Nintendo- An Overview
Nintendo has been a mainstay in the video games industry since 1983, when it single-handedly revitalized the video games market with the Nintendo Entertainment System. But every since the GameCube's failure to capture a large market share in the 6th generation of consoles, Nintendo has relied on innovation (or what some may consider "gimmicks") and unorthodox design to sell its consoles.
While Microsoft and Sony share similar game libraries and aim for better graphics, Nintendo has released two generations of underpowered home consoles with unique control schemes. In the realm of handheld consoles, Nintendo has also competed against Sony with far weaker devices. So how does Nintendo currently stand in the industry? Let's see.
The Anomaly- Nintendo Wii
The GameCube was Nintendo's last effort to compete with power alone. Following its spectacular failure, Nintendo drastically changed course, and it startled the world by announcing the Wii. Many wrote it off as a doomed console, and some even speculated that it would be Nintendo's last foray in home consoles. After all, the Wii was extremely weak when compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3. Instead, the Wii was a smash hit, selling over 100 million units and seemingly crushing its competition. Nintendo captured a whole new audience of "casual" gamers by successfully showcasing the appeal of motion controls with Wii Sports. Other games such as Wii Fit also allowed those who had never even used a console to enjoy gaming.
It would be easy to conclude that Nintendo's way of doing business was "right," and that Nintendo won the console war of the 7th generation. However, fast-forward to the present day, and the Xbox 360 and PS3 enjoy continued support and games, while the Wii's software sales are practically dead.
The simple fact is that though Nintendo attracted the large casual audience, they failed to convert this audience into gamers. The Wii had a low software attach rate, with an average of 3.7 games being sold per console at one point. Also, the Wii's lack of technological horsepower did major harm to its 3rd party support. While Nintendo could create unique, successful software for its console, large developers couldn't be bothered to put in the extra effort to work with such a weak console. And with its terrible online infrastructure and WiiWare policies, Nintendo drove away indie developers as well. The Wii was still a massive financial success for Nintendo, but its policies would come to haunt the company when they released their next home console.
Wii U- Will it be a success of failure?
The Wii U is the Wii's successor and Nintendo's current home console. It was announced in 2011, and released a year before Microsoft or Sony even announced their own next generation launch dates. This time, Nintendo was banking on a new control scheme- "asymmetric gameplay." By making the tablet-like GamePad the Wii U's controller, Nintendo hoped to differentiate itself from its competitors and repeat the success of the Wii. For a while, it even seemed like Nintendo could succeed. They had a massive head start in the 8th generation, and if they could showcase the appeal of gaming with two screens (like Wii Sports did for motion controls), the Wii U was sure to be a success. Unfortunately, Nintendo failed on all fronts. Without a clear effective marketing campaign, the average consumer thought the GamePad was simply a new controller for the Wii. Meanwhile, Nintendo's Wii Sports-type game for the Wii U, Nintendo Land, also failed in its purpose.
Well, no problem. At least Nintendo's true fans would have some solid 1st party games to play on their new console, right?
Nope. Nintendo's game development on the weak, Standard Definition Wii left them completely unprepared to deal with the challenge of creating HD graphics, and many announced games had their release dates pushed back. 3rd party developers were also wary of Nintendo's console after their experiences with the Wii. As a result,the Wii U was faced with a software drought that further drove away gamers and developers alike.
At the present moment, Nintendo is still lacking in 3rd party support from major studios and publishers. However, many indies have shown interest in developing for the system, and Nintendo themselves are continuing to develop high quality titles for the system. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year, Nintendo revealed a new open world Zelda game in development, as well as an interesting new take on 3rd person shooters called Splatoon. Will these measures be enough to save the Wii U, or will it be crushed by the PS4 and Xbox One?
Chime in below!
Will the Wii U be a success?
The Juggernaut- Nintendo DS
Between 1989 and 2004, Nintendo dominated the handheld market with its series of Game Boy handhelds. But in 2004, Nintendo unveiled a handheld that was radically different from its previous offerings: the Nintendo DS. The DS featured two screens, one of which was a touchscreen. Though that may not seem like such a big deal now, in 2004 touchscreens were far from standard.
Nintendo seemed set for another easy victory in the handheld market, but Sony shook up the scene by announcing the PSP. Sony's PlayStation and PlayStation 2 had easily beaten their rival home consoles, and some analysts believed they could successfully challenge Nintendo's handheld dominance as well. Nintendo and Sony had two very different philosophies for their handhelds- Nintendo emphasized creativity with the DS' unique design, while Sony aimed to create what was essentially a portable home console with their PSP.
In the end, Nintendo defeated the PSP, with the DS selling 154 million units and becoming the second best selling game console of all time.
The Nintendo 3DS- From "Doomed" to Great Success
Nintendo released their DS successor, the Nintendo 3DS, in 2011 for $250. The new handheld looked very similar to the DS, but the biggest new feature was the ability to see glasses free 3D images on the top screen. Nintendo heavily emphasized this new feature in early marketing for the handheld, but unfortunately the high price of the handheld and the lack of system selling games resulted in poor initial sales. Sony's PS Vita was also launching at the same price, and it was far more powerful than the 3DS. For a short while, gaming websites were constantly running articles labeling the 3DS as a doomed console. Then, only a few months after launching the 3DS, Nintendo announced a massive $80 price cut, and released new 1st party titles such as Super Mario 3D Land. This move paid off, and the 3DS has gone on to sell more than 42 million units. Sony's PS Vita, on the other hand, sold only 4.5 million units.
At the present moment, the 3DS is the reigning handheld of the current generation, with a constant stream of great games being released.
Nintendo released the 2DS, an entry-level handheld in October 2013 for $129.99. The handheld plays 3DS games, but only in 2D. It has sold 2.2 million units.
Nintendo has announced the New Nintendo 3DS, a more powerful 3DS that will launch in the Americas in 2015. This model will come with a more powerful CPU as well as a variety of new control options. Naturally, this could lead to market fragmentation, as this new model will have exclusive features and even some exclusive games.
Nintendo has released a variety of 3DS models, some of which are significantly different from one another and most of which appear to be incremental upgrades on previous models. Could this lead to a new dynamic in which Nintendo releases new models yearly, like many companies in other tech fields? How will this impact the future of gaming? We'll see in the coming months.