Nintendo wants to harken back to its heydays with the new, unreleased Nintendo NX console in more ways than one: A new WSJ report says it’ll use cartridges in place of discs, which have been standard on the game company’s home consoles since the introduction of the GameCube in 2001.
Cartridges are still in common use elsewhere in the Nintendo console lineup – it’s the physical medium of choice for the 3DS family of portable gaming devices. 3DS has also moved a lot towards making digital downloads a viable option for customers who don’t need or want a million cartridges lying around, but the physical media is still a key vector, especially for younger players who don’t have ready access to credit cards.
As the WFJ points out, there’s also a number of technical advantages to using proprietary cartridges, including the increased capacity and speed of flash memory, as well as more difficulty for pirates in copying the games, and cheaper mass production.
The cartridges also might help the console in terms of size requirements and that could be key if early reports about the NX prove true. A report from July claims that the NX is a double-duty console, which works both as a portable device with a built-in screen, and for living room gaming with the the help of a TV dock. If that’s accurate, small cartridges similar to those used for the 3DS is likely the only viable option in order to maintain a truly portable form factor.
One more point about using cartridges instead of optical discs: there’s a certain retro appeal to it. While we haven’t heard anything truly official about what the NX will offer, Ubisoft’s CEO said in July that the game should boast a ton of casual appeal like prior offerings. Nintendo has a strong history of being something everyone in the family could enjoy, and even something as simple as using cartridges could tug at the nostalgia centers of the brains of parents who grew up playing NES with their own elders and siblings.