Nintendo is on the road to extinction.
Every year around this time, at the end of Nintendo’s fiscal year, I find myself writing about or telling someone how Nintendo is going to die if something doesn’t change soon.
This year, as it has been the previous two years, Nintendo posted a year-end loss and fell incredibly short of its projected sales.
So far, Nintendo has done little to amend this problem, other than announcing that they will be will be adopting a new platform using their software and hardware to create products aimed at increasing ‘quality of life.’ Some have speculated this will mean expanding into more products like WiiFit and Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training, but Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has said nothing to clarify what exactly that will entail.
Iwata has also said that he is still confident that Wii U sales will increase and that the console’s best days are still ahead of it. However, seeing that the console has been on the market for a year and a half already and this year’s sales fell drastically short after projections were cut, I can’t say that I share Iwata’s confidence.
Instead, I feel that the Wii U’s limited game catalogue is going to hold the console back.
Without some firm release dates for games in some of Nintendo’s trademark franchises (and perhaps a price drop in the console itself) gamers are going to be turned off from the Wii U and more inclined to spend their money on other eighth gen consoles.
Which brings me to the real reason I believe Nintendo has been struggling so much in recent years. Its audience is too narrow. Nintendo has always focused on children and family-friendly videogame franchises.
From these franchises were born some of the greatest games ever created as well as lovable characters like Mario, Donkey Kong, Link and Kirby.
While these franchises have huge appeal to older audiences as well as the younger ones they are targeted to, older audiences want to be able to play more mature games on their console as well.
However, great franchises like Donkey Kong Country, Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda haven’t really grown up with gamers (and they shouldn’t, to be honest) and Nintendo doesn’t have a lot of other content that appeals to adult gamers.
Transforming itself to be more successful is something that has worked for Nintendo in the past (Nintendo began as a playing card printing company) and while this new platform might sound promising, Iwata’s lack of clarity in what it entails is also disturbing.
However, Nintendo has also said it will begin allowing licensing of some of their better known characters for use outside of just their video games.
Again, it’s hard to imagine what this means as most of Nintendo’s most recognizable characters already appear on everything from stickers to plush toys to sports drinks to umm…shower heads.
Having said that, there is one licensing option available to Nintendo that would definitely help them.
License the franchises of those famous characters for use on other consoles.
It’s a move that Nintendo has been incredibly resistant to thus far, but it would undoubtedly work.
While adult gamers aren’t willing to spend money on the Wii U and limit our gaming experience to enjoy the classic Nintendo franchises, we would gladly sink our money (and a lot of it) into them for use on more mature consoles like the Xbox One and PS4.
To those who don’t care about video games this might not seem very significant, but try to appreciate it from this perspective.
Nintendo made its name by revolutionizing the home entertainment industry. It succeeded where Atari failed in bringing video games into the living room and continued to be an innovative leader in entertainment technology with ground-breaking systems like the Wii.
Basically, to the rest of the world, Nintendo disappearing from the video game industry would be akin to Ford disappearing from the motor vehicle industry, the loss of a huge mogul.
For gamers, it’s the loss of a brand once synonymous with video games and the cause of many fond childhood memories.