Will the NX bring new life to Nintendo's console sales?

While there's little information on what the NX is, there's been plenty of discussion of whether or not this console will bring gamers back to the classic gaming company

Nintendo has been a household name ever since 1985, when the Nintendo Entertainment System first arrived in North America. Ever since then, dozens of companies have tried their best to tackle the gaming giant, many of them no longer in production of dedicated hardware. Atari, SEGA and various other companies were once well-known console brands, but have since been reduced to third-party companies or otherwise sold off.

Now Nintendo faces the same situation SEGA faced almost two decades ago with the Dreamcast as they get set to unveil the Nintendo NX later this year...

Nintendo's sales situation in 2016

Many gaming journalists and financial speculators alike have been quick to jump on the idea that the Nintendo NX is the company's final chance to salvage a burning ship. This is primarily due to the fact that the Nintendo Wii U failed to break 20 million units over 4 years.

Compared to system sales for the PlayStation 3 of over 83.8 million, and the Xbox 360's 84 million, the Wii U has done terribly. As such, it's no wonder that many gamers and gaming journalists have suggested that the NX could potentially be Nintendo's last stand. However...

This could not be further from the truth...

In reality, the entire gaming market has been slow for consoles. According to numbers released by EA's CFO, the Xbox One has sold just shy of 19 million units -- and that's only if this lead is to be believed, since Microsoft hasn't reported sales since 2014's number of 10 million. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 4 sits at about 40 million units and growing.

By this measure, the Nintendo Wii U is actually not doing too bad, considering that it's unlikely that any of these consoles will see a spike in sales anytime soon. While the Wii U may not be the highest grossing system, it's far from doing poorly in numbers alone. In fact, to say that these numbers are weak would make it fair to say that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 did poorly compared to the Wii last gen.

That said, Nintendo is without a doubt behind in the console war. 12.8 million units lands Nintendo in 3rd place in a battle between only 3 competitors. But is this necessarily a bad situation for Nintendo to be in?

The short answer is no. Why? Well let's take a short history lesson...

A little history can go a long way...


The fact is: with the exception of the Wii, Nintendo has been selling less home consoles than competitors since the Super Nintendo. 

That's right, the Nintendo-SEGA War of the early 1990s was the last time Nintendo beat out all other competitors in a console war. Hard to believe, isn't it?

Back in the 1990s The Super Nintendo sold a total of 49.1 million units, almost 20 million more than the SEGA Genesis, which firmly established Nintendo as the world's strongest video game company. Even then, the Super Nintendo's sales still failed to match that of its predecessor - the Nintendo Entertainment System - which sold over 61.91 million units.

The reason for the NES's success was that Nintendo had a policy of marketing their system as a toy instead of a video game console. This was a very important distinction after the Video Game Crash of 1983 since the crash had left many consumers reluctant to purchase a new console. With features like ROB and the Nintendo Zapper (above), Nintendo's sales revitalized the market to the point where to this day people still appreciate the old 1985 hardware.

Nintendo wouldn't see another massive spike in sales until the Wii, which sold approximately 101.63 million units. This made the Nintendo Wii the best selling video game console of all time as it sold almost twice as much as any other console in that generation. The Nintendo DS similarly outclassed the PSP with its sales as well.

So the Nintendo Wii and DS outsold all other consoles in their generation. In fact, it would be safe to say that they left the competitors in the dust. However, anyone could tell you that both systems were vastly underpowered compared to the competition. So why did they sell so well?

Nintendo isn't about hardcore gaming, it's about family-oriented entertainment

Nintendo's Wii and DS consoles sold for one reason alone: accessibility. While the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PSP were exponentially stronger than Nintendo's consoles, Nintendo offered consoles that had a wider demographic.

The Nintendo DS was perfect for younger players. Many of the games were accessible to kids who typically play games with lower dexterity or difficulty. Similarly, the Wii flew off shelves for young and old alike as the motion controls were simple enough that elderly homes started adopting the systems to keep residents active.

Nintendo has always been about family first. That's why the Japanese name for the NES is the Famicom - Family Computer. The company has always marketed itself as such, and it will likely never drop this title.

With all this information in tow, we can safely conclude that that the Wii U hasn't sold poorly. It has sold exactly as many as it ought to have sold - compared to other Nintendo consoles - considering the intended audience.

So what does this all mean for the NX?

Nintendo is in a unique position when it comes to branding the Nintendo NX. The company has certainly gained a great deal of third party support for the Wii U compared to its predecessor thanks in part to the return to classic control schemes, as well as a better graphics processor. The Wii U has also become quite the platform for titles by indie developers.

While it is unlikely that Nintendo will abandon its family-friendly roots, Nintendo's current phase of rebranding the entire company may point toward a stronger push toward the hardcore. The company seems to be on the verge of a massive transformation - especially after considering the recent logo change to the original format of red and white.

More signs of the NX being a return to the hardcore lies with rumors that have been floating around the console for some time. The only rumors that can be confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt is the fact that the console will likely have two screens, and that it will feature Super Smash Bros. as a launch title. The former rumor is doubly reinforced by the fact that The Legend of Zelda Wii U is being ported to the console, and so it would need a second screen to share similar gameplay.

So what conclusion does all this evidence lead to?

The NX will not bring new life to Nintendo's console sales...

Before anyone rushes to the comments section to argue, let me clarify my stance. The Nintendo NX will without a doubt fail to bring new life to Nintendo's console sales, but I do not believe that the console will do worse than the Wii U. In fact, I have every belief that the console will do better than its predecessor.

With that said, the NX will not be a game-changing console that revolutionizes gameplay. I instead imagine that the console will return to something a little more standard. The controller will likely be something akin to the Nintendo Wii U, but with a sleeker design. It may also have the ability to link with multiple handheld devices - possibly the recently revealed Nintendo MH.

If "breathing new life" into Nintendo's sales is defined as selling on par -- or at least closer to -- competitor...then yes, the Nintendo NX will likely accomplish this. However, I have zero reason to believe that the NX will bring Nintendo to the level the company was at back when SEGA was its only rival.

It's just not the company's style.

Do you think the NX will resurrect Nintendo's console sales? Do you think I'm spewing utter nonsense? Leave your thoughts and arguments in the comments below!

Published May. 28th 2016
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