Industry experts are crying out for Nintendo to release more information about their seventh home console, the so-called ‘NX’. Many still believe the rumoured hybrid between traditional TV console and handheld system will release later this year, which is incredibly unlikely given how little we know about the system. The Wii-U has had three full calendar years (2013, 2014, 2015) and yet every respectable video games outlet has been posting rumours and predictions as to what the next Nintendo home console will be, as early as 2015. I get it, the Wii-U hasn’t been the runaway success its predecessor has, and there are numerous reasons why that is, but much like the Gamecube ten years ago, those who owned one, loved it. There's plenty of excellent games for the Wii-U, but that's another topic for another day.
History suggests that Nintendo drop support for their consoles quickly in the final 12 months of the console's life-cycle. As silly as it sounds, there are too many first-party games being released in 2016 compared to previous “final years” of Nintendo consoles: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, Pokken Tournament, Star Fox Zero, Star Fox Guard, Paper Mario: Color Splash, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE and yet-to-be-titled The Legend of Zelda. That's not final year material. Consider the following:
[American release dates]
N64 (2001) - Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Mario Party 3, Paper Mario, Pokemon Stadium 2
Gamecube (2006) - Baten Kaitos Origins, Odama, Chibi-Robo, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Wii (2012) - Kirby Dream Collection, Project Zero 2: Wii Edition, The Last Story, Mario Party 9
Three and a half years
April 2016 marks the 3 1/2 year mark for the Wii-U. At this point in the N64's life, it would be February 2000. The Gamecube was first shown between E3 2000 and E3 2001. The Cube itself would be at the April 2005 mark, with the Wii debuting at E3 2005. And the motion-controlled system would be at the April 2010 mark, although the Wii lasted a year longer than its predecessors. If you assume this is the April 2011 mark, this fits in with the subsequent reveal of the Wii-U in 2011. Following this pattern, the NX should be revealed at this year's E3, with a release in November 2017.
Avoid VR hype
This year has been all about the advent of VR technology being available to the general public. The Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and the Galaxy S7's VR are all likely to create a crowded market for VR later in the year. With the NX launching amongst these devices, it will be difficult to sell as either a VR alternative, or a VR unit itself. Considering VR is expensive and out of reach to many families, Nintendo could capitalise on this gap in 2017.
The Missing Link
Twilight Princess was released in December 2006, Skyward Sword released in November 2011, and there has been very little revealed about the next iteration in the series. There hasn’t been more than a five year gap between console Zeldas since the wait for Ocarina of Time (a gap of seven years). With the Wii-U still lacking an original Zelda title of its own, it wouldn't sit right with fans for the new Zelda to move over to the NX. Christmas 2016 makes the most sense, with DLC dropping throughout 2017. The NX can then have a GOTY edition.
We will see a new Mario platformer in 2018
This is purely based on a trend. 2001 was a barren year for the N64 - 2002 received Super Mario Sunshine. 2006 was a barren year for the Gamecube, 2007 received Super Mario Galaxy. 2012 was a barren year for the Wii, 2013 received Super Mario 3D World. This year is fairly barren, but as I feel that the Wii-U will still receive a few games next year (albeit less than this year), it would make sense to have a Super Mario NX arrive in 2018, shortly after the launch of the new system in late 2017.