E3 2015 has been and gone and everyone was left looking forward to the upcoming games for the rest of the year. Everyone except Nintendo fans. After the worst E3 showing in living memory with puppets and only one real game, Nintendo is dead as a home console maker and we only have ourselves to blame.
Think video games and immediately you think Nintendo, so long were they synonymous with the culture that it felt like they were the trend setters, now unfortunately they have lost touch with their fans and seem to exist in a bubble, while the rest of the world moves on. This piece isn’t a hatchet job by an anti Nintendo hack, I have owned every Nintendo system since my beloved NES and would have been their biggest fanboy, had they not treated their fans so badly and lost touch with reality.
I can trace the current problems of Nintendo back to the N64. Looking back it was my favourite console of all time. It claimed to be the fastest most powerful console on earth. In reality it was the home of the most creative, immersive games and the true home of the hardcore gamer. While everyone else was being wowed by disc based games on the Playstation, I was getting sucked into one gaming world after another on the fast loading N64. My first experience was the fantastic Shadows Of The Empire. You may laugh and ask what about Mario 64? It turns out I was the only person who bought the N64 without it. Shadows appealed to me as the Star Wars fan and it didn’t disappoint. When people reviewed it at the time they didn’t seem to appreciate the pacing which, was far ahead of it’s time. They loved the snowspeeder and space battle sections but hated the third/first person levels. When I think back, those levels had a real sense of exploration and reward. I take the canyon level , which ends with a showdown with Boba Fett as the perfect example. The treacherous journey though the canyon, using jetpack, precision jumping and you own sense of direction was a real test. Coupled with the lack of Stormtroopers to fight, so you couldn’t just use the old technique of following the newest enemies and challenging savepoints, the reward of facing the iconic bounty hunter was just that, a reward.
As a first game, Shadows was soon joined in my collection by Mario 64, Pilotwings 64 and the irreplaceable Blast Corps. All three of these games had the ability to completely take up your spare time for months on end. The originality shown in Blast Corps has yet to be repeated. A simple game where you had to drive a variety of destruction vehicles, in order to demolish buildings to clear a path for a hazardous carrier, had the simple and addictive re-playability that mobile games pride themselves on today. Pilotwings, had the same type of hook, however its catch was precision. Firing your chosen character out of a cannon to hit Mount Rushmore and change one of the figures to Mario was a moment in gaming, that wouldn’t have any effect now. Mario 64 was of course the poster child of the N64. The game, that introduced a triple A 3d world into gaming. It has been covered and revisited enough over the years that I don’t need to go into it any deeper.
As if this early rush of games wasn’t enough, they were followed at regular intervals by more and more genuine classics. Mario Tennis, International Superstar Soccer, Waverace 64, Zelda – Ocarina of TIme, Mario Kart 64 F1 World Grand Prix, Rogue Squadron, were all games that received months of playtime even before we approach the juggernaut that was Goldeneye. Goldeneye was a gamechanger as far as the war with Playstation went. Before it came out, the N64 was cruelly branded as a childs machine next to Sony’s more mature PSone. In actual fact Sony’s machine had more games with simpler gameplay. It was just marketed brilliantly and tapped into the casual gamer market for the first time. When Goldeneye came out I was in school. Suddenly there was no more mocking of my console choice, here was a violent, first person shooter, graphically far in advance of what PSone could do wrapped in the Bond Licence to garner widespread appeal. To make things better, the game itself had the highest level of gameplay experience available. It was the perfect game at the perfect time. Anyone who criticised it at the time was shot down as having sour grapes. The reality of Goldeneye was how it ended the console wars. With the built-in multiplayer that made the N64 Suddenly PSone owners went out and bought a second console, no longer was anyone tied to a single brand. At this moment Nintendo had the chance to capitalise, unfortunately they didn’t.
The reason they didn’t was us. The consumers. The N64 represented the high-point of Nintendo, the aimed for the stars. They made the fastest, most powerful games console on earth. They had great third-party support and what happened? We didn’t buy it in the numbers ‘they’ felt it needed. People flocked to the excellent PSone. Its disc based games allowed some genuine classics to appear as well. Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy 7, Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto and Gran Turismo were all console exclusive and classics. Instead of welcoming the competition Nintendo ran from it. They needed to match Sony stride for stride and keep the third-party publishers on board. Instead they just seemed to be stubborn. While everyone else was publishing on dvd’s they launched the Gamecube on their own propriety disc. This stubborn act meant that people couldn’t buy the Gamecube as a dual dvd player as they did with the PS2 and latterly the Xbox. Because of this again the Gamecube failed in the sales market despite having classics like Rogue Leader and Resident Evil 4.
