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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Aggie Arcade

Panic in Nintendo Land?

Every year when E3 comes along, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all prepare huge press conferences that allow them to detail upcoming games, hardware and services. Online viewers tune in, yell at their screens angrily and dissect every moment with an equal emphasis on serious discussion and ridiculous .gifs. That will only apply to two companies this year.

Last week Nintendo announced its decision to skip the big press conference — instead it will focus on smaller events for American distributors and the Western gaming press, respectively. Those smaller events will address the company’s upcoming software lineup, while Microsoft and Sony show off their brand new consoles.

Thus Nintendo faces a dilemma that many saw coming from a mile away. It debuted its new system — the Wii U — well before Sony and Microsoft. But the hardware itself minimally improves on the current PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 from a technological perspective. The game library isn’t much better, with only a few standout titles since its launch in November of last year.

Getting a jump-start on the competition provides more time for sales, but Nintendo has squandered that opportunity in the past few months. Only 3.45 million Wii U systems have been sold up until March, which falls short of Nintendo’s own 4-million-unit estimate. In that same amount of time, the company’s old system, the Wii, has sold approximately 4 million units. Obviously, casual consumers are still enamored with the Wii, while the core gaming crowd appears to be content with the PS3 and 360 for now.

For the past seven years we’ve had to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt since it tapped into a brand new gaming market with its crowd-pleasing Wii. But now that the Wii U has sold so poorly, it’s time for Nintendo to hit the panic button.

So how exactly does Nintendo solve this problem? With games, because the Wii U is a video game console first and foremost. The company seems to recognize this to some extent since the focus will be software at this year’s E3, but volume is not enough. Quality is what really counts.

Over the past few years, Nintendo has relied heavily on nostalgia to sell its games. I understand that many of us, myself included, have fond memories of past classics, but it’s time for Nintendo to focus more on originality and creativity. I can only take so many Zelda and Mario games before I move on to something else.

It may seem like I’m being too cynical, but my criticism of Nintendo comes from a place of love. Most of my childhood was spent in front of a SNES, and some of my all-time favorite games are courtesy of Nintendo (Super Metroid, Super Mario 64, Chrono Trigger).

Who knows, perhaps Nintendo will thrive with its back against the wall. I sure hope so, because the video game industry, in general, benefits from Nintendo’s success.

ANTHONY LABELLA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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