Nintendo’s Obsession With Finding One Game That Can Sell Consoles

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Nintendo has accumulated thirty years worth of intellectual properties, popular franchises, and iconic characters.  They are essentially the Marvel Comics of video games in terms of how many franchises and characters they own. It is frustrating to watch Nintendo sit on a vault of hundreds of IPs collecting dust while the internet discusses whether “3D Mario” and “Mario Kart” can save the Wii U. When people act like the entire fate of Wii U rests in the hands of three games — 3D Mario, Mario Kart, Smash Bros — then you know Nintendo has failed to keep most of their franchises relevant in popular culture.

Most of Nintendo’s IPs are either abandoned, poorly marketed, rebooted 15-20 years after most people forget about them, or published exclusively on the eShop where not everyone looks. Nintendo’s mismanagement of intellectual properties has shrunk the diversity of their software lineup over the past three console generations. Nintendo lives by the motto of creating intellectual properties one generation and then trashing them the next generation.

The Nintendo Entertainment System represented a time when Nintendo was not afraid to work on genres outside of their comfort zone. Nintendo’s willingness to experiment in various genres like sports is why NES’s library of software was very well-rounded and marketable. Having a well-rounded library of software that covers all genres and appeals to all tastes is one reason why NES found massive success.

Nintendo was once a company that published various racing games like R.C. Pro AM, F-Zero, Wave Race, 1080 Snowboarding, Cruis’n USA, Stunt Race FX, Excitebike 64, Diddy Kong Racing, and Famicom Grand Prix: F-1 Race. Today, they mostly make Mario Kart because that sells the best.

Nintendo was once a company that made sports games like NBA Courtside, Ken Griffey Jr Baseball, NCAA Basketball, NHL Stanley Cup (SNES), Pro Wrestling (NES), Nintendo World Cup, Super Soccer, and Super Tennis. Today, they no longer make sports games unless Mario or Miis are attached.

Nintendo was once a company that published exclusive first person shooters like Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, and Geist. Today, they no longer publish first person shooters.  Third parties are expected to make them. (Side note: Metroid Prime is more of a first person adventure than a straight up shooter)

To maximize the company’s potential revenue, Nintendo traded away software diversity to focus on their five or six best selling franchises. But throwing all their eggs into a few baskets [franchises] has limited the appeal of Nintendo’s hardware, and if third party developers aren’t willing to fill in the gaps, then you have essentially created a niche product for people who only enjoy a handful of franchises.

It makes good business sense for Nintendo to be different from their competitors, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of offering consumers a diverse, well rounded library of software that sufficiently covers most (if not all) genres. When you make consumers choose between innovation or a diverse software library, most people will choose a diverse software library every single time. If Nintendo wants people to take them seriously, then Nintendo needs to provide software for all genres, because major third party publishers are not going to do it.

Today’s Nintendo insists that one game can change everything, and this mentality has become so laughable that NeoGaf even created the Wii U chalkboard.  A gaming company as large as Nintendo shouldn’t plan their entire long term strategy around the hopes that one or two games can turn things around. In fact, you would think Nintendo would have already learned that lesson already.

In 2003, the Seattle Times asked Satoru Iwata what was the biggest problem with the GameCube.

Iwata replied,”I think the biggest problem we were having was that thinking (that) one single software can make a great change on hardware sales. But we have come to realize by now that the circumstances have changed. No single software can do it, but rather, Nintendo, or more specifically GameCube, does need a great variety of different software which must be put into the market at appropriate intervals.”

In 2003, George Harrison, senior vice president of Nintendo of America, was asked by Electronic Gaming Monthy about what GameCube’s biggest shortcomings were.

“If there’s a shortcoming for us on GameCube, it’s not delivering enough consistent breadth and variety of software. That really is the key. Consumers, I think, are past the time when they buy a system just to get one game. We used to believe that was the case,” says George Harrison.

Fast forward to today in 2013. The Wii U is struggling in sales. So what does Satoru Iwata tell reporters?

“One game has the power to change everything,” said Iwata during an October 2013 meeting with reporters.

Satoru Iwata explained to reporters, “The key title that is going to drive this year’s year-end sales season is Super Mario 3D World, the latest installment in the Super Mario series that is set to be released in November.”

As you can see, he learned absolutely nothing from the GameCube.  Just like the GameCube, we’re back to hoping and praying that one of these three games — 3D Mario, Mario Kart, and Smash Bros — will turn around sales.

In an interview with former IGN writer Richard George, Satoru Iwata explained why he believes one game can change everything.

Iwata says, “The existence of one software can change the entire picture. Of course, it depends on circumstances,” Iwata said. “Here’s a hypothesis I seriously believe. If there hadn’t been a Pokemon game, maybe the market for handheld game devices would have gone extinct. If there hadn’t been Wii Sports, maybe the situation surrounding Wii could have been completely different.

Did Iwata know Pokemon would become a phenomenon before it released in Japan? Did Iwata know Wii Sports would become a phenomenon before it was released?

Satoru Iwata is not wrong for believing that one game can change the entire picture.  We’ve seen evidence of that throughout the history of gaming.

