So, here’s the thing. I really wanna shake Nintendo up and down sometimes. I want the senior heads like Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma to get the heck out of the way, to relegate, or to move on to new IPs while new blood takes on the old IPs and rejuvenates them. But here’s something else that Nintendo has desperately needed so that it can rejuvenate itself and its resources: an abandon. It is high time Nintendo gave up the console business, right here, right now. And here’s why.
That’s right. First downside is that this business model, started thirty-something years ago, is no longer profitable. Making consoles is plateauing for Nintendo. 3DS sales are struggling, and, soon, the same will come about for the Wii U, and most assuredly for any future system it attempts to manufacture and distribute. Let’s face it: Nintendo has just not shown much in the way of innovation on consoles aside for the Wii. Tablets are not that innovative. The GameCube sure wasn’t innovative. Double screens? Is a double cheeseburger that much more innovative than a cheeseburger?. People are not dumb. We all know that what Nintendo mustered with the visual changes of the Nintendo 64 were truly aesthetic, design focused changes. The sales prove it. That generation had all kinds of healthy and original game releases, critically praised and all. Nintendo also once had a healthy, blossoming relationship with Rare. They hit their prime. Back then, Nintendo still could rely on regular output from their second party, not third, to endure. Today, Nintendo is stressed. That’s right. There are no crutches. Instead, their systems are a crutch, a vicious one at that, giving them the impression that their very survival relies on fabricating weird pieces of machinery. This is not Willy Wonka’s Factory, my friends. It is Nintendo, and they know better.
Hear me now: Nintendo will not die out if it solely relies on its software. Software is not just ‘another aspect’ of the business. It is a wholly different beast than the business of making machines. And newsflash: Nintendo absolutely rocks at it. They always have, and always will. But see, it is plausible to say that their games currently suck comparatively speaking, to the older days, because they now have to begrudgingly rely on surviving a business that they are themselves conflicted about. Remember Iwata’s statement about completely destroying everything we all dearly love, software and such (which they love too), if one day, their console making days were over? How self-deprecating is that, and yet, totally indicative of the fact that they dearly esteem their software? They shouldn’t deem themselves failed if they exited the console business - instead, they should swallow their pride, get with the program that we love their games more than anything else, and do just that. Who here thinks that if they allocated all the time they spent on their hardware, to their software, the game content were come out faster and better? The world would see against it, but I wouldn’t bend and break over this fact.
And Nintendo needs them badly. Regardless if Nintendo were bought out by Sony or Microsoft one day, the truth is, there is a whole field of big players into the tangible, manufacturing activity of making solid bodies of hardware. Nintendo doesn’t need to worry about it. They only need to check their Japanese pride once in a while. And Reggie, the importance (or not) of his Ivy League degree. I repeat: Nintendo doesn’t need to make consoles anymore. They could put out their games on any hardware system whatsoever and still thrive.
I touched on it above. But let me go one step further. If Nintendo continues to hold onto a sinking ship, they will eventually drown. The Wii was a fluke. It didn’t reflect the trend at Nintendo for the past decade, which was sustainable still on the Nintendo 64, but completely apparent on the Gamecube, and just potentially apparent on the Wii U (of course, I don’t have to say what I think about the Wii U here). Nintendo is, and has been, running out of ideas ever since the last genuine one they had with advancing into 3D aesthetics. The sustainability of going beyond 3D into virtual realities and so on would have been too far along the road. Instead of shifting into software only mode, three blindmen lead the company to no man’s land with the Gamecube and onwards. Even their second party relationships started floundering, their relationships with third parties included. Their arrogance was such that they couldn’t focus their creative energy on their own products: they started pandering and indicating to perfectly professional companies like Rare what to do exactly with the games they were making. What a total mess.
This eventually lead Nintendo to question their own beliefs about the company: are we meant to create toy things for others? Is this our raison d’etre? Do we know Mario, Zelda and our other IPs so well (ones that we’d been working on since the N64) that we can actually do anything we want with them without risking anything? Meet the everlasting string of wrecks for the series: Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, followed up by the biggest con yet Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess with more failures like Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap and Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. This was the era of Nintendo thinking they knew what they were doing, because their entire goals were misplaced. We had the awful Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat and Donkey Konga, and Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast (Nintendo thought they knew what they were doing). Then we had Nintendo thinking they could send Mario on a vacation, then to a Galaxy, as if those things were capable enough, under any pretext, to replace the Mushroom Kingdom, the cornerstone of the Mario series sine qua none - without which, we would only have Mario, a sprite that could have existed in a Donkey Kong game, or any Golf or Tennis game or Tetris like game.
There ain’t no other way. From the NES’ very beginning, save for the Wii, Nintendo’s console business has effectively been on a downward sales trend. That they may have recaptured something with the Wii and DS line is not so bad, if they hadn’t had to sacrifice their games, truly loved and cherished, for the restructuring and change of philosophy of the company. If Nintendo truly was excellent at making software, only time will tell if their adherence to hardware production will get the best of them. As far as I’m concerned, their games will not manage to sustain a long-term trend in quality, veritably, with the constant allocating of resource to hardware innovation and production, which itself could hamper the entire company so much easier than the software business could. This is not a risk worth taking, in fact, it is downright complacent.
Games like Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will henceforth be one in an ocean of streamlined bore-fests, predictable rehash New Super Mario Bros. 2, games that do nothing to enrich video gaming, and Miis pretending to be God’s new gift to innovation in the gaming world. Let us avoid the sad topic of Metroid, and how Nintendo lost out on its IPs to Microsoft, another variable that lead to Rare’s eventual ‘passing’. In a scenario where Nintendo was not a recognizable contender in the hardware world, with a massive target on its back, it would be producing today on a vastly able digital service, it would be long-term sustainable, and Rare would potentially not have died out as fast. We would have had more dedicated, less outlandish games like a spiritual successor to Super Mario 64, maybe a Banjo-Threeie, and a legacy that would have continued the Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask line, versus the absurd, baffling, and downright wrong The Wind Waker.