Scratch Nintendo off of the list of hot holiday gifts.
While many video game industry insiders expected Nintendo's next game system to launch in time for the holidays, the company announced Wednesday that the console — code-named NX — will not go on sale until March 2017. In addition, the company said it will not showcase the NX at E3, the video game industry's annual trade show, this June. Instead, it will unveil the system at an event later this year.
Perhaps just as critical, the company also announced the long-awaited next installment in "The Legend of Zelda" franchise would also be delayed until next March, allowing the game to launch on both NX and the Wii U.
While Nintendo had not previously given a date for NX, all signs until now pointed to a holiday 2016 launch. Wii U sales, meanwhile, have continued to slide. In the last fiscal year, Nintendo said it has sold 3.26 million Wii U hardware units globally. And it's forecasting another reduction in sales for the coming quarter.
Analysts say they're not overly concerned about the later-than-expected launch. Pushing the NX to early next year will cause some short term pain, since the company will have nothing big to lure holiday consumers, but could give Nintendo some breathing room.
Sony is widely expected to launch an updated PlayStation 4 before the end of the year, and many feel Microsoft will do the same. (Neither company would comment.) Additionally, virtual reality headsets from Sony, Oculus and HTC will likely be a big part of the gaming conversation. And one possible fear was the NX would be overshadowed by the competition.
Additionally, the extra months give Nintendo a chance to firm up the software launch lineup for NX, both with "Zelda" and any other titles. One of the lingering perceptions of the Wii U launch was that Nintendo failed to have a strong software catalog to support the system on day one.
"People are counting them out, so they have a lot to prove after the less-than-overwhelming performance from the Wii U," said Mike Hickey, an analyst with The Benchmark Company. "They probably realized 'Zelda' on the Wii U is pretty much irrelevant. If you look at expected hardware sales, that shows that. ... [But] a strong 'Zelda' launch or release with NX — and maybe a bundle with the system — is really interesting."
Nintendo certainly plans to stoke desire for Zelda among its fan base. The company says "The Legend of Zelda" will be the only game that is playable at E3 — a surprising turn, given that Nintendo (and most publishers) regularly has a dozen or more titles available for attendees to try.
The company said that's "in order to provide attendees a complete immersion," but given the apparent delay in the NX, the company's increasing focus on mobile games and the de-emphasis on the Wii-U and 3DS, it also raises the question of how many more games the company plans to make for its existing hardware systems.