7 reasons Nintendo's next hardware will be a smartwatch
Watch this space
Thank Iwata! Nintendo is finally, after rather too long, pulling some exciting business out of its arse, and hype levels are rightly rising. With the Wii U picking up momentum with games like Splatoon, Zelda, and Starfox this year, and the new 3DS models being released, youd be hard pushed to find someone who wasnt at least considering hopping aboard the Gamepad bandwagon, or ditching their old handheld for a new one.
But murmurings indicate that there might be something else to get excited about, and I dont think its a snooze-worthy sleep monitor. Nintendo has had its fingers in a lot of pies over the years - from games and furniture, to food and office equipment - and, after careful consideration, I think it just might want a piece of the smartwatch market next. Scoff and guffaw if you will, but its not so crazy. Click on and I'll explain.
It's happened before (kinda)
Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi first dipped his toe into the waters of handheld gaming with the Game and Watch, after he saw a business man on the bullet train having a whale of a time punching 80085 into his calculator and thought that we all deserved a more substantial form of on-the-go entertainment. A few years later, he graced the world with the Game & Watch. Despite the name, it wasn't actually wearable - although a roll of duct tape and an indifference to the imminent and agonising loss of arm hair could soon change that - but the perfunctory alarm and the time displayed in the corner very loosely fulfilled the advertised 'watch' functionality.
The Game & Watch was hugely successful and led to all sorts of innovations, like the much-beloved D-Pad, but Nintendo was lured back to the world of timepieces when it licensed its titles to Nelsonic for its line of game watches that wait for it were actual watches that you could wear and play games on. The dream was fully realised. Until of course they were dashed by the handheld market, but that's a story for another time.
3DS companion apps would be a killer fit
Nintendo loves to merge real life with in-game experiences, like taking a loved ones photo and blasting their visage into a million pieces over and over again in Face Raiders, or having a mini Mario appear on top of wildly inappropriate body parts thanks to AR cards.
So what better way could there be to expand on a games content than with companion apps for a smartwatch that could turn your display into a DexNav for hunting Pokemon in the real world or a Yo-Kai Watch for catching ghosts? Stick a 99p/99c price tag on them and watch the pennies roll in.
It would take StreetPass to a whole new level
Everyone enjoys a bit of StreetPass. Not only does it collect data for a bunch of 3DS titles, it fills your Mii Plaza with visitors that can lend you a hand with a spot of virtual gardening, or be sent into the haunted mansion as a sacrificial offering. But carrying your 3DS with you everywhere isnt always an option and an empty Mii Plaza is the saddest sight in the world. Maybe even the Universe.
A smartwatch is the perfect platform for StreetPass - you can wear it anywhere, and a quick sync at the end of the day would transfer all of the new data over to your 3DS, adding to your Mii population. And youre unlikely to forget to take it with you when youre leaving the house, because it just became the best watch ever.
Nintendo is apparently using Sharp's new free-form display for... something
Sharp and Nintendo are already bosom buddies from their partnership on the glasses-free 3D display for the 3DS - the viewing angle improved in the new model so that a reliable effect is no longer the sole preserve of those in the living statue profession. So when Sharp announced its free-form displays, talk of Nintendo integrating it into a new product was almost to be expected. And while unconfirmed at the moment, that partnership is very heavily rumoured.
The free-form tech changes the way the circuitry is placed in a display, which means it can be pretty much any shape you like, and can even be fashioned into small, wearable devices. Like a smartwatch. Its got to be a better idea than the Virtual Boy, right?
A smartwatch is a perfect fit for Nintendo's 'quality of life' ethos
As far back as the early 1900s, Nintendo has always had its eye on the fusion of games and lifestyle. Although now, instead of flogging playing cards alongside packs of cigarettes for poker night, quality of life is the dominant theme. The more obvious examples of this are the Wii Fit games and peripherals, but even the 3DS sneakily conforms by showering you with play coins as you rack up steps on the pedometer, cutting you off after 1,000 to make sure your get your pudgy butt moving again the following day for your next fix.
But carrying around my 3DS everywhere so that I can trade coins for fortune cookies from the Nook twins isnt ideal and, as I dont actually do any exercise, when people see me wearing a monitor around my waist they assume I have a medical condition. It turns out that wearing a bulky pedometer when youre not engaging in a Rocky training montage on a daily basis can make you feel like a bit of a plonker. Integrating those features into an inconspicuous smartwatch would be the next logical step.
Customisable face plates would rake in the money
If theres one thing thats throwing a spanner into my decision-making process when it comes to the new 3DS, its the face plates available for the smaller model (I live in the UK, so I have that choice/blessing/curse). Sure, I want the biggest screen available to play my games on, but you know what else I want? A customisable, cute-as-a-basket-of-bunnies-wearing-kitten-costumes handheld. Okay, that actually sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of, but if Im spending my grown-up money on a new 3DS, on principle I want to be able to kit it out so that it looks like it belongs to a 12-year old, dammit. And somewhere in Kyoto, someone is all too aware of that.
If I do succumb to the smaller sized machine for the sake of faceplates, I am buying a lot of them. And if they put out a smart watch with an equally must-have range of swappable shells, emblazoned with mascots, Ill be bankrupt within a month, living out of a small hut fashioned from discarded Nintendo packaging. The same pool of fans buying multiple amiibo (me) and new 3DS facades (also very possibly me) would clearly snap up a few watch faces without a second thought. Theres real money to be made there, particularly given how much more personal a watch is as an accessory. We idiots will buy anything branded attractively enough, and Nintendo knows it gimme!
Two words: amiibo compatibility
Amiibo are selling like desirable, plastic collectibles that people inexplicably go mental over. Nintendo is churning out waves of the things, releasing different lines for different games, and have you seen those adorable carrying cases? But they need more purpose. Five amiibo are currently bunking in a ?-block in my living room, and having Super Smash Bros. as the only reason to give them an airing is creating quite the atmosphere in there. And besides that, frankly, I want another excuse to play with them.
Popping an NFC reader into a smartwatch would open up a host of other features for amiibo, ranging from in-game bonuses - like extra XP towards levelling up your Super Smash Bros. buddy - to virtual pets, or even themed displays. If people are losing it over amiibo now, this would see them sending their shopping trolleys tumbling through hordes of shoppers like the boulder from Raiders of the Lost Ark to carve out a path through the aisles.
Counting down the minutes
Im already setting some money aside for my Nintendo smartwatch. Are you convinced? Because if we all want it hard enough, Iwata will pick up our combined signal through his bunch of bananas and make it happen. Im pretty confident thats what theyre for. I could give you 7 reasons to back that up, but weve all got busy lives to be getting on with.
But before you toddle off to do whatever you're going to do next, why not ignore it for a little longer and check out some of our related features? We have 10 more bold Nintendo predictions for 2015 to get you started, but if you're on more of a PlayStation kick, we have Sony predictions covered too.