When Did Nintendo Start Running Out of Steam?
As far as electronics companies go, Nintendo is as much of a giant as it is a legend. But as Sony and Microsoft trade heavyweight blows in the ring of console supremacy, Nintendo with its Wii U has been sidelined as far as media attention goes. With the possible exception of its falling share prices…
In spite of having a one year head start, the Wii U is falling short, selling 3.5 million units instead of the targeted 4 million. Many gamers hold Nintendo as an important cornerstone our childhood and it’s a little worrying to consider that rough times may lie ahead for the company. Where did things start to go wrong?
The Nintendo Wii (Minus the ‘U’)
It wasn’t all that long ago when the Nintendo (against all the odds) proudly wore the champion’s belt for console supremacy. It could be argued that the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 were the “real” gamer’s choice, but Nintendo’s notably less powerful Wii was very much a head in the sales.
Some speculated that the Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, making Times Magazine’s Most Influential People list was a contributor to the company’s success between 2007 and 2010. It’s a bit of a long shot but it was awesome to see someone from the industry giving a big ol’ “GG noobs” to the world’s big shots. It was probably some decent PR and an indication that the company was anything but running out of steam. So what happened? Did things get too gimmicky?
Nintendo has a history of trying to improve immersion through innovative means. When the rumble pack was released for the Nintendo 64, it added at least a layer of sensory depth to awesome gaming experiences such as Super Mario 64 and StarFox 64. Many Leisure Suit Larry fans were left disappointed the franchise wasn’t ported over with some accessory modifications. But it was a cool feature nonetheless and soon enough other consoles copied it. Then, a few years later, Nintendo pushed the boundaries a step further.
The Right Controller at the Right Time?
It may be more than a coincidence that this time period saw an explosion in the number of people playing video games. It wasn’t just Nintendo’s sales boosting the figures; it could also be partly attributed to the original iPhone and mobile gaming. As we reported previously here on the Ultimate Gamer blog, market research nerds, Parks Associates reported that the gaming population of US surged by over 240% in 2008.
Is it possible that all of these new people with their new-found interest in our favorite hobby broadened their gaming horizons with a bit of a Wii Tennis and the likes? The Wii Fitness craze saw many an experienced salad-dodger wobbling around and burning calories in the comfort of their living rooms. It certainly added an element of mass appeal that would help outstrip Sony and Microsoft in the sales. While the sales may have been well above what anyone had expected, was it at the cost of burning its core audience? Casual gamers could be a great niche but they have one major flaw; they have no need or desire to upgrade to the next generation. Which brings us to…
The Turning Point…
It seems like the release of the Nintendo Wii U was indeed the turning point . Although the touchscreen controller is kind of a cool feature, it hardly has the same kind of impact on the gaming industry as the Wiimote. It’s possible that gamers smelt fear that this early move hinted at and the Wii U also missed many online features that people had come to expect from modern consoles.
Knowing that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 release was just around the corner. Was everyone about to shell out cash for the Wii U when there could be some serious gaming goodies in the pipeline from the competition? Maybe we needed to know more…
Some critics say that Nintendo’s franchises are finally running out of legs, but if the reviews are anything to go by, Zelda and Mario still have plenty of life in them yet. When the new consoles hit the shelves, it’s likely that the Nintendo Wii U will see a price drop, a move that will no doubt improved sales, especially if the competition proved to be not what many were looking for.
Nintendo might be down, but it’s certainly not out. Miyamoto and the team have practically unrivalled experience in the industry and with so many changes in the console sector up-and-coming, there are plenty of opportunities still to be had.
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