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Nintendo is a proud company, an old company and a company that tries to leave it's mark on each and every generation if it can. From introducing the NES after the video game crash in 1984 to finding the casual market with the Wii. There is no doubt that Nintendo has solidified its legacy within the videogame industry.
However moving into the year 2012, Nintendo finds itself in a troubling position after the success of the Wii and DS. The 3DS, Nintendo's new portable offering, hasn't sold well and has received much criticism from its lack of games. Also on the horizon is the Wii U, Nintendo next major home console, which its audience doesn't yet fully understand. Nintendo is facing a shaky future, and I believe several of their past choices factor into this.
The Nostalgia Factor
Over Nintendo's long and great career in video games they have built the most iconic characters and memorable franchises in gaming. From Super Mario, Zelda, and Metroid to Donkey Kong and Star Fox. However, while these franchises are iconic and always sure to please, Nintendo has hardly strayed from or looked for creating anything new. Every generation has its Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Donkey Kong, but that's it. The last notable new IP's that's been created by Nintendo are Pikmin and Animal Crossing and that was during the Gamecube era.
While Nintendo can survive off these franchises it sends a message that nothing else can hope for success on their system. No matter how many third parties put out a hardcore or well fleshed out game, they just don't sell well. There is a reason for this. If Nintendo were to put out new and original franchises and promote them as well as they do their mainstay franchises, think of the impact. Their message changes. It would show that their system is known for having franchises new and old. Third parties would follow suit, seeing that new franchise can sell well and be accepted. Think about the impact; this makes third parties more open to making exclusive franchises for Nintendo's system like the PS3 and Xbox have with Metal Gear Solid and Gears of War. Telling Third party companies they will promote them more isn't enough, Nintendo needs to take the first step.
Let's all agree that the Wii and DS were a success, the past six years have been kind to Nintendo. However, Nintendo's unexpected success has lead them to misinterpret the future. They look towards the Wii and DS brand names to move forward their new offerings. They feel that if people recognize the names that they will buy the product. While this might be somewhat true, in Nintendo's case it doesn't necessarily work.
Let's use the DS brand as an example. How many versions of the DS were put out during its lifespan? We've gone from the original DS, to the DS Lite, DSi and to the DSi XL. When it came time to bring its next generation portable system, the 3DS, the common consumers sees it as nothing more than another DS, nothing new. Nintendo has taken advantage of the brand name so much that it has come back to bite them in the end. It's the reason for the 3DS' lackluster launch (half the reason, lack of games factor in to), nobody knows what this system is.
Which leads us to the upcoming Wii U. Doubt already surrounds this system in concept and design. Its name takes after its predecessor, yet its concept resembles nothing of the Wii. Where the Wii built its success on the casual market and motion controls, early previews of the Wii U show a tablet like controller with some motion controls and a Dual screen design. If this is the best way to describe this new system, it's going to confuse people. While it is compatible with the Wii remote, adding the Wii brand name will mislead some people to believe it's something it's not.
No doubt Nintendo is an innovator. Their ideas have ranged from the SNES controller, the analog stick, the Nintendo DS to the Wii motion controller. There is no arguing without these innovation the gaming industry wouldn't be where its at today. But lets face it, Nintendo has had some duds. One of Nintendo's biggest problems is forcing some of their innovations onto consumers.
Some of the ideas Nintendo has had in the past just don't work. One of Nintendo's earliest failures is the Virtual boy. This eye gouging device was suppose to provide great three dimensional gaming. What it did was provide headaches and very little games. What Nintendo saw as an innovation is nothing more than a novelty. Seeming to never learn from their mistakes, Nintendo recently created the 3DS. While viewing 3D without the use of glasses is a cool feature, it is not an innovation. If Nintendo would have realized this before the creation of the system instead of making it the main selling point, it would have had a better reception. Nintendo's problem seems to be that when it has an idea that doesn't resonate with the consumer, they try to convince everyone that it's something more than it is.
When an idea is something that doesn't need to be persuaded upon someone, than it's an innovation. That feeling of "This is amazing, I get it". That's what the analog on the N64 was, that's what the DS was and that's what the Wii motion controller was. The Wii U might follow the trend of other failed Nintendo innovations. People don't fully understand it yet and the idea seems forced. However, it's too early to tell, the DS like design of the system has potential, but people will have to wait and see.
Looking toward the future
Nintendo's pride factors into a lot of these problems. While most of the time they know what they are doing, they have trouble embracing other innovations and acknowledging when something might not work. We all know Nintendo has had many other problems such as embracing online and DLC, but these are the bread and butter of Nintendo's issues. Nintendo's future is still uncertain, the 3DS is very early in its lifespan and the Wii U has a long way until it is released. Unless they plan to address these issues it's hard to imagine Nintendo moving forward, and possibly losing all the success they've earned with the Wii and the DS.
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