The Nintendo Problem: It’s Sink or Swim Time

The Nintendo Problem: It’s Sink or Swim Time

Nintendo has a bit of a black cloud over their head at the moment. A substantial little black cloud that constantly rains on them with giant hailstones and every so often forks a lightning bolt straight towards the backside of Nintendo executives, all in the name of making them jump off their backsides and get back to being the Nintendo we all knew and loved.

See, Nintendy is falling on hard times right now. The 3DS is not selling, and as such has had to have a price cut of a third in just the fourth month of its release. The Wii has been left out to dry by Nintendo this year, who are banking on Zelda being basically their only big IP. The reception towards Wii U has been mixed at best, with many expressing concern that the console isn’t stepping firmly away from Wii territory like we first hoped.  Coupled with all this, Nintendo recently announced that their losses for this year are substantial, so much so that many Nintendo executives are having to take pay cuts. It all begs the question: what happened Nintendo?

A History Lesson

When you talk about gaming in the modern climate, there are three clear names. Microsoft. Sony. Nintendo. All three of these are seen to be almost untouchable – they’re essentially so popular, in the eyes of many, that they’re safe for all eternity. Alas, this is not true, as history shows us that, despite enjoying massive success once upon a time, a gaming company can, and will, be forced eventually to withdraw from the hardware market.

I refer of course to Sega. If you’re a recent gamer – IE you didn’t go through the SNES era etc – you may not be aware that, once upon a time, Sega was one of the most popular names in gaming. They actually used to make gaming consoles, and were essentially Nintendo’s biggest rival during the SNES era.  The Sega Megadrive (Genesis if you live in Americaland) was one of the most popular gaming consoles of the 90’s, enjoying huge success and spawning forth classic games such as Sonic, Streets of Rage and the eternally terrifying Ecco the Dolphin.  Alas, poor Sega hit hard times with the Dreamcast and Sega Saturn after that; the two devices weren’t very well received due to extreme competition from new boy The Playstation and also Nintendo’s Nintendy 64 console. Sega therefore found itself at a crossroads, and was forced to withdraw from videogame console production and instead now acts as a third-party company that brings Sega games to its once biggest rivals.

RIP Sega Consoles

If it happened to Sega, why couldn’t it also happen to Nintendo? You may argue that Nintendo is a lot bigger than Sega ever was, but the fact is that interest is beginning to wane in what Nintendo is doing. It seems as a consumer that Nintendo is taking significant gambles at every turn; the 3DS was nothing if not a gamble, one that, for the moment, has almost crippled Nintendo in terms of financial losses. People aren’t ready to make the jump into 3D gaming yet – sure, we all love 3D films and stuff, but that’s because its on a huge screen and looks awesome. In comparison, the 3DS has you sit in a rigid position and staring at a screen that more likely than not will cause your eyes to throb and scream in protest after around twenty minutes of hardcore staring. Yep, Nintendo took a gamble with it and was trying to ride the current 3D obsession – however you have to wonder whether it was perhaps one of the worst decisions Nintendo has actually made in recent memory, and how badly its going to affect them.

Since Nintendo is putting basically all of its eggs firmly in the 3DS basket this year, they may well have shot themselves in the foot. The Wii has been significantly neglected for months now, and Nintendo’s only hope of salvaging it in a global sense lies with Zelda: Skyward Sword. Yes, this game will sell well. Its Zelda, for gods sake. However as a gaming company, Nintendo cannot afford to rely entirely on one IP for an entire year of sales. In comparison, Microsoft and Sony both have a slew of original and third party content coming out this year, each of which is going to drive their sales absolutely through the roof and up into the strausphere where they will be found orbiting the earth for at least a while to come.

Rebuilding the Foundations of Gamer Trust

Let’s face it, a lot of people became soured on Nintendo about a year into the Wii’s life cycle. The term casual gaming was spawned forth and isntantly became a dirty word associated with the little white box, which was accused of shovelling poor, family-oriented gaming titles down our throats while leaving the hardcore component of gamers standing by the side of the road, scratching their heads and going ‘duh’?  Five years in, and Nintendo’s Wii hasn’t seen a significant hardcore game for absolutely ages. Instead you can bask in Zumba Fitness, some carnival games, and perhaps even a Peppa Pig adventure.

Just Keep Digging, Just Keep Digging…

I understand why Nintendo wanted to focus on the casual market – it’s lucrative and vast. However, in the process they have alienated those who loved Nintendo in the first place, and trust has waned significantly between gamers and Nintendo. The gamer no longer trusts Nintendo to keep up with a steady stream of original, quality content – instead they’re convinced that more shovelware will be on the horizon, and as such, have given a wide birth to the highly-priced 3DS, completely unsold on the 3D and not convinced the software coming out will be actually worth purchasing.

Let us not also forget the significant fallout from Operation Rainfall either, where Nintendo is not to bring highly desirable Wii titles the Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles and the Pandora’s Tower overseas to a highly demanding American Wii audience. They want games Nintendo; by not giving them the stuff they want, you’re only eroding the trust even further. The Wii cannot survive solely on Zelda, and something needs to be done, fast.

Only time will tell what the future lies for Nintendo, but I’m hoping they turn things around and get out of this slump. There’s just something not right about potentially seeing Mario on the Playstation – it could happen Nintendo, if you let it.

What do you think about the Nintendo problem? Are they still on track or descending into a pit of doom? Tell us!



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