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Analysis: The Nintendo bubble
Analysis: The Nintendo bubble Exclusive
June 10, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

June 10, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
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    83 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive, E3



Nintendo is in a tough place. The company's Wii U is not selling. Often that's been put down to a lack of good software for the system. I don't think it's that simple. I think what it is, is that the public has left Nintendo behind.

Usually, that sentiment is couched the other way around: Nintendo can't adapt. I'll get to that. But it's worth recognizing that casual consumers don't want to buy dedicated hardware without a very good reason, as core gamers have moved on to experiences like Sony's The Last of Us, an emblematic game of the prior generation if ever there was one.

To stick by Nintendo's side, you have to prefer Nintendo's games to these experiences to the point where you want to entirely focus on them, and that's the Wii U's problem in a nutshell. It's easy to decide to buy a 3DS in addition to a console or PC. It's not easy to justify a Wii U if you don't feel that Nintendo games are an essential part of your life.

I don't think anything Nintendo showed in its digital presentation today will change the Wii U's fortunes. While many of the games are extremely promising, it's hard to imagine anything but the die-hards, me included, buying them.

Take the new IP, Splatoon, for example. It's a competitive shooter with an imaginative mechanic based around spreading ink on the battlefield to claim territory. It's appealing, colorful, and looks like it has a lot of strategic possibilities. But for gamers who've spent the last years baptized in the fire of Call of Duty, it's going to seem like kids' stuff. It doesn't pander to the adults and adolescents who make up the shooter market.

I find military shooters at best sophomoric and at worst distasteful. I also have faith that Nintendo is crafting fun mechanics and, perhaps most important, a game that feels great to play. But I also know that the number of people who think "I'd play a multiplayer shooter if Nintendo crafted it" is vanishingly small these days. Most of the players who grew up with Nintendo's older systems, I think, either adapted to or embraced the grittiness of games over this last generation -- or fled games altogether as they became unwelcoming.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime promised "something different to celebrate what it means to be a Nintendo fan" from its E3 presentation, and that is what it was -- and all it was. As

"This was a presentation for Nintendo's existing fans. How many more of them don't already have a Wii U?"
polished, lively, and creative as its games looked -- all the existing IP, except Pokemon, was either reimagined wholly or heavily tweaked -- it was a presentation for Nintendo's existing fans. How many more of them don't already have a Wii U?

The company will accrue more and more of those players over the course of the next year and beyond -- slowly gobbling up all of the possible fans, maybe even the lapsed ones, who've been reluctant to shell out money for its latest console. But that, I'm afraid, will be it.

Nintendo is aware of its uphill battle. It formally announced its Amiibo toys -- that's Nintendo's Skylanders-esque figure platform, which will work with multiple games, starting with this holiday season's Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. It's also one of the only really mainstream-feeling things in the presentation. By "mainstream," I don't mean "core gamer" but "mass consumer." E3 is a festival for its fans, of course, but it's also a bellwether of the direction the company is going.

Amiibo is going to work -- particularly as a delivery vector for new content for older games (Mario Kart 8 functionality, where I suspect it will act like DLC, was teased.) But the company was caught flatfooted by the toy-based boom Activision kicked off, and is now catching up with a product that may be more thoughtful and flexible than its competitors, and of course capitalizes on the strength of its IP, but also relies on familiarity and fondness for its stable of characters, and an understanding of just what it's trying to do.

Nintendo requires forbearance as much as it requires enthusiasm. It creates the kind of complex systems that kids love puzzling out and adults feel like they don't have time for.

Nintendo has a certain naivete about it, too, which the presentation showcased. Yeah, Robot Chicken made some funny bumpers. But the pace of the video was staid, and it also spent a lot of time talking to developers. While all the developers who made it on stage at Sony faked spontaneity, and the ones in the Xbox sizzle reels simply belched core gamer cred, Nintendo's patiently explained the design ideas behind their games. Is anybody listening?

"The big difference is that Mario games are about performing challenging tasks in a given time limit. But the difference is Yoshi games don't have a time limit, so you can explore the vast game world. You can make new discoveries," Yoshi's Woolly World producer Takashi Tezuka said, in the slow-paced segment devoted to that game.

Meanwhile, producer Eiji Aonuma said this about the company's badly needed new Wii U Zelda game: "the puzzle-solving in this game begins the moment the player thinks about where they want to go, how they'll get there, and what they want to do when they arrive." Sure, there was a flashy, cinematic boss battle in the trailer. But it was fundamentally a presentation that aimed to explain to players why they'll be interested in playing the game.

Nintendo always, in the end, relies on its games and their designers as the argument for the company's viability. And from a pure artistic standpoint, that's an argument that brooks no response: These games are all promising, and all unique. But it's also a strategy that appeals only to a select few -- at least enough to get them to spend; at least as long as they like Nintendo's visual and gameplay aesthetics; at least as long as they don't want TV-esque drama; at least as long as they stop and think and appreciate what the company is all about.

Yesterday at Sony's conference, there was a moment during the Far Cry 4 demo when the player shoved a knife through an NPC's head -- right up from under the chin. A cheer erupted in the crowd. It reminded me of that notorious The Last of Us headshot episode from a couple years back -- a revolting moment when the audience erupted into cheers and applause in response to point-blank shotgun blast to the face.

But during the Far Cry 4 presentation, I was also left with an uneasiness that was borne from a lack of understanding. What are they cheering for? Because they like wanton violence? Because knifing people in the head is a fun gameplay mechanic? Is it an emotional reflex to a stimulus? What in the world makes them cheer? I felt like a psychologist from another culture -- maybe another planet.

I don't know, but whatever it is, Nintendo doesn't have it. Nintendo doesn't want it. Nintendo will not deliver it, and that's one reason Nintendo has been left behind by the audience that once embraced it.

If you looked at the "my favorite game" titles splayed underneath developers' names during the Microsoft presentation every time someone came in to show off their own personal flavor of face-shooty, so many of them were first party Nintendo games, usually for the SNES.

"We can always count on these games to deliver fun and great gameplay, because it's Nintendo," Fils-Aime said. That sums up the company's naivete and also its arrogance in one statement. Arrogance born of naivete is a particularly dangerous, because it is the kind of thinking that comes up with things like the Wii U's GamePad -- an answer to a question nobody was asking. Yes, you can think of good ideas for the GamePad. Yes, you can think of use cases for the GamePad. But with those thoughts consuming your processing power, you can't see that the device's primary effect will be to be an albatross around the neck of the Wii U.

"We came up with the gameplay first and then created characters that fit with the gameplay. That's how Nintendo prefers to do things," one of the Splatoon designers said of developing the company's new game. And the game looks great, and that approach will definitely lead to a seamless integration of its mechanics and its world. That approach works on a game level. But that thinking doesn't work when it comes to hardware, because hardware is an unforgiving business to be in, with a whole different set of pressures than game design.

I could point out the obvious: Nintendo didn't shove all of its announcements into the presentation (it's apparently picked up Tomonobu Itagaki's Devil's Third, which he was originally developing or THQ, as a Wii U exclusive -- in a similar style of rescue as Platinum Games' Bayonetta 2.) I could point out that there were no third party games, and discuss all of the implications that carries. I could point out that most of the Wii U games showcased had 2015 release dates, meaning Smash Bros. and Amiibo are really all the company has for 2014, which is going to mean a painful uphill fight for anything but eking out the dollars of any but the most die-hard Nintendo fans.

For all that news reports like to point out that the 3DS is selling worse than the DS, it was also

"Nintendo has to find a way to pierce its bubble without letting its fans escape."
the overall best-selling dedicated game hardware platform of 2013 and, more to the point, fits into a lot of lifestyles, smartphones be damned -- a lot of people who like games feel like there's room in their life for it, because it's easy to pick up, put down, and it has different kinds of games. As long as you like playing games as more than a supermarket checkout distraction, it has appeal -- no matter what other platforms you focus on. But the Wii U demands attention, as dedicated consoles always do. It demands dedication.

