Friday, February 7, 2014


Oh, bro. Come on.

Tsk, tsk, tsk Nintendo. What happened to you? You used to be cool. If someone were to tell me 15 years ago that Nintendo would be creating what is essentially the new Dreamcast, I'd say "You're out of your damned mind. Go home! You're drunk..." And here we are today. How the mighty have fallen. Let's go back about 30 years shall we?
Back in the 1983 we had the storied and now legendary "Video Game Industry Crash". There were approximately 60 gazillion consoles saturating the market. Grassroots developers were spewing out shoddy, hastily developed games like the infamous "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial". The entire ordeal left dozens of developers bankrupt and several consoles went the way of the dodo. Back then, video games weren't the staple of popular culture that they are now. It was a niche market, and it was completely feasible that it could disappear forever. Enter Nintendo.
Emerson Arcadia... wut...?
The Nintendo Entertainment System hit the scene in the U.S. in 1985 and things started to turn around. Not only was it a powerful system with impressive specs, but the quality of its games were unparalleled. Marios and Zeldas and Contras, oh my! Sega would challenge them shortly after by one-upping them with the Genesis, but Nintendo returned fire with the Super NES. While there were rivalries in the video game business in the past, none were as fierce and storied as the Genesis/SNES rivalry. Both of these consoles were true gamers' consoles, and they constantly fought for supremacy, making us, the gamers, all winners. The SNES's library of games was probably the greatest collection of games ever put together and made it the clear winner of that "war". Then things started to change... Enter Sony.
This time, the Playstation was the gamers' console. While Nintendo was clinging to old cartridge technology, Sony's Playstation was embracing these newfangled disky type thingies called "'CDs". Sony made it very easy for 3rd party developers to cheaply make games for their platform. Because of this, the PS1 has an enormous catalog of games, 1,238 games to Nintendo's 296! Admitedly it was all quantity over quality. But, like the shotgun effect, some were hits. And boy were those hits hits! Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil... new and edgy and in 3D!
oooOOOOoooooo, fancy! CDs and stuff!
Over in Nintendo's camp, the games for the new Nintendo 64 were churning out in much smaller volume, but they had a much higher percentage of hits. Along with the Nintendo staples Starfox, Mario and Donkey Kong, hits like GoldenEye, Perfect Dark and various professional wrestling games were taking the gaming world by storm. However, this is around the time Nintendo stopped playing nice with 3rd party developers
and still hadn't really loosened up regarding gore and language. N64 games are markedly more family friendly than the PS1's.
This only got worse in the next generation and this time it  really showed. The Gamecube was decimated by the Playstation 2 and Microsoft's new Xbox. This time, Nintendo had the technically weakest console in comparison to its competitors. And now that there were TWO options for developers besides Nintendo, it was much smarter financially to make games for the more developer-friendly consoles in the Xbox and PS2. Gamers often viewed the Gamecube as "for kids", which wasn't helped by Nintendo's line of games for the system. Gamers were getting older, the adult gamer was a large demographic now. They were starting to get a bit tired of another Mario game, another Zelda game and another Smash Bros. game.
Nintendo decided to do something different. For the next generation, Nintendo developed the Wii. Once again, Nintendo had the weakest hardware and lacked 3rd party hardware support, but this time they geared it towards a different fan. Nintendo made the genius move of appealing to the untapped casual gamer market. Now mothers, fathers, little sisters, great uncles and the family hamster could join in the fun. For a while this worked great. Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Wii This, Wii That. This, coupled with the Wii's lower price point, put Nintendo right back on top. Or did it?
Yeah, how'd that work out for you?
After a few years, the mothers, the great uncles and yes, even ol' Chip the hamster were losing interest. After all, they're casual gamers and their interests lie elsewhere. After a couple of years they migrated away to smartphones for games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush. To be fair, there was no way for Nintendo to predict that. So what was left for the rest of us "true" gamers? A weak system, lacking in high definition graphics and a library games made for kids. Gamers flocked to the competitors for edgy, hi-tech hits like Halo, Gears of War and Uncharted. Nintendo, meanwhile, was releasing yet another Mario game. Eventually, Nintendo tried to play catch up and released the Wii U. And here we are today.
Not much has changed; the Wii U is still the technically weakest system, it's still a nightmare for 3rd party developers to make games for them and they're still releasing yet ANOTHER Mario game and yet ANOTHER Zelda game. Don't misunderstand me, Nintendo still makes very high quality games, and there's nothing inherently wrong with the Wii or the Wii U. However, when is the last time Nintendo created a new IP? It seems that all they've made for the last 10 years is Marios and different Wii sports. By the end of the Wii's run, there was a pretty bad stigma surrounding the Wii name, so instead of distancing itself from that name, they call the next console the Wii U? Most people probably think it's just a Wii peripheral (of which there are many).
While the folks at Nintendo clearly love videos games, I think they're a bit detached from reality. They need to do something to compete. The Wii U is a flop, they admit that at least. They've lost vast amounts of dough for three years straight now. Luckily, they have a huge cash pile from the Wii's short heyday, but I can't imagine that will last much longer.
Some are calling for Nintendo to either A) Let 3rd parts devs make games based on Nintendo IPs (Bethesda made Zelda?) or B) Allow Nintendo games to be released for other platforms (including mobile). While these might help, I can't realistically see Nintendo doing this... yet. One interesting idea that's been thrown in the mix is for Nintendo to make a Netflix for video games. Good idea! One low monthly fee and bam! Access to Nintendo's entire library. Personally though, I feel Nintendo should wipe its hands clean of the Wii U, cut their losses, and make a new exciting system. One that can compete. Overhaul your sorry excuse for 3rd party support and get back in there! This is shaping up to be an interesting generation.

Did you enjoy this article? If so, and you enjoy reading about gaming news, reviews and culture, please subscribe!

No comments:

Post a Comment