Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Is Nintendo Truly Doomed and Should They Really Go Third Party?

Here we are at the beginning of another Nintendo console and once again, there has been an overwhelming flood of negativity with people predicting the "End of Nintendo!" Having been a fan of the company for a LONG time, I have watched their stumbles and missteps as well as their triumphs and when you consider the big picture it becomes clear that the company is doing just fine. Here's the real truth of Nintendo in raw numbers:

Nintendo Home Consoles (Worldwide)
  • Nintendo Entertainment System - 61.91 Million
  • Super Nintendo - 49.10 Million
  • Nintendo 64 - 32.93 Million
  • Gamecube - 21.74 Million
  • Nintendo Wii - 99 Million (and still counting)
  • Nintendo Wii U - 3 Million (and still counting)
Nintendo Handhelds (Worldwide)
  • Game Boy (GB, GBC) - 118.69 Million
  • Game Boy Advance (GBA, GBA SP) - 81.51 Million
  • Nintendo DS (DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL) - 154 Million (and still counting)
  • Nintendo 3DS (3DS, 3DS XL) - 28 Million (and still counting)
As you can see, the situation isn't nearly as dire as the mainstream gaming press makes it out to be. Of all systems produced by Nintendo over the last 30 years, their most successful machines have been released within the last 10 years which isn't too shabby considering that has also been the most negative period of time in terms of gaming press for the legendary company. People don't realize that Nintendo is a video game company and their focus remains on that fact. They employ a much smaller and more focused staff than Sony and Microsoft and maintain a strong set of brands which ONLY they own which means they have given themselves the opportunity to dictate their direction. At this point, the company could release a console which only featured first and second party content and would do just fine. It may not sell the same amount as the Wii but it would do quite well and be profitable for the company. This is not the case for to competition who would be dead in the water without third party games.

Funny thing is, if you look at something such as the PS Vita which has done horribly since its launch, you'll find people who talk about how "it's a shame" and "the hardware is still impressive" but overall a minimal amount of hate when compared to people who are downright venomous in their hatred towards the vastly more successful 3DS with its superior library of games. Even the Playstation 3 gets by relatively unscathed outside of the systems initial pricing at launch versus the Nintendo Wii U which has been dogged by negative reaction from the "mainstream" gaming press since its launch and even before. This is also the most "mainstream" console the company has launched since the SNES in terms of hardware and yet developers have had nothing but excuses as to why they won't bring titles to the machine. Nintendo went out of their way to make the machine powerful enough to handle the biggest titles on PS3 and 360 and we are still seeing company's shun the machine. Even with this situation, Nintendo has wisely focused on two other areas largely ignored by their competitors, Indie game developers and the Japanese market which is helping to set the machine apart from its western driven competitors.

Ironically, unlike past "console wars", the PS3 and Xbox 360 are so homogeneous and similar to each other that you don't see fans of these two groups flaming on each other to the same degree that they rage on Nintendo. They love to hate on Nintendo but will often end their trolling with statements about how Nintendo should follow Sega and become strictly a software publisher. In other words, they don't really hate Nintendo, they just want Nintendo games on their system. What people don't realize is that part of what makes Nintendo games so special is the hardware. If you take a moment to honestly think about games such as the original Legend of Zelda, Goldeneye or Super Smash Bros. Melee, odds are high that images of the NES Console, multiple N64 Controllers and the Gamecube/Wavebird Controller will likely pop into your mind. Nintendo games are perfectly tailored to their original hardware to the point that many still prefer to play things such as the original Mario trilogy on the NES versus the All-Stars SNES version. Put simply, if Nintendo leaves the hardware business then a great deal of the magic in their games will go with it and that will truly be the saddest day for the industry. This would also leave Sony without a big innovative competitor to copy their ideas from.

The thing to bare in mind with these predictions and articles from analysts and professional journalists is that they don't see things beyond money and current trends. The touch focus of the Nintendo DS was mocked endlessly as a gimmick in the beginning but I dare you to look at your phone and imagine if it would be the same if Nintendo's little dual screen machine hadn't taken the old touch screen tech and made it mainstream? Many will claim that I am giving Nintendo far to much credit but try looking back and see how Nintendo takes simple existing tech and works it into their game design resulting in mainstream success for that tech. From analog sticks and force feedback to touch screens and motion control, Nintendo has been the one to bring these old technology's to the mainstream public and make them popular. To close this article out, when Nintendo bucks the mainstream the company prospers and the industry is better as a whole.

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