Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why Nintendo Needs to Continue Doing Its Own Thing

There seems to be a narrative among gamers and the industry regarding the Wii U. It is much more exciting-- and delivers more hits-- to have negative news about the console rather than positive news. This is just an unfortunate part of the industry we live in. However, some have gone so far as to say that Nintendo should have made their console much more powerful to perhaps rival that of Sony's next console and Microsoft's next Xbox, or to somehow conform more to industry standards. I disagree with these assumptions, and here's why.

Nintendo has its own niche in the market, and it can't really enter hardware warfare with Sony and Microsoft because it would lose. Unlike its two competitors, Nintendo does not have a computer division, a smartphone division, a music player division, and so forth. The company lives and dies by gaming. If Sony or Microsoft's gaming division fails, at least those companies can fall back on their other divisions to soften the blow. Nintendo does not have such a luxury, so when I see people wanting Nintendo to match the next PlayStation and Xbox dollar for dollar and spec by spec, I wonder if these people know what would then happen if Nintendo tried this and failed. Plus, do we really need three platforms that are so entirely similar on the market? That is one reason why I like that Nintendo is differentiating itself from its competitors. It might cost them a bit of third-party support in the long run, but it also gives Nintendo an innovative edge over Microsoft and Sony-- one that interests many gamers and non-gamers alike.

The Wii U might not cost an arm and a leg to build, but Nintendo is still losing money on every console shipped and sold. Perhaps this is because of the Wii U GamePad and its features. Perhaps not. Regardless, the system is still a risk for the risk-adverse Nintendo. If they had built a machine as powerful as their competitors' next, the risk would be much greater. Would the people who deride Nintendo as being casual or simply for kids care that the Wii U would be stronger? Probably not. Would Nintendo be in trouble if the hypothetical console did poorly-- more so than if the current Wii U as it is now failed? Yes, probably.

We're in an industry where some games need to sell a couple million copies just to break even. This business model by primarily Western developers and publishers is one that is simply unsustainable. For this reason, that is why I encourage the more modest hardware of Nintendo's Wii U. The cost for making games still went up from the Wii to the Wii U, but it isn't an immense amount like what some studios are saying it is from this past gen to this generation. Yes, I would have liked a beefy system that would be future-proof, but if it affects the future of Nintendo hardware for the negative (such as getting them out of the hardware business completely, no matter how bizarre or impossible a premise that is), I wouldn't want to see it.

And there is a reason why I want Nintendo to continue producing their own hardware. It is no secret that Nintendo builds their systems not for third-parties but for the company's own software. Maybe this is why so many third-parties are having trouble properly porting games to the Wii U. Nonetheless, Nintendo knows its own hardware and how to make the most of it. The company not only innovates its own software, but it also does with its hardware. They made popular the analog stick, rumble, wireless controllers, motion control, and so much more for their platforms. I was personally growing tired of dual analog for shooters, so the implementation of the Wii remote's pointer made for some new fun and accessibility.

If Nintendo were to go third-party (which is something those who dislike the company's hardware want to happen, no matter the cost), it would force the publisher and developer to make games on hardware that is not custom built for them. I surmise that the quality of Nintendo's titles would greatly go down.

Speaking of the quality of Nintendo's titles going down, how about Nintendo's stubborn attitude toward making games for iOS platforms, or as some analyst said, license the company's characters to mobile software studios? Not only would this undermine Nintendo's own hardware, but for the latter suggestion, it would totally cheapen the value of the company's brands and popular IPs. That isn't to say that Nintendo shouldn't develop its own apps like they are doing with Miiverse, but to totally bypass its own hardware for iOS is just a silly statement.

Perhaps some members of the press (well, hell, a lot of members of the press) and gamers are angry because Nintendo isn't playing by the normal rules of the industry (continuing to make enormous leaps of power each generation) and is somehow succeeding despite this. I keep seeing how everything Nintendo does now is a fad and is bound to end soon, as if people were in denial about Nintendo doing well (b-but they don't follow the rules!), as if they were trying to rationalize why the company continues to succeed. The truth of the matter is that Nintendo isn't your typical gaming company. It truly does march to the beat of a different drum, and it continues to bewilder and astonish critics. Maybe Nintendo's conservative nature will come back to haunt them in the long term, but in the short term, Nintendo is poised to do some interesting things in the near future. It is an exciting time to be a gamer, with the eighth generation of gaming consoles officially started. Let's hope that the generation is not just successful for Nintendo, but for all console manufacturers.

Agree or disagree with this editorial? It's okay. No one will bite you for doing so. Let your opinion be read in the comments section.

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