By: Steve Zachmann, contributor
I hate to say it but I think Nintendo is heading in a bad direction financially. I’ve loved Nintendo since I was a kid, but I feel like some of their long-term choices have ended up backing them into a corner from which I’m not sure they can get out. I think there are a lot of reasons for this, and I think that the writing has been on the wall for a while now.
Hardware and timing.
Nintendo’s hardware choices have been odd for a while now, but more recently the Wii U has presented some really difficult design problems for developers. If you own a Wii U you expect to use that really cool second screen controller that it comes with. The problem is that when developers are deciding what platforms to create their game for, that controller presents a wildly different gaming paradigm. It becomes much more economical to create the game with the very similar PS4 and Xbox One controllers in mind.
The timing of the release of the Wii U also presents a problem. The PS4 and Xbox One have very similar hardware, making it easy for developers to create games that play well on both platforms. Released roughly a year before the other consoles, it’s hardware is significantly less powerful. Like the Wii before it, the Wii U’s hardware constraints make porting games to it significantly more challenging.
Grown up gamers want to play games too. They also want to watch Blu-ray movies. Some of them might also have children. The consoles that Sony and Microsoft provide offer a far better overall value for the average middle-income gamer family. Those consoles offer a much larger range of titles and they can Blu-ray and DVD movies. On the other hand, Nintendo’s console offers no support for Blu-ray or even DVD playback and offers a library decidedly heavy on games oriented for younger players.
Nintendo has no idea how to market anymore, plain and simple. At some point it seems like Nintendo actively stopped paying attention to the fact that gamers grew up and just continued to market all of their major releases towards younger kids. While it’s fine to have mascots like Mario, Kirby, and Donkey Kong, it seems like the only first-party Nintendo property that is even remotely targeted at more mature gamers is the Metroid series.
The problem is that consoles are no longer viewed as children’s toys. The Nintendo generation has grown up and games like Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, and Grand Theft Auto V are more likely to hook us in than the next Mario or Donkey Kong game.
I don’t think gamers actively dislike the kid-friendly games that Nintendo makes, but I don’t think that the average gamer is all that interested anymore either. If Nintendo would introduce two or three new first-party franchises with great games targeted at adult gamers I think that would go a long way in adding value to their system. As it stands now though buying a Wii U means buying a console that’s used to play only kid-friendly games. Mario, Kirby, Link, and Donkey Kong just aren’t different enough from one another. To the average adult gamer they’re all just cute cartoons from childhood.
Nintendo is a great company that makes amazing games, but I think that gamers are passing them by. The sad thing is that it looks like Nintendo is bringing this on themselves. Their unwillingness to adapt to the time we live in has painted them into a corner. While developers like Naughty Dog have allowed their games to mature with their audience, Nintendo seems bound and determined to force gamers to play Mario games forever.
I’m not entirely sure that Nintendo will every actually “die”. If I was a betting man, I’d say that Nintendo will eventually end up being more like Sega. They’ll stop making hardware (although the 3DS is an amazing platform and makes tons of money for them so I could see that continuing), and focus on making amazing games that we can enjoy on other consoles. Honestly, I think that could be a great thing for Nintendo. I personally would buy as many Nintendo developed games as I could afford if I could play them on a PS4 or and Xbox One, I’m just not ready to plunk down $350 for a console that only plays those games.