With the impending new consoles of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 coming out. I got to thinking where is Nintendo in all of this? At one point I remember them to be innovators in the gaming industry. Back in the day they brought us gaming systems and games that had other companies scrambling to try and catch up. Today? I think of my Wii boxed away in my closet and wonder What the Hell Happened to Nintendo?
Before I get started let me clarify that I truly love Nintendo as a gaming company and their games. I’ve been playing Nintendo games for over 20 years in fact! This article is more of a cry for them to get their heads out of the sand and start doing something or they will be gone forever. So the Nintendo fan boys and girls? If you think I’m wrong – please let me know in the comments below.
Nintendo has been around for over 20 years. They stayed on top for a long time. Here are some of the wins that made Nintendo great.
Nintendo Entertainment System
When this was released way back in 1985 and it absolutely smoked everything that was out for the home market back then. Its Grey box with the flip up lid, the virtually indestructible controllers, and the gigantic game paks were perfectly designed for kids. Nintendo made it a point to stand out from older systems that had tricked users with crazy graphics on the packaging – only to be let down when they actually sat down to play the game. It has an impressive list of titles to go with the release. A few of them that I remember were: Super Mario Bro., Excitebike, Duck Hunt, Pinball, Hogan’s Heroes, and Wild Gunman. Of course who doesn’t remember the “Konami Code” from Contra?
Did you have the Robotic Operating Buddy with your Nintendo? Hell, me either but there was at least one kid on the block who did! And we all thought it was the coolest thing we ever saw while playing a video game. Although looking back on it now – it was a very simple device. There were only one or two games that it could be used with. Nintendo could have sold us just about anything back then though and we would’ve been screaming at our parents to buy it though.
The Light Gun
Before video game violence was a real concern in the world? We were able to shoot bad guys and ducks to our hearts content. The Light Gun not only looked pretty cool it actually worked! I remember playing for hours on Duck Hunt and having a blast.
Who remembers blowing on their cartridges to get them to work in the console? The SNES arrived on the shelves back in 1991. Although it wasn’t as popular as the Sega Genesis it still held its own selling over 23 million consoles in the U.S. alone. It had an updated slimmer look from the original NES box. Still having the same grey with purple highlights and the “roundy” controllers. It brought a ton of great 16 bit titles: Super Mario World, F-Zero, Donkey Kong Country series, Street Fighter II and Starfox. It was such a big success that they didn’t stop producing the console until 2000!
Source: Wikipedia – Super Nintendo
Nintendo GameBoy Series
Whether it was the original Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advanced, or the Nintendo DS – Nintendo brought true portable gaming to the masses. First released in 1989 it was big grey and clunky. But you could play games like Tetris on it! With future revisions it was able to get smaller, lighter, with better graphics. Even though there are other portable game systems like the PlayStation Vita? There is pretty much no rival for the Nintendo Gameboy series. Why?
One Word: Pokemon
Need I say more?
Source: Wikipedia – Gameboy
This was by far probably one of the best consoles I ever owned. Released back in 1996 At the time it was insane what Nintendo was able to do with 3D Polygon graphics. And the games were amazing! You had titles like Super Mario 64, Zelda, and of course GoldenEye. The other awesome thing was the ability to play a 4 player game match although that presented its own problems if you only had a 19″ television.
The only thing I hated about the console? The controller. It was just plain goofy – and you ended up using the analog stick for most of the games you ended up playing so it felt like you had two controllers in your hand but only were using one of them. Other than that it was great!
The Nintendo Game Cube was released in Nov 2001 for the U.S. I always thought that the Game Cube was weird. It was this small purple box that played a mini DVD instead of a Cartridge. Nintendo learned from its N64 days and improved the controller to more closely match what players are expecting (namely due to the PlayStation and Xbox), and had an impressive game library with not only their own brands with Super Mario Bros., Zelda, and Pikman. It also had exclusives from the Resident Evil series, brought us Super Mario Smash Brothers, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II, and a new look at the Metroid series with Metroid: Prime. It was also the first Nintendo system to introduce the ability to add the ability to play online – though it was never really implemented very well.
Want to Read More: NintendoLife: Remembering the GameCube
Source: Wikipedia – Game Cube
I remember when the Nintendo Wii was released originally in 2006. I thought “What Dark Magic is This?” No way is this going to take off. Next thing I know I’m wildly waving a controller around and praying I didn’t knock someone out with it! Although it was competing with the Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 3 it was still able to keep up and sell a LOT of consoles. With its innovative approach of immersing players with the use of the wireless game stick and “nun-chuck” accessory – it brought playing video games to a whole different level. Instead of sitting on your couch wiggling your thumbs for hours -you actually had to get up and physically move to play on the Wii.
