State of the industry: The future of Nintendo

Daniel Woodhouse

Corporations, like empires, rise and fall. Game companies are not exempt from this trend.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Released in 1985, the Nintendo Entertainment System introduced kids to Mario, Link, and many other notable game characters.

Escapist Magazine recently interviewed Atari founder Nolan Bushnell about Nintendo’s future. In the article, published on the magazine’s website, Bushnell said he is concerned Nintendo may be headed down a path similar to the one that led to his own company’s failure in the 1980s.

SuperNintendo Game System
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Released in 1991, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System gave gamers 16-bit graphics.

While Bushnell is right that Nintendo isn’t in the best spot right now — its stock is the lowest it’s been for a long time — their situation is a bit more complicated than Atari’s was. Atari’s collapse was, more or less, the result of an oversaturation of low-quality games on the market. Nintendo’s problems stem from a series of poor decisions dating back to the early 90s. It started in 1991 when Nintendo was developing a new console with Sony. That year, the company broke their partnership with Sony to develop a console with Phillips. The Phillips console failed miserably, while Sony created the Playstation and pulled in about a third of the market.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Released in 1996, the Nintendo 64 immersed gamers into 3D worlds.

The most recent problem for Nintendo is its rigid business model, which the company refuses to change. Features like online gaming and social media have yet to make their way to any of the latest Nintendo systems. Worse, Nintendo has focused exclusively on casual gaming, making “kiddy games” and censoring violent content. They have completely shunned the hardcore audiences of more in-depth, mature games. This isn’t good, especially since smartphones and tablets are currently leading the way in casual gaming.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Released in 2001, Nintendo decided the GameCube would use optical discs instead of cartridges.

For the past several years Nintendo has relied almost entirely on their core fan base for support by launching games from their main brands — another Mario Kart, another Zelda, another Metroid — with not a single new concept in sight. Nintendo is scraping the bottom of the barrel for new ideas for their old series, and the sequels are all beginning to look similar and lack distinguishability.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Released in 2006, the Wii was packaged with motion-sensitive controllers.

Nintendo has been, and still is to some degree, a major influence in gaming. However, if they don’t get with the times soon, they’ll undoubtedly suffer a fate similar to Atari’s and will eventually become replaced by a new industry giant.

Contact Daniel Woodhouse at [email protected]