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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Aggie Arcade

The State of Nintendo

I don’t enjoy criticizing Nintendo. Some of my fondest childhood memories include waking up early on weekend mornings so my brother and I could play games on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). In many ways, I love video games because of Nintendo. But that company of 15+ years ago just isn’t the same anymore.

The reason I address this topic is because Nintendo recently announced a huge shift in economic projections for the fiscal year. More specifically, it is now expecting a $250 million loss, and sales forecasts for the Wii U have dropped from nine million to 2.8 million.

This news was followed by a revealing quote by Nintendo President Satoru Iwata.

“We are thinking about a new business structure,” Iwata said. “Given the expansion of smart devices, we are naturally studying how smart devices can be used to grow the game-player business. It’s not as simple as enabling Mario to move on a smartphone.”

So now we’re left with the prospect of Mario on smartphones. It demonstrates the way in which Nintendo exists in a vacuum, ignoring the successes of its competitors. Other things Nintendo could focus on: better digital distribution, more third-party support or a stronger emphasis on the 3DS.

That last one in particular strikes me as perhaps the best possible solution at this point. If someone were to ask me what Nintendo’s premiere platform is at the moment, I would not say the Wii U. My answer would be the 3DS, without hesitation. The key to the handheld’s success: games. I can’t envision myself purchasing a Wii U anytime soon because there aren’t many games that interest me, but I had no reservations about buying a 3DS late last year.

The 3DS does have the benefit of time — it came out in early 2011 while the Wii U was released in late 2012. But it doesn’t seem like there’s much on the horizon for the Wii U, and one big game probably won’t make a difference. In fact, we have proof — Super Mario 3D World came out last November, but it did not help the Wii U recover.

Meanwhile, the 3DS continues to sell in the U.S. and Japan, making it the key source of income for Nintendo. That doesn’t mean the company should completely abandon the Wii U; it should just put more of its resources into the 3DS. For example, a new Metroid title on the 3DS would be fantastic. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking… Super Metroid is my favorite game of all time after all.

But even if the 3DS isn’t the biggest key to success, the fact remains that Nintendo cannot remain in stasis. The company faces an identity crisis, and the next year or two will be huge in determining its fate. Part of me remains skeptical as to whether Nintendo can recover, but I’ll certainly be rooting for them.

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