Returning to Roots

Is it time for Nintendo to return to its roots after a terrible year?

By James Stank. Posted 09/21/2011 15:00 7 Comments     ShareThis

Returning to Roots masthead (James Stank)

These past few weeks and months have been tough for Nintendo and its many fans. The 3DS launch was absolutely terrible, and many announced games were cancelled, including Mega Man Legends 3. The 3DS price was sliced in response, and sales have finally started to pick up. There was the disappointing reveal of Wii U, and then there was the news that Wii U development is not going according to plan, and there have been multiple development kits, each with their own problems. While this was going on, Nintendo’s stock prices were falling through the floor, falling so fast that Nintendo President Satoru Iwata cut his pay in half. Most recently was the Nintendo event prior to the Tokyo Game Show, where Monster Hunter 4 was announced, but not even Monster Hunter could stop Nintendo’s stocks from continuing to fall. It’s evident that Nintendo shareholders are not happy with what they’ve been seeing, and they believe that it’s time for a change.

Following Nintendo’s 3DS event, Iwata got hammered with questions from Japanese newspaper Nikkei, which in fact were very similar to questions that shareholders have been asking him for quite some time now. Of course, the questions were whether Nintendo would start developing for smart phones in the near future. The shareholders believe this is the way to go, but this would mean developing for a different platform, and I’m sure they’re quite aware of that. If Nintendo goes and develops for smart phones, why stop there? Why not develop for PS4 as well? I believe that idea is the one that is in the minds of every major shareholder that wants Nintendo to develop for phones. Essentially they want Nintendo to cut hardware creation from the company and just focus on software. Maybe it would start off small, but as they know, it would eventually lead to Nintendo developing games for different consoles as well. It’s clear that they have lost faith in Nintendo’s ability to make hardware. But hey, I was saying the same thing when 3DS had its priced slashed, and I still believe it. I agree with the shareholders; Nintendo should just make software.

But let’s get back to Satoru Iwata’s answer about whether or not Nintendo would develop for phones; “This is absolutely not under consideration. If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo. Having a hardware development team in-house is a major strength. It’s the duty of management to make use of those strengths. It’s probably the correct decision in the sense that the moment we started to release games on smartphones we’d make profits. However, I believe my responsibility is not to short term profits, but to Nintendo’s mid and long term competitive strength.” Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo. What does that mean? Is Iwata saying that Nintendo wouldn’t be itself if it developed games for different platforms? That certainly seems to be the case, and it’s not true. I am constantly surprised by how little some Nintendo fans know about their favorite company’s history, and it is this same history that Nintendo likes to ignore. Many gamers that I know would think of early (video game) Nintendo as the company that put Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong into arcades, and then put them on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). That thought is partially right; Nintendo did make those games, and it did put them on the NES, but somehow the middle has been cut out.

Are you ready for it? Before Nintendo made the NES, its games came out for other systems. Believe it or not, Nintendo was still Nintendo at this point. What systems did Nintendo games appear on? Well, the Atari 2600, NEC PC-8801, ColecoVision, Intellivision and many more. Now it’s true that many of these games were projects that Nintendo licensed out to other game companies, but not all of them. Nintendo worked with Coleco to bring Donkey Kong to the Atari 2600, and Coleco had little to no involvement in bringing Mario Bros. to the same system. How much of these many games did Nintendo actually have a hand in? That’s anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure, and it’s that at that point, Nintendo had no problem with its games appearing on multiple platforms. Somewhere along the line, Nintendo’s ego got too big. So large in fact, that Nintendo doesn’t even remember its humble beginnings, when they were just another small game company.

Now Nintendo thinks that if it didn’t make hardware, it wouldn’t be Nintendo anymore. I think the company needs to take a step back and think about why people love their company. It shouldn’t be a secret that it’s not because of the hardware. Nintendo’s stupid, mindless hardware decisions, dating back to those dealing with the Nintendo 64, have helped place it in the current situation. It seems that each home console after Super Nintendo has had a major flaw (seemingly now including Wii U), and now a portable, 3DS, has flaws as well. Despite all these flaws, Nintendo was able to deliver some of the greatest games we’ve ever played, on every one of those systems. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for anyone else, and the shareholders know this. They know that Nintendo makes flawed hardware, but incredible games. To them, (and maybe to a lot of people), the solution is simple: quit making hardware and put games on other platforms, like smart phones or consoles.

