I would like to reflect on an article I wrote back in 2016 about Nintendo’s future (on a now deleted blog). Keep in mind this was posted before the Switch was officially revealed and was still known as the NX. In this post, I argued that Nintendo should give up on console development. Opinions change over time, especially when new information comes to light. Nintendo proved me wrong with the Switch’s success. I know now that my viewpoint was narrowminded. Nintendo had far more to lose by exiting console development. Just look at the state Sega has been in since they axed the Dreamcast. Today I would like to go through the article point by point and refute them.
Point 1: Nintendo has a vast library of IPs that Sony and Microsoft would be falling over themselves to host on their consoles. Main series Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon games are guaranteed sellers. They would prove good investments for Sony and Microsoft.
Refutation: This was an incredibly shortsighted opinion that didn’t consider the many problems third-party developers/publishers face. The problem with this is that Nintendo might be less inclined to take creative risks. The only profits Nintendo can make is from games sales, of which they would have to share with the respective platform holder. We most likely wouldn’t get amazing games like Super Mario Odyssey or Zelda: Breath of the Wild. These are games intended to sell consoles. Profits made from the games themselves are negligible to the bottom line. There also wouldn’t be second tier games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or the future release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Nintendo would still be milking New Super Mario Bros. if they went third party. No doubt many of Nintendo’s IPs would bite the dust.
Point 2: Nintendo has seen a decline in sales dating back to the release of the SNES. The NES dominated the 1980s, giving Nintendo a near monopoly on the video game market. The Sega Genesis challenged that dominance, which led to the first console war. The SNES sold less then the NES. The Nintendo 64 was blown out of the water by the new PlayStation. The GameCube sold less than the N64 and finished a distant third to the bestselling console of all-time, the PlayStation 2. The Wii managed to buck the trend of declining sales and “won” the previous console generation. The problem is the Wii’s appeal to the casual market turned away many long-time fans. The Wii U was a total flop, becoming Nintendo’s worst selling console, selling just under 13 million. Nintendo still views video games as children’s toys and market it as such. This outdated view will be their downfall.
Refutation: Well, yeah, I was completely wrong about that. The Switch is selling at a ridiculous pace. In less then a year it blew past the Wii U’s lifetime sales. It may even surpass the Xbox One within the next two years. The Wii U’s failure forced Nintendo to look inward. Nintendo underwent a cultural change. Shigeru Miyamoto has stepped aside and allowed the younger designers take control. The games have gone in different creative directions and for the better for each respective series. Nintendo also shifted its marketing strategy to be more inclusive of older demographics. The Switch’s reveal trailer mostly showed young adults rather than children. Portability is important for adults living busy lives. The Switch is intended for everyone.
Point 3: Nintendo has failed to compete at the technical level. The Wii and Wii U are underpowered compared to the competition. It worked for the Wii but that may have been a fluke. But it also used technology that separated it from the competition (motion controls). The Wii U’s lack of power and unusual peripherals scared off third-party developers. Nintendo needs to remember that we know more about the specs then they give us credit for. Gamers won’t stay loyal out of blind nostalgia.
Refutation: While the Switch is not as powerful as the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One X, it instead offers a unique way to play. The portable console has been a revelation. It took some of the concepts from the Wii U but executed them significantly better. The new way to play has created opportunities for a diverse library of games to appear on the console. Indies have been finding plenty of success. Switch releases are more successful than their Steam counterparts. While the likes of EA and Activision have all but ignored the console (good riddance), that has not hindered the console in the slightest.
Nintendo is here to stay and we’re all the better for it. There is absolutely no reason for them to go third-party. I see how shortsighted I was back in 2016. My disappointment with Nintendo clouded my judgement. I didn’t see the bigger picture. Being a platform holder provides many benefits, like creative control, higher profits, and better games. The Switch has obliterated the Wii U’s sales figures. Nintendo opted not to compete directly at a technical level, but rather offer players a different way to play. Cheers Nintendo, cheers.