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Nintendo NX returns to cartridges, limiting its future with gamers

Nintendo - Nintendo never learns. 

After more than a year of speculation and silence from the Japanese game giant about what exactly the Nintendo NX will be, reports surfaced this week detailing the system and what it will offer gamers when it launches sometime next year. Despite former President Satoru Iwata denying it repeatedly, the NX will be a "hybrid" gaming device  a handheld console that can be hooked to your television at home. It's a bold move, but a bold move in the same way the Wii U was a bold move. Look how that ended for Nintendo.

The NX will be a large handheld system with a rectangle screen of 5 inches or so and clip-on controllers on each side. Yes, that is right, the "controllers" will be a pair of panels that connect to the side of the screen. One panel will have an analog stick and D-pad, while the other panel will feature the standard four face buttons and an analog stick. Details of how those controllers will work when the NX is hooked up to the television were not disclosed. 

The system will be powered by Nvidia's Tegra X1 mobile processor, making it the most powerful traditional handheld on the market. Its performance target is somewhere between the Wii U and the Xbox One. It will certainly be a beefy handheld gaming device, but will be yet another underpowered home console option for gamers. According to reports, Nintendo is forsaking graphical performance against Sony's and Microsoft's offerings in order to put the most efficient technology in a handheld device, despite the fact the NX is also designed to be played at home. 

Nintendo will forsake optical media for a return to cartridges. The NX will not use any form of disk media and will not come with a disk drive of any type. This development, along with the new internal hardware design, kills any chance of backward compatibility  a first for Nintendo, since the Wii could play Gamecube games. Instead, games will come on cartridges similar to those in the 3DS. They're limited to 32GB, and with developers already starting to push the limits of 50GB Blu-ray disc capacities, this could spell trouble for third-party developers. It should, however, mean decreased load times for most games. 

Perhaps the best news about the NX and its capabilities is the promise for additional software output. Nintendo publishes about 25 first-party titles, on average, a year. The mythical Nintendo drought occurs on its consoles, more often than not, simply because the company isn't big enough to keep a steady stream of software coming for two platforms. Combining those platforms with the NX should mean the end of software droughts  at least from Nintendo first-party developers. Don't look for third-party developers, such as EA, Bethesda or Activision, to bother with the NX again. Its completely different internal hardware design, the switch from optical media to cartridges and the hybrid nature of the system itself will scare off third parties again, perhaps for good. So it's going to be even more important for the NX for Nintendo to consistently hit its software goals for release. 

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