With all official indications from Nintendo being that the NX will still arrive in March 2017, it’s amazing that there are still very little known details about the new console. We’re now less than 6 months away from the potential launch, and all we’ve heard about it are vague praises from game developers (namely the Pokemon Company CEO and the Ubisoft CEO).
One of those key details that people need to know is price. If Nintendo wants to sell these consoles, people need to know what they are going to pay for it, right? After all, consoles aren’t necessarily impulse buys, so we’re starting to hedge into that territory where people need to plan ahead to be able to make the purchase. And remember that we have a major spending holiday right in the middle there.
As we get closer and closer to that launch window, if indeed it still will be March 2017, it becomes increasingly important for Nintendo to get these details right. That includes pricing this thing correctly. Price is an interesting sticky point in recent years for Nintendo: there seems to be a consensus that Nintendo consoles should be cheaper at launch than Sony and Microsoft can get away with, yet there’s a consistent desire for Nintendo to introduce a console that is on par with those competing consoles in terms of power. People always want something for nothing, right?
In order to go much further, we need to make a few assumptions. We’ll need to take a couple of the rumors that are out there now at face value. That’s always a bit dangerous, but there’s been enough corroboration with some of these that I think we can get the general consensus of the product we’ll be getting.
First, it’s going to be a home/mobile hybrid console. This one has been quasi-confirmed. In other words, you’re going to get a portable device that will also be able to plug into your TV. Second, it will be a tablet-like device with detachable controllers and a docking station. Journalist Emily Rogers recently made headlines with some inside information confirming these ideas, at least on a prototype machine, and adding that the prototype unit had a 6.2 inch multi-touch display. The docking unit seems to just be an in-between device to connect the NX to your home TV, along with some USB ports for peripherals (hard drives, keyboards, etc). Third, it will be more powerful than Wii U, but less powerful than PS4 and Xbox One.
That should give us enough details to dive in and figure out what NX should be priced at, and I’m going to predict that the NX will cost an absolute maximum of $249 in the United States. Actually, I think it could go as low as $199, or possibly a basic set for that price and a premium set for $249 (much like Nintendo did with the Wii U).
So where do I arrive at that price? Let’s start back in 2012, when the Wii U was still a star horizon and not a black hole in the past. The base model, which included the console and the GamePad, power cables for each, a sensor bar, an HDMI cable, and 8GB of memory. That package retailed for $299. There are a few differences between this and the NX that could be the difference in terms of price. First, the cost of memory has fallen in the last four years. 8GB is practically nothing these days, and Nintendo could easily swap that out for 16GB at a similar (or lower) cost. Second, the Wii U GamePad was an interesting device that would basically stream the content on the screen back and forth between the console. It didn’t have its own computer on board. The NX doesn’t have to do this: everything is contained in the tablet. It doesn’t require communication to its base unit, and instead the base unit is just a docking station. Basically, with the NX you’re going to buy a central tablet console and a pass-through dock, not a central console plus a unit that needs to reliably, consistently communicate wirelessly with that console.
So the next step would be to look at some comparable items. Let’s start with tablets, specifically that 7 inch screen size to coincide with the 6.2 inch screen of the prototype. A quick Amazon search will show you a pretty nice selection of tablets in this form factor for less than $100, including models from top manufacturers like ASUS and Samsung. Amazon’s Kindle Fire is an even more affordable option, albeit a less powerful one, for $49. The ASUS ZenPad (pictured at right, click the image to check out the listing) is a 7 inch table with a quad-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 16GB on-board storage for $95. While these aren’t gaming tablets, it illustrates the point that these devices are more affordable now that they ever have been. Nintendo’s should obviously be higher-powered than these, but it does give us a reference point. So, you could expect a slightly higher cost machine, along with the cost to include the controllers and docking station in the box.
Interestingly enough, there are actually precedents out there for what Nintendo is reportedly trying to do with the NX. One of these is the NVIDIA SHIELD K1 tablet (yes, that’s supposed to be all-caps…I double-checked). This might be the closest we can come in terms of comparable machines, as Nintendo is rumored to be using an NVIDIA processor for the NX. This tablet is probably more on par with what Nintendo would need in terms of power, with a 2.2 GHz quad-core CPU, a 192-core NVIDIA Kepler GPU, 2 GB RAM, higher quality speakers, a full-HD 8 inch display, motion sensors, cameras, and even 4K video capabilities. The price for the tablet alone is $199, and the controller is $59. So you’d be looking at about $260 for the device and a controller. While together that comes in above the $249 price point I’m expecting, I could see Nintendo opting not to go for things like a full-HD display and 4K video output. 1080p could very well be an option through the TV dock, but I don’t think it’s necessary for the device itself. And while Microsoft and Sony battle it out on the high-powered 4K video and gaming front, Nintendo could easily take a different route. Also remember that the prototype unit had a screen that was 2 inches smaller, which would reduce the cost.
Even more interesting than the NVIDIA SHIELD K1 is a product by a company called Aikun Electronics called the Morphus X300. This is another gaming tablet, but you need to take a look at this video to see why this is so important:
If you’ve been following NX news and rumors at all, this should look incredibly familiar. The only thing it’s missing is the docking station. As far as specs go, it has an ARM Octa Core A7 processor clocking at 1.7 GHz, an Octa Core Power VR SGX544 MP2 GPU running at 700 MHz, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB on-board storage, an 8 inch HD display (not full-HD at 1280×800), a rotating camera, and *detachable controllers*. It’s also a glasses-free 3D display (Nintendo 3DS backwards compatibility, anyone?). This device isn’t completely vaporware as it has made appearances at trade shows here and there, but it’s also been scheduled to come out for about a year now, and the website currently shows an estimated September 2016 release. There’s still time left on that, but I’ll bet on an NX reveal before this comes out.
The Morphus X300 is almost exactly how I picture the NX. Aikun is currently asking for backers for this tablet, and a $249 pledge gets you the “early bird” price on the device. After that, prices go up to $329 which is quoted as a “price far below market.” While that hurts the idea of a $249 price for NX, keep in mind that Nintendo is going to have far more resources available to them that will enable producing a larger number of units at a lower cost than a relatively unknown manufacturer taking backers on Indiegogo. While $249 might be a special, below-cost offering for Aikun, it could conceivably be a reasonable price for a company like Nintendo.
Also consider that if Nintendo is making a small margin on the hardware, they have huge software franchises to profit on and offset that small margin. That didn’t necessarily work well for the Wii U, but selling more NX units is the quickest way to solve that. More people with an NX in their hands equals a higher opportunity to sell Mario, Zelda, Pikmin, and Metroid games. So whereas NVIDIA and Aikun would most likely need to rely on the hardware sales for a profit, Nintendo could conceivably rely on the software as well. Recent rumors pointing to about 10 million NX units produced each year makes that viable. The right device at the right price is the key.
There you have it: a $249 Nintendo NX – possibly with a $199 entry level tier. An official reveal could happen at any moment, so this could be proved correct (or incredibly, incredibly wrong) quite soon. So while we still have a chance to speculate, what do you think? Is this a reasonable price, and is it a price you would pay for the device that’s rumored at this moment? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook!