teeth. Things were grim and Nintendo realised that in a straight arms race they were going to loose big. So Nintendo decided to change the rules of engagement. They radically redesigned their handheld with a touch screen and completely changed the interface home consoles with the Wii.
Times have changed. Nintendo understands this, the 3DS is not just a marginal update of the DS. This thing can output MGS3 (a top grade PS2 game) three times (once in 2D, and twice for each eye in 3D). It is a deceptively powerful system. Also they gave it a tech fan’s dream, glasses free 3D. So really this update is all about the tech this time, the core interface has not changed, but resolution is up, 3D power is up and CPU power is up.
So why this time? well Nintendo made a lot of money on both the DS and the Wii. They have the pockets to pay for powerful new hardware. Every year they delay they return to the thin times of 2003. I think the same update to the DS will happen to the Wii and it will not be the Wii HD.
The Wii is a great party game system, but it has pissed off tech fans with its low horsepower and the perception that its a shovelware system. Nintendo can now easily create a system with power the PS3 and Xbox 360 can only dream of. The PS3 is hampered by low system memory (lower resolution textures) and the 360 by low frame buffer memory (Most games are upscaled to 720p because the 360 frame buffer can’t do 720p and post process the frames). Slap a GTX 460 in there and a dual core ARM cpu freed of battery requirements and you can boast of true 1080P and 3D gaming without compromises. Give Miyamoto that kind of power and motion plus and you have an exciting proposition that could have a long shelf life.
Another reason is that Nintendo did well last time because they went against the flow. In 2004 hard core games only mattered. Now everyone has motion controls, even ASUS. Everyone is headlong charging into the casual market, but their core technology isn’t getting any newer. Oversaturation has already started affecting the earliest riser in the casual market; Music Rhythm games. Excellent releases like Rock Band 3 are not selling well. A lot of Wii owners won’t by another or it’s replacement in any great numbers. The market that will buy another is the tech fans and maybe after some momentum builds then the Wii owners will join it.
So I recon that summer/autumn announced after the success of the 3DS we will see the new Nintendo console. NES 6 if you will.