Satoru Iwata is wrong for gambling the Wii U’s entire future by putting so much stake into two or three franchises. Considering how “Sing Party” and “Wii Music” both bombed in sales, I highly doubt that Satoru Iwata has a crystal ball inside of his coat pocket to predict the future.

I don’t understand why Satoru Iwata keeps trying to find that special game to turn around Wii U’s fortunes. Spend more time diversifying your software instead of trying to find that game that fixes all of Wii U’s problems. When you listen to Reggie Fils-Aime speak to IGN at E3 2013, he comes off as a logical person who admits that gambling your system’s entire future on the “one game can change everything” strategy  is not a smart strategy in today’s environment.

“One game can sell the system. Having said that, I’m not sure that today, in today’s environment, if one game can sell the system,” Fils-Aime said. “Why do I say that? Again, if you roll the clock back to 2005, the gaming industry, in terms of who was playing games, was much more narrowly defined. If you look at the ESA data that was put out during that time, what it would suggest is that less than 40 percent of households played video games. Where do we sit today? That same data suggests that more than 65 percent of households play games. It’s much more diverse. I would argue that, given the increased diversity, unless the game has that same type of breadth, I think it’s a little bit more challenging for one game to truly change the momentum.

The company’s current obsession with Mario, more than anything else, is driving the Wii’s expanded market away from the Wii U. Everyone tells me, “Why would anyone buy Nintendo hardware if they have no interest in Super Mario?  What’s the point? Nintendo IS Mario!”

The perception that “Nintendo is Mario” is poison for the company’s overall long-term growth and well-being. Mickey Mouse might be the mascot for Disney, but Mickey Mouse is not the company’s entire identity like Mario is with Nintendo. Disney is Marvel.  Disney is LucasArts. Disney is ABC. Disney is ESPN. Disney is Pixar. Disney is a music record label. Disney and Nintendo might both own iconic characters, but Disney understood the importance of branching out to teens and adults. If Disney’s identity was only known for a couple of characters — like Nintendo’s identity is Mario — they would only be a small fraction of the company that they are today.

The “Nintendo are Mario machines” perception is why most Nintendo consoles struggle to reach the record sales of NES, SNES, or Wii.  The Wii sold 100 million, not 49 million like SNES, because it broke the perception of being “just a Mario system”.

If Mario is so important to the success of Nintendo hardware, then why did GameCube — a console flooded with Mario spinoffs — only sell 21.7 million units of hardware?  GameCube had Paper Mario, Mario Party, Mario Kart, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario Strikers, Mario Baseball, Luigi’s Mansion, Wario World, and Super Smash Bros Melee.  People will say that the market has expanded since the GameCube days so Mario is much more popular now. Yet, every month when I look at Wii U’s sales, the sales continue to trend significantly worse than the GameCube.  We’re talking about Wii U, a system that is bundled with a 2D Mario platformer, and they just released a new 3D Mario platformer.

Take a look at the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color for example.  The highest selling game on Game Boy was not Mario, it was Tetris.  When Game Boy first came out, it was Tetris that helped put Game Boy on the map and made women want to play with Nintendo products. The second highest selling game on Game Boy was not Mario, it was “Pokemon Red and Blue”.  “Pokemon” was a brand new, fresh IP when it released on the Game Boy.  “Pokemon” helped breath new life into Game Boy’s sales during a time when sales were getting sluggish. The top three highest selling Game Boy Advance games were “Pokemon” games, not Mario. If you look at the 3DS, the sales trends for non-Mario games like “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” (6.38 million) and “Pokemon X & Y” (sold 4 million in two months) are on pace to eventually outsell “New Super Mario Bros. 2″ (6.42 million units sold).

Nintendo doesn’t need to rely on Mario to sell systems, but they’ve done a good job brainwashing themselves (and their fanbase) into believing it.

“Super Mario” and its spinoffs will only help Nintendo hardware reach a certain point (20 – 25 million sold). Once you reach that 25 million mark, you need something bigger to continue selling more consoles. “Goldeneye 007″ helped Nintendo 64 sell over 32 million consoles and maintain strong momentum in the west.  One out of every four people who bought a Nintendo 64 bought Goldeneye 007. Eight million copies of GoldenEye were sold which is more than what “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” sold when first released. Did Rareware know “Goldeneye 007″ would be a huge phenomenon before it was release? No, I doubt they knew it would outsell most of Nintendo’s Japanese developed games.

Selling 25 million consoles may have been somewhat sustainable in previous generations, but I don’t believe it’s sustainable today when software development costs are through the roof. The costs and resources for HD software development can’t be compared to the Nintendo 64 or GameCube days, and if Nintendo wants to break even on those development costs, they need a larger install base for their hardware.

It’s time for Nintendo to focus on diversifying their software.  Third parties are not coming back.

Stop with this charade that it has to be Mario and Mario spinoffs to save Wii U out of its situation. Stop with this charade of releasing one Wii U game every two to three months to see if it will create a boost in hardware sales. It’s not doing the company any favors.

If Nintendo’s Japanese studios don’t like making certain genres then it’s time for them to invest in new studios that actually do.

