— This article is one entry in a 2-part series. The other entry, which is taken from an opposing perspective, can be read here —
Nintendo is in a very precarious position right now. For years, the industry has become increasingly more hostile towards the company, constantly criticizing its decisions and products. As Nintendo prepares to launch its new, yet incredibly mysterious system, one can only hope that the Big N is preparing to bring the house down.
Let’s pretend for a second that the NX has already been released. Quite a number of people have been doubting the system ever since the late Satoru Iwata first made mention of it, and now, their predictions seem to be coming true. The console isn’t selling very well and the industry has, once again, begun the onslaught of negative comments and jeers. Quite the scenario, no? If this actually ends up happening (or something close), exactly how big of a deal would it be?
Nintendo has been steadily losing ground in the home console sector for quite some time now. Taking the Wii out of the equation, once you compare the performance of its systems over the last three generations, you’ll see that Nintendo has definitely been on the decline. It all started with the release of the Nintendo 64, which was 20 years ago. While many believe that Nintendo started ‘getting weird’ in the 7th generation, that isn’t the case. The Nintendo 64’s use of cartridges instead of CD-ROMs was the Big N’s first act of industry defiance, and since then, the company has gradually become more and more out of sync.
The Wii’s success may have pumped a considerable amount of money into Nintendo’s bank account, but it came at the cost of completely throwing Nintendo out of the loop. The system’s basic nature proved attractive to the masses, but that crowd eventually dispersed. If the Wii was truly successful, then the Wii U should have been selling at a much higher rate just because it has “Wii” in the title. With these 20 unfortunate years in tow, the NX has quite the burden to carry if Nintendo is truly creating the system to be a return-to-form.
Three great consoles are the unfortunate faces of Nintendo’s dwindling market share. The NX needs to be nothing short of the opposite.
Now then, what exactly classifies a console as being a “failure”? Many consider it to be a system that doesn’t sell at the same rate as its competitors, and even its predecessors. The Wii U has been labeled a “failure” by many, but is that really the case? When directly compared to the sales of its rivals like the PS4 and past systems like the Gamecube—and certainly the Wii—then it may indeed come across as nothing more than a failure. While this may appear to be the case, a situation like this calls for looking at the bigger picture.
The Wii U, like any other device, is a product. What is a product? In dictionary terms, a ‘product’ is described as being: “an article or substance that is manufactured or refined for sale”. Take notice of the latter half of the definition: “manufactured or refined for sale“. Seeing as a product is created for the sole purpose of being sold, then this means that its level of success is ultimately determined by the amount of profit it manages to generate. True, the Wii U isn’t the best-selling system by a long-shot, but Nintendo has still managed to gain some profits from it. Truly, the fact that Nintendo has even been able to sell 13+ million units should be commended. Why? Because they managed to sell it all by themselves. Even though that is actually a good thing, for a company this size, more needs to be done.
Being a worldwide entertainment giant, just “managing to make a profit” isn’t exactly satisfactory. It’s good, but it could be better. That’s why, while I don’t sympathize with the Wii U’s over-criticizers, I don’t completely disagree with them either. If Nintendo ends up only making a modest amount of success with the NX, then there’s virtually no doubt that many will declare that Nintendo has “failed yet again”.
The Wii U’s ‘failure’ is rather exaggerated, but Nintendo really does need a system that can truly pierce the competition.
The gaming industry really seems to have it out for the Big N. It’s a disheartening sight to see, especially when you consider the fact that it’s because of Nintendo that we even have an industry today. Even so, that hasn’t stopped the negativity. After doing a bit of research, the bad press that Nintendo currently has isn’t actually anything new. The media sensationalized the company’s shortcomings even during the 90s when they were ‘at war’ with SEGA. It was amusing to go through the report and see that not much has changed. Even so, things do seem to be a bit more on the dire side these days.
Many gamers and even industry analysts believe that if Nintendo fails to deliver with the NX, then that’s it—game over; following their formal rival SEGA, Nintendo would be downgraded to a third-party developer and continue their business on other platforms. I honestly can’t agree that something of that magnitude would come out of the possible underperformance of the NX, but circumstances really can change rather drastically. Even so, Nintendo is in nowhere near the same financial position that SEGA was in during the short-lived Dreamcast era, so that scenario really is the ‘Worst Case’.
Looking at it from a realistic perspective, if the NX really does end up under-preforming, then Nintendo will be even more ‘niche’ than they already are. At that point, unless one of their rivals falters, then they’ll only be accounting for a considerably small area of the market. Does this mean that they would be inspired to call it quits instead of forced? Perhaps. But, again, Nintendo is a huge company with many assets at their disposal.
The NX definitely has its work cut out for it; coming in at a time when the rival companies are gearing their consoles up for their ‘peak season’, and with practically the whole industry in doubt of how good the new system will be. As I said in the opposing entry, Nintendo needs to bring the house down with the NX. The company has spent the last 2 decades getting pushed farther and farther out of the spotlight. The fans that remain are a strong, loyal group, but not enough to fully support a major system. I still find it foolhardy to think that the NX can sway existing members of Sony and Microsoft’s camps, but I do think it has the chance to charm those who have yet to make the jump from last generation hardware, as well as Nintendo fans who’ve been ‘inactive’, so to speak.
If the NX really does fail to rectify Nintendo’s already awkward situation, the future of the company as it relates to relevance in the industry will be far more uncertain than it already is.