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The End of Nintendo?
by Johnathon Swift on 09/21/12 10:52:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Nintendo won't be making another home console after the Wii-U. If their successor to the 3DS isn't better than the 3DS they won't be making hardware at all.

This is because Nintendo, as a hardware maker, has proven unable to adapt to change. And in the rapidly changing and extremely high competition world of commercial video games this is the equivelant of being an animal unable to adapt to humans arriving in your land, and like the Dodo Nintendo will probably fall extremely quickly.

The reasoning behind this prediction is the Wii-U, and its own obvious lack of understanding of the current market. In two thousand and six Nintendo set out the Wii to target an audience most didn't know existed, that of the "casual" video game player. An audience that would enjoy, and pay for, video games that were quicker and more acccessible than those that focused on large, involved, and long term games.

And of course the audience was indeed there, and for a few short years Nintendo managed to dominate this audience to the tune of billions of dollars. It delivered a lower priced console, directly targeted in both games and physical design to be as easy and approachable as practicable.

But now Nintendo's blue waters and uncontested dominance is an area of what might be called a million piranha. The competition has come, and it has come with such staggering ferocity that it's surprising any real winners in this area even exist. The modern smartphone has been introduced, and is now in the hands of over half the US adult population and growing (similar stats in Europe and growin in other countries). And many consider a smartphone absolutely perfect for playing much the same flavor of games that the Wii provided.

And those million piranha? A seeming million one man game developers, hoping against hope that their mobile smartphone game will be the big hit of the month on the Android or iOS app store and they can retire. Of course the big sharks and other fish are out their too. Microsoft and Sony have been quick enough to catch onto this new market and try their own hands, as have companies such as EA and Zynga.

Meaning requiring an entirely separate purchase of a console to reach this market isn't going to work at all; not when the competition has become so absolutely cuthroat that giving your game away "for free" is a standard practice. Nor, I suspect, is a lot of any "middle" or "other" game market going to make it to the Wii-U.

And that's because Nintendo's platforms continue to be unapproachable. Nintendo has rather strict guidelines around who can and can't make games for their hardware, including high fees, long delays, little to no support, and other things to drive people away. The Wii-U shows no sign of stopping this practice nor even supporting the idea of stopping it physically. While Nintendo may have acknowledged digital distribution in marketing terms, the Wii-U's lack of physical storage (a mere 32 gigs) shows they've not acknowledged it in terms of hardware. Given that other platforms are accessible given a tiny yearly fee, or free and clear on the PC*, this clearly isn't a winning strategy for their platforms hosting the next League of Legends or Minecraft.

Nor is the Wii-U positioned to be cross platform compatible with Microsoft and Sony's upcoming consoles. Those big triple A titles are overdue for a differentiation from their currently stale hardware and the rapidly advancing power of tablets and phones. Both Sony and MS are set to deliver, and in order to deliver on the games end developers are going to need to take advantage of this. Which inevitably means leaving the Wii-U's comparatively vastly underpowered hardware in the dust.

I expect, certainly, games to keep coming out for the 360 and PS3 for a while yet; their install base is simply too enormous. And while the Wii-U can run those games, no ones going to buy a Wii-U to play them. Why would they, when they probably already have a PS3 or 360? (Wich are going to be cheaper than the Wii-U new). No, it's not going to be a pretty picture for the Wii-U. The 3DS has survived, and thrived, thanks to a relative lack of competition for games more involved than smartphone games still in a mobile space (Sony's problems are vast and myriad in this space). But the Wii-U has no such niche to hide in. The pirahna are coming from one side, the big sharks from the other; and the Wii-U is a confused fish that doesn't know where it is or where it wants to be.

*A strategy Apple, Microsoft, and even Google truly, desperately need to emulate with their more modern platforms. People have put up with viruses for decades for the sake of being able to get anything they wanted, and many, perhaps a majority, would do much the same again with tablets.


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Comments


Joe Zachery
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LOL! Pretty funny story you have here. Yet your know that Sony is going to make a PS4. After the huge misfire that is PS3, the utter failure of the PSPgo, and the disaster that is the Vita. Seems more like wishful thinking.

Ian Fisch
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Don't be silly. Sony has spent billions developing the Playstation brand. They're not going to give it up too quickly.

Even Sega didn't give up after the Saturn failed, and the PS3 is no Saturn.