In the modern era, where Nintendo is competing not just with Sony and Microsoft, but with Steam, the attrition of its audience, and its own handheld platform, it's no wonder that the Wii U is having a tough time. Everything from Xenoblade Chronicles X to Bayonetta 2 to Mario Maker and beyond looked intriguing and appealing in their showcase demos during the presentation.

Microsoft and Nintendo both had the pitch "we have a lot of games" this year. Microsoft, because it repeatedly alienated its audience with the Xbox One, hence the Halo revamp. Nintendo, because it is simply still that kind of company -- when the other two are not.

The culture of games has been wracked with change over the last several years, and Nintendo is in a bubble. It's a wonderfully inviting bubble if you care about the company's output. Games have expanded so dramatically as a space in the last few years that no one company can claim to capture "the audience" -- no one game, no matter how popular, can pretend that it appeals to anything but a splinter of the huge mass of people that plays video games right now, and every day some developer or publisher somewhere is working to further work another splinter away from the mass, because that's how you get to be the next Riot Games.

But that very explosion into subcultures is what is hurting Nintendo now, because hardware doesn't work that way. If it wants to stay in the dedicated console business, it has to find a way to pierce its bubble without letting its fans escape. And that will be a painful transition -- if it's even possible.


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Comments


Lance McKee
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Interesting article. Personally I've always found their games and hardware worth buying because I knew I could trust them to make games that I would really enjoy. However, after reading up a bit on the concept of conflict minerals and how Nintendo is one of the worst companies at addressing that issue, I've decided to stop buying their products at all.

Austin Kucera
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Sad, but great article. It seems like you've hit something that other articles analyzing Nintendo's downswing have missed.
Thanks for writing!

George Menhal III
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Nintendo did an absolutely wonderful job today with their digital event. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves.

Charles Cresswell
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It did nothing to make me want to invest in my first Nintendo device regardless. All the IP seemed for one type of gamer I am not. Sony and MS both have IP which i both would and would not play.

George Menhal III
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If you've never owned a Nintendo device or spent any significant amount of time truly understanding what Nintendo games are all about, then of course you are not going to be swayed by a video one way or another.

Looks don't make a game. You need to play some of these games for that to truly sink in.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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The thing is that Nintendo needs to attract players who don't already own a WiiU to buy in.

Dane MacMahon
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I agree on the existing fans thing. So many people grew up on Nintendo and have stuck with it, and that shapes their every thought about Nintendo and its games. It's a limited market though, and it has to be getting smaller as kids the last 10 years grow up on different things. Every kid in my family and friends circle today plays free to play stuff on PC or mobile.

Nintendo's future will be an interesting one, if nothing else.

Felipe Budinich
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"Every kid in my family and friends circle today plays free to play stuff on PC or mobile."

And that's why I give away copies of minecraft to kids. Yet I know it's a lost battle, gaming culture will be in such a poor state 10 years from now because of f2p.

Max Mumford
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Amazing that you failed to mention iPad and other tablets even once in this article. Kind of a big oversight if you don't think that those devices are not affecting Wii U and 3DS sales quite significantly. (as well as other consoles)

Kids have iPads, iPad Mini's, iPad touches.. etc. It's safe to assume those uber millions of devices out there were bought with money that could have just as easily been spent on a Wii U or any other gaming device... but didn't.

You also have to look at the way games are delivered on iOS and Android. There are literally hundreds of new games released each week, and many/most of them free for initial download. This is the ADD generation and when you factor in the amount of content you get for free... It competes very well with a Wii U, 3DS... etc etc. Kids are far less often glued to a TV nowadays and more often staring at a tablet or phone screen.

Yes, kids are choosing smaller screens for portability, convenience and multipurpose functionality... instead of consoles and dedicated game handhelds.

You don't suppose that reality is a larger factor than any of this ???

I guarantee you that Nintendo mentions the word "Apple" now when speaking of competitors to their Wii U and handhelds.

Max Mumford
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Yet it makes almost your whole article moot.

It dwarfs all that is said here, possibly exponentially.

For that reason, far more worth discussing - imo.

Christian Nutt
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I deleted my first comment because I have more to say but I'm on my phone with limited time. Sufficed to say that I consider that part of the splinters I alluded to and am not sure how this makes my analysis moot. Maybe I don't have more than that to say actually.

Max Mumford
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I'm not going to delete my comment, because it's far more relevant (and worth discussing) than the ideas that you propose here.

The alternatives to the Nintendo experience were not Sony and MSFT, they were iPads, touches, and iphones. Those are the significant gamers they lost. Not a bunch of people deciding that Last of Us made nintendo games obsolete.

With every generation Nintendo added in the younger kids with their more child focused software. "That" very large group of customers embraced the system every generation. This generation there was an alternative for that group of customers.

The cycle has been the same for generations, what changed wasn't Nintendo or it's software. It's "space" got invaded by an alternative.

Christian Nutt
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Again, I'm not sure anything I said was against the idea of its space being invaded by an alternative. Nor was the purpose of this piece to discuss existential threats from the outside, but more about the state of what Nintendo is like from the inside. Inside the bubble.

I don't think we disagree except perhaps on the idea that anything I wrote had value! Which, you know, whatever.

Max Mumford
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Yeah, I think we disagree there.

It's a concept that if you ignore where the money went instead of Wii U, you can dance around and feel as if your theory has significance.

However, both MSFT and Sony have experienced a shrinking projections because of mobile devices.

Here's an excerpt from another article on the topic :

"We believe slow software sales growth reflects the ongoing consumer transition to smartphones and tablets. We expect increasing revenues from mobile and DLCs to drive digital revenues, going forward. Mobile has strong growth potential due to improving gaming quality, which is a major factor behind higher user spending."

So I simply pose the question of which of the three -- Nintendo, MSFT, or Sony has the most to lose to such a platform ?

In some ways your article suggests that nintendo consumers are defecting and going to Sony/MSFT. That same process as I said earlier happens every generation, and has to do with the new kids entering the market while older kids go to more mature content.

The software has not become irrelevant, a more appealing alternative has arrived. And... it's not Sony or MSFT as your theory suggests.

Just check out DS sales. Are those down because of a PS vita ? Why is the Vita sales not erupting for similar reasons ?? Where are those DS users gong ??

You can ignore these far larger factors to draw conclusions such as you have.... and that is what you have done.

Rob Wright
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"I think what it is, is that the public has left Nintendo behind."

I agree....BUT, I don't think it has as much to do with Nintendo's lack of hardcore shooters and realistic violence. For me, it has more to do with 1) seeing a lot of games that are in Nintendo's bubble end up on other platforms (Skylanders, LittleBigPlanet, etc.), and 2) the fact that I've outgrow playing the same kind of legacy Nintendo titles again and again. No matter how good new Zelda games are these days, I cannot stomach an RPG that makes me feel like I'm in a kids movie and has baby talk sounds instead of actual dialogue. I simply cannot do it. I want to play well, well-designed games, but I have no desire to keep reliving the past. I want something new. And if I can't get something totally new, then at least take the beloved classics and update them for a more mature audience. That doesn't mean blood and bullets and knives to the head. It just means giving me a game that doesn't feel like an anachronism designed for my 13-year-old self.

John Flush
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I want to second this because of the "baby talk sounds" - Swing a sword in LttP, now swing a sword in any Zelda since. Why does he screech every swing? this isn't women's tennis.

