Nintendo in Need of Help?

Its almost impossible to find a game criticism site that doesn’t have an article about Nintendo’s current state of affairs. Whether to state outright that Nintendo is failing or to give ideas on how Nintendo could improve, several outlets have given their opinion about Nintendo, especially given their recent back and forth in regards to the mobile platform. I’ve grazed over a few of them but they are all ultimately the same article. Every one gives details and facts about the WiiU being a financial failure and how, in their opinion, Nintendo can get back on top. Leigh Alexander made a post at Gamasutra about why people are so invested in Nintendo. In it, she ends with, “I hope the company will keep surprising us, keep triumphing, like a tiny hero running sideways along a line in an eternity of pits and its platforms. Like a speck of our childhood adventuring onward, sword in hand.” This is when I realized that the “impending doom” for Nintendo seems to be a regional opinion as Nintendo always surprises gamers, just not always on a global scope.

While the Wii U is definitely not doing as well as Nintendo had hoped, the 3DS is dominating sales in Japan. Half of the top selling games for the last couple of weeks are 3DS titles. Last week the 3DS broke 15 million units sold in Japan alone. Unlike in the US where consoles and games are treated as children’s toys, most adults in Japan own a portable gaming device. Monster Hunter 4 and Pokemon X&Y each have a 1:5 attachment rate for 3DS selling 3.2mil and 3.9mil respectively. If these numbers are indicative of Nintendo going under then I wish every company could go under.

The other aspect is that Nintendo hasn’t hit home with the “traditional” gamer in the US in quite some time. The N64 was the last system that really seemed to dominate its opposition. The Gamecube, while having a good 1st and 2nd party library, always seemed to be tied in second place with the XBOX. Granted, some place one over the other but neither where anywhere near the PS2. The lunchbox design, lack of a 4th shoulder button, and unorthodox button placement made it immediately stick out from the “modern” design on the XBOX and Ps2 controllers. The Wii decided to take this idea of being different and run with it. The Wii was a financial success as well as a perfect example of gaming breaking outside of the walls of “video gaming” and introducing society to fun, simple, intuitive games. This very idea of being all inclusive is what made it excluded from “hardcore” gaming circles. While it did garner extreme success for what it did, it didn’t do what was popular at the time: HD graphics, social media, and an unhealthy obsession with shooters. The franchises that we all loved also needed to adapt which made some traditional gamers avoid those games as well, just look at the arguments over which Twilight Princess is the definite version. Nintendo’s consoles just haven’t synced up with the evolving “hardcore” western audience. Even Sony did a lot of revamping of the PS3’s software to keep up with the western ideals. Simple additions like Trophies, Social Media, and tons of western only streaming apps were added in an attempt to make the PS3 relevant stateside.

I can’t disagree that the Wii U isn’t doing great, but I can’t see that it is doing horribly either. I would say that it will do about the same as the Gamecube. The real issue is that people are comparing it to the Wii, which I’m going to say right here, was a lucky shot in the dark for Nintendo. It was a gamble, aiming to bring in “non-gamers” instead of appeasing an already existing crowd, and it worked fantastically. Really, the opinions that Nintendo is doing poorly are only relevant when viewing recent events too far zoomed in. Increasing scope, both in time and region, will grant a different view of things.

*UPDATE* I just read an article at GameIndustry with information that analysts are forecasting the Wii U to have lifetime sales around the same as the Gamecube. While I didn’t have any calculations to back up my assertion to this prediction, DFC Intelligence does.

*UPDATE 2* It occurred to me today that the Wii U is experiencing a similar early life as the Dreamcast. Both were released a year before their competition, both exhibited new ways to play, both had solid early adoption sales, and both had a quickly diminishing sales after the release of their competition. History suggests that the Wii U will be the fall of Nintendo, representing it’s final console before they become software only and being making terrible Mario games 😉

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