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Should Nintendo become a 3rd-party Developer?

Should Nintendo become a 3rd-party Developer?

Nintendo’s new NX console is fast approaching, but you would forgive me if I was a little less than enthused. Nintendo’s track record in the non-portable console market, since, well since the SNES basically, has largely been less than stellar.

People who disagree with the above paragraph will point to the Wii, which was by far the most successful console of the last generation in terms of sales. I happen to believe that the Wii succeeded because it was (a) cheap, (b) gimmicky, and (c) party-game central. It had very few classics in its library and its viability was based upon motion-control – a USP that didn’t work properly, was vaporized by the time the Move and Kinect came along, and largely doesn’t even exist anymore.

They won the last gen console war. But they captured an audience that can barely even be called casual. Worse still, they created no brand royalty with that crowd.

See, Nintendo have by and large scraped their way through each generation since the 16-bit era. They haven’t been a top two system since N64. And these days, they’re coming 3rd in the two-horse race for our living rooms. Stop to think about that for a second.

Atari is a now a publisher. SEGA is a now publisher. Those two have made their colossal opfokerys in the past but Nintendo committed the greatest console misstep in history with the horrid Virtual Boy. And then they commissioned Sony to create the Playstation add on for the SNES, only to quickly pull the plug on the whole deal and hand the electronics giant the keys to the entire gaming kingdom.

To say Sony ran with the ball at their expense is an understatement, yet the Big N chugs along through an ever-continuing malaise of hardware disasters, never skipping a beat in their incredible ability to never give a fuck. It’s a reality made worse by the fact that they own the most valuable and beloved IPs in gaming history…

As far as gaming characters go, Mario is God. He came to the fore in a time when others were content with Balloon Fight and Elevator Action and forged a path for level-design, power ups and all-round innovation. Subsequent videogame heroes, from Sonic to Lara, owe him their allegiance.

I LOVE Mario. But I haven’t played a Mario game since Mario 3 on the Famicom. I’ve also never played a Zelda or a Metroid game. Donkey Kong Jr was meh. And Pokémon was a TV show for me, not a game. I didn’t even own any of Nintendo’s systems (My Famicom was a Chinese knockoff.)

And yet, I know these venerable properties a lot more intimately that I should. I know Mother Brain is Samus Aran’s big bad. I know that Zelda isn’t the player character’s name. I know that Diddy is Donkey Kong’s son. And I know Vulpix has more than one evolution. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only non-Nintendo person who knows these things either.

It’s probably because I’m a hopeless nerd who equips himself with useless factoids. But it’s also because Nintendo’s exclusives are sacrosanct in a way that no other system’s mascots could ever be. Not even Nate Drake with his perfect Metacritic Scores, or Master Chief with his legions of diehard fanboys, could hope to touch the Italian plumber’s legacy. Pikachu, Samus and Link are no slouches either.

These characters represent a sort of dedication to substance, innocence and nostalgia that just can’t be replicated. As their peers like Sonic and Megaman sink into obscurity, these little guys are basically unchanged from when they debuted – in a market that bears absolutely no resemblance to the ones they debuted in. Ask Duke Nukem. Ask Crash Bandicoot. NOTHING has that kind of staying power. Not even your mom.

Nintendo’s bigwigs know that their exclusives kick the shit out of everyone else’s. 99% percent of why they make consoles is because they want their games to sell their consoles – a classic case of wanting their bread buttered on both sides. Unfortunately, Sony taught us (back in the 90s) that exclusives may sell consoles, but the 3rd party games keep them going. And it was that commitment that laid the groundwork for the successful game console of the future. That was what turned a kid’s toy into a multi-billion-dollar industry.

And yes, Nintendo might be living off of their handheld sales which are much better when compared to the PS Vita. But, what are their stats versus the Apple or Android exclusives? I mean, we know that Angry Birds, Plants VS Zombies, Candy Crush and Clash of Clans make more money than even console games, so what chance does handheld even have against smartphones with better specs, support a planet’s population of users and libraries of stupidly popular “freemium” games?

It’s 110% Nintendo’s right to be entitled to their wrong opinion. It’s admirable, and there’s nothing a guy from University Estate could ever say or do to make them change that model. But it just doesn’t make sense on any level. In a world where non-exclusive series like FIFA, COD and GTA print money for their publishers, can Nintendo honestly say that their methods work? Do they honestly believe that releasing titles for the competition’s users would somehow be less lucrative than their current modus operandi?

And if the company’s MO isn’t money (very unlikely), but to make games, then surely the more noble cause would be to release to the majority of players? And whilst you could make the same arguments for Uncharted, God of War, Gears or Halo, those games do fine on their home systems. They’re what we call “system-sellers” for sure, but even a system-seller needs its platform’s lifespan to come to the party. As much as I want to play Mario Maker, I’m not going to be saddled with a doorstop (2 doorstops if you include its controller) for the pleasure.

The Nintendo NX, with equivalent hardware specs to the competition, is an attempt to rectify. But with the Wii U still fresh, it’s a desperate move and one that looks destined to fail. Nintendo have to realise soon, that they are not Apple. Hell, most Apple fanboys I know hate Windows and hate PC… yet play their games on a MICROSOFT system with PC architecture.

And let’s take little nugget a step further. Microsoft Office was a system seller in its heyday. But when Mac came to the fore, MS actually made its most pertinent software available to its biggest competition. This is because Microsoft understood that if they couldn’t have the home computer market to themselves anymore, they could at least have its operators.

Nintendo likewise, can’t have the console market to itself anymore. But if they became 3rd party, they would surely have its players.

And in the end, isn’t that what truly counts?

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