Mario? Every jump, combo jump has a different mario grunt to go with it. It is almost like they think it adds something other than massively annoying background sounds to not only those that play it but those that end up listening to it secondhand. (my kids have to play their 3DS's with the sound off or headphones for this reason alone).

For everything awesome in Fire Emblem Awakening even that suffered from repeated "baby babble" in every dialog sequence except the full cut ones.

I agree this is a big problem and they don't even realize it.

Bob Johnson
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I think many parents in general hate the repetitive sounds in videogames that their kids are playing. Wife doesn't like the sound in any videogame that our kids play. lol.

I tend to get bugged by them too after awhile unless I am playing them. IN that case I sort of get caught in the game and don't notice.


Scott Burns
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While the baby talk thing doesn't bother me as much, I definitely agree that getting the same games over and over again is starting to work against them. The other day I finally got around to firing up New Super Mario Bros U using the play on gamepad functionality while my wife was using the tv to watch Netflix. This is the exchange that happened:

Me: "Mario games used to be way more challenging."

Wife: "Or maybe it's because you've been playing essentially the same game for the past 30 years."

I think we're finally hitting the point where those of us who grew up along with franchise since the 80's are growing tired of the constant retread.

Bob Johnson
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YOu mean you're getting old lol.

Albert Meranda
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To elaborate on what Dan said, beyond its hardcore fanbase Nintendo had always been a parent-friendly alternative console for younger kids. "Get them a Game Cube" or "Get them a Wii" was always a reasonable response to a parent asking which console they should get their five-year-old. The sheer volume of free apps in the past few years has meant that parents don't ever need to buy consoles for their young kids, they have a near infinite amount of free content available on tablets, PC or phones. The beginning of the end for THQ was this same situation: they had been coasting on licensed kids games until that market completely collapsed. Why pay $30-$60 for the official Cars game on console when your kid is just as happy playing games on Nickelodeon portal for free?

Combine that lack of a new, refreshing audience with the above-mentioned drift away from Nintendo's aesthetic sensibilities on the part of the older audience and you have the current situation.

Edit: Heh, Max came and said it first. :)

Matthew Calderaz
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"A cheer erupted in the crowd. It reminded me of that notorious The Last of Us headshot episode from a couple years back -- a revolting moment when the audience erupted into cheers and applause in response to point-blank shotgun blast to the face. "

Sorry but this is incorrect for a couple reasons, and I've seen it repeated incorrectly a few times. (I was in the audience that year and remember it clearly.)
1) The 'headshot' was never shown, it cut to the title and was implied. There was no actual display of a head shot.
2) More importantly, this was the end of the trailer. How can you be so sure people were cheering for the implied act of violence at the end of the trailer and not the incredibly dynamic-looking combat and stealth mechanics that were showcased throughout the entire trailer? I know that's what *I* was excited about.

This statement feels analogous to saying that 'The Raid' was a popular action movie simply because it was violent. If that was true and wanton violence was all people wanted, then the sequel would be superior; (it's not, by my opinion as well as Rotten Tomato's aggregation).

I can't comment on the Far Cry trailer however, I haven't seen it yet.

Good article overall, and I don't disagree with the sentiment that in many cases developers are simply 'upping the ante' in terms of graphic content. This specific example is problematic to use in support of that, however.

Christian Nutt
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I didn't say I was sure, and since I discussed multiple hypotheses for why people cheered during the FC4 demo, I think you can infer I am anything but sure. But I also think the "they were just cheering because it was the end of the demo" is a nice, easy way to cover up something that could credibly be unpleasant. I was there too.

Dane MacMahon
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People cheered when Arnold shot people in the face in the 80's. I don't see it as a big mystery really. Yes, some people like visceral violence. That's why it's used.

warren blyth
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i think there's a big difference between cheering a gunshot to the face (like some sort of gore porn), and cheering the release of tension that was masterfully built up over many minutes of demo.

Lotta folks like to overlook the fact that the Last of Us demo started quiet with stealth, then built to our protagonists being discovered and struggling with weapons, and finally ended with the shotgun being turned around. dunno why it has become so common to overlook the context of that entire demo experience.

(I don't remember the knife think in the FarCry4 intro. but. found most of the shooty shooty and slashy slashy game demos and trailers very boring an empty at E3 media briefings this year.)

Demian Owens
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Matthew, I suggest you watch the 2012 e3 demo footage of the Last of Us again because your observations are not lining up with reality.

First off, to your first point: the head-shot was not implied and was definitely shown briefly before the demo cut to the title screen. And while I agree that the cheering that ensued afterwards was most definitely not entirely attributable to the extreme violence of the head-shot, I think it's reasonable based on previous crowd reactions during the demo that at the very least the crowd was partially fired up by this culminating violent act.

Case in point: around the 4:42 mark of the following video link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8uMxJ8L3b8, the crowd cheers gleefully after Joel first bashes a guy's head into a wall and then repeatedly into the edge of a wall table. If this doesn't represent the type of rowdy crowd-reaction to gratuitous violence that Christian is alluding to (and of which Nintendo title's are conspicuously lacking), then I don't know what does.

To be fair, the Last of Us is such a strong game on so many different fronts, the least of which is its over-the-top displays of violence, that I think we can safely say that violence does not define the game as a one-and-done, catchall description for the game and its message, which I’m sure was evident to the crowd watching the demo that day, yourself included.

Warren, with all due respect, I don't really buy your theory on how building tension during the early stealth portion of the demo, regardless of how brilliantly it was executed, would somehow make the crowd's reaction crescendo in the form of celebration at acts of extreme violence, as in the above example. That seems more akin to the manic reaction of a mob who is witnessing the execution of some criminal whom they think rightfully deserves his punishment, and who raucously cheer on his painful demise, and not a group of tense audience members blowing off steam. And while I suspect the reaction here is largely playful and not indicative of callousness on a broader scale among gamers, I do think it suggests a certain mindset, and perhaps preference, for violence in games, which Nintendo (outside of certain 2nd party partners like Platinum) does not typically put in their games.

Thus, I think Christian’s point still stands, at least for more thoughtful consideration, that more and more gamers are finding Nintendo’s games lacking in this area and are purposefully moving on to other games and thus hardware (since Nintendo’s is almost completely bereft of third party support these days) that satisfies this itch, so to speak.

Jeanne Burch
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"I don't know, but whatever it is, Nintendo doesn't have it. Nintendo doesn't want it. Nintendo will not deliver it, and that's one reason Nintendo has been left behind by the audience that once embraced it."

I'm not convinced that the E3 audience (by which I mean the people who go to the press conferences, NOT those of us watching at a safe distance via our computer screens) was ever Nintendo's audience.

Dane MacMahon
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The gaming press were Nintendo's biggest fans for years. They've finally been turned away to some extent after years of disappointment.

R G
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It's also never good to go off an E3 audience's cheers; half of them are paid to be there. Note the person that whoops at every single announcement, including the ubiquitous "TV Service" announcements made by any company.

And very few gaming journalists, outside of this establishment (which is why I go here) are not something of a fanboy themselves.

R G
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The problem is that Nintendo has this level of arrogance in their top management that is stifling the company.

They have the potential and apparently the money to be making hardware and software that could cater to both Nintendo fans of casual fare, and Nintendo fans of more traditional hardcore games, and yet they do neither. Their problem is a lack of focus on their own systems; The 3DS and Wii U eShop should be absolutely bursting through the seams with old games and new games, but Nintendo will not fully commit to the either system's digital front.

They won't budge with third party developers, which has cost them as well. I love Nintendo from the SNES games, when there were games for everyone. Why they will not go back to that time, release a minimalist system with free multiplayer, a consistent stream of new games on their eShop, and a controller that is not gimmicky is beyond me. The system would sell like crazy. Especially in this day and age with subscriptions for Microsoft and PlayStation's systems, a Nintendo system with an even friendlier (and possibly cosmetically customizable) UI that has free multiplayer across all games and an easy friend's list would be absolutely phenomenal.