This console has outsold both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Why? Well it was a lot cheaper than purchasing an Xbox or PS3. It hit a lot broader demographic from the young to the old and a lot of people who didn’t play video games jumped on board to play it. It has a more “interactive” feel to it. And though it has now been surpassed by Microsoft’s Kinnect at the time it was something truly different and innovative.
Although this was one of Nintendo’s largest successes it also brought about the beginning of their downfall.
Nintendo has had a quite long string of great products. But now? There are a few fails.
This was released to the U.S. in 1995 and cost $180.00! You stuck your face into the goggles setup on a tripod to get a true “3D Experience”. The problem with it? It was way to expensive and it was frankly – junk. It was unwieldy to use, overly expensive for what you got out of the box, and it was difficult to play due to how you had to use the device. Nintendo quickly ditched this piece of hardware quickly and quietly.
The only reason why this is on the fail list? Is the fact that Nintendo isn’t getting with the times. Smartphones and Tablets are taking over the portable gaming market. Having a dedicated gaming device is quickly going the way of the Dodo bird. Its a great piece of hardware and I love what they have done with it. But for around the same price I could get an iPod touch which allows me to play alot of games for free. Not to mention a tablet like the Kindle Fire HD? That is starting out at $199.99 and I can get my son to play on a larger screen and play some educational games as well!
So its on the fail list as Nintendo seems to be not quite in touch with the times – they need to stop and re-think what they are doing when it comes to portable gaming!
The Wii U
It is time for Nintendo to start thinking of the next big thing. The WiiU has only sold an estimated 4 million units worldwide. Of course there are a lot of factors to consider here – economies, its still a new console. But there sales have dropped considerably since its initial release.
Personally, I never bought into the WiiU to begin with. I didn’t like the fact that they didn’t really update the hardware all that much. And the gigantic tablet/controller was off-putting to begin with.
But, Isn’t Nintendo Profitable?
Sure they are at the moment. But continuing to re-hash old ideas, re-inventing the same games, presenting products consumers are starting to replace with mobile alternatives. They are going to quickly become the next Blackberry or Nokia. (Source: IGN)
How Can Nintendo Fix It?
If Nintendo doesn’t sit down and really think of a game plan they won’t have a chance to make it in today’s market. These are just some ideas of how I think they could re-dominate the market:
Get Out of the Hardware Business?
If they can’t think of a way to become the forefront in the race of the consoles quick they need to just get out of it. Nintendo needs to think of something that not only directly competes with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 but blows them out of the water. Unfortunately looking at the WiiU doesn’t hold much hope for me that they can do that. If they do decide to do another console? It should at have the following:
- A Universal Environment – This means people get the same experience whether they are on the console, Nintendo 3DS/2DS, or even from smartphone or tablets.
- Better Hardware and Graphics – They need to bite the bullet and actually invest in the hardware. The nostalgic approach isn’t working anymore. They will need to have specs that match or exceed what is currently going to be on the market.
- Better Line of Titles and Exclusives – This is the tough one as Microsoft and SONY already have a niche on this. And I mean something other than Super Mario Bros., Zelda, and Pokemon. If Nintendo builds something that can compete with SONY and Microsoft – they could see gaming developers willing to start porting games to their system.
Get Rid of Their Portable Systems?
Well since they are introducing the Nintendo 2DS? They might be able to squeeze a little more out of the portable market. But after this one I think it might be wise to re-think their portable gaming business. Smartphones and Tablets are taking over this market quickly.
Join the Mobile Gaming Market
Start partnering with Apple and Google to start releasing some titles for their smartphones and tablets. Make some exclusive titles with the brands they have today. Even if they created official ports of their older titles I know they would do great. If they start doing this now even on a small scale – by the time an actual transition is needed (if ever) then they are well ahead of the game instead of behind it.
Work with SONY or Microsoft?
I would consider this their last ditch effort. The other option they have is to become just a game developer/publisher and focus on producing great games again. Ditch all of their hardware and start working with SONY or Microsoft. Or work with both? Either way this could become a viable option. The only problem with this is the fact that this would affect their net worth, employees, and just about everything for Nintendo.
I know its not all doom and gloom. The WiiU is still young. The Wii is still selling consoles. The 3DS still sold 13 million units. So its not like they are quite into Nokia or Blackberry territory yet. I just really hope they have something big planned soon.
What do you think though? Leave me a comment with your thoughts about the future of Nintendo.