December 07 2013 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
I am sure many of you are well aware of the current negative internet trend concerning the Wii U. It's not exactly looking good, despite Super Mario 3D World being up for game of the year at VGX. Michael Pachter, whom many a Nintendo fan seem to despise due to thoughts like this, has said countless times that Nintendo should drop out of the hardware business. Of course, Michael Pachter doesn't think Nintendo will drop out, but he believes it would be best if they did. He is but one voice in the crowd, right?
Unfortunately that isn't the case. Kotaku gathered up a slew of quotes from around the industry that all agree Nintendo should stop making hardware. Worse than this is the voice of the people who actually play video games. Written a while ago, TechCrunch talked about how the death of Nintendo has actually been underexaggerated. Read the comment section. It's enough to make you feel ill. In fact, this seems to be a common trend in almost every topic involving Nintendo and the Wii U.
I'm not here to be a Nintendo apologist and sugar coat things. The Wii U is not doing well. The landscape certainly is changing and there is arguably more competition now than there has ever been in the 30 some odd years Nintendo has been at this. However, what seems to be a fervent desire for Nintendo to stop trying to stay in the hardware race seems to be misplaced to me. There should never be a time we actually want Nintendo to drop out of the race.
The main reason a lot of gamers want Nintendo out of the hardware business likely stems from a bit of jealousy. Nintendo is one of the best video game developers and publishers in the world. They have the living legend Shigeru Miyamoto and all of his masterful creations. They have some of the best studios in the business, one of which just released one of the few true 1080p, 60 fps 3D games on the market. Absolutely zero frame rate drops. Ever. That's astonishing, especially given the reputation Wii U's hardware has garnered. It wasn't supposed to be able to do that. Heck, it hasn't happened on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One yet. That's a major testament to the teams crafting Nintendo's best offerings.
Gamers love Nintendo games on the whole, you can see that in the way they talk about them in reviews and on various message boards. Super Mario 3D World would have likely already sold several million copies if it was multiplatform. Gamers want Nintendo games, they just don't want to have to buy Nintendo hardware to play them. They want to play them on the system they already own. People talk about the death of Nintendo, but I am not sure anyone actually wants the company to die. They just want their games and they don't see a point in the company's participation in the hardware race.
There are always a few things forgotten when it comes to the relative failure thus far in Wii U sales. This isn't a first for Nintendo, and it's not even the worst situation they have been in. Remember the Virtual Boy? How about the GameBoy Micro? I forgive you if you can only vaguely recall those platforms beyond internet memes. They were failures, much larger failures than the Wii U. Nintendo doesn't always release top notch products that truly rings with the consumer base. They go through regular cycles of success and failure like most other major companies. The difference is that Nintendo is extremely persistent. They believe in what they are doing even if the consumer base does not.
People harp on Nintendo's "family-first mentality," which many attribute to the Nintendo Wii; however, I can't imagine the seventh generation without it. The Wii epitomized everything Nintendo has truly been about since the Famicon days. They have always focused on innovating controls in a way to make video games easier to play (until the Wii U, that is), and they have always crafted games for everyone. This has been the one constant with Nintendo over all the years. It doesn't always work out well for them, but it generally works out well enough to keep making money. This is who they are and what they always will be.
A huge difference in some of us that claim to have grown out of Nintendo is that Nintendo didn't grow up with many of us. The types of games they make now mirror the type of games they made ten years ago. We grew up, but the games mostly stayed the same, family-oriented fun they have always been. However, some fans now want much richer stories or more in-depth character growth, and that's understandable, as we develop more complex thought processes as we grow up. You're not going to find that in most of Nintendo's offerings. That doesn't make those offerings bad, but it means your tastes have expanded.
Getting back to the point, our desire for Nintendo to leave the hardware race doesn't seem to correlate with what is best for the industry and us gamers. As the market continues to be flooded with new multimedia devices, brands like PlayStation and Xbox are beginning to put a greater focus on multimedia capabilities, while Nintendo is standing steadfast as the only video game company that makes a true video game console. You can put a disc into the system and play the game right away. It doesn't require long installs or updates, and they aren't nickle and diming you with day one DLC and season passes. They don't charge you to play video games or use the internet. They don't require you to update your operating system before playing, as patch downloads are all optional. Nintendo doesn't have board meetings about funding high budget movies or how to best fix issues on Windows 8. They don't worry about the viability of iTunes and they don't try to own every minute of a person's life with multiple functionality. They focus on one thing and one thing only: Video games.
You know how many times you see Sony fans tout in debates between the PSN and Xbox Live how Netflix isn't behind a pay wall? It isn't on the Wii U either. Of course, online multiplayer isn't as well, but you don't see most Nintendo fans touting that in response to those silly debates. They don't have to; they are too busy playing games. Nintendo doesn't consider internet, multiplayer, and the right to play as a service. They aren't right about everything, such as the muddled account system, but they are fundamentally sound on everything else. If you want games digitally you can still download them like the competitors.
It's rather amazing that any gamer truly wants the only hardware maker that is 100% focused on making fun games on unique platforms to go away. "The iPhone is going to eat up the 3DS! The 3DS sales are less than the DS!" All I really know here is that it's part of a natural cycle for Nintendo sales to drop after the Wii and DS. After all, the DS is the most successful dedicated video game device ever released. No one is going to repeat that success twice in a row.
Of course, none of this means there isn't a place for multimedia devices. I own a Xbox One and use it every day. I enjoy the games it currently offers, but I also enjoy the luxury of having various services, even if they are behind a paywall. I desire such products, and I understand why they exist. I understand why people use Roku, as I have one in my bedroom. However, in offering all of this extra functionality, it seems that playing video games is actually being left behind. With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, gone are the days of simply popping in the disc and playing a game. You have to wait for the required downloads, installs, and updates. You have to pay to play a game against your cousin two states over. I am unsure how this practice is friendly to people who play games. How does this making video games better?
Nintendo is the only company still making video games consoles that are only about the library of games and nothing else. How does anyone want that to go away? This is coming from someone who enjoys his Xbox One and all the additional bells and whistles. It's easy to accept those things when I still own a Wii U, a console grounded in the idea that of simply playing video games. I truly cannot imagine an industry without a hardware maker that solely cares about creating games on a video game-focused console.
Some may tout that Sony is said brand, and I have no doubt that's true to some extent. However, Sony, as a company, is not a video game empire. They aren't just about video games; that's simply a piece of the pie. They have much more to worry about, and if anyone believes that it involves ideas beyond dominating the living room experience, they are kidding themselves. Sony desperately wants a device in everyone's living room. If it can't be Sony televisions or Sony Blu-Ray players, it's going to be the PlayStation 4. They will make sure you use it as much as possible. Nintendo doesn't want you using their devices all the time. Heck, this is the company that constantly reminds players to take breaks from playing their devices after extended amounts of time. They are not making a piece of technology that runs your life.
Microsoft and Sony both have excellent libraries, and there is no doubt that both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are going be home to some of the best games over the next decade. I have no doubt there will be a tablet or smart phone-specific title that will tear down some of the barriers between console experiences and mobile's ease of access. However, a world without Nintendo hardware is a world where video games are no longer mainstream—they go back to a niche audience, but this time without a games-focused company to lead the charge into battle. I don't want to live in that world. I want a hardware maker who only cares about making video games.