I think Nintendo is truly capable of shaking things up in the industry, if they could learn to just adapt to what the *audiences* want and not just their own philosophy. Indie games should be one of their priorities, especially if they do wish to continue making unique hardware.

Just my two cents. Each company has muck ups they need to fix, but it's just frustrating to hear Reggie and Iwata speak about how well Nintendo is doing, when it is in fact quite the opposite. Here's hoping!

John Maurer
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I wish they'd just stop going modest on their console specs

Matthew LoPresti
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I like to think that Nintendo's failure with the WiiU is primarily based on the sparse first-party releases for the system. I think the comparisons to the 3DS are apt. In one year, the system saw a slew of amazing releases that put the system back into the forefront, after a year or two of doom and gloom. If the WiiU had that, which 2015 is semi-shaping up to be (an animal crossing-like success would be helpful too), then the fortunes will turn around pretty easily. And I think that a lot of the wait has come from Nintendo having to grapple with Next-Gen dev migration, like more complex graphical systems and such. It takes a good amount of effort to get that up and running, not to mention the fact that they have hardware and its own software to grapple with (Miiverse, etc).

Anyway, if the very nature of Nintendo products aren't appreciated by the wider fans, I don't think the 3DS would be as successful as it has been, because those are Nintendo experiences through and through. Again, I think the WiiU isn't exciting for many people because there was nothing to actually talk about before Mario Kart 8, really. Even me, a diehard Nintendo fan had no reason to buy a WiiU up until less than a year ago, because it had nothing interesting. But look at the success of Mario Kart 8, 1.25 million copies in like a week? Anecdotal, but a lot of my Dark Souls-loving gamer friends bought that game, which means there is a lot more overlap than one assumes. I can only imagine how explosive WiiU will become when Smash gets released.

And on a personal note, I absolutely love the fact that Nintendo doesn't satiate the standard gamers' desire for headshots and knives shoved into someone's throats. Objectively, it would just be too homogeneous a game industry. Gamers can enjoy that stuff of course, but Nintendo adds variety to the scene with games that DON'T speak to that gamer. For me, I want Nintendo to stay on that course. They just need to start releasing games for the system, in a CONDENSED amount of time, to really get the passion for Nintendo flowing again. Their Digital Event really stoked that fire, but now we have to wait until next year for it to actually come to fruition, which is unfortunate.

As well, they could literally not put an extra dime into marketing 3rd party software and they would be successful, because Nintendo games satiate that SPECIFIC desire in the gaming community. It's quasi-niche when you compare it to Msoft and Sony, but it's a successful niche, which you sort of point out in the article. Everyone thinks they satiate ALL gamers' desire when they really just satisfy the niche needs. It doesn't need that kind all-encompassing eco-system to be a successful Nintendo product, it just needs Nintendo's games, which sadly the WiiU has lacked, which is easily evident from even Nintendo's eyes. Once that comes, a sustainable fanbase will show up. PATIENCE, MY FRIEND.

Jay N
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I agree – Nintendo's 2015 Wii U-lineup looks spectacular; it is what the 2012/2013 launch lineup should have looked like. But it didn't, and Nintendo is now reaping the slim rewards of this error.

And as Iwata himself admitted in a Nintendo Direct in the beginning of this year, Nintendo's internal teams had a lot of difficulty transitioning to HD for production on the Wii U. Couple that with reports of a network team seemingly unaware of how their competitors' networks function, this all reeks of a management-led group-think disaster waiting to happen. That's inexcusable.

Nintendo will most likely be able to keep their proverbial heads above water this generation, regardless, but with both 3DS and Wii U sales stagnating, I would have appreciated something more interesting than Amiibo coming out of their E3 presence.

Chris Hendricks
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"'We can always count on these games to deliver fun and great gameplay, because it's Nintendo,' Fils-Aime said. That sums up the company's naivete and also its arrogance in one statement."

Perhaps so. But I love them for it, and would hate to see the day when their variety of play is no longer desirable by a large enough population.

Nearly everything I saw in today's Nintendo presentation excited me... I'm hoping for the best.

Andreas Ronning
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It's not naive arrogance if it's true. Nintendo delivers the most consistent level of quality in the business. If the idea is that Nintendo needs more headshots and third-party yearly franchises to be competitive I think that's indicative of a greater problem in game culture than anything else.

Amelli Salaman
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I wouldn't say Nintendo can't adapt, more like they don't want to adapt. They prefer to play safe and stick to their market niche (the one they choose), than risk it and loose money. And that's understandable on their current situation. Maybe that choice was a mistake since the beginning, but they didn't see it (or chose not to), and now that the problems the company has are more evident, they can't really do a lot about it. (.....does the Bayonetta exclusive count as a try?).

"While all the developers who made it on stage at Sony faked spontaneity, and the ones in the Xbox sizzle reels simply belched core gamer cred, Nintendo's patiently explained the design ideas behind their games. Is anybody listening?"

I would say the cultural factor is missing, even though it may sound irrelevant, I think it's not that much.
Let's not forget Nintendo is a Japanese company, that is run by Japanese people. That's just how Japanese do things. And that adds to all the choices Nintendo has made, and how they carried them out.

"I don't know, but whatever it is, Nintendo doesn't have it. Nintendo doesn't want it. Nintendo will not deliver it, and that's one reason Nintendo has been left behind by the audience that once embraced it."

Of course not, Nintendo is aiming at a worldwide audience with their own particular cultural standpoint, an audience that's too influenced by western culture.

Just a thought I had while reading your article.

Bob Johnson
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I think what Nintendo showed only helps the Wii U. The system needs games and it is getting games. I think the worst for the Wii U is over with. Games worth playing have slowly piled up and the price is only going down.

Now I didn't see anything that is going to turn it into a monster hit or close to it. But for young kids and families and gamers who like to play everything I think the system only looks more attractive. The figurines can only help too.

I just don't think selling 30 million copies of Mario Kart the past 6 years indicates the public has left them behind.

It's more of a case of ....the Gamepad and Nintendoland didn't do enough to convince consumers to buy a Wii U for $350 especially since it really lacked software that first year and is a Nintendo-only console. It is more of a case that their franchises as a whole target too narrow of a demographic to support 2 Nintendo-franchise-only platforms.

So there's definitely a question of whether NIntendo can support 2 Nintendo-only platforms. Even more so when their own home territory seems more handheld centric than ever. When their games don't rely on the best graphics. And when their output on the console isn't what one would call prolific.

Cordero W
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Just what I expected: Nintendo shows the most gameplay and does the best out of the conference, and an article on Gamasutra bashes it instead of giving praise where it's due.

Stewart Trezise
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Didn't surprise me either; Nintendo have continued to carve their own path, this time focusing on local coop and more 'social' multiplayer when their competitors have forgotten what that even means. Expecting Nintendo to garner success from 'toeing the line' with MS and Sony by delivering more face-shooters and more experiences that are identical/better on the PC seems naive. For all the Nintendo doubt-mongering, they're still around. They're still bringing genuinely fun games that are consistently teaching us new and unexpected lessons about designing fun games and this is why they'll probably always be around.

Bob Johnson
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@Stewart

Exactly. Their popularity will ebb and flow as various trends come and go. But they will probably always be around.

Dane MacMahon
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Doing the "best" is highly subjective.

They showed some good Nintendo stuff, and if you like Nintendo stuff you should be getting a WiiU. This is certain. However it felt like preaching to the choir to me. I'm not sure anyone who wasn't eyeing up a WiiU anyway got anything out of that presentation.

