Let me start by saying one thing: I was, and to some degree still am, a huge Nintendo fan. I grew up surrounded by a Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Super Game Boy, N64, Gamecube and even a DS and a Wii. I thrived on the adventures of Mario, Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Kirby, Link, Samus, Yoshi and the rest of the colourful cast of characters under the huge red umbrella marked N.  But… my love affair would always end the same. My SNES was accompanied by a Mega Drive, my N64 became a Playstation, Gamecube a Playstation 2 and my DS and Wii combined to finance an Xbox 360.

Eventually, while I enjoyed the escapades that Nintendo offered me, like an unhappy housewife, I always looked at the cool games the other consoles were housing and found myself wishing for those. And like that unhappy housewife, I would often up sticks and jump into the flash sports car offered by Sony and Microsoft and drive off, leaving my well-meaning, but ultimately unfulfilling, fat Italian husband behind.

Therefore, it is with no surprise (but considerable sadness) that Nintendo announced recent losses that were triple those which had been forecast. Now, while most gamers are not interested in cold, hard numbers, these particular ones are staggering: instead of a forecast loss of ¥20 billion for the full year ending March, they are looking at a staggering ¥65 billion loss. While Nintendo President Saturo Iwata is going full damage control, stating that next year Nintendo will bounce back bigger than ever with the launch of Wii U, these are still bad numbers.

So the question gamers of my generation have to ask is: “what went wrong?”  What happened to the innovative, industry-defining and ultimately, fun video games company we all grew up with? Unfortunately the simple answer is in those adjectives: misjudged innovation, stagnant ideas and a lack of what fun is.  Let me start with the first one. At first I wanted to say “lack of innovation”, but knew many Nintendo loyalists would shout: “Oli, you crazed fool! Nintendo are the front-runners of innovation! Look at the 3DS! The Wii! This is technology for the future!” Well, yes.  Yes they are, hence why I changed it to “misjudged innovation”. You see, while the Wii and 3DS did bring new technology into the world of video games, they weren’t for the best. I’m not talking Virtual Boy levels here, but it’s depressingly close.

Say cheese. Lots of cheese...

Starting with the Wii, the cold hard truth is if you ask most ‘hardcore’ gamers (and even those on the cusp between that and casual), they will say that they simply don’t want motion control. The argument is that it doesn’t work, is implemented terribly (or annoyingly) and, most of all, it doesn’t replace the feeling of actually holding a controller and pressing buttons. One only has to look at the backlash Microsoft has had with Kinect to see how your average gamer feels about ‘being the controller’.

Naturally, you could argue that the Wii appeals to a different demographic than the Xbox 360 does, and that is true. However, that market is the casual gamer market; casual gamers who, while profitable at first (combined with the curious average gamer), will slowly taper off due to lack of interest. I mean, if you look at the games that fully implement motion control, you find yourself looking at the likes of Wii Fit and party games such as Wii Sports. Popular platformers such as the Mario Galaxy series and even, err, New Super Mario Bros (there’s my second point appearing early…) rely less on shaking a controller and more on holding the Wiimote like a classic controller. It seems even Nintendo are realising that the motion control world isn’t as fine-tuned as it needs to be to hold an audience yet.

Which brings me to the 3DS. When it was announced, you simply had to be impressed. After all, this was 3D gaming without the need for glasses. With 3D hitting other areas of the entertainment industry, this was the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and start selling the stunning visual nature of 3D to the gaming masses. However, this came with one small problem in that not everyone liked 3D. The larger problem came with this: how do you show off 3D in a largely 2D showcasing world (i.e. TV advertising)? While an outstanding innovation, the 3DS was simply a victim of its own gimmick. The only way you could really see the effects was if you had one in your hand, and with early prices in the £200.00 range, it was an expensive gamble to make.

On top of that came another problem in this troubled hand-held’s life in that the 3D was very unreliable, or was simply bad for you. From personal experience, I can say that when I first tried the 3DS after borrowing one from a friend, I was very impressed with the 3D, but after a few minutes I started to get a headache, my eyes were shifting in and out of focus and I found myself not so much playing the game on screen as trying to stop myself having a seizure. Other gamers I know have said similar things: that while the 3D is pretty, it plays hell with your vision, and some of those gamers have just turned the 3D off.

The one character we just don't see enough of. Ahem.