Nintendo is sitting on a gold mine of intellectual properties.  Microsoft and Sony would kill for your intellectual properties and franchises. Yet, Satoru Iwata says Nintendo isn’t good at competing? Give me a break. You are one of the best gaming companies in the world.

48 thoughts on “Nintendo’s Obsession With Finding One Game That Can Sell Consoles”

  1. Great article, Emily. But I think Nintendo is slowly getting aware of this. Bayonetta 2 is the biggest proof of that. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

  2. Love the article! I agree with all your points– Nintendo is completely ignoring their massive IP library. I’d love to see an HD Earthbound (do a remake if they can’t get Itoi on board), new F Zero, Metroid, StarTropics…Mario can take a break.

  3. Great article and great research, that quote from that Seattle Times interview from 2003 is worth gold. There is a lot of truth as always, and I definitely agree they are doing to much of Mario rehashing but I would like to add some comments. 
    I think for now they stick to the ‘3DS’ plan: release Mario 3D world, then Mario Kart then Smash and see where it takes them. They are thinking it worked for the 3DS, why couldn’t it work for the WiiU? They play it safe.

    And also look at sales figures of the new IPs like Wonderful 101 and the 3rd parties title. They bombed pretty hard so somehow I don’t think Nintendo wants to invest more money into these other genres yet. Bayonetta 2 will be indeed another test. (I am personally so excited for X.)
    The Golden Eye example is great but it is also flawed because when it was released there was barely any multi-player FPS on consoles. So this title was successful because it was at the same time, a novelty, a technical prowess and the gameplay was great. 
    But in this genre and other sports or simulations genres you mentioned, to be successful these days the trend is to rely heavily on graphics which is very expensive and also you need the hardware. So in a sense Nintendo is right and just can’t compete on these.

    But I can’t agree more, I would love for them to give some love to their other IPs like Metroid, Starfox and F-Zero.

  4. Even 3DS, which is doing somewhat fine gives a preview of the kind of lineup that wiiu owners can look into: Lots of Marios, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing, one old IP revival, eshop exclusive miniature games (no ofense, but people wont buy consoles for these). Pokemon is in too, but consoles wont get a large scale entry because GF doesn’t want to. What else Im I missing, some regular third party exclusives like Monster Hunter and Dragon Quest perhaps? What else can Wii U owners look forward to? Metroid maybe, another unexpected revival? Thats not impressive enough. Almost all of their first party portfolio targets the same people even with the different gameplay they offer, with some exceptions of course like P* games (which were pitched to Nintendo) and X, thought I wish they didnt jjust make or publish them and call it a day.

    Miyamoto once claimed they cant make more games than that because the havent expanded, which is something they should have done a very long time ago. When they do, whats going to happen? Will they just keep making the same games but doing portable and console development on parallel rather than one at time? Will they actually use the extra manpower for other IPs? Where is the western expansion?

  5. Its amazing how much of what you say is common sense yet it seems no one has the sense to see it. Shooters are what drive sales in the US and Nintendo has made great shooters in the past, just make one already! I personally could care less about shooters but having a large install base will allow other developers to take risks making niche games and still profit from them because of a larger audience. Sadly Nintendo is investing in new games (not just Mario) like X, W101 amd Bayonetta2. Problem is those games do not have universal appeal. In the end i think its not one game that will save the WiiU but a combination of a new zelda, Smash, bayo2, X, MK8, DKTF, and a new metroid game. And even then nintendo needs a first party sports franchise and shooter franchise.

  6. Such a bullshit article- man- why did i even read it? The author has obviously no brain to use, so. lets keep it short:

    Mario is the best franchise. Look, its not only a franchise, its as mascot! And it will be forever, deal with it, Emily!

    Next point: What happened to sony-games, once they lost their mascot (you know crash Bandicoot) -long time ago? There are mostly shooters today in the sony-departmen. Sony lost all of its glory, they are concentrating on shooters and racing games/simulators. Yeah, right, the playstation 1 was a success! And the sucessor was successfull too. But then it only got worse. Sony burnt billions of money. BILLIONS! They have lost 5 billion dollar for the playstation 3. And it sold only around 70 million in nearly 8 years! The wii sold not only much more in a shorter lifetime (4-5 years => 100 millions), but nintendo got money from it. Thats, why you make consoles, right? To earn money of it.

    So, to make it clear: Sony was the biggest looser of this generation. And you think they will ever get better jump n´runs with crash like in its first days? Dream again.

    So, to make it all-along:

    “If Mario is so important to the success of Nintendo hardware, then why
    did GameCube — a console flooded with Mario spinoffs — only sell 21.7
    million units of hardware?  GameCube had Paper Mario, Mario Party, Mario
    Kart, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario Strikers, Mario Baseball, Luigi’s
    Mansion, Wario World, and Super Smash Bros Melee.”
    You really ask that? Did you even watch what was that games?
    Mario IS important, of course. But the gamecube was only for graphic-whores! There you got it. So if you really ask why- then you have no brain and/or you are a graphicwhore or you´re just dumb. Cause every graphicwhore doesn`t know why the gc didn`t sold. The Gamecube didn`t sold like wii, cause it has no speciality. It had only a simple controller-design (like N64, which didn`t sell so much better, but yeah you know, it was other times there), a internetmodem, which nearly anybody could use. It had no dvd-player, no special albeit all of that. All it has- where mid to good games, which relied on the best graphics. And you know what? Best graphics doesn`t make the good games! Gamecube had no game which attracts the masses – e.g. like “Wii Sports”.