Stewart Trezise
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@Dane

You are correct that they can't be 'all things to all people', and that people who are drawn to Nintendo are likely already drawn to them, but that isn't necessarily bad. Their brand is well-represented and established; we know who they are and what they're about.

By distinguishing themselves from their competition they won't need to reinvent themselves and 're-sell' themselves to audiences every generation, as they aren't vying for the same space that all the others are. Nobody is trying to take their territory from them, and that leaves them in a lot firmer position than Microsoft and Sony, who are both essentially trying to occupy the same ground.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Stewart

Agree with everything you said. I'm just saying "best" implies to me a superior lineup, but I think that's only true if you were looking for Nintendo games.

Julian Cram
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I don't think any of the companies at E3 did anything to entice non-fans.

I think Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have all failed to present a decent reason why someone like myself should buy their consoles.

Nothing impressed me, and I'm a pretty hardcore gamer, in that most of my free time is spent playing games. (although I don't play "hardcore games"... I have as much fun with the Sims as I do with Titanfall). Sure, there are games which I will undoubtedly buy, but nothing to make me rush out right now and trade my existing platforms for the "next-gen" platforms, and sit there eagerly awaiting it to launch.

There's nothing to make me go "Wow, that's pushing games in a direction I haven't seen before or want to experience."

Bob Johnson
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Yes good point, I didn't see any big mainstream hits at the press conferences.

Julian Cram
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I guess I have been listening to a lot of Public Enemy lately.

Don't Believe The Hype.

Matthew LoPresti
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Good choice for the article pic. What is in Iwata's mind? What is he pondering? Is he hungry, or is there... something more?

Cordero W
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He was probably just hungry.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UagyRfiQlZg

Paolo Gambardella
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"for gamers who've spent the last years baptized in the fire of Call of Duty, it's going to seem like kids' stuff. It doesn't pander to the adults and adolescents who make up the shooter market."

Nintendo's public is mostly kids. The adult and adolescents who make up the market maybe aren't the main target for those new gameplay concepts.
I am not an expert on the business-side, but design side Nintendo is really still innovating searching for new IPs. I appreciate their effort, sincerely.

Andreas Ahlborn
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Interesting Article. Especially coming from a Nintendo-Lover like Christian.

To the arguments that have already been made I would add nintendos price politics. Here in Germany a brand new DS or WiiU game costs more than a AAA-PC game, its on par with the prices of the Halo collection on the X1 (which contains 4 Games) that MS just announced. A great game like Rayman Legends costs 24€ for the WiiU while you can get it as digital download for 14 € ( http://www.amazon.de/Ubisoft-Rayman-Legends-Download/dp/B00EJMRBE
8/ref=sr_1_9_title_1?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1402475255&sr=1-9&k
eywords=wII+U+SPIELE ). Why Nintendo never bothered to make a Zelda or Mario Collection (at least I couldn`t find one) is beyond me.

With all the stars aligned against Nintendo and with no Wii on the horizon to save them (once again) it`s tempting to count Nintendo out.

The day Facebook acquired Oculus I told a friend: Too bad, this would be the right and possibly the only move Nintendo could have made to relive another hardware based renaissance.

James Coote
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That splintered market could be an opportunity for a company like Nintendo, because they have the technology and IP to connect those splinters into something more than the sum of their parts.

Say you have a pet-sim mobile game where you raise a bunch of cute cartoon monsters. Feed them, play with them, build them houses.

Then you have a RPG 3DS game where you can take a select number of those monsters on an adventure, and they battle for you. The monsters change and evolve, and you also collect items along the way you can then take back to the pet-sim mobile game.

For Wii U, a puzzle platformer where again you take a select bunch of your monsters to use their unique abilities when solving puzzles. You can buy NFC figurines of the monsters, which allow you to unlock new abilities, monsters, levels, items in both the Wii U and mobile game (since a lot of mobiles have NFC as well). And since all three games are connected by a single Nintendo Network ID, you don't even have to think about the interconnectedness of the game. It's all done for you behind the scenes, so you can just jump onto your 3DS and it'll list your monsters from the mobile app, and you can just drag them back and forth into your adventure.

Now replace "monsters" with Pokemon.

Casual market is not zero sum. Mobile can be the conveyor belt that leads players into the higher-spend console world.

Bob Johnson
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Oh yeah you're spot on. I think too many think a failure in the creative world is game over. But it's not as long as you are managing the downsides well so you don't go bankrupt from a bad idea or two.

There will be great ideas out there to be explored in the coming decade and as you said Nintendo is in a fairly unique position to capitalize should some of these great ideas come their way.

Phil Maxey
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I've said this a 100 times before but here I go again.

1) Launching a new console a year before the world had been waiting 7 years for the new XBox/PS was not the wisest of moves. If you are going to do that, you simply have to release something that is beyond whatever the new XBox/PS could deliver, that's not what they did.

2) Nintendo's mass audience left it many years ago, first going to Facebook, and then going to mobile, they are still on mobile.

3) The Wii was a gimmick, it's success was a gimmick. How many of us can point at the Wii and think of great games we enjoyed (Wii exclusives) ? Now think the same thought about the Cube/N64 or SNES?

Nintendo still have some of the great IPs around, but they seem to be stuck in the past. What worked for them 10 years ago is not going to work for them in todays gaming world, times have changed too much. If there is to be a hardware making Nintendo in another 10 years, they have to look forward on the hardware front (not simply software). Something like a tablet/console that could plug into the TV (I would buy a Nintendo iPad type tablet/console in a heartbeat), or maybe a Oculus type console, or maybe even a Nintendo phone would be looking forward. What won't work is if they release a successor to the Wii U, which is again slightly behind on the graphics front compared to Xbox one/PS4, but it's ok because they have the Mario/Zelda IPs.

As we all know the gaming world needs a hardware making Nintendo, and let's that's still the case in the future.

Bob Johnson
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1) I don't think that was the problem. The problem was what they had to show didn't resonate with consumers like WiiSports did. AFter all they had no problem selling Wiis which were much less powerful than the 360 that launched a year earlier.

2) Yeah all the casuals or expanded audience now has a smartphone and has no need for a NIntendo handheld. And some of the kids etc who got one to play some games on the go also left because their smartphones let them play some games. And parents certainly see how cheap games are on iOS and like the idea of spending nothing on games. It has had an effect on the handheld especially in the west.



3) There were great games. Super Mario Bros came back. Super Mario Galaxy. mario Kart. The Zeldas were decent. Donkey Kong. Kirby games. one of the favs around my house still is Fortune STreet which a title few have heard of to be sure. Wiisports of course. And some of the other Wii stuff like WiiFit or WiiParty or WiiPlay. The family loved those things.

I think your view of the Wii is a bit cynical because you've been around the Nintendo console block a few times. Kids though I think thought the Wii was great. And many mainstream types had great fun with WiiSports.


I agree they have to look forward but what was the GAmepad but looking forward? I think it a pretty innovative idea for a game controller. YOu can play on the tv or on the controller itself without the tv. You play while watching tv. You can play these 1 vs 4 type of games. Or you can use the 2nd screen to enhance the gameplay experience.

So far it has been a flop. Not everything new and forward thinking is a hit.

I'm not sure the flop has to do with the Gamepad being bad per se. So far consumers really haven't been shown why they need it especially at what started out at $350 for a Nintendo-only platform.

Even then maybe the idea has been better on paper than in practice. MY kids rarely seem to just play on the Gamepad instead of the TV. For me I can't concentate on tv and GAmepad so it is either or. I'd rather play the game on a the big screen too which looks nicer and is easier to see.

And my kids don't really want to play games on it while I watch tv either. First I would tell them to turn down the sound. I don't want to hear a videogame sound when I am watching tv. We could use headphones I guess but that just hasn't been something we do. Instead the kids just go on thier IPad or iPHone or 3ds or on the other tv if the tv with the Wii U is occupied.