Merc Hoffner
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Sony has lost billions developing the Playstation brand. By my estimation it's in the range of 7 billion dollars lost on PS3 alone and counting. As far as we are able to read into their numbers (which they've convoluted twice in the last 4 years to massage the division's problems) they're rapidly approaching or past the point of losing more money on Playstation than they ever made (consequently this would make Nintendo the only console maker in history to have made net money out of video games). Of course they wouldn't walk away from it's strategic advantages such as they are, and it has a cultural legacy for them that's hard to ignore, (and Hirai's openly staked much of their future success on their gaining divison) but Sony corporate is so embattled that they simply couldn't reasonably afford another financial catastrophe like this one. Certainly not an even bigger one (as the scaling costs of high power hardware/software development demand) and certainly not two. I expect a PS4 of some form. I don't expect a PSP3, and a PS5 is frankly unthinkable.

Even Sega drew the line at Dreamcast, and the the Dreamcast was no Saturn either.

Merc Hoffner
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Of course, now that we all have iphones, no one could ever reasonably consider buying something like Wii Fit. Wii Sport is an absolutely ridiculous concept in the face of real successes like League of Legends. Moronic.

Ian Fisch
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He's only saying that the casual game market has moved toward handhelds.

Wii U captured new gamers because it was easy to use - not because it was physical. I think smartphones have taken over this demographic.

Merc Hoffner
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I predict a hundred million weight loss enthusiasts may disagree with your belief in the absolute utility of mobile devices for their programmes.

There absolutely is an attractiveness to the physicality of the Wii, and the assertion that the 'casual' space is this weird zero sum game is neither borne out logically or in the data. You can rest assured that people do still want to game at house parties, they do still want to make asses of themselves jiggling in front of their friends and people still like to put the phones down and play on the sofa together. My mother guilts us when we're all tapping away on our iPhones at the dinner table and so we do something less finicky and more communal. I suspect this is a common theme and we're better for it.

Ruben Gomez
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Not sarcasm? Really? :S

Do yourself a favour, grow up.

Greg Roberts
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Yet another blogger full of complete and unsubstantiated nonsense. First of all, Mobile gaming will NEVER replace handheld gaming for the simple reason that touchscreen gaming is terrible for many genres of games. Secondly, you comment "Meaning requiring an entirely separate purchase of a console to reach this market isn't going to work at all" is complete rubbish. By this logic, Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony are all DOOMED then. I find it terribly funny that you feel that you have some insight into the gaming market that professionals who work for these companies with many years of experience are missing. Your powers of prognostication about the abilities of then next Microsoft and Sony offerings are equally laughable. So 32gigs onboard is lacking?!? I have a 20gb hard drive on my 360 and have yet to fill it. On top of that, you can easily expand storage by adding an external device without having to pay a premium like MS charges you for theirs. The WiiU niche!??!? It plays Nintendo games....you know the ones that are constantly rated in the high 80s and 90s by most credible reviewers.

TL&DR: http://www.wiinintendo.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/aLKbG-600x4
57.jpg

Brad Borne
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Oh, phew! There almost wasn't enough NINTENDO IS TEH DOOM3D articles written today. You saved the internet!

David Amador
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If wiiU will have any success or not, it's anyone's guess. As for the rest of the article, if Nintendo would set out to do the exact same thing as Sony or MS they would fail. What they do, the do great. Nintendo has a different approach to games that seems to be working for them. Why would they persue only raw power? That's Sony department and look where it's taking them

Ian Fisch
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As a game developer, I'm looking forward to not have to work under the restrictions inherent in the PS3 and Xbox360.

Namely, I'm looking forward to the day when I don't have to structure my level around streaming zones and other nonsense.

Nintendo, with its low specs, would like me to have to deal with that for another few years.

k s
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@Ian do you have something against Nintendo?

Rajasingha Wadana
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Haha, so you think a company that's been in existence for over 100 years, a company which has thrived on innovation, which has made numerous products, all manner of products, has an inability to adapt, really?

"The reasoning behind this prediction is the Wii-U, and its own -obvious- lack of understanding of the current market."

