by Paul Tassi via Forbes

Nintendo has filed a new patent for a device that many believe could be their next NX console, or at least have something to do with it. Spotted by NeoGAF, the official US patent shows a new hardware unit that looks like a game console, but is missing one very game console-like feature, a disc drive:

“The example system is not provided with an optical disc drive for reading out a program and/or data from an optical disc,” the patent reads. “An example system includes an internal hard disc drive storing a program and/or data, a communication unit transmitting/receiving a program and/or data via a network, and a processor executing a program stored in the hard disc drive to perform game processing.”

The patent also seems to show a controller that includes a display unit, much like the current Wii U gamepad.

First, the grains of salt. There is no confirmation that this device is specifically the NX, as the name is not listed in the patent. Secondly, just because Nintendo patents a type of system, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the final product.

And yet, with the NX described by Nintendo as a “dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept,” this seems to fit the bill pretty well. Not that a lack of a disc drive would be the only brand-new concept, but it would certainly be a significant development all the same.

Many will remember that once upon a time, the Xbox One practically shed its disc drive, and at the very least, was planning to create a games marketplace that would make discs more or less obsolete. But violent fan pushback forced them to change the system to be more like Sony’s PS4, and both consoles now play both new and used discs exactly like the last two console generations.

While it seems likely that by the time the next console generation comes around, consumers may be more willing to let go of discs as sales of digital games continue to climb, but it is a bit odd that Nintendo could be the one leading the charge with the NX.

In this age when the 500 GB hard drives of the Xbox One and PS4 are considered “too small” for someone trying to build an entirely digital library, the original Wii U shipped with an 8 GB hard drive. Now, most models are up to 32 GB. Granted, these drives are not directly comparable, as Nintendo’s drives are not HDDs but instead use flash storage, but still. Building an entirely disc-free console would have to have a way to store an entire library of games, preferable without resorting to a collection of memory cards or external hard drives. It’s just a little difficult to imagine Nintendo going from 32 GB of flash storage to a 1TB or more drive to contain an entire collection of games. Flash or no, the fact remains that this year when I simply downloaded my Bayonetta 1/2 pack when the sequel was released, it filled the majority of my hard drive by itself.

The appearance of another screen-based controller is also perplexing. This may mean that the disc-less unit is compatible with the existing Wii U gamepad, as Nintendo loves backwards hardware compatibility, or it could be an entirely new controller. Still, the gamepad hasn’t exactly been a smash hit feature in current-gen Nintendo games to date, really only being used well in a handful. Would they really double down with another similar controller concept next time around?

Nintendo, continually refusing to share their plans for the NX until 2016, will not answer requests for comment on the system, or likely this patent either. And yet again, we find ourselves rooting through scraps of information to try and extract their future plans. A new disc-less console suggested in this patent makes a certain amount of sense, but a bit less so when you consider Nintendo’s history. Then again, maybe they can be the first tread where others haven’t dared. We’ll have to wait until 2016 to see, it seems.

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