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Nintendo: Vital to the The Video Game Industry

Feb 6 2014, 12:13pm CST | by

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Nintendo: Vital to the The Video Game Industry
 
 

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Nintendo: Vital to the The Video Game Industry

If you pay attention to video game industry news, read the analysts and pundits, or glimpse at the dismal sales figures for the Wii U you’ll likely come away worrying about the future of Nintendo, the most recognizable video game brand in history.

You might even come away from all of this thinking that the only sure path for the game maker is to ditch their hardware division , start publishing games on competitors’ platforms, and rush headlong into mobile.

I tend to take a very different outlook. I worry that a move to mobile especially would undercut the very thing that makes Nintendo’s products so valuable: Quality.

In an industry consistently plagued with bugs and half-baked releases, Nintendo is one of the few game developers that releases almost-flawless titles each and every time.

Last year, only one major bug stands out, out of all of Nintendo’s releases—a save-corrupting issue with Pokemon X/Y which Nintendo had patched up less than two weeks after it was reported.

Glancing over all of Nintendo’s 2013 titles, that same quality and precision runs throughout.

Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry said that  Super Mario 3D World  “serves to remind us of a day when console games were released as complete, polished products free of day-one patches and DLC.”

This isn’t to say that each and every game Nintendo releases is excellent. They have their misses just like everyone else.

But there’s a level of quality control in Nintendo’s games that is noticeably absent in the wider industry—an industry inundated with day-one patches (and DLC) and bugs, game-breaking or otherwise.

Look no further than Battlefield 4 to see how calamitous a rushed release can be. But even the surprisingly great Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag had its share of bugs, not to mention the Uplay connection issues that many gamers experienced.

We won’t even delve into the disaster that was Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Nintendo is also at the forefront of innovation in the industry, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse—innovation, after all, is the act of risk-taking and sometimes risks don’t pay off.

The Wii was a huge success thanks to the console’s innovative motion controls which, at least at first, opened the gates to a whole new kind of gamer. Still, I’d argue that motion control more often detract from games, and that motion controls in general have been a distraction.

Likewise, Nintendo’s dual-screen gameplay, both with handhelds and the Wii U, can make for some really interesting gaming experiences. But even so, it may have been a mistake with the Wii U. A risk that didn’t translate into consumer demand.

Nonetheless, even if the Wii U never finds its feet, at least Nintendo was attempting to do something different than the competition, not content to merely offer yet another console with a few power upgrades.

The innovation carries over to software.

Nintendo is often accused of re-hashing the same IPs over and over again, and there’s no doubt that Mario fatigue is a problem.

But even with Mario, we see huge changes from one game to the next. A Mario RPG is nothing like a 2D platformer game like New Super Mario U, which in turn is nothing like a 3D adventure like Super Mario 3D World.

Contrast this with the annual release of Call of Duty, a game that—while wildy popular—never departs from the formula.

Zelda recycles the same story over and over again, endlessly, and each game shares many things in common with the rest, and yet somehow most entries in the franchise feel fresh and original.

Looking at the wider Nintendo releases in 2013 is eye-opening.

The charming Pikmin 3 is really like no other game on the market. As a real-time strategy title, it’s almost hard to explain to people who haven’t actually played it. The Wonderful 101 is a dazzling, bizarre action-platformer—again, like nothing else on the market. (Perhaps even a little too outside the proverbial box.)

And then we have 3DS titles like Fire Emblem  and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. And Pokemon and Zelda.

Nintendo is releasing some of the most interesting, quirky games on the market. Games that aren’t designed to necessarily reach the widest audience possible; games that play to numerous niches.

They may not all sell as well as our annual first-person shooters, but at least they’re not simply aimed at the lowest common denominator.

I don’t mean to heap praise on Nintendo for Nintendo’s sake. What Nintendo does right I’d simply like to see more of across the industry.

But Nintendo is obviously doing many other things poorly. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation to begin with. Nintendo’s marketing, for instance, has been less than stellar.

The entire release of the Wii U was a disaster, right down to the name of the console itself. Nor has Nintendo done enough to market its games. No game as good as Super Mario 3D World, with such high brand recognition and glowing critical praise, should sell this poorly.

Nintendo could also improve its relationship with gamers.

The focus on casual gamers that started in earnest with the Wii has created a rift between the company and many in the “core” community, with Nintendo almost going out of its way to distance itself from the gaming community . Nintendo has also done too little to make third party partners a part of their business, and it shows.

Meanwhile, Nintendo’s actions against the Let’s Play video community smack of a peculiar disconnect between Nintendo and its most loyal fans.

The afore-mentioned Mario fatigue is also a problem. While Nintendo has been good about bringing new and quirky games to their systems lately, the huge focus on Mario is a mistake.

Nintendo has so many more exclusive IPs at its disposal. Focusing on Luigi—2013 was the “Year of Luigi” after all—isn’t really a solution to this at all. Where is Metroid? Where is Star Fox? Or how about a new, iconic first party franchise?

Still, these problems aside, Nintendo’s place in the market is an important one.

As a company invested in quality releases, I can think of few developers that compare. Nor can I think of many companies out there that are comparable in terms of size and innovation. I’m not sure either of these features translate well into a company only producing software, and I certainly worry that a move into mobile would hurt Nintendo’s reputation for quality.

There are other reasons, of course. Like the importance of kid-friendly games that aren’t just on touch-screens.

As Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony Worldwide Studios told IGN :

“When you look at the situation around Nintendo that way, do you characterize Nintendo as our competition? I think in the bigger scale of things happening in the industry or tech or people’s lives, how they play games on what device, and how they start to learn to play games, I think Nintendo and us are pretty much in the same group, and we need Nintendo to be very successful to help induct as many consumers who like to play games with controllers, right?”

Ultimately, I’m not sure how Nintendo succeeds in this market. But it’s important that they do, if only to keep the competition honest and hold the industry to a higher bar.

Follow me on Twitter  or Facebook Read my Forbes blog here .

Source: Forbes

 

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/31" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

 

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