NintenDon’t: The Rise and Fall of Nintendo

The character of Mario isn't a savior for Nintendo it's a crutch
Nintendo was absent at E3
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Ok. Not literally. But in a sense this E3 was Sony and Microsoft butting heads and trying to prove they’re better than one another while ushering in the new generation. Nintendo opted a much quieter approach releasing some new game details and pimping the WiiU. Nintendo’s WiiU is their next Gen console and to most it already seems outdated. Some experts (cough *myself* cough) would even call it the Wii+. It makes you ask the question… What happened to Nintendo?

**Wii Plus**

In the beginning…

Jump back 10-15 years and remember that Nintendo was the Top Dog in gaming. People would go to their friends’ basements and throw in Super Smash Bros. and Super Mario Kart. This was the peak of gaming innovation. Super Mario Kart created the mini-kart racing genre. Super Mario 64 was a precursor to open-world adventure games. I remember being amazed at the level variety in Mario 64. I still have friends come over to play Smash Bros or Mario Kart 64 while the loser trades controllers and takes shots. My point being that Nintendo was the king of gaming. Everyone wanted an N64. It was a fun, 64 bit of goodness that you rushed home from school to marvel at.

The middle

Then came your Gamecube. A console that was N64+ (notice a theme here?). Sure they were semi-successful in selling handheld devices like the DS and various GameBoy iterations but none of these systems compares to the gaming system of the future that was the PS2. There was no change. They relied on the same characters of past games to sell the games on these systems. Mario, Yoshi all your favorites had newish type tales that pushed sales without changing much to the core gameplay of each character.

**This game was awesome though**

…In the end

Jump ahead to the present, and where are they? Sure The Wii sold millions of units and was arguably their most successful console since the N64… But to gamers the Wii is a novelty. It was marketed successfully as being an innovative machine that families would love. That’s a key distinction to make. I would venture to guess a lot of people reading this own a Wii and very little still use it. They’re not using it because the WiiU replaced it the way PS4 will replace PS3, either. They stopped because the gimmick wore off.

Let me explain. My girlfriend and I bought Mario Kart on the Wii as a fun game for us to play together (she’s not a huge gamer and the Wii suits her). Sure it was interesting for a while to move the controller and interact with the game while playing it; but after awhile it just wasn’t. I never had more fun playing Mario Kart with the Wii remote in a wheel than I did just holding the A button down in Mario Kart 64. While both games are fun, the wheel seemed unnecessary. Eventually we forgot about it. That is how all Wii games ended. You were excited about it, played for a bit and now it’s collecting dust somewhere with old Chappelle’s Show DVD’s.

Nintendo became a family gaming device. No gamer who has the option to play Madden across all three consoles would pick the Wii. So when people stop buying games for the Wii what do you have? A VHS player.

No seriously though it’s a system that’s flooded the market. Everyone has one, no one uses it.

**Chances are this bad boy is right next to your Wii**

How do they change?

How do they? How can Nintendo become what they were 15 years ago? How can Nintendo compete with Microsoft and Sony?

The short answer is: They have to want to. Nintendo seems quite content sitting as a family friendly console. They don’t seemed too concerned with being a gaming system. In order to be one they’d have to create new hardware from scratch that can compete with the Xboxs of the world. This on the surface appears to be something they are simply unwilling to do.

Although, look at Nintendo as a company versus Microsoft and Sony. If Nintendo tried to imitate a system like Xbox or PS4 and failed, that’s bankruptcy. There are no Nintendo tablets, phones or dishwashers (although I would buy a Nintendo Dishwasher without thinking twice) to soften the blow. Microsoft and Sony are diversified enough to where they can experiment with their consoles and still have revenue streams. Don’t get me wrong, if the next Playstation was called The PoopSicle4 and tanked so hard Sony had to shut down its gaming department–it would be bailout levels or disaster. But Sony has other departments that can still generate revenue beyond gaming.

So in this regard, I guess I don’t blame Nintendo for not wanting to push the envelope.

Character Development

 This may sound obvious and it may sound blasphemous but I’m going to say it. The character of Mario isn’t a savior for Nintendo; it’s a crutch. I love Mario as any gamer would. He should not be what every game is based around. When 50% of your games revolve around the same character it’s exhausting.  Super Smash Bros. Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Mario Party, Mario Golf, Mario at the Olympics, Mario Tennis, MARIO IN SPACE (Mario Galaxy) etc… Nintendo has a good character but they’ve stretched him way too thin.

Granted they also have characters like Donkey Kong and Kirby but even these characters and their games always feel more like nostalgia than gameplay innovation. We all love Kratos but I don’t want 10 more games with him playing golf or tennis (WAIT… YES I DO).

You know things are bad when the Wii Fit trainer gets added to Smash Bros. If Nintendo allowed even one game to be developed that created a cutesy, tough entity (you know, like all of their characters) that has never been seen before, it could great for them. Don’t make him part of the same world as Mario either. Keep Mario on the sidelines until there is something of substance for him to do. Just try and expand your universe instead of making it so inclusive.

Also, why hasn’t Mario gotten a voice yet? If Master Chief learned how to speak I’m sure Mario can without scanning through mountains of text to get plot details.

**All this time he never developed vocal chords**


Listen, Wii was innovative. I give Nintendo a lot of credit for creating that technology. It is directly responsible for Microsoft developing the Kinect (Thanks?). When I say innovation, I mean more so with the games. I touched on it briefly above. Whenever a new game comes out for the Wii I say, “A new Donkey Kong! YES. I remember playing Donkey Kong Country on my Gameboy and LOVED it”. I’ll play the new Donkey Kong (at the kiosk in say Target), realize it’s not DKC and walk away.

The point of the above sentence is their selling me nostalgia. They’re trying to sell me a game based on my past experience with the character. Don’t rehash DKC. I won’t have as much fun playing it the second time around. Use Donkey Kong and create a different game than one I played 15 years ago.

The Past is the Past

Nintendo is spending too much time trying to recapture the past than looking to the future. Like I said before. I can still pop in a game of Mario Kart 64 and play it with friends for some nostalgia and a fun. So don’t try and sell me updated versions of the same game. The graphics didn’t matter in Mario Kart 64. Yea they were good at the time but the game was timeless. The levels were fun. Battle was amazing and four player split-screen wasn’t nearly as bad as we all complained about. Mario Kart Wii is the same game. Some pretty cool levels. Fun battle. Nothing I haven’t seen before.

Long Story Short

I’m afraid Nintendo put all of its eggs into the “Family Entertainment” sect of consumers as opposed to gamers. When the market petered out just as quickly it left Nintendo at a stand still. How do they recapture gamers from a family friendly market? Innovation that isn’t gimmicky. Create different games as opposed to nostalgic ones. Don’t put Mario in everything you release.

Here’s to hoping they can keep finding way to make great games that allow our children  to reminisce about in another 15 years.


**This is the Stuff**

PS. Does anyone think Xbox is trying to appeal to the same “Family” market with the Xbox One? Will they go the way of Nintendo?

Am I totally off base? Are Nintendo games innovative enough? What should Nintendo do if they wanted to overtake Sony and Microsoft?

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Steve Lawton
My name is Steve. I consider myself a casual gamer but lover of nerd culture. Things interest me I don't even understand half the time.