Nintendo! Like much of the game-playing population of the world, I’ve come up with a solution for you! Rejoice! Shout Hallelujah! Return to cocooning yourselves in great big wodges of papier machied CASH! Yes it seems Nintendo, everybody’s favourite plumber pedaller, have spent the last few years diving arse first into increasingly laughable states of disrepair, and who would have thought the all-in-one, guaranteed-to-work solution could come from this buck-brained, internet nobody! Well think it folks, because here it is!
But first, the problem. Because it is a problem. While real gaming news sites may have said their bit many months ago, before slumping back into their ‘current affairs’ and ‘recent happenings’ and ‘interesting, thought provoking articles’, I have been scowering the internet for evidence to back up my wild, six-months-too-late assertions. And there’s plenty to go around it seems, albeit largely in the doomsday typefaces splattered about the shiny clean lines of business news websites. And Forbes.
Yes both Bloomberg Business and Forbes it seems have reported on Nintendo’s rather embarrassing financial forecasts within the last few days (at the time of writing, of course), and while the prospect of Nintendo’s rapidly declining monetary erection may seem like old news (and a bit of a weird metaphor, if we’re honest) it’s a hot topic on somebody’s lips. So just listen to me, will you?
The Wii U, the difficult second (sixth) home console, has struggled since launch because it doesn’t make a lick of sense. It doesn’t recapture its predecessor’s wiggly waggly novelty that enraptured the hearts of a nation of cavorting idiots in 2006, while it simultaneously doesn’t offer the POWER, or CoD Factor if you will (please don’t), of its rivals. It also doesn’t have any games.
What it does have, is Mario; a borderline racist stereotype (n.b. I don’t actually think that) whose value can be translated swiftly down to unending, nauseating, mawkish nostalgia (I don’t think that either – I love Mario. Who’s even writing this?) And with releases such as MARIO KART 8 (wonderful) and SUPER SMASH BROS (good, if you can figure out what the hell is going on) in the last few months, that should bolster things for poor ol’ Ninty, right? Wrong.
Hardware and software sales are down 11 percent Year on Year over the last nine months, which sounds awful doesn’t it. Especially considering that now MK8 and Smash Bros are in the rear view mirror, what’s there even to look forward to? A 3DS sales decline; apparently.
So with an aging handheld struggling to stay relevant in the world of smartphones, and a home console which has never even been relevant, what can Nintendo do in 2015 and 16 to get back to their former glory? Unleash your bated breath my dear fellow and fellowettes, I have an answer!
First of all, let’s look at Nintendo’s most prominent market; handheld. It’s not going to be an Earth moving revelation if I say Ninty have to embrace the era of the smartphone. In fact you’d probably struggle to hear me saying it over the violent bellowing of six million other people saying those exact words over the course of the last year. But wait; there’s more. The devil is in the details, and if Nintendo are going to embrace and, indeed, migrate their infinitely lovable characters to the smartphone, how will they go about doing it? Because when Miyamoto placed ‘it’s not as simple as making Mario move on a smartphone’, on a word platter that he’ll probably have to eat one day, he was actually kind of right.
What do smartphones almost universally lack that Nintendo have always had? Buttons. If they’re serious about staying in the hardware game, then here’s the opportunity to combine both. Sort of. Proprietary controllers are the slowest launching accessory in the history of anything on iOS, and that’s likely because the ones that are out are so blindingly unsuccessful, nobody fancies a slice of the failure pie. But the reason for that is the compatibility. These third party controllers support only a crude collection of arbitrary games that nobody wants to play anyway; it’s not worth it. Nintendo though, they can make it worth it.
A proprietary iOS Nintendo controller/case that was required to run a large range of specially released Nintendo ports/new versions would be a hit. Of course it would be a hit. That wasn’t even a question. The world of smartphone mobile gaming is crying out for a way round the groping, unintuitive, feedback-less smudge fest that is a touch screen for playing games, and just about every single one of those people would boot their own mother face-first off a cliff to play Pokemon on their phone. With a back-catalogue of games that people really, really care about and are already deeply invested in, coupled with the option to experience those games properly, on the move with one simple accessory case, and Nintendo could be back at the cutting edge of both the mobile hardware (accessory) and the software markets.
So that’s handheld taken care of; now, what to do with the Wii U. Essentially, Nintendo have to face facts. The Wii was a fluke. Garish proof that the world can cling onto short-lived, substanceless novelties with the ceaseless, masochistic tenacity of a Daily Mail reader, and to the tune of several million, but only once. Either Nintendo need to cast their home console efforts the way of the DoDo; and send them tumbling haphazardly into the Indian Ocean, resigning themselves to making games for the Sony and MS machines, OR, they wise up to what their hardware is and does and means and how it is perceived.
And by that I mean, I would pay a good price for a Mario Kart 8 machine. But not £200. Seemingly, the third party bridges have been broken, and Ninty don’t seem keen on calling up their neighbor Gary who owns a crane. Or something. So let bygones be bygones and accept that it’s a first party only console; make it a first party console – a Mario machine, and in many cases, for many gamers, a supplement to the rather contrasting gaming experiences available on Xbox and Playstation. Many gamers want to own a Nintendo console for a whole load of different reasons, but owning one INSTEAD of a Playstation or Xbox is just simply too much to ask. Those install bases are ubiquitous for the type of experience that gamers seem to crave these days. But who doesn’t want to sit in front of the telly and have a quick blast of Mario Kart/Party/Tennis/World etc. if they had the option, incline and even a friend or two in the vicinity. I know many people that in many circumstances would choose the latter; just not all the time, every time. Make a budget console that everyone can own Nintendo. Make great games as you have always done, and expand your horizons to mobile phones by innovating and giving the fans what they are banging on the desks and yelling themselves hoarse for, in that space.
Do all this, and you will find success once again, sweet, sweet Nintendo. Or you might at least be able to shake off these depressing Bloomberg articles.