Will Nintendo's new system launch in 2016 and will the new Zelda be on it?
This seems to be the popular question at the moment, especially with rumors like this one. After I shared a similar rumor story last year, it would be presumptuous to completely deny it. Also, my guts tell me that this will very likely happen, because I personally don't have a good feeling about this and it's certainly a blow to all Wii U adopters. Nintendo is currently desperate to make money and they do it on the expanse of their fans.
And since the new Zelda game uses Cel Shading, it's technically very possible that it will get ported on a more powerful system for higher resolutions without any loss in visual quality. It really depends on what the NX will be and what kind of input it will feature. Skyward Sword could have been a Wii U launch title as well, but ultimately it didn't really fit the Wii U GamePad, while the new Zelda was developed around this thing.
Still, if Nintendo releases a new home console in 2016 with the right setup, it's very like that it's also getting the new The Legend of Zelda as a launch title, much like with Twilight Princess on both GameCube and Wii ten years ago. The big difference is that the Wii U never really got its exclusive Zelda game. Even without Twilight Princess the GameCube felt like a very satisfying machine for Zelda fans. It did have The Wind Waker, Master Quest and Four Swords Adventures, while with the Collector's Edition and the GameBoy Player you could play all Zelda games on one system. It was nice to have a GameCube in any case and at the time it only angered fans like me that the Wii version of Twilight Princess came out weeks earlier.
The Wii U on the other hand only got two Zelda remasters, one of which is probably Nintendo's laziest excuse to make money ever. There is also Hyrule Warriors, where I ultimately felt like the Wii U was worth the purchase, since I put hundreds of hours into this gem. But it's not something for every Zelda fan and the truth is that the next console will probably have an even better Hyrule Warriors 2, where you didn't miss anything.
And this leads to a problematic conclusion: you could have skipped the Wii U. Three years ago Nintendo made the Wii U tempting for Zelda fans with the Wind Waker HD and the Limited Wind Waker Edition release of the console, as well as the promise of getting a new amazing Zelda game. It's now three years later and they still haven't delivered. Of course we will get our Zelda game on Wii U this year, but there also might be a better version for a better system, which in worst case even gets released earlier that the Wii U version. And this will anger all those, who have bought the Wii U in good faith and in anticipation of Zelda.
Nintendo abandoning the Wii U this year could be a mistake. Even the GameCube, which used to be Nintendo's least successful system before the Wii U, was worth it. It had many great new games like Metroid Prime. And that's the key factor. The games! The Wii U might have had bad marketing, a bad name and what not, but ultimately the games count. And here lies the Wii U's main problem.
On first glance the Wii U might have had a good share of good games, but most of them were just the newest version of what we already got on other Nintendo systems. The Wii U was also actively competing with the Nintendo 3DS, because with the Wii U GamePad it shared a handheld gaming mentality, while the Nintendo 3DS focused a lot on 3D gaming. The result were many similar games like New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U, Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World, or even ports like Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U, Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors Legends...
At least with the The Legend of Zelda main series they are keeping the games different between handheld and console, where the 3DS right now is certainly the preferable choice, because it actually got good new Zelda games next to good remakes. And overall the Nintendo 3DS and its games are just "good enough" for many people. Why invest in an expansive home console, if a cheaper handheld can deliver the same things? At the same time there are people, who still play on their Wii, because its Wii Sports and Mario Kart Wii are still "good enough".
This is why the Wii U has failed so far and at least with titles like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker Nintendo seemed to change tack. And it would be important to keep this up. Games like The Legend of Zelda should give people a good reason to buy the Wii U, but if it's also available on the NX right away, the Wii U will die on the spot. In fact rumors like these are already hurting the Wii U quite a lot, since there are certainly people holding out for Zelda. With these rumors going on, it would be stupid to buy a Wii U right now, while games like Metroid Prime 4 might not even come to Wii U. And this will set an example, where it's clear that not every Nintendo system will be worth it. Not every Nintendo system will fully deliver.
We're already at a mentality, where it's best not to buy at launch and to wait as long as possible, because otherwise you will be faced with a better model or a shiny Zelda Limited Edition later on and regret your early purchase. Nintendo was making early adopters unhappy for years. Now Nintendo will also cement the thought that you can and should skip every 2nd Nintendo system. And while The Legend of Zelda U on the NX might be better for the NX and even increase the sales of the new Zelda, which probably was one of Nintendo's most expansive games ever, it will hurt Nintendo in the long run.
The solution? Don't push a new console in 2016. Give the Wii U powerful must-have games in 2016 like The Legend of Zelda and Metroid Prime 4 to make the Wii U owners happy and make others want to buy a Wii U. And then release the new console in 2017 with Super Smash Bros. for NX and a port of The Legend of Zelda U as launch titles. I feel like this would be the better and more promising scenario. They could even use the year to improve Zelda U like adding a 2nd Quest to the game (if it didn't have one already). And then they could focus on working on a sequel right away.
For the game of course it's best, if it also appears on the new console in any case. The better it sells, the better it is for the future of the Zelda franchise. We don't want Zelda to end like Metroid and The Legend of Zelda alone can't save the Wii U.