    So, let me make my point: Mario Sunshine on Gamecube was the worst Mario i´ve ever seen. Yeah, i´m not joking here! It was the worst ever. It had nearly nothing to do with the kind of super-jump n´Run Game it once was. It is like Harry Potter turning into an egoshooter. So yeah, this mario- made only for the graphics – it seems- didn`t sold much. Next One. Mario Kart on Gamecube was even not the best. Heck, i even found the one on the Wii much better – cause you didn`t have to use the shit-controller, you didn`t have only 16 tracks (which was the biggest No-Go on Gamecube), you didn´t have motorbikes on GC. So thats it. Get over it, Mario Kart on Gamecube was like it was on DS. A Mess. It was good, no question, but it was no “Must-Have”. Even the DS-Part is better in my opinion cause it didn`t concentrate only on graphics.

    So Next one is Paper Mario. Well, this one was good, but like i said. A Console today sells only good, if you have something unique which other consoles don´t have! The Gamecube had nothing. It had a simple controller (like PS2), it had internetmodem which could be bought extra (PS2 was better, it was integrated), it only had better graphics. And yeah, that was the biggest point. Graphics. Only Graphic-whores play such games. Yeah, of course, there were very good games like Star Wars etc. But they were all meant for real graphic-fixated gamers. Not for the mass! I for myself played some really good games on GC, but those weren´t even mentioned in its lineup. So, next comparison is Luigis Mansion. Well- you know? It was much too short- of course- for such kind of game- and yeah, it was too bad. Meaning, Part 2 is much much better on 3DS than on Gamecube! On 3DS you even have a special multi-player, thats why 3DS part makes it for a must-have. On Gamecube LM was good- yeah, but nothing special. The other games you listed have the same problem: Too much concentration on graphics, too less love in the game. You feel that when you play it. The last point: The Gamecube didn`t have e.g. a 2D-Mario which sold masses of copies on Wii! It was nearly 30 millions on Wii. So get it? Thats all, gamecube was: A graphic-station. Meant for graphic-fixated gamers.

    Nintendo learnt of this mess and the WiiU is a mix of Wii (for those gamers, who play mainstream-games like 2D-Mario or Wii Sports or new Indie-Things)- and Gamecube (e.g. there are hardcore games like Bayonetta 2, X, Monster Hunter, even Pikmin etc). So you see? Your article makes no sense in my opinion. You didn´t even thought about why gc COULD have sold so badly.

  7. I believe it depends of the momentum. Lets face that in the GC era, they release a great variety of titles but no one helps GC and it stay stagned. Now the scenario is different. They lost money with the Wii U and can’t spend a lot of money or time making a massive number os games. Its time to focus on quality, no quantity. Sorry my bad english Emy. (Your friend GhuttoAlt from Twitter)

  8. Emily, most of what you said is absolutely true: Nintendo does have a number of sleeping franchises that could be revived and they should diverse their line-up.
    I do agree with this and i have wanted this aswell. One of the games i would like to replay would be Wave Race. But so far…

    What i don`t agree – and honestly think you read too much into it – is the idea that Iwata is trying to make Mario a game changer for Wii U.
    He knows perfectly well that Wii U`s problems were lack of games on a constant basis and Wii U`s brand problems.
    It`s not because he uses expressions like “key title” that he started thinking differentely,

    Also searching for a one title system seller is a good thing.
    Nintendoland tried to expose Nintendo franchises to a crowd that probably would never touch them if not there. For example, Metroid, Kid Icarus, F-Zero.
    Nintendo tried to leverage these franchises to increase it`s appeal. Unfortunately, Wii U`s lack of success undermined this effort.

    I cannot stress enough how important it is to Nintendo to bring back franchises like Wave Race, 1080º and other in sports and adventure/rpg categories.
    But as you mentioned, nowdays, HD development takes away a lot of human resources. More than it did during NES, SNES, N64, GC days.
    I see it as imperative to Nintendo`s long-term success and the only way to really attract the core MS and Sony fan to the Nintendo consoles.

  9. but seriously it just seems like Nintendo’s number 1 priority isn’t making great games anymore.

