If you've been keeping your ear to the ground over the past week or so, one thing you may have picked up on are some rumblings from Nintendo. It would seem that the rumblings - which have included a drop-off in the amount of upcoming games as well as a potential price drop - have indicated a potential reveal of a new console in a short amount of time.
Now, there's a lot that could be done to hem and haw through the potential features, games, marketing strategies, and any number of other aspects of a new console announcement, but I'm more interested in how this may affect the planned life cycles of its two chief competitors' consoles.
Microsoft and Sony have both indicated that they want their consoles to live in the market for about a decade, a decade at which we are almost the half-way point. Nintendo announcing a console now, even if it were to release late next year, would still put it solidly in the "middle" of the other two consoles' lifecycle.
What does this mean for them? Previous console generations have all been fairly simultaneous (within a couple years) in terms of their change-over of hardware. This could probably go one of two ways - one, Nintendo reaps the benefits of having an uncrowded "new console market" and establishes themselves firmly in this (half?)-generation. Two, there is a protracted "Dreamcast effect," where they see a lack of adopters based on people looking to wait for the newest and best.
They may dodge the second one simply because of their stable of first-party games that always seem to act as an effective draw to their systems, but there's no guarantee. There's also the distinct possibility that this simply forces one of the other company's hand, and we see a very strange drawn-out generational turnover.
This is all to say that I think there is one thing more interesting than any hardware features or potential software applications that a new system may offer - seeing how a market reacts in a genuinely new situation.