The Nintendo Niche, Does It Need Change?
The Nintendo brand is one that will mean many different things depending on who you ask, be it an older gamer with a long history attached to the company, or someone in Nintendo’s younger audience.
Many of us have grown up with Nintendo and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who can’t at least vaguely picture the household names of Mario and Luigi, Zelda and Link, Samus, Star Fox and many others.
As the nostalgia touched of us grow older however, people are beginning to ask the question of Nintendo’s adaptability in recent years, as the company seems to go through phases of success and failure as consistently as the tide. The Wii U of this generation has struggled since release to compete, and since Sony and Microsoft began to hit their stride with the PS4 and Xbox One, Nintendo has firmly fallen into an entirely separate category of thought, inhabiting a unique space in the market.
So the question becomes whether or not Nintendo needs to consider some change. Should they expand as that original audience grows older, or stick to a younger age group? No one can deny that Nintendo is, and always has been, its own entity. For better or worse they stand firm with their beloved franchises and continue to grow their specialized brand of Nintendo itself. Nor can anyone deny that while maybe not all critical successes, it’s difficult to not enjoy most of their video game titles.
Nintendo are notorious for keeping to their own schedule, within reason, but doing this lets them regularly deliver solid titles year round. For fans and those with at least a passing interest alike, it’s rare for someone to flat out not enjoy picking up any given Mario or Zelda title in circulation.
What people do have to wonder though is whether or not Nintendo’s stubborn approach to change has begun to pull them back.
While it’s honestly quite admirable for Nintendo to experiment with its approach to video games the way it has, such as the Wii and Wii U, handhelds like the 3DS and motion controls, these aren’t all successes. To be fair it’s rare for any company these days to truly experiment on something new and take that gamble, but whether or not it pays off in the long run Nintendo rarely evolves its brand past the Mario and Zelda guys.
More recent titles such as Bayonetta, Splatoon, and to a lesser extend Captain Toad, becoming Nintendo brand prove that they can step out once and awhile and actually deliver a critical new IP. Splatoon alone proves that spreading their wings in the past has been met with a fervor of success, one that all ages got behind as an all-inclusive third person shooter of all things with squids and ink guns.
This is to say nothing of the wealth of older games many a fan would love to return to on newer consoles, only to have to repurchase what’s available again, or simply return to an older system. I understand this isn’t a problem unique to Nintendo, but when older fans look at their existing collection and look to another new console that puts out a small handful of heavy hitters, more and more are just not bothering. This is largely why the Wii U sales took such a hit, because other than the hardcore fans and younger generation, they struggle to create enough gravitational pull towards another generation of gaming system when the new selection is just a small selection of exactly what people come for, the amazing video games.
This is on top of the many strange choices Nintendo has made with motion controls and other console gimmicks, I’m not saying you need to kill the creativity or experimentation, but just don’t forget some people ultimately won’t care for flailing around with the controller, and just want to sit down and play the game.
At the end of the day I don’t see the brand actually dying anytime soon, at least the company and brand as it exists, but they have arrived at something of a crossroads. Either stick to what it’s been doing all this time and focus on the franchises that are household names, or trying expanding themselves with new IP’s and some more inclusivity.
Adults and children alike can enjoy Nintendo equally nine times out of ten, that’s part of the magic, but there’s nothing stopping them from creating more experiences to cater for its huge and varied audience. Bayonetta and Splatoon both made their place onto the Wii U with great success, it would be nice to see even more reasons for people to buy the new NX console when it arrives.