    As someone who is a die hard nintendo fan it pains me to say I think Iwata needs to be fired. A combination of Iwata splitting up Nintendo into tons of different software groups has lead to a decline in software quality, on top of his wii mentality of “IT ONLY TAKES A SPECIAL GIMMICK TO SELL ZILLIONS” for upcoming nintendo products. It’s why we are seeing more and more development efforts on wii sports u, wii fit u, wii party u instead of actual diverse new games with heavy content like the ones listed in the article. I think the wii has ruined Iwatas mindset when it comes to software too. Back in an interview with sakurai the developer of smash bros he said “there was a time that the more effort, content you put in, and time you spend on making a game the better it will sell, we know that isn’t the case now”. So they dish out games that cost them nothing to make with miis in them void of any content and hope for the best while re-releasing new halfassed nsmbs, lands, and mario kart games with very little amounts of new content and like 1 saving grace new feature or gimmick they can whore out. There is so much wrong with Nintendo’s ideologies right now and I really think it is all Iwatas fault since Yamauchi (or whatever the ex presidents name was) believed on the simple merits of complete hardware and software superiority over the competitors.

  10. I COMPLETELY AGREE! Funny because I wanted to write a similar article, but I don’t think I would have been able to state my opinions as well as you did here. I really want Iwata to read this.

  11. Four words: New Super Mario Bros.  The first two games sold so well, it tricked Nintendo into thinking that was all people wanted to play.  Those games have unfortunately led to an evolutionary dead-end for the design and world-building of the Mario franchise.

  12. This is excellent work as always Emily.
    One gripe though, which I have whenever Nintendo-fans complain for more new IP or the lack of IP use.  Nintendo started stagnating … when?  The claim will always ring hollow with me, because Nintendo’s recent new IP are all (well mostly) up on my shelf.
    Elite Beat Agents, Picross3D (ironically a DS game), Drill Dozer (GBA 2nd party by GameFreak), Chibi-Robo (2nd party by Skip, Ninty published), Glory of Heracles (also 2nd party, by Paon published by Ninty), Brain Age 2, and Excite-Bots (Wii) … wow that’s mostly all DS games!  Is that why Nintendo is seen to be flogging the core IP endlessly?  
    Is Nintendo publishing very differently on handhelds than they are consoles?  Hmm … I must research!

  13. “You really ask that? Did you even watch what was that games?”
    This is gold right here. Shine on you crazy bastard.

  14. What do you mean? I say: The best games aren`t made for the graphics. And thats fact! For Example, take Mario 3D World. It doesn´t have the best graphics of a WiiU-game. The graphics are sufficient, thats all. The Game is so perfect, cause of its new and shiny ideas. Not because of the sure nice graphics.

    And that goes for gamecube too. And if you look for Mario Sunshine. Everyone i asked says, this was the worst Mario ever on a console. 8.4 says the fans. That means only 84 % in other words and is far away of the perfect 94 % of Maroi 3D World. And yes, Luigis Mansion was fine too, but no must-have in my opinion. I for myself played many games, that weren`t even on commercials they day the GC released. Ice Age 2 was a good game- on of the good licence-film-games. And then came “Over the hedge”. I for myself didn`t play those graphic-related games that often. I don`t like such games which only concentrate on the graphics. I am not a graphicwhore.

  15. While I agree with some of the comments in this article – mainly that Nintendo has a lot of intellectual rights and that they could expand the number and variety of produced games, I also feel that it’s unfair, perhaps, to say that Nintendo is wrong to rely on Mario so much. Mario is one of the most successful gaming franchises ever created and the characters of that world are iconic. Just like Mickey Mouse is certainly for Disney. For the time being, it makes more sense to focus on Mario and their most iconic characters and franchises. A lot of fans of these characters may be slow to purchase a system as the system still doesn’t have as big of a catalog of games as the Wii does and these types of titles will help increase interest.

    On the Disney point, Disney has strayed somewhat from what made them great in the first place – the production of wonderful animated films (most of which were musicals). They are now a giant corporate company that is a lot less personal even as they still deliver quality products. Nintendo is obviously a gigantic company themselves, but I like that they stick to making good quality games and that this is amongst the company’s greatest priorities. They like to focus on making games for their fan-base and while diversifying the game options is good for going forward, I do think that waiting to see how well the releases of Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart U, and Super Smash Bros U will help show Nintendo how well these games could help sales. I bet a lot of people will also want to play New Super Mario Bros U but are waiting for even more title availability. 

    I also think that to say all Nintendo utilizes right now is a bit incorrect. Certainly, they have a much wider resource of properties they could utilize. However, Mario is only one of the major segments. They will be publishing the new Donkey Kong game and a new Zelda is expected next year. 
    The Pikmin game is a big seller too and that has been one of their most successful franchises. They will also have more Pokemon games available going forward and that’s remained one of the most successful game series found on the Nintendo systems.

    Also, maybe I’m in the minority on this one, but I am glad they don’t rely more on FPS games or the simulation-style sporting games. Microsoft’s X-Box systems pretty much exist primarily for these sorts of games, which I do not find particularly appealing. Nintendo carries it’s own brand, character, and has gained a loyal fan-base as a result. I like that they stick relatively-close to doing what they do best with making quality games for an audience that appreciates their top franchises/series.

    I also agree with points made by others that currently Nintendo is working on these series games more than other types of games primarily because the system hasn’t been doing as well. It makes sense to build a larger collection of games that are likely to appeal to future-purchases and please the current system owners with the kinds of games most serious Nintendo fans enjoy most. With the costs of production, I don’t disagree with them only having one giant release every few months. 