Maybe in that sense the GAmepad idea came a bit too late.

Andreas Ronning
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The Wii had a *significantly* better lineup than the Gamecube, and for a "gimmick" it sure made for a consistent lineup of stuff that was at least *weird*, and Metroid Prime 3 and Red Steel 2 the most tactile FPSes I've yet to play on a console.

Jay N
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@Phil:
2) The mass audience left it many years ago, yes, first going to the PlayStation, then the PlayStation 2, etc.

There's no such thing as someone's mass market, the "mass" in the market is a designation given to whichever console pulls out ahead, and they're no more brand loyal than they are in any other industry.

3) I can! I can! Granted, most of those are Nintendo's own brew, but still. ;-)

4) "Nintendo still have some of the great IPs around, but they seem to be stuck in the past. What worked for them 10 years ago is not going to work for them in todays gaming world, times have changed too much." – Funnily enough, if you blink, you'd be forgiven for seeing the Wii as the blip. Nintendo is very much finding itself in the same place it was ten years ago, with the PlayStation-brand console racing ahead, and its own console knifing for second place with Microsoft's bid. Eerie. But then again, even Sony missed its forecasts, so...

5. "Something like a tablet/console that could plug into the TV (I would buy a Nintendo iPad type tablet/console in a heartbeat)" Hmm... Sounds a lot like the Wii U to me.

@Bob:
"You play while watching tv." – You know, I found myself playing through almost all of New Super Mario Bros U and Super Mario 3D World on that thing. Even when the TV was on, I drifted back to the small screen. I love it. Oh, if only the build quality had been higher, and the pad itself able to play games as a stand-alone device.

Danwen Huang
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'Nintendo's patiently explained the design ideas behind their games. Is anybody listening?'

That's actually something I truly appreciate about Nintendo; their dedication and passion towards the craft off games that separates it from other mediums.

I think I'm also not alone in thinking that Nintendo is one of the biggest (and most lighthearted) flagbearers of diversity within video games, that extends beyond the usual violence-simulation stereotype embodying the industry. Whilst sentimental Christian, you pointed a lot what makes Nintendo special and inspiring in this piece.

The video games fanbase is not as narrow minded as media likes to point it out to be though, so there will always be a place for companies like Nintendo.

John Flush
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I don't think they will ever leave the hardware market, but I would love for them to focus on handhelds. A risky move no doubt with Mobile around today. But think there is a lot more Nintendo could innovate in the handheld world where a nintendo console just won't keep up Sony or MS.

For example, instead of making a tablet hardware that can be shared around a TV they could have made a 3DS 'host' that could make 3DS games stream to the TV and act as a multiplayer hub so you could play 4 man local multiplayer with just one 3DS cart. Now you get a relatively cheap hardware item ($150) that you can sell to every kid/person in the house (end up more expensive than a console, but you can buy it little by little) and you don't always have to HD everything. Throw in a well designed/priced historical library that transfers with your MyNintendo account and you have just become a platform that people would keep loving themselves and hooking their kids on as they play together as a family.

They keep trying to do stuff like this but instead it always comes off tacked on to a console instead as a 'gameplay gimmick'. For example the Tingle crap that was in Wind Waker. Their idea was to get the parents interested in helping their kids game (or siblings) - instead of that they could (now at least) make two 3DS's stream to the same TV, like Mario Kart split screen, and now you could race each others times (even in old games) or just show you kid how to do it while not taking away their game... get annoyed with split screen? just watch your 3DS which would still be the same full version of the game you were use to playing in the first place (instead of the smashed minecraft / every other local multiplayer game / feel).

Anyhow, I think nintendo knows they need games. I wish they would just quit making two versions of the same IPs (one for handheld, one for console) when they could probably focus on just a handheld and come off with better games and more of them.

Robert Boyd
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"It doesn't pander to the adults and adolescents who make up the shooter market."

Which I see as a very good thing. I could see Splatoon being very successful at growing the shooter market beyond the narrow demographic it currently has. It's cute, it's colorful, it's relatively non-violent, it features female characters prominently in the video, and its emphasis on painting the map rather than wracking up the most kills should make it very accessible and inviting to people who aren't already FPS experts (everyone can contribute to a team's success even without a single kill).

Anecdotal evidence and all that, but when I asked "Did watching any of the various conferences at E3 this week convince you to pick up a new system?" on Twitter, the Wii U was by far the most common response. Of course, that could just mean that everyone who talks to me on Twitter already owns a PS4 or XBO. :)

Christian Nutt
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Yeah, I'm thrilled it doesn't. As I said in the piece, I want Splatoon, and I wouldn't even consider playing another multiplayer shooter. Part of the reason I want it is that I had great fun playing the Metroid section of NintendoLand; part of it is that I know the game will be fun IRL, with friends; part of it is that I know it won't attract the audience that plays military shooters, who I want to stay far away from; part of it is that I know it'll feel great and be designed for fun. So, yeah. I'm thrilled about it, personally. I just wonder how many people will be convinced. I would love to see it take off.

Bob Johnson
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I really like what I saw of Splatoon's mechanics. Interesting stuff.

But not seeing how the characters are going to sell people on the experience.

They were sort of generic.

I hate to say this because Nintendo puts Mario in everything. But put the Blooper in there when you're a squid and then the Mario characters when you aren't.

Or use some Metroid characters.

Or come with some better characters.

Hell make this a Pokemon paintball game somehow.

Or add some new morphing ability to the Blooper. You could use the "Blooper morphs into a land creature" ability in other future Nintendo games.

There is always a chance this will attract girls I guess but ....I'm not sure including some bright colors in a fps game along with a female character is all one has to do.

But I'll probably support the game because the mechanics seem like a breath of fresh air.

Kenneth Wesley
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The thing about Nintendo's bubble is that it'll take a while for it pop. Yes, they have amazing titles that are probably preordered by the same people who enjoyed their predecessors, but then again....that market is sustainable enough for Nintendo apparently. I like it that their only response to slagging sales is to keep making the art they make so well, as opposed to grabbing the same slice of a pie that's already eaten. Rockstar does this well, too.

To me, if Nintendo can move software and not have to lay off people 2 months after gloating about it, that's a course I hope they maintain. All the other stuff shown at E3: I worry about how much man hours went into those demos, that only lead to sales that would be lucky to top 2 million in sales across multiple SKUs, leading to a complete shut down of studios. Nintendo seems to be the only thing from the video game industry from being completely homogeneous.

About audiences: why do all success have to be monolithic. Why does it matter that action fans care about Zelda games? Both audiences are fulfilled, why does one need to steal from the other to succeed? True crossover success comes from art that doesn't pander to focus groups, sales data, 'trends', or market share. But game makers who believe in a vision strong enough to sale it without the bells and whistles of other games.

I think if the market is fragmented enough for many publishers and developers to succeed with out putting eggs in one basket, then let those bubbles rise!

Jeremy Alessi
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I almost fell asleep watching Microsoft's press event. By comparison the Nintendo digital event was a stroke of genius.

I feel like you do about the violence on other consoles. It's not mature, it's just stupid. To me, a new mechanic to wrap my head around, like Splatoon looked awesome. Sure it was cartoony but that just means you can play it with your kids.

I rather disagree overall. I think people are tired of the dark dreary violent games on Xbox and Playstation. I haven't purchased one of those yet but every other week I let my daughter try the Wii U to see if she has the hang of it. I'm always wishing she does so we can begin playing games together.

People who grew up with Nintendo are now raising kids. They're going to play Nintendo games with them.

Daniel Smith
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I feel exactly the same way - i have a family with fairly young kids. Nintendo is the only console maker who seems to recognize that demographic. I picked up a WiiU this last Christmas: XboxOne and PS4 were out, but there was no-contest in which console to buy.

