Regardless of how big of a fan you are of Nintendo’s products, this is a really frustrating time. The Wii U has been a flop, E3 won’t have anything new to show except new Zelda running on the Wii U, and there’s lots of questions regarding what the Nintendo NX actually is.
It seems likely we will continue to not know what the NX is until much later this year, with the Tokyo Game Show 2016 in September being a likely launching pad for Nintendo. However, that does leave plenty of time for rumors, and a juicy one has just appeared courtesy of long-time Nintendo manufacturing partner Macronix.
Macronix Nonvolatile Memory Products is a company Nintendo uses to produce the ROM chips inside game cartridges for the Nintendo DS and subsequently the 3DS. Macronix has announced two key bits of information that point to the Nintendo NX potentially not using an optical drive.
The first piece of info is that the company expects “large growth potential” at the end of this year and in the run up to Nintendo’s March console launch specifically. The second is that Macronix expects to sell more high capacity ROM chips, which can be linked to a new line of 32nm ROM chips it has developed recently. For reference, the 3DS uses 75nm ROM chips with a maximum capacity of 8GB.
So Macronix has stated it is producing higher capacity chips than it currently supplies for the 3DS, it expects to sell a lot of those chips later this year and going forward, and specifically mentions Nintendo’s next console as a sales driver. You can see how that looks, right?
Such information can actually point to two potential outcomes relating to the Nintendo NX. The first is that Nintendo has indeed decided not to use an optical drive on the NX, instead preferring a cartridge/card system like that used on the 3DS. The second potential outcome is that the NX really is a replacement for the Wii U and the 3DS, suggesting the 3DS replacement requires higher capacity ROM chips, which makes perfect sense.
I would welcome a return to cartridge games for a console, as it means no loading times just like in the days of the N64. However, I am at the same time concerned that these ROM chips are for a 3DS replacement Nintendo is packing in with the NX. That’s an NX it won’t be selling as a loss and will be required to sell at a price competitive alongside the PS4 and Xbox One.
One final thought: Nintendo could be continuing to mention the NX with little detail so as to keep a true 3DS replacement off our radar completely. March 2017 could usher in the Nintendo NX and the Nintendo XDS handheld platform as completely separate products.