Reports of Nintendo’s Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Nintendo held a press conference in Japan earlier this week to show off a number of new 3DS titles and announce Monster Hunter 4. Apparently the reception to this news was so negative that it spawned such non-gaming press articles as “Nntendo is Killing Itself” and “Nintendo Faces End of Era After 3DS Flop.”

Oh boy.

First, it should be worth noting stories like these have been appearing in non-gaming and business press such as Forbes and Reuters since August’s 3DS price cut. They typically link Nintendo’s current financial woes to its refusal to join in on the burgeoning mobile market. They usually quote some investors and analysts who seem to not know much about the subject at hand. Take this quote form Reuters’ “Nintendo Faces End of Era After 3DS Flop“:

“The only possible way for Nintendo to revive would be to stop concentrating on mobile games and switch to Wii-type games for the whole family,” said Makoto Kikuchi, CEO of Myojo Asset Management. “However, at the moment, I can’t see this change coming.”

Huh?

Yes, the 3DS is Nintendo’s focus right now because the Wii is in hospice care. Its successor, the WiiU, is set to be released within the next year. Nintendo will surely be shifting into all out WiiU hype mode in the coming months. When exactly that change will happen depends on a number of factors, but to say “I can’t see this change coming” is simply to be uninformed.

Another thing: Mr. Kikuchi’s assertion that Nintendo needs to switch back to family gaming is misinformed. Switching to a purely family gaming model with the Wii is what has gotten them into this mess. They capitalized on an untapped market, creating a massive number of short-term customers, but alienating their long-term customers. Nintendo is hurting with all of those short-term customers gone, but I can’t see a future in which Nintendo reclaims a major share of the core gaming audience it so desperately needs.

These articles are also misinformed when it comes to the viability of Nintendo moving into the mobile phone market. Here’s a line from The Atlantic’s “Nintendo is Killing Itself”:

Gamers prefer playing on their iPhones, iPads, or laptops. And Nintendo’s not adapting, as Reynolds explains. “Nintendo has been criticized for sticking rigidly to its own hardware, meaning it has no access to the new generation of mobile devices.” We bet you’d buy Super Mario for your iPad if you could.

No. I wouldn’t.

For one, from a control standpoint, Super Mario just wouldn’t work on an iPad. And…wait, did he really just say “Gamers prefer playing on their iPhones, iPads or laptops”?

At this point, saying “gamer” is like saying “reader.” Almost everyone plays games in some form or another and to make such a generality is just ignorant. Sure, there is a market that prefers playing games on mobile devices, but there is also a market that absolutely hates mobile games and sticks to consoles. There’s also a market that plays both. There’s also a market that plays neither.

What these people should be saying is that Nintendo should be branching out into the development of mobile games while retaining its handheld strategy. These analysts seem to not understand the revenue stream which manufacturing hardware represents. Being a console manufacturer means receiving licensing fees from third-party software developers. This is significant revenue stream for Nintendo that would be lost if they abandoned the handheld game.

A better alternative would be for Nintendo to start developing mobile games alongside their typical handheld offerings. The 3DS offers a vastly difference play experience from modern mobile platforms. I can easily imagine a world where the 3DS and iPhone live side by side with Nintendo publishing games for both.

Mobile platforms could get simple games like Mario Party or any number of mini-game collections. Reserve big titles like true Mario installments and Pokemon for the 3DS (although just imagine how massive an iOS/browser-based Pokemon could be. Massive user base, microtransactions, it could be positively gargantuan.)

One really important point to come out of this press event: the next numbered edition of Monster Hunter is coming to the 3DS.

That might not mean much in the west, but this is huge in Japan. Monster Hunter is the biggest gaming franchise in Japan and is traditionally exclusive to Sony platforms. It’s the sole reason why the PSP was a success in Japan and its migration to a Nintendo platform for its next proper release is quite the blow for Sony, especially with the Vita launching this year. This could be a sign that Nintendo is reaching out to third-parties to help support the 3DS and with Monster Hunter they have an important ally.

In summation, Nintendo isn’t dead (yet). They’ve made a number of significant mistakes with the 3DS and the WiiU faces some serious challenges (see my past piece on that subject). I don’t think we’re too far off from a game industry without a Nintendo home console, but I can’t see them abandoning the handheld space anytime soon.

Just keep in mind: many wise people have said, “Never underestimate Nintendo.” Believe it.

Image credit: Etsy

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About Matt Gerardi
Matt Gerardi is a journalist and musician. He also happens to write about video games.

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