Mikes Rant – Has The Switch Really Saved Nintendo?
Mike Sanders / 12 months ago
Mikes Rant 8 – Did The Switch Really Save Nintendo Or Has It Just Delayed Their Demise?
Before you get your pitchforks out, please note that I am a child of Nintendo. If we overlook the Acorn Electron I had, my first ever full blown gaming console was a NES. I remember getting it for Christmas in 1989 and little did I know at the time just how much influence that grey plastic box would have on my future.
Just to emphasise my love for them, a few Christmas’ later, I then got a Super Nintendo. I was again thrilled with it.
Despite this being some of the happiest days of my gaming life, it did, however, spark the beginning of a dark period for Nintendo. In brief, it was at this point that things seemed to go a bit wrong for Nintendo.
A Brief History Lesson
Known as the ‘Great Video Game Crash of 1983’ that just happened to be the year in which the NES launched in Japan. It would not come to America for another 2 years and Europe had to wait a year longer than that!
Overall though, the early signs for Nintendo were not good in successfully cracking the west. It even led to what was a major nail in Atari’s coffin. Believe it or not, Nintendo offered Atari the rights to market the NES in the US and Europe. Atari turned it town after a falling out over Donkey Kong. No, I’m not joking. Nintendo would, of course, go on to repeat that mistake themselves with Sony, but that’s another story for another day.
As a little tidbit of trivia though, part of the design of the original NES was entirely down to the video game market crash. Nintendo was worried that the Famicom design in Japan looked too much like a toy. As such, they redesigned the NES to look more like a computer. The idea was that it would assuage any fears in America that this was part of the market crash. A move that clearly worked for them as that grey box proved to be exceptionally popular.
Success, Failure, Regret, Repeat!
Since those heady days, things have been a little tougher for Nintendo with a lot of hits and misses. When you think about it, Nintendo was rather fortunate in that their first 3 major releases, the NES, Gameboy and SNES were such massive successes. In fact, in terms of handheld consoles, Nintendo has always done exceptionally well. I still remember playing with my original Gameboy in the late 90’s when the Pokemon craze landed. I still own a few Nintendo handhelds.
Since the Super Nintendo though, Nintendo has almost continually gone from alternating success with failure with consoles. I do, however, acknowledge that your definition of this might not match my own.
Let’s, therefore, look at each console Nintendo has released since. Namely; the N64, Gamecube, Wii, Wii-U and now the Switch. Of these which would you consider successes and failures?
Nintendo’s Biggest Mistake
Undoubtedly Nintendo’s biggest mistake in the mid-nineties was their failure to take cd-rom technology seriously. During the N64 and PS1 war, there was a distinct difference. While cd-roms could hold around 650mb of information the most Nintendo could squeeze onto a Cartridge was about 64mb.
It was for exactly this reason that Square Enix jumped ship with Final Fantasy 7. They knew the N64 simply wouldn’t be capable of running the game they wanted to make. The only real testament that we ever saw with the N64 in direct comparison was the port of Resident Evil 2. It is honestly amazing how well that turned out on the console despite its limitations.
While Nintendo did eventually do this with the Gamecube Xbox was on the scene and the damage was done. Like the Sega advert promised 10 years earlier, Nintendo had been consigned to the Toy Box.
Revival But At A Terrible Cost
When the Wii launched it was a phenomenal success. The motions controls were something new in terms of consoles and gaming and how people loved it! Within months the Wii had become one of the best setting consoles and there was a time that it seemed every home had one.
While this was clearly a success for Nintendo, it was, however, to be one of their biggest crutches that plagued it in the future. The problem was that the Wii was a little too family orientated. It was the game console your parents (or even grandparents) played. It had very few 3rd party games of any note and quite rightly had a ‘cutesy-poo’ stigma attached to it.
Nintendo did, however, believe that this was the way to go and as such proceeded to release the Wii-U. The console that nearly killed them!
The Failure Of The Wii-U
There are many reasons and opinions on why the Wii-U was a failure. I always struggle with this point a little because I own one and as a console, I think it was great. Between Zombi-U, Mario 3D and Hyrule Warriors, it had some fantastic games. So why did it fail so badly?
