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While we gamers won’t be getting any new details straight from Nintendo this year about the NX, the company’s upcoming device, a document from the U.S. Patent & Trademark office shows Nintendo filed a patent for a disc-less game console.
The document, titled “STATIONARY GAME APPARATUS, GAME APPARATUS, GAME SYSTEM, RECORDING MEDIUM AND SPEED CONTROL METHOD,” does not tell the entire story:
An example system includes an internal hard disk 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 disk drive to perform game processing. The example system is not provided with an optical disk drive for reading out a program and/or data from an optical disk.
Since the arrival of the NES aka Famicom, every Nintendo game system has required cartridges or discs to play most games, however, the upcoming console may give fans different options to choose from. The company has never offered three or more options since day 1 of a console. Will gamers see a console with a hard drive or an optical drive? Any of them could be a choice. This most likely won’t mean the use of the optical drives are coming to an end. It seems the company will rather let gamers decide how they want to get their games.
Also, the use of SD cards, though nothing is specific, could be used in various ways with different devices. Saving entire games in a SD cards and playing them in different devices could be an exciting possibility.
The card slot 19 of the game apparatus 1 may receive or discharge the memory card 7 such as an SD memory card. The card slot 19 can read or write data from/to the attached memory card 7. In the present example embodiment, the game apparatus 1 is able to read out the first basic program 24 or the second basic program stored in the memory card 7 through the card slot 19, and to store the read-out program in the first memory 11 or the internal HDD 13. This can realize, for example, version upgrade of the first basic program 24 and the second basic program 25. It is to be noted that the version upgrade of a program may be realized by downloading a program from the server apparatus 9 through the communication unit 15.
As for mediums to play games, perhaps we will see HDD-only and disc-only models, plus one or more with both devices:
 The first basic program 24 and the second basic program 25 executed by the processor 10 of the game apparatus 1 according to the present example embodiment is configured to operate in the game apparatus 1 of the hardware configuration illustrated in FIG. 1, while operating also in a game apparatus with a hardware configuration different from the above. The first basic program 24 and the second basic program 25 also operate in, for example, a game apparatus including an optical disk drive or a game apparatus not including the internal HDD 13.
 Accordingly, for the first basic program 24 or the second basic program 25, multiple processing routines are provided corresponding to multiple kinds of hardware configurations. For example, as multiple processing routines, a processing routine for reading in a device driver for the internal HDD 13 and a processing routine for reading in a device driver for the optical disk drive can be provided. For example, as processing routines for reading out the game program 26, a processing routine for reading out from the internal HDD 13 and a processing routine for reading out from an optical disk drive are provided. These are mere examples and other processing routines corresponding to various hardware configurations may also be provided.
[Source]:US Patent & Trademark Office: STATIONARY GAME APPARATUS, GAME APPARATUS, GAME SYSTEM, RECORDING MEDIUM AND SPEED CONTROL METHOD.
[Via]: Nintendo Everything: Nintendo patent filed for stationary game console without optical disk.