Should Nintendo Go Third Party?
It's no secret that now is not the best of times for Nintendo. While the 3DS is doing fine, the Wii U has struggled to gain traction in the market and Sony and Microsoft seem to be hogging the spotlight lately. With the Japanese firm making their first losses in more recent years, it's understandable that some people might worry about their future. Every time a negative story about the big N's fortunes surfaces there always seems to be various analysts (and armchair analysts) scrabbling to say that they should pull out of the hardware business. The argument goes that if Nintendo were to stop making hardware and “do a Sega” they'd be able to turn their fortunes around. Just this week, an EA Bigwig claimed Miyamoto had dropped the ball by not developing for mobile.
Here's the thing... I think rumours of Ninty's imminent demise are a bit premature. It's still way too early to write off the Wii U for starters. We've yet to even see the release of Zelda, Mario Kart or a 3D Mario or other potential system sellers. The 3DS is in rude health (it just overtook lifetime sales of the Wii in Japan) and this is even before the release of the new Pokemon games.
The DS and Wii sold phenomenally well for quite some time. You can go on about Wiis collecting dust as much as you like, but it doesn't take away from how impressive those sales were for years on end. And Nintendo made profit on every unit sold. Similarly if you take a look at a lists of the biggest selling games of all time, Nintendo game feature quite heavily. Nintendo games are also unusual in that they retain their value for an unprecedented time. If today you want to go out and buy a new copy of Mario Kart Wii or New Super Mario Bros -games that have been out for five years or more- they still cost close to their original price. Which when you think about it, is kind of insane. They're not even on current generation hardware.
In other words, Nintendo aren't exactly short of cash. Even if the Wii U failed completely, or interest in 3DS died tomorrow, they've still got their Scrooge McDuck style money-bins of cash to tied them over for a bit longer.
What if Nintendo were to change their mind, and publish their games on other platforms? Surely, this would allow them to reach an even wider audience, right? There's some precedent in the form of Sega, who in turning their back on hardware, made themselves one of the most important third-party publishers overnight. But this didn't last long. Outside Sonic, and their other key franchises, Sega have struggled to make much of an impact, and frankly are now a shadow of their former selves.
As a life-long Nintendo fan, I'd hate to see this happen to them. As a general gamer, yes, it would make my life easier (and cheaper) if I could buy Mario 3D Land for my Playstation 3. Sure, it would be great to play the real-deal Super Mario World on my iPad. But this would inevitably result in the devaluing of their brands, and the end results may suffer.
A games industry without Nintendo in their current form would be a that much poorer one. The big N always go their own way (for good or ill) and it keeps things much more interesting. I feel it can also be argued that their presence also inspires their rivals to do better. Whatever you think about the Wii U, it lead the way in the idea of a "second screen experience" that their competitors are also now pushing, with Smartglass and Vita Connectivity. Even a less successful Nintendo console is leading while others follow.
But ultimately it comes down to something much more personal. For many of us there's just that special something about Nintendo hardware. Maybe it's not as slick as Sony's or as powerful as Microsoft's but when I get a new piece of Nintendo hardware, it always just feels like coming home. And I for one would hate to think of never getting the chance to feel that again.
I put the question to my fellow Rebel writers to see how they felt. Earl Davis had quite a different take:
Sega’s abysmal record at producing quality Third party games is always at the top of the list of arguments against Nintendo going that direction. However, I find myself thinking that it is time for Nintendo to step away from the hardware business. Let’s look at a few facts:
1) Handheld gaming has changed forever with the ascension of the smartphone. Why buy a $200.00 handheld system, when there is already one in your pocket?
2) The Wii U is a failure. On average, there are only about fifty thousand Wii U consoles selling worldwide. Sorry, Zelda fans, there is no golden title that is going to pull this system from the abyss.
3) Hardcore gamers didn’t save the original Wii. Grandmas and families saved it because golf and bowling and Mario were fun to play together.
4)Piracy forced Sega into becoming a third party publisher. They had a few, quality IPs to fall back on and through a series of missteps have never recovered.
Nintendo has Mario, Zelda, Super Smash Brothers, Metroid and Pokémon just to get started with as a third party developer. A Pokémon game for IOS and Android based in micro-transactions is a gold mine waiting to be explored. The best thing that Nintendo can do moving forward is to accept that the hardware battle is lost, and accept that the future is ripe for the picking.
On the Other Hand Rebel's Rachael Ward puts it this way:
Having grown up with Nintendo, there is always going to be a soft spot in my heart for all the amazing games they have made over the years. Some of my fondest memories of gaming stems from their work, such as Mario, Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros and many more. Even their work in creating new systems have been impressive, such as leading the way in motion controls with the Wii and the interactive touch screen with the DS, which has led to even more innovation in the gaming community. With such an extensive history and overall impact on the world of gaming, Nintendo has a lot to be proud of. However, with the expansion of competing consoles who will do whatever it takes to get the better of each other, I think if Nintendo is going to stay as that influential company, it needs to be a bit more flexible in how it makes its games. They have a whole world of possibilities of different games to make using the hardware of other consoles, and we all know that they are more than creative enough to come up with fun games that pushes said hardware to the limit. Pride is only going to keep Nintendo one step behind the others if they don't find a way to keep their brand fresh. What better way to get on the good side of the community than to say that they aren't afraid to use technology that isn't their own and saying they can use it better?
Now over to you. Do you long to see Ninty embrace a multiplatform future or would you dread the day that happened? Join in the conversation in the comments section!