I love Nintendo. I’m a huge fan, as is all of my family. But the company is in more trouble than their earnings would report. Despite some quarters at a loss, the place where they’ve really been losing is in the living room.
First, some background contextual information:
In the 90s, Nintendo was king. Coming from the success of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the late 80s, the Super Nintendo was released in 1990–1991 and owned the 16-bit era of 1990–1995. (much to the disappointment of us Sega Genesis fans). But when the Sony Playstation came out in 1994, things started to change and gamers started to see the future of video games: on discs. Nintendo’s next console was the venerable cartridge-based N64, and while it wasn’t as popular as the PlayStation, It was still loved and spawned a number of wonders; notably Super Mario 64 (the first great 3D Platformer in a free world), The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (with the first implementation of Lock-On), and GoldenEye 007 (one of the first great modern first person shooters).
The subsequent generation of consoles, I think, was the last “fair fight” of the console wars. This era included the Sega Dreamcast (discontinued prematurely), the Nintendo GameCube, the Microsoft XBOX, and the Sony PlayStation 2. In this generation, most things were fairly equal: the graphics were all about the same, all consoles but the PS2 supported 4 controllers, games could be ported to run on all of the systems. Only first party games separated the consoles—save for the DVD support of the PS2. But this was the point in time when Nintendo started to lose ground. Here are the numbers of consoles sold at the time of discontinuation/succession:
- Dreamcast: 11 million units (as of 09/2002)
- Xbox: 24 million (as of May 2006)
- GameCube: 21.6 Million (as of September 2010)
- PlayStation 2: 150 Million (as of November 2011)
Do you see that? The PS2 had more than all of the other consoles combined. And doubled. Doubled. And with that came a change in gaming culture focus. Instead of platformers and epic adventures owning gamer mindshare, games like Halo, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto rose to prominence among a large number of gamers. Nintendo consoles have not been known for this kind of gameplay. They are known for Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Smash Bros., Star Fox, Animal Crossing, and essentially a lot of first-party franchises. Titles that while mom and pop may get for their little 9 year old, 14-year-old Jimmy isn’t talking about with his friends at the middle school lunch table.
Now Nintendo claims that they’ve expanded to new gamers and demographics with titles like WiiFit and Nintendogs. But with the advent of the iPhone, iPad, and the App Store and the rise of mobile phone gaming, those customers have essentially been ceded to Apple. Nintendo needs to find a way to recapture the hardcore gaming market. Especially with the upcoming launch of the WiiU, Nintendo really needs to basically expand outside of the hardcore Nintendo fans (like me) and into the hardcore gamer fans who enjoy Call of Duty on an HDTV at 1080p online [without cumbersome Friend Codes] with voice chat handled wirelessly through the system. They have to get to both, while still giving Grandma and Grandpa a reason to get one. And that will be relatively difficult to do.
One of the best ways to do that will be to leverage the advantages of their WiiU GamePad to developers, yet make the WiiU Pro Controller available for geeks to play Call of Duty. I personally don’t like dual-analog control for first-person shooters. I’m relatively new to the genre, and for me, it has a fairly steep learning curve. However, aiming and shooting with a Wii Remote and nunchuk is quite easy and intuitive for me (mostly thanks to spurts with The Conduit and adventures with Metroid Prime 3). I’d love to have the opportunity to face a dual-analog expert on equal terms with a good Wii-Remote and Nunchuk combo.
A quick aside: I think that the Wii Remote and Nunchuck combo is the best console controller. It allows for so many options for game control, but is also easily compatible with more classic button configurations. A good example of this is control options for Twilight Princess on the GameCube vs. Twilight Princess on the Wii.
Having had a GameCube/Wii during my youth, pre-teen, and teen years as well as an overprotective set of parents, I didn’t gave access to Halo or Grand Theft Auto as a kid. And even when my family finally did get an Xbox (doesn’t even sound right to this day) at Christmas 2010, I never really got into it. (I also had a 10 year old brother, so still no M-rated games). But now I’m heading to college, and I’d love to keep playing video games (despite how expensive it can get to keep up).
I’d also love to have the option to play games that the 360 and PS3s will be running, as well as the next Smash Bros. and Metroid title from Nintendo. But with that, I’d like them to be able to stick with their standard dual-analog format with the Pro Controller, and I could simply use a Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo. (But, with my luck, I’d be stuck with using the GamePad’s dual-analog sticks with some games anyway.) Having a WiiU would also probably result in my 3DS getting some love. I haven’t touched it in months. (Granted, when I had Ocarina of Time 3D I couldn’t put it down, but that’s just a remake).
Let me end this post with my look at my dream console: A Nintendo-branded console in full HD console with a modern wireless communication network between consoles that get full ports of killer games on other consoles. And one that does so while providing innovation, customizability, and backwards-compatibility. Is that too hard to ask?