I have been pondering writing this article for some time now on the topic of Nintendo and how I feel they have left probably hundreds of thousands if not millions of loyal Nintendo fans by the wayside. What I’m talking about exactly is their fall from grace, in my eyes, and the fact that they refuse to stick with the formula for creating a successful video game console and the games that are necessary to support it for five or more years. Truth be told, Nintendo wrote the book on creating compelling content to support a video game console yet it seems that they are so focused on creating an entertainment device that is so far out in left-field, that they can’t even create enough good content for it. What I have come to realize, very reluctantly I might add, is that Nintendo is no longer the company that it used to be and no longer caters to the audience that once upon a time made it the king of the video game marketplace.
Anybody who grew up with the original Nintendo Entertainment System knows exactly what I am talking about here. While that console and the next three consoles that followed (SNES, N64 and the GameCube) had their fair share of mediocre games, the vast majority of the content that was released for these consoles was absolutely amazing. There are still games on those consoles that I play on a regular basis and it is these same games and Nintendo’s commitment to quality that ensured that anyone who bought these games could be sure that they were buying a quality game. However, something happened with the success that Nintendo gained with the release of the Wii that changed how they monitored the quality of the games that were being released for the popular console from third-party developers. This console sold like gangbusters but there was one problem that early adopters were quickly made aware of: the lack of quality games and the fact that the Nintendo titles that everyone was waiting for took way to long to hit store shelves. This struck me as being very odd in that moment, but I just thought that with enough time, Nintendo would grace us with some of the titles that made the previous consoles so great, however for some odd reason, that day just never came to fruition.
There was so much shovel-ware and kiddie games on the Nintendo Wii that it could literally make your head spin. I found this to be very disheartening as I eagerly awaited for iterations of some of my favorite titles from previous Nintendo consoles to make their way to the Wii. Games like Contra, Punch Out, Castlevania, Kung Fu, F-Zero, Metriod, Play Action Football, and Kirby, just to name a few, were games that could have found a home on the Wii, yet none of these titles or any of the other great games that Nintendo produced themselves ever made an appearance on this hugely sought after entertainment device or took way too long to show up. People who normally would never have purchased a video game console were going out in droves to grab a Wii. This was the perfect opportunity for Nintendo to show that they were still the Kings of the Video Game World, yet instead they choose to rest on their laurels and mainly focus on games that casual gamers and kids could play instead of the hardcore crowd.
The once sure symbol of quality, the Nintendo Seal of Quality, was created in the eighties to let the buyer know that the game they were purchasing was checked by Nintendo to ensure that the game was of good quality and would provide an awesome experience. That Seal of Quality has since been replaced by the Official Nintendo Seal* and the once very protective Nintendo began letting just about any company make games for the Wii while they twirled their thumbs trying to decide which children’s game they would create next. In the meantime, those of us waiting for a truly engaging experience to have on the Wii finally realized that it would never really materialize. Before I knew it, Nintendo was announcing the Wii U and the story for Nintendo would only get worse.
Once the Wii U launched, it wasn’t long before Nintendo gave up on the Wii and started focusing their attention on creating games solely for the Wii U. Mind you, the differences between the Wii and the Wii U were really just the addition of the game-pad/controller “thing-a-ma-jigger” and it seemed like Nintendo was just trying to double down on a product that they had already done, which was really out of character for them. Before long, because of the poor reception of the Wii U and its low install base, companies like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft declared that they would no longer be creating games for the Wii U. This is the first time in my recollection that 3rd party game developers had stated publicly that because a console was performing so badly in the marketplace that they would stop trying to make games for it. Nintendo themselves were either unable or unwilling to even put out games for these consoles as the games that they promised were either delayed indefinitely or cancelled altogether.
At some point during the end of the Wii’s life-cycle and the beginning of the Wii U’s life-cycle, Nintendo released statements saying that they were focused on creating video game experiences for young audiences and would mainly focus on games that appealed to a more general audience. Well, that’s all well and good but what about all of us hardcore gamers that grew up playing Nintendo and helped to make them the success that they are today? How do you reconcile, inside of the company, alienating millions of gamers in their thirties and forties now that have jobs and the disposable income to purchase the games that we expect to have on a Nintendo console? It felt like a slap in the face and an insult to those of us that helped to propel Nintendo into the history books. It felt like I was being abandoned by a family member no matter how hard I screamed that I wanted to be apart of the Nintendo family.
So, after many, many months of contemplation and soul-searching, I have come to the realization that Nintendo just isn’t the video game company for me anymore and have chosen to move on. I must admit the Nintendo of the past holds a special place in my heart and I will continue to play my old Nintendo consoles (I have the DS in several iterations as well) but I will probably pass on the “NX” whenever it surfaces just like I did with the Wii U. I am just not confident in Nintendo’s abilities to deliver the types of experiences on the new console that I want to have. Burn me once, shame on me. Burn me twice… It feels like I am leaving an old friend behind but it must be done if I am going to be able to move ahead. Where other companies listen to their audience as far as what types of experiences that they want to have, Nintendo has chosen to try to tell its audience what they want and then tries to shove that down their throats. It’s been a great ride with Nintendo, but like so many other good things in life, this too has come to and end.
What’s your thoughts on Nintendo and the path that they have chosen for the company over the least few years? Leave your comments below.
*Originally, for NTSC countries, the seal was a large, black and gold circular starburst. The seal read as follows: “This seal is your assurance that NINTENDO has approved and guaranteed the quality of this product.” This seal was later altered around 1988; “approved and guaranteed” was changed to “evaluated and approved.” In 1989, the seal became gold and white, much like it appears today, with a shortened phrase “Official NINTENDO Seal of Quality.” The symbol remained unchanged until 2003 when the of “Quality” segment was removed. (http://gaming.wikia.com/wiki/Nintendo_Seal_of_Quality)