Back in 2001 Nintendo, finally made the transition from cartridge to disc when it came to their home consoles. This was certainly the best move from a business sense, as the decision to stay with cartridges had cost them dearly in the Nintendo 64 days, thanks in part to their high cost. From a retro gaming point of view though, this was a sad turning point in the history of gaming.
However, in what may come as a surprise to even the most informed within the industry, it seems as though Nintendo could be turning back the clock, and returning to chip-based media with the move to the NX. At the moment this is nothing but conjecture. Nevertheless, there is a fair amount of credibility in the rumours.
These rumours all come courtesy of the eagle eyed team over at Screen Critics. You see, screen critics have found a rather unusual piece of information hidden within the yearly financial reports of the Japanese company Macronix. The current provider of the 3DS’ cartridges and a company who have been providing memory-related chips to Nintendo going all the way back to the days of the N64.
And this is where things get interesting. It turns out that hidden within this yearly report, is the tidbit that Macronix will be ramping up production of a brand new line of ROM chips, with their destination being none other than Nintendo. That’s not all though, as Macronix is also expecting bumper sales from Nintendo at the end of this year. So big in fact, that Macronix chairman Wu Miin expects this to propel them back to being the world leader in the NOR Flash business:
In the past, Macronix sales performance usually peaked at third quarter, while declined at the fourth quarter. However, Wu Miin pointed out that because Nintendo has announced that the new platform will be launched in March next year, orders should be placed in advance. Therefore, the operating revenue of Macronix in the fourth quarter may be as good as the third quarter.
Macronix have in the past already confirmed that they would be serving as a chip supplier in some capacity to Nintendo for the purposes of the NX. So, this could potentially just mean that Macronix are providing some kind of system memory chips or BIOS, as are found in the Wii U. However, this really doesn’t explain the massive spike in production, or the use of brand new 72nm ROM chips. For comparison, Nintendo 3DS games utilise 32nm Rom chips.
It may be hope slightly on my part, but this does all seem to point more towards the use of cartridges as the basis for the NX’s games. Additionally, a return to cartridges holds inherent advantages for Nintendo, many of which still stand from cartridge use back in the 8, 16 and 32-bit days.
For example, it would make the NX smaller and quieter, it would also mean that the games last longer and run faster that their competitors. Additionally, on top of this they wouldn’t need installs to run, a common issue with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Finally, if the console does end up being a home console – portable hybrid, then cartridges would be perfect for taking your games with you on the go.
Ultimately, this may be nothing more than speculation at this point. There also may be a degree of nostalgia vision fuelling some of these rumours too. However, nostalgia is a very powerful thing, and aside from the other advantages to cartridge-based media, nostalgia could be a powerful tool for Nintendo’s future. One thing I can say for sure, I imagine it’s more than just myself who would love to see Nintendo reveal a top-loading NX device and a cartridge based Legend of Zelda later this year.