Nintendo’s next console: It’s not 3D, but what is it?

It’s going to be playable at E3. It’s going to launch in 2012. It will not involve 3D.

Those are the only things that we know for sure about Nintendo’s next console, which they confirmed in an unusually low-key fashion in a press release yesterday.  With facts being as scant as they are, the games press is left to run wild with rumors of what Nintendo’s next design will be. Nintendo, much like Apple, is a company whose innovation makes the press go crazy every time they tease a new product. I’ve been reading the rumors all morning, and while plenty sound tantalizing to be sure, I’m still left a little skeptical.

Most sources I’ve read say that the next console will be much more competitive from a technology standpoint, which makes sense. The Wii’s major problem, lack of third party support, came about partly because publisher’s couldn’t simply port over games they were making for other platforms.  A more technically capable console from Nintendo will make them a more viable choice for large publishers, who won’t have to devote the work of another studio to make a Wii version of their game.

Now let’s talk about screens on controllers. Ridiculous, right? It sounded like a perfect nintendo-esque twist on game playing at first, but the more I think about it the less feasible it becomes. There is no way you could have a controller with a 6” screen (especially a touch screen like rumors suggest) and have it cost less than a couple hundred dollars. Also, since it’s rumored to be backwards compatible with Wii games, I can imagine all the customer support nightmares when someone drops their touch screen controller on the floor.  Not to mention dead pixels and other support problems inherent with putting a screen on something. Then again, when Wiimotes started smashing HDTVs across the nation, Nintendo dealt with it pretty well.

All of that said, this is Nintendo, and I will no doubt be surprised with what they come up with. They’ve got a track record capable of convincing even the most jaded of fanboys that they can at least execute on a cool idea.  Since Nintendo was left behind tech-wise this generation, it will be interesting to see how they fare being first out of the gate this generation. Nintendo definitely has the capability here to win back “core” gamers with HD iterations of their first-party franchises, which would hopefully bring in third parties into the mix.  For now, all we can do is ponder the use of a touchscreen controller until Nintendo’s keynote at E3. At least that’s something to be excited about, right?