A patent filed by Nintendo earlier this year has been published to the United States Patent & Trademark Office, and it could be our first look at the company's next console, currently known as the NX. The NX was described by the late Satoru Iwata as a dedicated gaming device with a "brand new concept," as well as something that would not be a "simple replacement" for either the Wii U or 3DS, and this patent, if its ideas end up utilized, seem to reflect that.
The patent shows a "stationary game apparatus" with no optical drive, but instead features a slot for a "memory card." Don't go thinking this means we're back to the days of PlayStation era memory cards though, at least not necessarily. A diagram of how the machine will work, described later in the patent, specifically calls out third-party SD cards as an example of how the device will function.
It also sounds like the device will be built to utilize streaming. From the Background & Summary section: "In recent years, high-speed communication such as ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) or optical communication has widely been spread. Such high-speed communication is utilized to allow a server apparatus or the like to distribute a game program to a game apparatus. When a game program is obtained through communication, a user can enjoy playing a game using a game apparatus without purchasing a recording medium such as an optical disk."
If the NX is aimed not at replacing the Wii U or 3DS but instead supplementing their individual existences, it would make sense to unify the method by which games are played, rather than having it compete. The NX could theoretically achieve this by eliminating the need for discs and instead focus on more portable and ubiquitous methods of delivery: the Internet and SD cards. This would create a device capable of interfacing with the 3DS and Wii U hardware in a way that wouldn't feel redundant or like a new, replacement console.
Of course, the biggest caveat here is that patents get filed all the time. There's no way to be sure any of these ideas will make it to the final product, or if we'll wind up with something totally different. It could even be a revision to the Wii U and have nothing to do with the NX, so keep in mind that all is subject to change while you speculate.
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