Nintendo Reportedly Lost Over $400 Million, What’s Next?
Nintendo recently reported an operating loss of ¥46.4 billion ($457 million) for fiscal year 2013–its third consecutive year of operating losses. It seems Nintendo can’t catch a break. Total worldwide sales figures for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS family stand at 6.17 million and 43.3 million, respectively. It’s very difficult to see Nintendo’s dominance in mind share, and the gaming hobby, fade since my youth. But Nintendo has only given in to defeat once–with the Virtual Boy. Nintendo’ s past, present, and future always seems to make for an interesting topic, throw in some hypotheticals and I hope you enjoy.
Nintendo’s home consoles have seen a steady decline since the NES. The exception with home consoles was the Wii thanks to the Blue Ocean Strategy. The decline can also be seen with their handhelds, with the Nintendo DS being the exception. Even with Nintendo being the cornerstone of the motion-control market, the Wii was usually accompanied by an Xbox 360 or PS3 in the entertainment center. For many, the Wii has already been placed in the closet by now. Maybe banking on the Wii brand probably wasn’t the best choice for the latest console, Nintendo. Frankly, the Wii U should have been the console released back in 2006–that would have made for a very interesting generation. Wii U is a very capable system, but…not comparable to what the competition has cooked up for the latest gen.
In its heyday, Nintendo was video games. The U.S. video game industry was single-handedly restored with the NES. It didn’t matter what console you were playing, some parents would state their kids were playing Nintendo even if Sonic was on the screen. Part of the what made the NES a success was the amazing third-party support, and the SNES had that support as well, but that changed with the Nintendo 64. The decline in third-party support came with the choice to continue using cartridges with the N64 while other consoles moved on to discs at the time. The difference in lifetime sales between the NES (61.91 million) and N64 (32.93 million) shows the importance of said support.
Now imagine if the Wii U was released in 2006. I like to believe relationships between Nintendo and third-parties would have seen some seriously overdue mending. The hardware is capable enough for Mass Effect 3, Batman Arkham City, and Assassin’s Creed. Combined with the runaway hit Wii Sports, and I smell a recipe for a return of former glory. On top of that, we could have had amazing HD versions of Super Mario Galaxy and the rest of the Nintendo staples. The challenges of developing games in HD would have been experienced at the same time as the competition. Alas, that is a farfetched reality and a part of me is glad it didn’t go that way. I love that Nintendo is the quirky and light-hearted underdog, and a “safe place” for gaming. They’re the Little Mac of the video game industry, but that doesn’t leave them immune from a K.O. this round. We must face the hard truth.
At best, the Wii U is going to be another GameCube (21.74 million sold) if Nintendo can release a few showstoppers next year. Judging by the turnaround done with Nintendo 3DS, I wouldn’t call a T.K.O. on the Wii U yet. 2013 saw a wave of great games for the 3DS, so maybe that will happen in 2015 for the Wii U. The lack of killer games are not the only problem that has plagued the Wii U. Games that utilize the GamePad in mind-blowing ways are close to zero and makes it seem like just an expensive, overloaded, intimidating controller. And if your differentiator from the other guys appears intimidating, say goodbye to the casuals–which already happened. I am baffled Nintendo hasn’t announced a revamped Pokemon Snap or Mario Paint as downloadable titles. Are these titles not perfectly suited for the GamePad? How are others developers expected to make interesting use of the GamePad if Nintendo flounders at leading the pack on its own hardware? Taking a closer look at the first-party games coming out this year, it doesn’t seem like the GamePad will ever reach its potential with software features. So, what the heck can Nintendo rely on for its home console? NFC, might be it.
Balancing out the bad news, Nintendo announced their NFC (Near Field Communication) plans with the Nintendo Figurine Platform for Wii U and 3DS. NFP is basically like Skylanders or Disney Infinity with a Big-N twist and apparently not bound to a single game–they’re talking cross-game compatibility. It’s a great move for Nintendo which brings them full circle to their roots as a toymaker. This market is perfect for Nintendo. It should have been on the table a years ago! It’s hard to believe they didn’t jump on an exclusive deal for Skylanders. I really hope this works out well for Nintendo. Their original test bed with Pokemon Rumble didn’t seem to gain any traction but NFP could bring things to a new level within the market. Finally the GamePad’s NFC feature may get some real mileage and most Nintendo fans will probably eat these figures up. I know I will try to collect a bunch of these figures as they roll out later this year.
Though, the most interesting times are still far ahead, the near future is fairly bleak. Yeah, we can get our hands on Mario Kart 8 very soon–which plays amazingly, by the way–but there will likely be a serious drought until Smash Bros. Wii U. We don’t have a solid date for Bayonetta or any indication on the status of Monolith Soft’s X, while Yarn Yoshi and Zelda Wii U hasn’t been mentioned since early 2013. Hope lie with whatever Nintendo announces at E3. Here is to wishful thinking that something noteworthy is announced to hold down Nintendo fans for the rest of the year.
What do you think will help Nintendo’s future? Are you interested in NFP or any announced titles? Do you have interesting ideas for GamePad uses in games?