Over the past few years Nintendo has gone through something of a difficult patch. The Wii, though incredibly successful, was seen as something of a novelty by many in the press and by supposed hardcore gamers who often looked down at it. Furthermore, their most recent console, the Wii U, has proven to be a flop thus far. This has led to calls by some radicals that Nintendo should perhaps forgo the hardware business that they have continued for so long and move solely into creating software for other consoles. Some have even gone as far as to proclaim that Nintendo is no longer relevant and will sooner or later bow out of the industry due to an inability to compete with the likes of Sony and Microsoft. This article though will argue that not only should Nintendo ensure that they remain an important part of the industry, it is vital that they do for gamers around the world.
The Nintendo 64 was largely seen as a success for the Japanese company, with the console selling well and gathering a strong and dedicated fanbase, but in truth it marked the moment when third-party publishers began to stop prioritizing Nintendo consoles for their multiplatform titles. While many different developers would still go on to release their games on Nintendo consoles, Nintendo began to rely more heavily on first and second-party games for success than ever before. Almost all of the most successful titles that have released on the Nintendo 64 and later systems have been games developed by Nintendo themselves or through very close partnerships with the publisher. That is easy to see just by looking at the sales numbers that point to titles such as Super Mario World, Wii Sports or Pokemon.
That has meant that since that time, Nintendo have focused instead on creating games and systems that put a greater emphasis on their own strengths. Although that has worked well with in some cases, the Nintendo DS and Wii for example, it has meant that they have been seen as a lesser rival to Sony and Microsoft and have somewhat diminished in stature in the gaming industry amongst hardcore gamers. That has been most poignant recently with the failure of the Wii U.
The exact reasons for the failure of the Wii U are something that cannot be pinpointed to just a few shortcomings. The strange choice of name that failed to differentiate it from its predecessor effectively certainly played a part in causing confusion among consumers, while its lack of processing power and capabilities compared to its rivals was also a major factor. However, long-time Nintendo fans will have still likely have bought into the new console and allowed those problems to not affect them so much if the Wii U had not launched with such a lack of high quality titles. Apart from a number of multiplatform games, a variety of uninspired first-party titles and a Mario game that was far too similar to other previous releases, nothing set the Wii U out as a must have. The strength of Nintendo has always been its high quality first-party and second-party games but the gaming giant simply took too long to get enough of them to the market.
Even considering all of that though, it is vitally important that Nintendo do not, as some people wish, simply pack up shop and bow out of the industry as a whole or even change their emphasis to become simply a publisher that only creates software. This though would be a huge mistake, not just for fans of Nintendo but for the industry as a whole. Nintendo are still a major player and its thanks in part to them that the gaming industry has grown so much in the last two decades. Besides they also continue to bring plenty to the table and in many cases they provide things that are important but not offered by other console makers.
One of the biggest advantages with Nintendo and their consoles and games is that they put a large emphasis on social gaming that many others do not. With the advance of online multiplayer, games that release on Xbox and PlayStation consoles generally do not cater for those who want to play with their friends in the same room. Meanwhile, Nintendo has traditionally offered plenty of titles that put the emphasis on sharing the experience with those around you. Games such as Mario Kart, WarioWare, Mario Party, Wii Sports and Super Smash Bros. are prime examples. While other games on other systems do sometimes keep this type of audience in mind, Rock Band for example, Nintendo is generally the only publisher who sees it as an important market.
Linked into that point is the fact that Nintendo has put a lot of effort in creating games that are not only social but are fun for the entire family. It is difficult for any developer to craft a title that can appeal to a broad range of ages and interest without making the game either too difficult for the younger players or too childish for the older. Again, Nintendo are leaders in this area and it is something that neither Microsoft or Sony have managed to get right consistently through their various console releases.
Another vital aspect of Nintendo that demonstrates how much they are needed is through the quality of their games. Whether it be on their portable systems or home consoles, the company also ensures that their software is to a high standard before it reaches the consumer. Of course there will always be bugs and glitches that make it through development, but there has never been a situation whereby a Nintendo game has suffered from the types of problems that have plagued recent releases such as Battlefield 4, Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Assassin’s Creed Unity. All too often, new games are releasing as broken products that leave players having to wait for patches. It is a problem that has become worse over the last few years and yet Nintendo have continuously ensured that their released titles are finished products when they hit store shelves. They are ensuring that gamers know developers and publishers can do better than they have recently, demonstrating that it is still possible to release games that work out of the box.
One more reason for why it is important that Nintendo stays around is because they offer something unique compared to Sony and Microsoft. The Xbox and PlayStation systems are not just gaming consoles, they are entertainment machines that are designed to cater for all of your needs, from music to television and movies. Nintendo though have a far narrower emphasis that helps them to create unique hardware and software by not being enveloped in other needs. It is not just this distinctiveness that it is important though, the difference experience offered by Nintendo is vital competition in a market that gives players more choice. It also forces other manufacturers to consider other options that they might not if the company was no longer a part of the industry.
Perhaps most significantly of all though, Nintendo has continually innovated throughout its existence in the video game industry. From the likes of introducing ways to save progress on a home console, to virtual reality and the adoption of the d-pad system that endures to this day, the Japanese firm have constantly brought through new ideas that have had a massive influence on gaming as a whole. Sure, some of their innovations didn’t work out. But that is part of the risk that is needed for new ideas to take hold. For every failure, as with the VirtualBoy, there are huge successes that have become standards or introduced new ways of playing games, as with motion control on the Wii.
The future is certainly looking brighter for Nintendo. The 3DS has continued to sell well and is the market leader in mobile even if it has not been as popular as Nintendo first hopes. The Wii U still has a long way to go before being able to be called a success, however the recent releases of games such as Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, Bayonetta 2 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, along with other upcoming titles including A new Legend of Zelda game, Mario Maker, Splatoon and Yoshi’s Wooly World mean that the company is providing more and more reasons for long time fans and new gamers to buy the console.
Nevertheless, even if the Wii U continues to fail commercially, it would still be wrong to write of Nintendo or to consign them to the trash. For all of those reasons outlined above, the company is still a vital part of the industry by driving innovation, creating unique experiences that others cannot match and by showing others how they should develop their own games.