So while the innovation has been “meh” at best, my other two points – stagnant ideas and a lack of fun – probably best highlight my problem with Nintendo. As I’ve mentioned, Nintendo’s cast of characters endeared me to their consoles, but as I grew older I started to see the cracks behind the bright wallpaper. Nintendo now fully relies on these characters to sell themselves, and really one character in particular – Mario. Thinking of all the recent games Nintendo have launched, all I can think of are the ones with Mario in the title: Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart, Mario Party, Super Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros Wii, Mario and Sonic at the Whatever Olympics Are This Year.

Now, while gaming has fallen into the pit of franchising in recent years (CoD, Halo, Gears of War, Uncharted, Battlefield…), Nintendo are leaning heavily on one small, fat, Italian plumber. Unfortunately this is what made me move away from Nintendo all those years ago – a lack of variety.  Again, the argument could be made that there is variety in the Zelda games, but they also suffer the same lack of real innovation in gameplay that Mario does. While there is nothing wrong with an ‘ain’t broke so don’t fix it’ mentality, after a while you end up with a feeling that you simply don’t want from games, namely boredom.

So what now for Nintendo? Where does the Big Red N go from here? Well, the Wii U will be coming out soon, also with its own innovation, this time in terms of a screen in the controller. In addition to this, a wider range of games have been announced, including some Triple A titles such as Arkham City. But is this too little, too late? Has Nintendo finally seen itself as the geeky kid at the party filled with mature, cool kids whom all the girls (in the case of this metaphor, gamers – sorry male gamers) want to hang around and be with? If it has, the real question is: does it finally bite the bullet and try to hang with the cool kids, or does it stand up for their ideals, ride the rough times, and maintain itself as an individual? As an old fan, I hope they stay with the latter, but I fear in today’s age of HD graphics and BIG gaming, they may find themselves on the road to a fate worse than Sega.

Last five articles by Oli



  1. tanto says:

    The 3ds is number 1 worldwide dude.

    Nobody moved more hardware or software than nintendo did in 2011.

    In 2012.

    Same thing

    The 3ds is kickign everyones ass

  2. Ian says:

    From a slightly less fanboyish perspective, I still own the complete set from the SNES through to the Wii. The latter console was where the rot set in though. For every Mario Galaxy there’s an inexplicably popular load of shit like Carnival Games. Come the 3DS launch I’ve been ambivalent whereas before I’d have got it one day one. Cool though Wii-U is from a tech perspective, I doubt I’ll ever get one unless Nintendo seriously buck their ideas up.
    Although from my point of view, the game was up for Nintendo (and Sony to a lesser extent) when that first ever achievement popped in March 2006.

  3. Yourmom says:

    Nothing happened to Nintendo. They have remained the same successful, fun, innovative company they have always been. It’s Sony and Microsoft that have convinced the idiot-masses that motion control “didn’t work,” and that developers needed to shove games full of HD FMVs, and waste more money on advertising than on actually making better games, all the while half-assedly copying Nintendo’s every move when it proved to be successful.

  4. Tania Tania says:

    I had every Nintendo console up to and including the Wii. I was so horribly disappointed that I made the switch to Xbox and have never looked back. I remember when I first booted up the Wii and on seeing the horribly blurry graphics saying “what’s up with the screen?”. After a little research I found out that it wasn’t my TV but that the console wasn’t designed to be HD compatible or whatever. At a time when all televisions were switching over to flat-screen and digital and all that, it was just unacceptable. Plus being forced to play with motion control when I just want to crash out on the sofa after a hard day at work is a big NO.

  5. Edward Edward says:

    Well thought and argued article, especially as a first one on the site :)
    As a self-proclaimed Nintendo fanboy, I have to admit there are some disagreements but not to the extent other people have expressed. Granted, the 3DS suffers from bad press more than anything (everyone saying it’s doing terribly when it’s not, etc) and I think the last new IP they made was Nintendogs, and I’m still neutral on the Wii U (apart from the fact it’s an awful name), but here’s the thing:
    Most of my favourite games this generation, and even ever have been on the Wii.
    Yeah, Mario is overused to the point of self-parody, but it doesn’t matter to me when the games are so good. And while motion control isn’t always for the hardcore gamer, I appreciate it more as an example of what can be made with the technology rather than how successful they were making everyone use controls.
    Yeah, they’re retreading old ground and they’re really out of touch with everyone and I agree with most of your points, as long as they keep making games I love, I’ll continue supporting them.

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