This is highly comical statement to me because nothing could be further than the truth in my eyes. Nintendo have intimate knowledge of their audience and the market as a whole, you simply don't get to Nintendo's company stature without this insight. Just because they don't do what analysts, and gamers like yourself expect, doesn't mean they're out of touch. Their hardware and software consistently prove otherwise, generation upon generation, and will continue to do so, while working with the age old company ethos - "Dokosho" - "Creating Something Unique"


"And that's because Nintendo's platforms continue to be unapproachable. Nintendo has rather strict guidelines around who can and can't make games for their hardware, including high fees, long delays, little to no support, and other things to drive people away. The Wii-U shows no sign of stopping this practice nor even supporting the idea of stopping it physically. While Nintendo may have acknowledged digital distribution in marketing terms, the Wii-U's lack of physical storage (a mere 32 gigs) shows they've not acknowledged it in terms of hardware. Given that other platforms are accessible given a tiny yearly fee, or free and clear on the PC*, this clearly isn't a winning strategy for their platforms hosting the next League of Legends or Minecraft."

 "tiny yearly fee"

Do you work for Microsoft?, I ask because I've only ever heard Microsoft reps refer to it as "a tiny yearly fee" lol ... http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jonathan-swift/7/83b/ab3


Nintendo Network is completely FREE!.


It would seems you've not heard about the numerous accounts from small developers in recent months who have been piling on praise at the companies fresher approach. How can this be?

Yea, you can hook up a 3 Terabyte drive to Wii U if need be, this is Nintendo giving choice to the consumer, with the extra unnecessary cost to some consumers. I much prefer this freedom, than an expensive HDD which can only be used on a specific console.




Milford Biggenson
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Well Mr. Swift. You've went ahead and gave your opinion. How does it feel to be right? I fully agree with you 100% and while we might both be proven wrong (although I hardly think that's going to happen) I think the points you've stated are fairly accurate. If Nintendo doesn't make the decision to put its games on other portable devices in the next three years, I will be wrong and Nintendo stockholders will be pissed. Nintendo could easily make a fortune overnight when placing their games on the iPods and Androids of the world...and I believe that is their final gameplan. But once they do that, they know it's "game over" for any systems and novelty items going forward.

Nintendo shot itself in the face with short term gain. It knew that it couldn't compete with Microsoft and Sony during this last gen, and therefore managed to invent a novelty that inspired two entirely new demographics to get in on the gaming biz. Those demographics? Casuals and the elderly; both not known for their "long tail" in terms of consumer revenue. These demos bought the Wii, played Wii Sports and maybe Wii Fit and otherwise the system sat there. Someone else did the research and discovered while the Wii sold the most units, it was the least used system. That speaks volumes about those gamers who purchased the Wii as their lone system. Just like N64 and the GameCube, gamers who owned these systems and nothing else, were left wanting more...but not receiving. How many Wii gamers are going to put all their eggs in one basket and purchase a Wii U, when they can easily afford to purchase a PS3 or X360 for less, not to mention the incredible libraries of these systems? You'd have to be pretty uninformed.

Yes, the Wii U promises to feature, once again for the umpteenth year running, another Mario Bros, Super Mario, Link, Mario Kart, Mario Party, Wario Ware, Pokemon, Donkey Kong et al - franchises that by now, are getting long in the tooth. I'm not a hater. Owned 2 Wiis. Love the Zelda and Mario games. Own Skyward Sword. Never played it. Why? Meh. Can't be bothered. Don't care. Don't own Super Mario Galaxy 2? Why? Because "Meh" again. Don't care. Own New Super Mario Bros. Played about 30 minutes. Why? See "Meh". I'm sure I'm not the only one suffering from Nintendo-fatigue.

One of the commentators wrote this above "Nintendo have intimate knowledge of their audience and the market as a whole, you simply don't get to Nintendo's company stature without this insight." Bah. That is so inaccurate I don't know where to begin. 8 or 9 years ago, Nintendo came out against online gaming and said that they didn't see the future in it. This year Iwata came right out and said that Sony & Microsoft are so far ahead of them when it comes to online and an online marketplace, they won't even really bother. Geez Nintendo, guess you should have paid attention 8 years ago and maybe you'd be in a better position online today.

Nintendo will always have its loyal fanbase, but as the years go by, those numbers dwindle as gamers will turn to the systems that deliver top quality gaming that is second to none. The Wii U is NOT that system. It's another gimmick. Look at what Sony is attempting to do with Vita. Buy the game on the PS3, get a free digital download Vita version which is identical that you can take and play with you on the go. If I was Nintendo, I'd be very scared of that alone. All Sony has to further do (Microsoft as well) is put out apps to correspond to their games and you've got the same idea as a Wii U - and you don't have to buy one.