It’s easy for people to point to all the “doomsday” Nintendo talk and say it has no merit. After all, Wii is still the best selling current generation console not named PlayStation 2, and DS was still one of the most popular consoles of all time. But let’s be honest. Nintendo’s profits are at their lowest since 1985, and I think that is reason to be a little worried. After all, things were pretty dire during GameCube’s cycle, but never this dire. I think that everyone reading this loves Nintendo for its games. Would Nintendo cease to exist if it stopped making hardware? Of course not… unless Nintendo is a bratty kid that gets beaten in a fight to a bigger kid, and later when the bigger kid asks Nintendo if it wants to be friends, Nintendo slaps their hand away. Later, when Nintendo sees that a bunch of its friends are now friends with the big kid, it decides that rather than be friends with everybody, and make everyone happy, that it will be friends with no one, and punish everyone.

I hope you could follow that, because I think it does a decent, albeit weird, depiction of what could happen if Nintendo stops making hardware. Would that happen? I doubt it, since Nintendo needs the money. But a future system not made by Nintendo, for them to develop games on has to be the ideal scenario. Think about it: no more terrible online play, no more crazy ideas every generation, no more friend codes. All Nintendo would have to worry about is making games, and that is what they are best at. “But we need Nintendo to innovate!” Really? How would that be any different for Nintendo making accessories for a different console as well? After all, only Nintendo’s games use them. How many games that are worthwhile use Wii MotionPlus? One, and it’s not even out yet. Last time I went into GameStop, I saw that all PlayStation Move accessories were 50% off. Why? Because motion controlled gaming is/was a fad. You shouldn’t need any more confirmation then to look at Wii U’s controller. Nintendo has moved on to something else yet again.

So would you mind seeing Nintendo games on other consoles? If so, why? The games will still be amazing, but they’ll just be on a different system. A different, more capable system. It can be argued that Nintendo got its start in the video game industry as a third party. Perhaps, it is finally time for it to return to its roots.

7 Responses to “Returning to Roots”

  • 138 points
    MaStEr Of SaNdZ says...

    I understand your point in terms of sales but Nintendo can’t and won’t bow down to the mainstream way of thinking with smartphones and such. If Nintendo does that we all know that they are broke. If Nintendo’s shareholders want to do so they really don’t care about the company and just their profits.

    Thumb up 0
  • 36 points
    Chad says...

    I strongly believe Nintendo would lose it’s pioneering spirit and overall sense of direction if it were to become a 3rd party. In the early 80s, Nintendo was busy making Arcade games, pong clones and the Famicom in Japan. If Nintendo were to let go of hardware, it’s safe to say their fate would likely be similar to Sega’s (or should we say Sega-Sammy?). Do you really want that?

    Thumb up 1
  • 150 points
    Lewis Hampson says...

    Nintendo usually innovate with consoles e.g. analogue stick, rumble pack, motion control etc as well as games. Stock prices are affected by companies who are perceived to be uncertain, if nintendo did drop out of making hardware, then surely their value would drop too. I don’t think nintendo should quit so easi?y, video games (in the grand scheme of things) are still in their infancy.

    Thumb up 1
  • 1358 points
    xeacons says...

    James, your issue is, “Well, Nintendo once developed on other platforms, ergo they need to do it again.”

    It’s not that simple. Do you remember the PROBLEMS they had developing on other platforms?! The fight between Coleco and Atari while Nintendo was trying to solidify a contract with them? All while the industry was collapsing, BTW.

    No, I don’t think this is it anything Nintendo would EVER think of doing again. And I don’t think avoiding it has anything to do with ego.

    Thumb up 2
    • 1358 points
      xeacons says...

      Although…”Returning to its Roots” doesn’t sound like a bad idea. If you’re talking about AFTER abandoning the contract with Atari.

      Look at the Wii U. Nintendo keeps sticking with the Japanese name, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to sell. The Famicom name didn’t sell either. So they changed it to NES. And they remodeled the look to make it look more like a VCR. Something else they might want to consider. And changed the market from electronics to toys.

      Now, I’m not saying sell the Wii U as a toy (LORD NO!). I’m just saying, they need to rethink their strategy. They did the first time; they should again, rather than thinking, “We got it right, so we should keep pushing.” Now THAT might have something to do with ego.

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  • 162 points
    LadyMushroom says...

    “How many games that are worthwhile use Wii MotionPlus?” Not many, granted. How many use a d-pad or an analog stick? Almost all, and both were brought into the console realm by Nintendo. How many current consoles have motion controls? All of them.

    Nintendo’s “crazy ideas every generation” are part of what makes Nintendo great. Yes, some of them really don’t work out. But many do, and they have carried the whole industry forward. Nintendo’s decision at the earliest practical stage to control its own platform was indeed part of the company Nintendo IS. Long may it be so.

    Thumb up 2
  • 186 points
    Aaron Roberts says...

    You all already know I think Nintendo being a third party software company would be a sad, tragic, disaster, but I just thought I’d say write it down to be sure that everyone knew.

    Thumb up 1

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