Not talking about kid games. I mean "games that are awesome that i can play with my family." ( Nintendo, you can use this tagline for free if you want ;) )

Not sure if this focus can support Nintendo (it seems to have done ok in the past?), but to me it seems like a viable proposition. There's a lot of families out there (more all the time!) and i'm betting most of those would rather avoid a console that focuses on gritty violence and headshots. Would love to see an advertising campaign contrasting WiiU games with rival consoles' focus.

John Flush
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I agree with this and a quick compare from the conference: it appears Microsoft tried to go for a game without all the dark and drearly violence with Sunset Overdrive. They couldn't even make it through the trailer without an F-bomb. I know that isn't what MS is trying to do with the game, but what game did they do for families?

This is what Nintendo brings to table that no one else can do effectively. Make games you can play with and in front of your kids or the neighborhood kids.

Matthew Mouras
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Agreed. I enjoyed the Sunset Overdrive trailer and am excited about the game because its aesthetic isn't the same dreary one we've seen countless times before, BUT I know I will not be playing it until my daughter is in bed at night. I'm probably more excited about being able to make platforms levels with my family in Mario Maker.

Jim Burns
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I 100% disagree with this piece.

"I don't know, but whatever it is, Nintendo doesn't have it. Nintendo doesn't want it. Nintendo will not deliver it, and that's one reason Nintendo has been left behind by the audience that once embraced it. "

Nintendo had massive cheering during the smash event, cheering during Zelda.

Theresa Catalano
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Same here. I think that Nintendo is still beloved by many, despite the bad showing of the Wii-U. Yet in the same breath, everyone loves to forget that the 3DS is the most popular console at the moment. I think that Nintendo was smart to stick with the Wii-U, because I honestly think it's fortunes are on the rise as well.

Lance McKee
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Since this doesn't seem to be a very well-known issue I would just like to recommend to anyone who hasn't already done so to research the issue of conflict minerals and Nintendo's role in it. I wanted to be very careful to not help spread stupid rumors or anything so I've spent the past few hours reading through the information offered by Nintendo on their website as well as information offered by groups like The Enough Project. The more I dig into it the more upsetting it is, and I would just hope that other Nintendo fans could give the situation some serious thought and help pressure them to address the issues.

Mike Kasprzak
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Can Nintendo really not just coexist?

Once they prove to fans they have content worth owning, and they start moving consoles, then what's the problem? There may only be a few million today, but as long as they keep releasing things people want, then maybe they'll reach some nice number like 10 million units. That's sustainable.

The original Wii was a wild fluke. Right place, right time. Do they really have to be number one?

Michael Pianta
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I totally agree with this article. As someone who loves Nintendo, it is frustrating to see the situation the company is in. But I really feel, and have felt for a long time, that the problem is almost completely (though not quite) outside of Nintendo's control.

Casual observers might think, "Well, if Nintendo had the right games, they would attract a variety of new players." However, for sometime now, I have been convinced that the problem is much deeper and more abstract than that. Put simply, Nintendo is deeply and intrinsically 'uncool' to many, many people. You know how it looks like Apple can do no wrong, and cannot be challenged, because the brand is so "cool" and such a fashion/status symbol that large percentage of the public feels compelled to buy their latest product no matter what it costs or how useful it is? It's just like that for Nintendo but in a negative sense.

For game enthusiasts who are too young to have nostalgia for the NES/SNES; who have never known a world in which FPS games were not the dominant genre; who believe that the ideal game would be just like a movie that you control, or a virtual world where any indulgence can be enjoyed without consequence - what could Nintendo possibly offer them? They don't have a single franchise that fits with that. And if they transformed their existing brands into something like that, I think they would win very, very few new users, while alienating their existing audience and damaging their reputation with parents who view Nintendo as a safe alternative to Sony/MS. Meanwhile, if they tried to make a NEW franchise that could target, say, the Halo audience - well, why would anyone switch? What credibility does Nintendo have with that crowd? And if I'm right that there is a sort of anti-Nintendo social component to the whole situation, then they would have to overcome THAT as well. Someone would have to be the first person in their peer group to spring for the Nintendo console, and endure the doubt and ridicule of their friends - and that person would have to be SO pleased with their purchase that they evangelize it to their doubtful friends and affect some kind of larger migration. I can't imagine any scenario where that happens.

And Chris is so right about Nintendo's thoughtful messaging. Game designers talking about the artistry of game design. I really appreciate that stuff, but I think it misses the mark with the average consumer. I remember when the Wii-U was being fully unveiled, and Nintendo did this pre-E3 direct. Iwata talked about the idea that people in families were isolated by technology; sitting in one room, but each looking at their own private screens, or else trotting off to separate rooms of the house to utilize separate TVs. He spoke about other abstract aspects of the system's design as well - but any way the thing that really impressed me was this sense that the people at Nintendo were worried about this. They were worried that the modern video game, which they seemed to feel responsible for (arrogance, perhaps) was having a negative influence on society. Perhaps encouraging antisocial behavior, or familial disunity or something like that. Speaking personally, I was so impressed by that. Do you imagine many other global companies ask that question? Do McDonald's executives ever ask themselves if their product is good for their consumers? Or, do record executives or film studio executives ever ask themselves if the catalog of titles they're releasing this year will have a positive influence on society? I'm guessing that that almost never happens and if it does happen it happens privately behind closed doors. But Nintendo made it into a major element of their presentation.

Which, like I said, is impressive to me. I admire that integrity. But that messaging is wasted on the core gaming audience. This industry is dominated by teenagers, and while many of those teenagers will ultimately grow up to be serious adults that might share some of the same concerns Nintendo was talking about, that day is 10-15 years in the future, and by that time a new crop of teenagers will be dominating the industry.

But anyway, I don't know what the solution is (if there is one) but I hope Nintendo sticks around, in more or less it's current form, for a good while yet. Right now I feel like I'm the one being left behind by the industry, and when I look around Nintendo is the only company I see standing right there, where they've always been. It's right where I want them to stay.

Bob Johnson
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35 million copies of Mario Kart sold on the Wii despite how uncool Nintendo is.



Theresa Catalano
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Micheal, I think you make valid points, however I think your premise is somewhat flawed. Is the problem that kids think Nintendo is "uncool"? Perhaps that's slightly true, but you've overstating it. There's tons of evidence to the contrary: Pokemon, Mario Kart, the excitement over anything Mario/Zelda, or just the 3DS itself.

It's certainly true that Nintedo doesn't cater to a lot of the popular trends right now, but I think the big mistake you're making is that you're overestimating those trends. People are a little more complicated than that. Sure, kids love Call of Duty, but a lot of those same kids may also love Mario Kart. In my estimation, Nintendo has lost some of it's cache with kids, but it still has a decent foothold on the market and can easily bounce back.

Matthew Mouras
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I still enjoy Nintendo software by myself or with my family. However, I would spend more money on Nintendo platforms if they implemented a proper unified account system and some sort of achievements/trophy/cards equivalent. Does that make me a hollow person?

"core gamers have moved on to experiences like Sony's The Last of Us, an emblematic game of the prior generation if ever there was one."

I appreciated this thought, even though it stung a bit to read. Maybe I'm just not 'core' anymore. I greatly disliked Last of Us as a game.

Leon T
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From their financial meeting and now their E3 my opinion is that this year Nintendo is trying to keep their core fans happy instead of trying to expand their market. I think with the state of the Wii U that is the best thing to do. Looking at the 3DS install base its clear that not all Nintendo fans have a Wii U so getting more of them owning a Wii U is a good thing to focus on. My point is Nintendo is trying to repair their bubble instead of expanding beyond it now.