This brings us to the sales phenomenon that was the Wii. Without doubt the success of the Wii has kept Nintendo in the hardware business. It was so unique that everyone had to have one. The seminal Wii sports brought people together and meant anyone could be a gamer. Unfortunately this changed Nintendo forever. No longer would they reach for the stars like they did in the days of the NES, SNES and N64. They became a toy maker. This has continued in the Wii U. When I first saw it I immediately thouht Fisher Price. It looked cheap, nasty and behind the times. Still the lure of Nintendo sucked me in and I bought one recently. There are some excellent games, Mario Kart is great as is Bayonetta 2, unfortunately because the machine again is not a sales success, Nintendo insults its users by making the system as unfriendly to use as possible. Most games make you buy another type of controller before you can play multiplayer. Mario Party 10 is the worst offender, despite me having the Wii u gamepad and a Wii controller and Nunchuk, I cannot play two player games. I would be forced to buy another Wii controller and Nunchuk to play. So three separate control imputs, just to play a two player game. This is the same with New Super Mario Bros and others. The final straw came with Splatoon. A team based multiplayer shooter, that doesn’t let you party up with friends, there is no voice chat and the servers are abysmal. The magic in the games is still there. Splatoon is creative and original and would stand a real chance of success on another console.
So there we are, Nintendo who used to be the trailblazers are every bit as bad as EA, Activision or Ubisoft. Instead of using their money made from sales of the Gameboy and ds/3ds to push the future of the home console forward as they did with the N64, they have resorted to Amiibo and countless iterations of the 3DS. The worst being the new one that is required for the newer games. If only we as the consumer and fan had been more enthusiastic when the N64 was pushing the boundaries, we may have had the N256 by now or greater. Instead we let them get away with murder by buying poorly made and poorly implemented games and consoles.
Ah well, I bought N64 and still my favourite console. But yeah, E3 was depressing for Nintendo fans. Luckily as I’m slow with games these days I still have a huge catalogue of classics to get through. I understand Nintendo not wanting to be part of a three horse race and offering something different, but why not offer something different AND have the best of the third party stuff. I only have time for one console at the moment so I’ll likely keep with Nintendo consoles, but it seems more likely that I’d not buy their next console now
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The 64 definitely had some great titles. In my opinion Mischief Makers is still one of the best action platformers out there.
I also grew up with Nintendo (and Atari and Sega and Sony) and its sad to see another classic gaming giant brought to its knees.
I don’t think the giant crumbling was something people would have dreamed of seeing happen even last gen. The Wii was such a great move by Nintendo. It was unique, inexpensive, the exclusive home of all of the coveted Nintendo franchises, and went well with another current gen console and/or PC. And the release of Twilight Princess as a launch title was a genius move.
Unfortunately, I think that success brought complacency. There are some great releases for the Wii, but by the end of its life 90% of its library was shovelware: a shameful new track record for Ninty on the console front.
So they launched the Wii U early with poorer tech, just like the Wii, but at a higher price tag, and it just didn’t have the same bite as their last console. Tablet integration is nice, but mandating the use of it (outside of a fifty dollar additional purchase) when developer utilization of the tablet feels forced and tacked on instead of intuitive was a poor decision.
But I think their biggest mistake was not bringing in the heavy-hitting first-party franchise games early enough. There’s nothing wrong with Pikmin, but it doesn’t have the widespread appeal of pretty much any other first-party Nintendo series. At least they’re still dominating the admittedly dwindling handheld market.
Even with the expansion into cell phone gaming, the possibility of an early demise for the Wii U, and the lack of first-party titles, I still have hopes Nintendo can recover.
After all, they did make the Virtua Boy.
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Hopefully I’m wrong. I just wish they would use their amiibo and 3ds money to make a high end console again. Something to blow the others out of the water. The lack of some form of achievement system holds them back as well. Thanks for great comment.
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I’m right with you on the high-end console idea. When my fingers aren’t tapping buttons I will keep them crossed.
I don’t quite get why it’s our fault that they slept on their stockpiles of cash (this has been reported so many times that they have billions in the bank)… They didn’t care to innovate or be unique. I’m not a Nintendo fan at all, Sony if anything. But I don’t get Nintendo from the outside looking in. I see a console with very few games, no third party help, and a bizarre gamepad that I really quite hate. Topped off with mediocre online-play, an absurd cash-in love with their big franchises (give us more Starfox, Mario, Luigi, Zelda, Metroid – holy cow, we get it). For these reasons, I couldn’t care less about them. I want them to be around in some fashion and think they have had a huge impact on gaming but I have no love for Nintendo because it doesn’t seem like they really care about getting new players, just keeping old ones with nostalgia.
Nintendo isn’t dead, it’s dying. And it’s their fault. For the sake of their fans I hope they turn it arond one day but for me, they’d have to do something drastic for me to ever consider their console.
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I can’t argue with your points. For me the n64 was a special machine. They pushed the envelope and went for power. We then embraced the playstation and Nintendo stopped competing. I agree they have the money to turn it around, will they ever try?