A patent filed by Nintendo has revealed some interesting details about possible features of its upcoming console, codenamed NX. According to patent application 20150343306 (opens in new tab), Nintendo has plans for a game console that can "couple to a supplemental computing device" for increased speed and performance.
If you're getting flashbacks to the Expansion Pak, which added a whole 4MB(!) of RAM to the Nintendo 64, don't worry. This sounds like something far beyond the usual "buy this accessory to make your system better" shtick. One patent image shows "remote supplemental computing device(s) (from user community)," suggesting that not only can these performance-boosting add-ons be wireless, they could reach beyond your own house. In theory, this could create a network of devices, each boosting your primary console's performance little by little.
We've seen something similar in Xbox's Azure cloud computing servers. So far Azure influence has been minimal, limited to things like keeping online connections stable. However, games like Crackdown 3 (opens in new tab) show how offloading physics processing can make for some truly impressive results (in this case, 20x computational power and fully-destructible environments):
This is merely a patent application, however, and not every patent becomes a product. There's also no solid information here as to how Nintendo would utilize such a cluster of devices in the real world, only that it has the idea of how it could work. Remember too that there needs to be a base level of performance for the console - unless NX games are going to go the PC route and have "minimum" and "recommended" specs for every game, this cluster-based distribution could end up being - cool though it may be - a rarely used feature.
Nintendo has said it plans to reveal more about the NX by E3 2016.
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