    I feel they should expand the HD re-release market. Especially seeing and Zelda: Wind Waker was a HUGE seller and is still one of the system’s best selling titles.Going back to do HD upgrades to some of Nintendo’s past successes (including other Mario titles like Super Mario Sunshine and Luigi’s Mansion) would actually help the system generate more sales.

    I do agree that Nintendo should attempt to seek games from other developers for different styles of games if they don’t want to produce a more diverse genre-basis of gaming themselves, but the issue resides in that Nintendo relies upon being able to make their own hardware and game console sales because they don’t release their games or design them for all of the different consoles. If they stopped making games exclusively for their systems,  the purpose of buying any current or future Nintendo systems would pretty much disappear as Nintendo’s main focus is still on gaming while Sony and Microsoft are trying to be more all-in-one type consoles. Personally, I think it helps their business model and their ability to make the kind of games they make, to release games themselves for a system that caters to their productions.

  16. That would be the wrong way for Nintendo. Nintendo is NOT Sony and will never be. God bless for, that Nintendo won´t become like Sony.

  17. Your perspective on Nintendo’s less-than-stellar IP ‘breadth’ management is spot on. It is clear that Nintendo is sitting on a myriad of characters and experiences that could have been cemented as million-selling franchises.

    However, I think you are missing the point on the “one game” angle. Let me explain:
    Nintendo’s Wii U’s novel concept, the GamePad, does not immediately resonate with the public in the same way that the Wii-remote did. Why? Poor use cases. Unlike Wii U, the Wii’s quintessential use case: ‘swinging a racket/club’ was perfectly represented in Wii Sports. It was simple, immediately understood concept that caused the game-changing (pun!) trend to sweep the globe and was thus  . . . brilliant. The GamePad has yet to achieve this in the mind of the public.
    An attempt was made with Nintendoland, but instead of refining a single use-case; Nintendo chose to highlight a large variety of different game play styles. An effect that is interesting to those who play the game, but makes it very difficult to explain the Wii U to the layman.
    It is clear that the “one game” is a hunt for the concept that effectively sells the GamePad to the mass market. In other words, it is the attempt to create that quintessential gameplay concept that people mention in the same breath as Wii U.
    Personally? I think it’s found in asymmetric multiplayer: “Wii U allows me as the GamePad to affect the gameplay of you on the TV.” It’s brilliant, long awaited and (best of all) it’s not easily replicated by competitors. In fact, last week, Reggie himself described the Wii U in very similar terms.
    So all in all, is Nintendo hyper-obsessed with finding a game that effectively sells the system? Of course, because they have to. If you want to be the innovator in video game hardware, you have to create the experience that clearly states why I care.
    P.S. Brilliant quotes in your article. You totally caught them in a web of contradiction.

  18. “Yet, every month when I look at Wii U’s sales, the sales continue to trend significantly worse than the GameCube.  We’re talking about Wii U, a system that is bundled with a 2D Mario platformer, and they just released a new 3D Mario platformer.”

    That’s a pretty horrible point to try and make, considering you failed to mention how little NoA has actually advertised the console AND that November was the first month for the system to be bundled with a “2D Mario platformer”. Trying to connect falling sales, with a bundle that hasn’t even been used in monthly sales yet?

    We don’t know November sales yet, which will also be the first month NoA has advertised the system/games in any significant fashion since it launched last November, so saying that “sales continue to trend significantly worse” than anything else, doesn’t really hold water because they just bundled the console with NSMBU (and NSLU).

    “Satoru Iwata is wrong for gambling the Wii U’s entire future by putting so much stake into two or three franchises. Considering how “Sing Party” and “Wii Music” both bombed in sales, I highly doubt that Satoru Iwata has a crystal ball inside of his coat pocket to predict the future.”
    It’s a bit ironic really, because Wii Music sold more than 2 million copies, I’m not sure that I would consider that a “sales bomb”.

    Also, it’s an odd example to use there really, because you’re trying to make the case Nintendo should do more (sports, FPSes) games from other genres, then give the example of SiNG Party and Wii Music, MORE GAMES from DIFFERENT GENRES, that bombed (despite one not really bombing)?
    You also failed to mention these Wii U titles, released since August:
    1) The Wonderful 101
    2) Pikmin 3
    3) Sonic Lost World
    4) Wind Waker HD

    “If Nintendo’s Japanese studios don’t like making certain genres then it’s time for them to invest in new studios that actually do.”

    Also, you failed to mention NCL and NoE have released Wii Karaoke U, maybe because NoA hasn’t released it?
    Maybe, studios like Next Level Games and Monster Games are working right now on genres that Nintendo’s Japanese studios don’t like to make? We do know NCL is looking to hire/open another studio in 2014, so maybe after the EA fallout they are moving forward, and not waiting on EA to fill the sports gap? OR, maybe there is another studio in the U.S. already doing it, that we just don’t know about yet?

    But are you really trying to say, that because Mr. Iwata thinks Super Mario 3D World will help drive sales (it has been in Japan), he is wrong to think that is a key title? Not that it will save the Wii U, but that it should help the Wii U. Two totally different things.