The best explanation I can come up with is that the name was a monumental marketing mistake. The naming of the Wii-U made this brand new console sound like yet another Wii addon or peripheral. We had, after all, over the years seen plenty of those be it the fitness board or the motion control improver.
I’m not saying that calling it something different would’ve saved it. The console did have a big problem in terms of its games library. It may, however, have stopped it being an outright failure. Sadly though, the Wii-U will probably be remembered in the same category of the Dreamcast, a great console with a small (ish) number of fantastic games that failed due to mistakes at the top.
If you think I’m wrong on this point by the way and the Wii-U was just plain awful, that wouldn’t really explain why emulators for it today are so popular.
To conclude the sad chapter of the Wii-U though, I do not believe that it is any coincidence that in terms of design, the Switch is very similar to the Wii-U. Nintendo clearly understood the concept was good. Their delivery and communication of the product were just simply terrible.
Switch Salvages Nintendo!
I honestly believe that the future of Nintendo was entirely dependant on the Switch. If it was a failure, I think the company may have gone the way of Sega. At the very least they may have just scaled back to producing handheld consoles. They have, as above, always done well for Nintendo. They might have been able to make a little money licensing their IP’s. I am, however, pretty certain that they would never have released another console again.
Fortunately for them, and us, the Switch has been nothing short of a colossal success. Since it’s release in March 2017 it has regularly been top of the console sales charts. Within its first 6 months, it had already outsold the lifetime sales of the Wii-U. Nintendo, after long last, finally had another major hit on their hands. One which, dare I say, carries a lot more credibility than the Wii did.
Is this, however, enough to save Nintendo going forward?
What Does The Future Hold For Nintendo?
With the success of the Switch, Nintendo’s former President retired and a younger chap is now in charge. While he might, for the moment, be exceptionally popular, I feel he has a lot more pressure on him than many realise.
For the last 20 years, Nintendo has regularly repeated the pattern of success and failure with consoles. With the Switch being such a massive hit the short-term future of the company looks fantastic. I cannot help but think though that Nintendo is going to have to do this all over again to secure its future.
With the PS5 and new Xbox (whatever that’ll be called) likely to release in 2020 or 2021, at best Nintendo only has another year of being the new kid on the block.
In general terms of console rotation, Nintendo will likely plan their next console to release in 2023. I think they’re pretty happy trying to hit the market lul period that Microsoft and Sony have created in their own console war.
Why Am I Worried?
Call me a cynic though, but even despite the success of the Nintendo Switch, I can’t help but feel that Nintendo still cannot afford another failed console. Not at the moment at least. I think the next one, like the Switch, has to be a success to ensure the future of Nintendo in this market and this is why I feel that while the current Nintendo President might be sitting pretty, his job is a lot harder than many realise.
I think it all boils down to the fact that I just can’t shake off the feeling at the back of my mind that Nintendo’s future still hangs in the balance. On a personal level though, I sincerely wish them nothing but success. The bottom line is that I still want to be playing Mario games in another 30 years. I’m pretty sure many of you will feel the same way too.
What do you think?
Is Mike right about this? Is Nintendo’s future secure or do they have to build on their current success? – Let us know in the comments!
Despite Mike being angry and bald, he generally tends to have slightly more good ideas than bad ones. As such, we will continue to allow him to write these but bear in mind that Mike also thinks the De Lorean is one of the best looking cars ever made. As such, while we might occasionally agree with him, we want to make it very clear that we don’t always agree with him either!
If you want to check out more Mikes Rants, his previous rants include:
- Mikes Rant 1 – Why I hate system snobs!
- Mikes Rant 2 – The over and misuse of the word ‘troll’.
- Mikes Rant 3 – Stop Blaming Video Games for your violent children!
- Mikes Rant 4 – Why EA should just go away and die!
- Mikes Rant 5 – The Worst Tech Purchases I Ever Made!
- Mikes Rant 6 – Graphical Snobs Should Shut Up and Enjoy Gaming!
- Mikes Rant 7 – PC Games Are Getting Too Damn Expensive!