After being accused of being biased toward Microsoft the other day it got me thinking about which platform I prefer and the truth is I don’t particularly have a preference. The reason for that is each system has its own unique experiences that serve as the reason you should flock to it instead of rival versions. For this reason I buy every system that comes out and do my best to stay up on each platform’s offerings.
That being said, I will admit to a particular fondness for Nintendo. It’s a nostalgia I’m giddy to relive every time I decide to pop in a cartridge instead of a disc for my gaming fix. But the big N has been taking some hits lately and they’re not completely invalidated fanboy squabbles either, but legitimate missteps that are raising eyebrows everywhere from gamers to investors.
So why am I worried about the future? Well, for starters…
Nintendo Focuses Too Much on Games
Yes, this is technically a good thing but at the same time no it’s not. The gaming landscape has changed in that consumers demand more from their consoles than they ever have from indie games to service offerings that weren’t even dreamed about 10 years ago. However, Nintendo hasn’t done the best job keeping up with this demand because it has always focused more completely on gaming than any of the other systems and it makes sense when you think about it.
Microsoft and Sony each have a variety of other divisions and interests to leverage in their respective consoles such as music, movies, and apps. Nintendo however only appears to offer such things as requested by its userbase, such as Netflix but generally speaking they’ve stayed firmly within the arena of making games which is great for the people who want their manufacturers to remain focused in that direction, but to investors and consumers who want to completely maximize their entertainment experience regardless of what that entertainment is Nintendo’s narrow focus hurts them. In fact, if Nintendo can survive this generation it will be because gamers refused to let it falter.
However, Nintendo has softened its stance a bit with the Wii U by providing things like video chat and improved TV functionality, but is it too little too late? We’ll have to see. Speaking of the Wii U.
Developers and Publishers Are Fleeing from the Wii U Like it’s Cursed
It seems like every day I look at my feed reader (Yes, I still use one of those) there’s another publisher who’s pledging not to support the Wii U. This seemed like less of an issue in the last generation because the gap in graphics meant most ports didn’t look as nice but they were totally functional plus there were plenty of great first party titles keeping the Wii moving strong. While Nintendo had a decent E3 showing and is finally getting into gear with its lineup, even Nintendo die-hards are going to start finding that the experiences they want simply won’t be available on the Wii U and once they get a taste of the experiences the competition is churning out, it could hurt Nintendo further.
The Wii U’s Gimmick Isn’t Good Enough
I love my Wii U. Even with the lack of games during its launch window I’d enjoyed ZombiU immensely (until I couldn’t play it anymore, anyways). But the Wii U gamepad doesn’t have the drawing power of the original Wii’s motion controls. Nintendo made a bold play for the casual gaming market with the Wii and it paid off richly as people flocked to pick one up and Nintendo was the only console manufacturer making a profit off of their hardware which nearly never happens. The graphics weren’t the greatest but it didn’t matter because:
A)Hardcore gamers were happy to be stepping into the FUTURE with (What we thought would be)1:1 motion controls and
B)Casual gamers didn’t know any better and didn’t care about graphics and were just happy to have an approachable bowling experience without having to endure that weird dollar bill smell at their local alley.
This time around, however, the casual market’s likely content to just keep playing their original Wii and the hardcore market segment isn’t being fulfilled with games quickly enough to support their purchase of the Wii U system. Walk into any local retailer and I promise you’ll find Wii U’s in bountiful supply.
Nintendo’s Hubris is Costing Them
While Nintendo’s online marketplace experience has finally approached passable, it’s insane to think that it’s taken this long and that even after all of this time it’s only passable. From 2006-2012 when Nintendo was making Bill Gates money, it should’ve been re-investing in research and ensuring their online platform was not only robust and easily navigable but that it was flush with content for us to, you know, BUY things.
Instead they squandered all of that money and precious R&D time on coke and furry orgies at the Nintendo HQ, probably while wearing a variety of Mario themed hats. Alright, I’ll admit I’m not certain that I understand Japan culturally and none of that likely happened but the fact remains Nintendo doesn’t have an excuse for its phoning-it-in online system after literally enjoying an entire generation of Scrooge McDuck money that could’ve made the difference.
Speaking of phoning it in…
Nintendo Is Underestimating the Mobile Threat
Why do we play Nintendo handhelds? Is it for the hardware?
Maybe a little, but not entirely because it’s the games more than anything that make these companies viable in the video games industry. It’s right there in the name see? VIDEO GAMES. If you give me a waffle maker that’ll play a mean game of Pong I’m gonna play it.
If you give me a wafflemaker that’ll play a mean game of Pong I’m gonna play it.
The fact is the casual market they successfully tapped into with the Wii is out there walking around, and now are running around playing games that were once technological marvels like GTA3 on their phones for 99-cents a pop. I’d rather see Nintendo preemptively make the leap and do something for the fans rather than see such a move occur late in the game as a shameful act of desperation. The move to mobile doesn’t have to be a concession of failure, but rather it can be a grand opportunity to show Nintendo is agile enough to adapt with to advances in technology and emerging platforms.
What do you think? Will Nintendo be able to make it through this tough time or are we seeing the beginning of its Dreamcast era?