Nintendo is first to the "next gen" or the version of "next gen" they think is "next gen". Wow! HD! Welcome to 6 years ago! You can hook up a 3 terabyte HD? Wow. Welcome to 6 years ago! Anyone see the real screenshots of Arkham City on Wii U? More like Pii U. Yikes. Not good. But Nintendo has no choice but to play their cards first. And usually that's never a good sign - although it did work in MS favor in 2005. But it won't work this time. When the next gen systems hit - even if that's in 2 years - the Wii U will be knocked on its ass because the Wii U is the system that Nintendo needn't to compete in this generation! So much for being ahead of the curve. Yeah, that curve is a complete circle and Nintendo just keeps going in the same directions and making the same mistakes year in and year out. Cartridges when everyone goes CD? Bad decision. No online when everyone else is going online? Bad decision. No DVD when everyone else has DVD? Bad decision. No HD when everyone else has HD? Bad decision. The list goes on and on.

One this is quite clear, at least to Mr. Swift and I. Nintendo is on the ropes and it WILL be going down for the count this generation.

Merc Hoffner
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There are too many opinion based points here (in my opinion) for us to mete it out. But I will make this one point to anyone who harps on about this particular 'Go Mobile!' strategy:

Nintendo made revenues of 6 billion dollars last year - one of the worst in years. Last year the entirety of the app store across 650,000 apps had paid out a total of 5 billion dollars since inception (more than 3 years). The scale of these economies are simply incomparable. Super Mario 3D Land alone has made more profit than all of Rovio made revenue last year. Anyone, shareholds included, who keeps suggesting Nintendo goes mobile only is laughably, astonishingly out of step with the data. And the calls even from reactionary shareholders are uniquely irrelevant in Nintendo's case - as far as I'm aware Hiroshi Yamauchi is still the major stakeholder in the company.

Sean Curtin
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Michael Pachter? Is that you?

k s
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I just can't agree with your conclusions, I've seen Nintendo is adapting to the market and quite well actually. They will be offering gamers the same experiences sony and Microsoft offer plus they're own flavor of gaming so I'm not worried about people not buying the Wii U.

@Rajasingha Wadana: "numerous accounts from small developers in recent months who have been piling on praise at the companies fresher approach" I've heard this too. I do hope some time down the road they offer up a space for small indie developers to develop on their platforms but we're not there quite yet.

Dave Smith
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You can't see me, but I'm rolling my eyes at this article as hard as I can.

Alan Rimkeit
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Yeah, I think we have heard this same subject matter on all three major console companies. Neither Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft are pulling a Sega. Though it would super cool to have all old school Nintendo games available for download on the PSN and XBL. What person who uses a PS3 or a 360 would not want that?

Yiannis Koumoutzelis
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Companies come and go. Anything could happen, but so far, historical facts show otherwise. It is surprising to see people insist otherwise generation after generation. Microsoft and Sony have *not* caught up in the mobile business, well microsoft is on a good way to be honest but sony has repeatedly been deflected time and time again. they are now attempting to highjack with an sdk, and also attempt to get into the touch generation on win8's back. their newest giant tablet/desktop pc looks promising.

Nintendo is doing their own thing, they are a bit off sync, but whatever they do they do it right so far. And people like it. So i do not think they are about to stop doing what they do so well, in fact i see wiiU as a transitional product. Many people seem to forget it is the DS that made touch popular. It is the DS that paved the way for iphone and revolutionized handheld gaming, it is the wii, that revolutionized console gameplay, and wiiU stands somehow strongly between the console and tablet generation. Maybe it will be nintendo's last hardware, maybe it won't we will know in 2-4 years from now.

Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo
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Meanwhile Nintendo keeps their brands so fresh, they'll do fine and will keep on green financially. i don't expect the WiiU or the 3DS to be a hit like the dS and the Wii. But maybe next generation they will come with an idea that will be a hit once again. They have proved to be a very talented and smart company. Stories like this one just doesn't make sense.

Just see what they did why the 3DS. it's 20 millions and more than 6 millons of Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. And they will keep getting income from now. And they got a lot in the closet...

Muir Freeland
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Every single time Nintendo puts out a new system, people start doomsaying them, and every time, Nintendo finds a way to come out on top. Barely over a year ago, everyone was talking about how the 3DS was flopping, and how it was a sure sign that Nintendo was losing its magic touch. That notion got dispelled, what, in a few months, tops?

Dave Smith
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so the 3ds is not in direct competition with small iphone developers, but the WiiU is? doesnt make any sense.


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