    Are you really making that jump, or just cherry picking lines from pieces? Because you did fail to mention this that he said, “There have been large intervals between the releases of key first-party titles, and given that there is little seasonable demand at the moment, <b>we are not in a position where we can change the fate of the system with just one title.</b>”

    And you failed to show him saying, “Except for its backward compatibility with existing Wii software and accessories, we have so far failed to make propositions worthy of Wii U’s position as a successor to the Wii system. While it took more time than expected since the launch of Wii U, we are now ready to offer Wii Sports and Wii Fit for Wii U, two of the defining games for Wii, starting today.”

    Which is 100% correct. NoA (at the least) failed to show what the Wii U was with it’s launch ads, and then failed for an entire year to even market/advertise/promote the system well.

  19. Maxrunner CoffeeWithGames Yes, when I said NCL, that would mean their Japanese branch. NoA would be U.S./North America for me, which includes them working with studios like Next Level Games (in Canada) and Monster Games (U.S.).Next Level Games did Mario Strikers Charged (Wii), Luigi’s Mansion (3DS) and Monster Games has done Excite Truck (Wii), ExciteBots (Wii), and Pilot Wings Resort (3DS).

  20. what? wasn’t there an article saying they hire more people and opening more studios to make more games? all of this is BS because without the third party is the reason why we get nothing but mario spin offs, so they have no choice. 

    also is a bad example to show they hit every age because it just shows how greedy they are and getting richer just by doing that. the only point i agree is tetris and pokemon both were new that it sold. wii u can pick up sells with one game since it help 3ds, but they also see they need more so back to beginning they hire more and opening up a new studio.

  21. Maxrunner CoffeeWithGames Probably not happening with the current administration. Before Iwata NoA had more studios under its control and could strike partnerships. Iwata changed that and NoA is what it is nowadays.

  22. DamianMerazzi Maxrunner CoffeeWithGames Well, they still have Retro. They also have relationships with Next Level Games and Monster Games, which have produced solid titles for Nintendo.

    As for saying before Iwata NoA had more studios under its control, which ones are you talking about? Do you have a link to what you’re talking about specifically? Monster Games started working with Nintendo after Mr. Iwata became the head of Nintendo, producing Excite Truck as a Wii launch title. I believe Next Level Games started after Mr. Iwata became CEO of NCL as well.

    Next Level Games is based in Canada, but has been allowed to now develop games based on two existing Nintendo series: Punch-Out!! and Luigi’s Mansion. They also produced Mario Striker’s Charged.

    It’s why I’m wondering what Next Level Games is working on now, and what Monster Games is working on. The last original title I think Monster Games was associated with was Pilot Wings Resort, which was a 3DS launch title; then they ported over Donkey Kong Country Returns to the 3DS.

    I’m not sure that it requires an entire team/studio to port a game, considering some studios have teams port games in as little as 6 months.

  23. Mayus
    if you seriously think the firing of iwata a fucking engineer who should have never been CEO is the wrong way for Nintendo then you are delusional.

    The man flatout fucking came out and said “nintendo can’t compete”. this guy is a fucking programmer, not a ceo. 

    all we can do is know nintendo went horribly wrong with their ideology once yamauchi died

  24. i think a major part of the failure of the wii u is literally due to marketing and not the diverse profile of games. 
    compare the commercials of today to the old ones and you will understand.

    literally every single person who works for nintnendo’s marketing division needs to be fired.

    Kids dont want to beg their parents to buy something if the advertisment behind the commercial isn’t awe inspiring but a push for something as lame in a child’s eyes as “hanging out with your parents” and traditional family values. No working parent with real problems wants to play video games with their children and no child wants to buy a product based on the fact that THEIR PARENTS WILL LOVE IT.

    there are subtle ways to attract the underage crowd and it reflects in nintendo’s earlier commercials during the more successful snes,nes,n64 eras (including the wii era because all of those commercials were about awe inspiring innovations of how you play the game)

  25. modshroom128 Mayus Well, it was a translation of a speech he gave, and the full translated quote is: “If you do the same thing as others, it will wear you out. Nintendo is not good at competing so we always have to challenge [the status quo] by making something new, rather than competing in an existing market.”

    Some clarification/follow-up might help, being that it is a translation of something he said at a Japanese conference. Without the full Q/A and basing it off the full quote/translation, it seems like he may only be talking about hardware, not software.

  26. modshroom128 Did you see NCL’s Wii U launch ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJuVSdbjU-Q

    BUT, speaking as a parent, who games with my oldest child, I don’t see how they have failed to show-off the Off-TV Play aspect. For me, as a parent, that’s a HUGE selling feature.
    Parents want to watch the football game? Child can play Mario.
    Kid wants to watch cartoons? Parent can play games.

    It’s very simple, and they failed the entire first year it was out to really show that feature.

    Here’s a new ad from Nintendo Spain, attempting to show off that feature:

  27. Iwata is a CEO which understands gaming and game making and I think this is invaluable. I don’t think there are other CEO with that statute in the industry? You should see how he resists investor which are trying to push for Nintendo going on mobile phones or asking why they don’t fire employees. He is actually a follower of the Yamauchi ideology so I am not sure what are the reproaches?