They are making the effort to fund some gore and guts games and are pushing indies more and more, but they are focused on making the Wii U appeal to their core fans that didn't jump in yet.

Rodney Emerson
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If there is one thing that I can say is consistent throughout video gaming's very short history, it is mass speculations of Nintendo's inevitable collapse after the SNES period. The N64 spelled doom for Nintendo, then the GameCube spelled doom for Nintendo, then the Wii both spelled doom for Nintendo while simultaneously printing money, now the Wii U definitely spells doom for Nintendo, who should quit the console market and become a third party developer ( Another line repeated over and over again, though heard the loudest after the Dreamcast).

It's a very clear cycle, Nintendo's imminent demise is a staple conversation of web 2.0, where people say essentially the same sort of things, construct the same sort of arguments, and collectively feel very intelligent and insightful about Nintendo's myriad errors concerning consumer trends, third party developers, their childish visuals and themes, their overtly risky, needlessly different, gimmicky consoles and stale, rehashed, done-to-death IPs.

...And the next day, Nintendo's doors open once again: The game designers to their designs, the programmers to their compilers, the artists to their art, the musicians to their music, and Miyamoto looking at his toaster, figuring out what kind of game he can make out of it.

If Nintendo ever does fall, I have a strong feeling it won't be for any of the reasons one can find in this discussion.

Bob Johnson
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great post!

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy
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My takeaway from this article:
1) The gaming scene is getting increasingly fragmented.
2) The nature of console hardware market is such that the costs of developing a new console can only be covered if your console is potentially interesting to all the possible gaming scene fragments.
3) Nintendo has it's own loyal fragment
4) Nintendo is not doing a good job with respect to catering to other fragments.

Points of stipulation
1) No matter how fragmented the gaming scene gets, there should be some basic core of what makes a game appealing as a game - that is, a set of mechanics to compete with and against in an interactive fashion. I strongly feel that Nintendo has this core gaming experience down pat and, therefore, their games should be appealing to anyone who is looking for an actual game to play.

Those that are not willing to give Nintendo games the time of day, or judge them not on merits of their game mechanics, but rather on how technologically advanced their presentation is, or how many "adult" themes they tackle, are probably not interested in an actual game to begin with. And are therefore not customers or a game company. Maybe they are customers of home entertainment company, like, say, Sony wants to be. But not a game company, like Nintendo is.

2) There are two ways to handle the development of new console. Way number one is to go for maximum power and efficiency, aiming to provide game developers with peak graphic fidelity. That way has, indeed, become very expensive. And, in fact, the only way to really justify the costs of going that way is by making your console into a home entertainment powerhouse that is able and willing to house all sorts of experiences, and not just games. This is Sony's strategy. This is also what XBox wanted to do until very recently (which makes their recent moves towards shifting gears down to pure gaming console very intriguing).

However, a different way is to say, "we are about games first and foremost" and focus not on overwhelming graphical fidelity, but rather on various tools for making fun games. This is what Nintendo is doing. In fact,

Nintendo has for many years now been the only gaming company that had actual success experimenting with conceptually new gaming hardware. The only other companies that had success in such experiments were Apple (possibly unwittingly) and Oculus VR (PR success at least), but - for many reasons - their efforts and successes in gaming innovation pale with respect to Nintendo's.

Now, the two questions in that regard are, which of the two ways is more commercially viable? Path of innovation is always risky, but Nintendo has seen it pay off in a big way twice already - first with Wii, second with 3DS. Who is to say there won't be more? On another hand, the costs of developing technologically superior consoles and games for them are skyrocketing. So far, the market for AAA games seems to expand faster than the rate at which the costs are piling up, but this is not going to last forever (or even for long).

3 and 4. The big question here is - why would Nintendo, that is an innovative game company and NOT a stuffy home entertainment technology company, want to cater to audiences that seem to become more and more expensive to please with every passing moth, and also seem to prefer quasi-realistic power fantasies / interactive movies over actual games?
I believe Nintendo, being a GAME company, is much better off serving people people who love GAMES for being challenging interactive experiences that they are. Even if it means occasionally losing in the console arms race against huge home entertainment centers or failing to please people who seem to be more interested in polygon count of their guns than in quality of their game mechanics.

wes bogdan
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I of course have a wii u but i can't help but wish the gamepad had been designed better take either dualshock or xbox shape upsize it for the screen and better design is yours because the original xbox dukepad has nothing on ninty's gp. they desperatly need a controller-s gp model. Worst placement of right analog,start and select ever....as for their games i wouldn't ever expect an m rated nintendo title though Metroid would be the best fit for that i couldn't imagine mario,yoshi,smash,kart etc ever being m.

Would i rather see their console games on ps4 and xb1 sure providing their essence remained pure nintendo which would mean they'd need to have 2nd party status on both systems better than 3rd party contracted to make x game x way.

In a way they'd almost be indie because they'd be indipendant and continue being nintendo.

Amibo may change their fortunes if kids have their way create a trap team system bundle+amibo still no wii sports equal but if smash ,kart,3d world,lego city,amibo and bayonetta had arrived launch day it would be a different story today though between ms and sony i feel sony is closer to nintendo with games like lbp than ms who are supposed to be the gamer's system catering to hardcore only : shooters,sports and the mainstream.

I wish nintendo the best and like others will get smash,amibo etc...but would prefer their home games on my ps4,xb1.

Bruno Xavier
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Put in the word 'bubble', commenters will come.

Michael Wenk
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I think this article is pretty bad in terms of its content and its terms. However, I don't really see the point to comment to that. What I will say is that were I at Nintendo, I wouldn't try to what the media and analysts want, and that's for you to compete for the hard core audience. What I would do is I would create kick ass game experiences. The biggest problem with the Wii U is it pretty much sucks when compared to iPad, and even sucks compared to android tablet gaming.

The important thing is to play to your strengths and grow the market. The media and analysts may scoff at the Wii and call it a gimmick and a fluke, but it was 4+ year gimmick and fluke. That's pretty damn good in the world of game systems. Do it again.

Scott Lavigne
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I'd be curious to see how much availability of non-gaming services on the platform would affect Wii U sales. Sony and MS have both been marketing their devices (including last gen) as HTPCs to some degree. I'm wondering if a significant portion of justifying the purchases of these expensive devices comes from "I'm not just wasting money on games" or "I kind of want a Blu-ray player anyway".

I'm also eager to see how the streaming integrations for PS4 and XB1 turn out as well. With PC gaining so much traction (and streaming along with it) over the last couple of years, I wonder how many people that got to make the dive for the new consoles (since it's sort of filling the void for something they've gotten used to).

Ruthaniel van-den-Naar
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For me personally is Nintendo empty dead legacy.

Nintendo was great, than they fro brought first real console altenative to expensive computer gaming with NES, but now.. They are hollow in console market. Wii was incredible success for party gamers and fitness gamers, but fail for hardcore gamers.
Reasonable man, hate restriction and Nintendo platform is most closed of all, there was ridicilous 20 MB limit per downloadable games. All their famous series are already obsolute, we have 3D / 2D platformers, arcade racing games, puzzle and puzzle rpg on other platforms.
And their hardware is now crappy - only 64 GB internall storage, in age of internet downloading games, gamepad tablet controller ends in itself - nobody want to look at second smaller screen during gameplay.

There are unable to evolve they will die, its rule of nature, its also rule of market.. Their console well die first, after that will die their Handeld, because are realy isnt any reason why Nintendo games, could be on phones, tablets, tablets with controllers or on PSvita..

Chris Dunson
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Nintendo will be fine. Wii Us are pumping out much faster with Mario Kart 8. In its launch week they sold more than thrice the amount of Xbox Ones. Microsoft is the one who should look into going mobile or just staying PC.


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