Opinion: Is Nintendo Backing Themselves Into a Corner?
This year has been a bad one for Nintendo.
While they seemed happy to coast on the profits of the DS (which is the most popular handheld of all time) and the Wii (which is the most popular console of this generation) for yet another year, the lack of innovation and (to be frank) initiative they have showed in developing new IP’s seems to have set them back.
The exception to this being the 3DS, which attempted to make a success (like most Nintendo consoles theses days) by providing a portable platform for classic (mostly N64) era games. But, as almost anyone could of told them, you can’t build a fanbase for a console on remakes alone. You need some fresh franchises. In other words, to make an omelette you need to break a few eggs.
Why are we talking about this? Well Nintendo announced today that it is down 70 billion yen.
But wait, who cares about yen? That’s like Monopoly money right? Let’s see what that is in real money.
Oh, it’s only $875 million dollars American. Wait… what?
That’s right, the company that virtually dominated the games market off the back of the Wii for so long (and with so few games, seriously the Wii has had maybe 8 hard hitters to date) has somehow managed to squander all that money launching a handheld with an amazing gimmick and nothing to try it on.
As if reducing the price of the 3DS less than 6 months after loss wasn’t embarrassing enough.
I’ve had my Nintendo rants before, and I’ll summarise my view once again:
Nintendo is a great company who make great games, not unlike Sega. And much like Sega, they need to stick to what they are good at. I’m not saying they should stop making consoles (although, if they keep this up that’s where it is heading, they can't afford another GameCube) but they should refocus themselves on making some new game IP’s.
The last new franchise they made was Pikmin, back in 2001.
In short, you can't have a console without games. And that’s exactly what they have tried to sell the last two times. They got lucky with the Wii, which was so inspired that it made do with a few remakes and a couple great sequels. But as the 3DS showed us, that was a fluke – not a business strategy.
So where are the heading? Well it’s simple. They are backing themselves into a corner and hoping beyond hope that the Wii-U (still a stupid name) is yet another Escape Rope to pull them out of debt and distrust and somehow get a one up on the big boys of PC, PS3 and 360.
And to be honest, despite how much I love Nintendo games, I kind of hope it doesn’t.
Wait, let me explain.
I brought up Sega before, and I’ll bring it up again. Sega killed themselves with the Dreamcast, not because it was a bad system. It just was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And as a result we now have Sega making games for Xbox and PlayStation, even for Nintendo. We still have some of the Sega greats like Sonic kicking around without the need to be attached to a series of consoles which frankly, didn’t have much else to offer.
And this, unfortunately, is how I’m beginning to see Nintendo. As a company with a whole host of characters that I love, which are all unfortunately tied to consoles that I hate. Much like how I wish I could play my favourite PlayStation characters on my Xbox, I wish I could play my Nintendo characters on Xbox/Playstation/PC. And if the Wii U fails then this could be a very real possibility.
It’s a dark silver lining I know, and I feel almost guilty thinking about it. But if Nintendo continues to disregard their fanbase by devoting all their time and effort into technologies and not games (when the two are intrinsically linked) then nothing short of a Wii-sized miracle is going to save them again.
Is the Wii-U that miracle? And even if it is, can it save them?
The Wii caught Sony and Xbox with their pants down. It took them two years to accurately respond with the PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect and by then Nintendo had enough money to sit comfortably for a few years.
Well those years are over, and I’m pretty sure Sony and Xbox learned their lesson. I think the honeymoon period (if there even is one) on the Wii U is much more likely to be cut short.
And when that happens (if that happens) Nintendo better have some damn good titles to back up whatever gimmicks they throw in.
If not… well… Zelda on Xbox wouldn’t be so bad.