Nintendo is currently on a roll with both Pokemon Go and the NES Classic Mini. The road ahead remains unclear for the Nintendo NX despite its amazing Zelda preview but if Pokemon GO remains popular and reception for the NES Classic Mini remains positive upon release, then the name Nintendo alone could carry the NX to positive sales. There can be no mistakes for the NX as Nintendo has had little luck on the console market as of late. If the NX fails to deliver, it could possibly take the company’s recent blessings with it to the grave and the company could end up like Sega, developing games for mobile gadgets and other consoles.
If you don’t mind the recap, Nintendo’s struggles with the console gaming market stem from three significant mistakes in the past. One of those mistakes was poor decision making which led to the failed follow-up to the Game Boy called the Virtual Boy. Nintendo sought to take advantage of the first VR craze back in the 90s by marketing 3D effects in games through a new console. But the project was rushed and settled on a red and black color screen in order to cut expenses. Far from what its renowned creator had envisioned.
The Virtual Boy looked like a VR headset but instead of being strapped on the forehead; it was set up on an awkward stand forcing its users to a scoliosis-inducing hunched position. While it featured 3D effects, its red and black color scheme was unwelcome with users. Users complained of discomfort, eye strain, and headaches after a short time of use. The system itself came with a ton of health warnings. The reception and sales were so bad, the system was pulled off shelves in less than a year. The system tarnished the reputation of Nintendo as well as its renowned creator, Gunpei Yukoi (father of the Game Boy and Game and Watch). Only 22 games were made for the system. Some were quite good, if not for the red and black color scheme.
Another major mistake by Nintendo was sticking to cartridges when everyone else was moving to CDs. Nintendo decided to stick with cartridges for the Nintendo 64. For Nintendo, cartridges meant preventing piracy, lowers the cost of the console itself and cartridges eliminated the dreaded loading time. Unfortunately for the company, gamers didn’t mind loading times in exchange for cheaper games but larger games like Final Fantasy 7. Developers meanwhile did mind the cost of producing cartridge based games as CDs were much cheaper to make and can support more data for FMVs and digital audio. While the N64 had an impressive library, it suffered a Windows 8 level app-gap as 3rd party developers didn’t want to develop cartridge based games. Again, sales of the console was way below projections.
Nintendo’s biggest mistake resulted in the creation of the gaming industry’s most dominant player, Sony Computer Entertainment. Before the Sony Playstation, there was supposed to be a Nintendo Play Station (two words). A running prototype of the device recently surfaced, taken apart and tested with an indie game. Nintendo partnered with Sony to create the system but later felt threatened since Sony would control the licensing and manufacturing of the CD games. Nintendo instead worked with Philips for a CD add-on for the Super Nintendo (SNES). A day after Sony announced their new system with Nintendo, Nintendo stabbed Sony in the back by announcing plan B with Philips. Thus was born the Sony Playstation, Nintendo’s unintentional vengeful lovechild. The SNES add-on was aborted, and Philips released a terrible autistic system.
While the latter mistake is far from redeemable, Nintendo can still cash in on its two previous mistakes in today’s modern setting. Nintendo is now back to making cartridges for the Nintendo NX as their new console will ditch optical media on the premise that flash storage starting with 32GB will hold more than enough game data than current DVD and Blu-ray discs and that flash storage prices are currently down. Save data can also be saved and written on the cartridge itself and possibly even add-ons and patches eliminating the need for a hard disk. The extra space will give developers more space to work with eliminating the need for extra downloads, patches and fixes and theoretically ensuring that games will work out of the box devoid of embarrassing bugs and glitches. Flash storage will also greatly reduce loading times as opposed to optical media-based games. Nintendo will always be Nintendo and will demand game quality. Through cartridges, developers will have more discipline in creating games, reducing the need for patches or bug fixes. Developers will also be forced to roll out complete games instead of rolling out games in progress just to meet their deadline forcing gamers to download the stuff they left out. Many gamers will definitely appreciate the revised cartridge concept, and hopefully, game developers will follow suit.
And because Nintendo finally opened itself to mobile gaming resulting in games like Miitomo and Pokemon Go. With the next wave of VR going on, this time with realistic expectations, Nintendo can re-enter the VR game arena by reviving the Virtual Boy, capitalizing on the retro craze that could potentially begin with the NES Classic Mini. But instead of actually bringing back their redcap gremlin, Nintendo can create a strap-on headset similar to Samsung Gear VR. A mobile phone can be inserted into the headset and gamers will be able to play re-colored, re-mastered Virtual Boy games like Mario Clash, Wario Land and Telero Boxer. Nintendo can also use Nintendo 64’s library which includes Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64 and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The new system will come with an updated wireless Virtual Boy controller. Nintendo can then market enhanced versions of their old NES, SNES and Game Boy Advance libraries and to make things more interesting, can interface with the Nintendo NX.
While technically not a mistake, Nintendo’s obsessiveness in copyright protection has been shutting down fan projects left and right much like CBS and Paramount is doing with Star Trek fan films. These developers have been making great games based on Nintendo franchises. One of these games is the impressive Pokemon Uranium which was pulled out of development the moment the company got wind of it. Another potentially perfect project for Nintendo made by a fan is an emulator for Microsoft’s Hololens which allows players to play old NES games on screens suspended in mid-air. The project is amazing as it renders the games transparent allowing players to see their surroundings in place of the games’ common backgrounds. What Nintendo should be doing is buying these people off and hiring them, which hopefully they’re already doing. Imagine playing Super Smash Bros with players jumping all over the room furniture through Hololens technology. The company remains redeemable as long as it holds on to the late Satoru Iwata’s ideas of fun and continuous innovation.