  28. “No working parent with real problems wants to play video games with their children” As a working parent I beg to differ, the other way around is the norm. And parent with problems is redundant, the minute you become a parent you have a life long problem ahead :)

  29. maneauleau then you are in a super small minority. since normal ass parents don’t play video games with their kids. they buy their kids video games to keep them happy. and if the kid doesn’t want the system because the games don’t look awe indusing or super important then the parent isn’t going to buy it.

    a mario 3d world reveal commercial should be a huge fucking event, a new 3d mario game is a big deal that a lot of people could get really excited for if nintendo portrays it as epicly as their handful of other 3d mario games. instead a super target looking commercial comes out with a family playing the game grinning like assholes.

    it’s just bad marketing for a fucking video game/entertainment company. its so super unbelievably bad.

  30. You shouldn’t count Smash Bros. as a Mario spinoff, but should use Smash Bros. as a perfect example of how many potential Nintendo is wasting with your IPs. People needs to wait a whole generation of consoles only to see your favorite past characters in this game.
    Anyway, excellent article, absolutely recommended.

  31. Hm, i think it’s difficult. 
    You can’t compare this generation with the Nintendo GameCube, GameBoy or other consoles, which released before the Wii and DS. Now, here is a completely different market, many people bought the Wii only for Wii Sports. Many people bought the DS for Dr. Kawashima or other brain training/learning games. 
    I understand Iwata, if he thinks, that the Wii U will be sale with 3D Mario, Mario Kart and Smash Bros.

    And now, please look on the hardware charts of japan. Wii U is on place 2, behind the 3DS, with ca. 50.000 sales. 

    But, Nintendo have got a lot of money an they know, that the Wii U sales really bad. Why don’t Nintendo invest for more games? They financed X, Bayonetta 2, The Wonderful 101 or Sonic Lost World. That’s a good direction, but it’s not enough. 

    The next step is the bad marketing from Nintendo. The PS4 sales incredible, and no, it hasn’t got a good launch line-up. Not better than the line-up of Wii U. 
    It’s the marketing from Sony. They invest much money for this. They want to say: “I’m the best console and all people think so, too. So buy me!” So, it works. 
    Nintendo want to say with their ads: “I’m a console for everybody, for the whole family. You’ll have a lot of fun with me!” It doesn’t works, yet. The most people, who bought the Wii U are Nintendo-Fans. 

    So, i think Nintendo have to invest more money in more games and better marketing and they must leave the “kiddy-image”. 

    But anyway, a nice article. ;)

  32. modshroom128MayusLook, modshroon: Yamauchi wasnt the one person, that created the Wii, the most successfull and (best (in my opinion) Nintendo-console ever! It was Iwata, who did that.

    Yamauchi was the one who created consoles like the N64 and Gamecube, which relied only on power, not on innovation. And thats why the N64 sold only 32 millions long time ago and the gamecube sold a measly 22 Million, not a real success for me- even if you count the fact, that the N64-design costed much more money then the later Wii-design, which attracted nearly everyone to play – so yeah, got it? The consoles burnt a lot of money. You have to come away from the narrow-minded option, that you think, you are the only one (the hardcore-gamer, which relies only on graphic) who nintendo wants to attract. Nintendo wants today to attract everyone.

    Look at the new Xbox One. Microsoft is doing the same too, but forgets that they hasn`t got the good games with them. Microsoft is just better when it comes to things like commercial, software-knowhow or other few things.

    I think you and a few other graphic-related fanboys are the only guys here, which are delusional. I know Nintendo perfectly well. I know their strategy, their goal with the WiiU, i know the japanese tradition. something many people don`t know about.Have you even been in japan? I guess not.

  33. CoffeeWithGames DamianMerazzi http://67.227.255.239/forum/showpost.php?p=51985872&postcount=106
    I dont have more than this, but its common knowledge Iwata did a huge restructure when he became president, being responsible among other for killing off Metroid’s dev studio R&D2

  34. DamianMerazzi CoffeeWithGames  Thanks for that, but one thing, Metroid wasn’t at R&D2 from what I can see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_Research_&_Development_2

    And R&D2 was merged with Nintendo SPD, not really killed off.

    And there are other problems with that post in general.

  35. I personally think the reason the wii u isn’t getting the sales number is that most people are not liking the big controller so their isn’t really any game that can change that, however if nintendo decided to redesign it, that could have a positive effect on sales. Asthetics is one of the most important things when designing any consumer product which nintendo seem to forget sometimes remember the purple lunch box “GameCube” and the various other failed or poorly selling consoles that had large conrollers.

  36. CoffeeWithGames DamianMerazzi  Pre-Iwata, Nintendo had working relationships with Silicon Knights and Factor 5, and partially owned Rareware and Left Field Productions. Post Iwata, Silicon Knights and Factor 5 abandoned Nintendo, (and subsequently slit their own throats in monetary suicide) and Nintendo lost both Left Field Productions and Rare.

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