Without commenting on any of the specifics we've been hearing about, Nintendo confirmed the existence of its new console and an impending E3 reveal earlier today. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has since talked about the system and explained one of the reasons for it coming so soon.
"It became difficult for developers to surprise customers with the current Wii," Iwata explained, according to Kyodo News (as translated by Andriasang). It wasn't addressed why Nintendo chose now to confirm the news, but it was likely a combination of the rumors and the weaker-than-expected fiscal Q4 the company experienced. The latter in and of itself is also probably part of Nintendo's motivation to release a new system -- the Wii has not performed as well lately as it has in the past.
Iwata didn't explain just how the new system would allow for customers to be surprised. We do know it's unlikely to be 3D; Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime has said 3D is unlikely to be the hook for Nintendo's next system. "We've not said publicly what the next thing for us will be in the home console space, but based on what we've learned on 3D, likely, that won't be it," he said last month.
Iwata confirmed the company's thinking on the subject hasn't changed. "We would like to propose a new approach to home video game consoles," he said, Bloomberg reports. "It's difficult to make 3D images a key feature, because 3D televisions haven't obtained wide acceptance yet." It's a perfectly sensible perspective and it doesn't rule out 3D support -- it just won't be what Nintendo sells the system on.
Gamers won't be seeing it on store shelves for almost a full year at least. As noted in today's statement, it's scheduled for release in 2012 but hasn't been included in financial forecasts for the current fiscal year. In other words, it's unlikely to be released anywhere in the world prior to April 1, 2012. Microsoft and Sony meanwhile aren't expected to have new consoles out until 2014. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter raised the question in an investors report today if the new system will find itself in a Dreamcast-like position where it would be too late to compete with PS3 and Xbox 360 but not advanced enough to compete with those devices' successors. It's too early to say right now, as Pachter himself notes, though it does seem like a point worth thinking about. Nintendo apparently isn't worried about the prospect; after all, the idea of having at least two holiday shopping seasons uncontested by new consoles does sound pretty good.