Why Nintendo's Not Out of the Console War Yet

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Why Nintendo's Not Out of the Console War Yet

It's the first weekday after E3, and we're all still just a little glassy-eyed. And why not? A host of new developments came out, huge packs of new games were shown off, and all around, there was joy for gamers of all stripes, and at the end of the day, that's big news, and very happy news besides. But filtering out of the post-E3 joyquake was a pair of items that, taken together, posed some very good news for those who still believe that Nintendo's got a shot at sticking around past this generation.

One of the two was a news item from Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime, who noted that Wii U sales actually quadrupled when compared to a week prior after one key point: the release of “Mario Kart 8.” Granted, Wii U sales were never exactly spectacular, so this might seem like a “none today; tomorrow, FOUR TIMES AS MANY!!” situation, but given that “Mario Kart 8” actually sold over one million titles on its release weekend alone, this is news that is no doubt welcome not only to Nintendo proper, but also to Nintendo's fans as well.

The second news item comes from Little Orbit founder and CEO Matt Scott, who had some words with Polygon about just what was going on in the Nintendo space. Scott had plenty of words for Nintendo here, both kind and otherwise, suggesting that demographics and brand confusion had something to do with issues of Wii U's poor sales. Indeed, Scott noted that it might have been better to call the Wii U the Wii 2 or the like, as many thought that the Wii U was just the name for the tablet, and that it was an accessory for the Wii itself. In fact, Scott asserted that Nintendo's path to recovery likely should start with being more communicative with its audience. Comparatively simple matters—what the hardware can do, what exactly it is, and what games are coming out—could be the biggest bolster of all.

Indeed, both of these items work together into one critical point: it was always about the games. This is a lesson that both Nintendo and Microsoft have learned of late; Nintendo was facing constant slowdowns in its game releases and huge resistance from the third party makers, while Microsoft tried to make the Xbox One about a lot more than games, and found resistance from the players who just wanted the next big things in all their favorite titles. Sure, no one was exactly complaining that YouTube and Netflix and such could all be watched from an Xbox 360 or Xbox One; I personally enjoy the experience myself of watching YouTube on Xbox. No one was upset that they could order pizza right from the device, either. But at the end of the day, it's the games that keep people coming back, the games that keep users hitting the consoles.

Indeed, Nintendo has plenty of room here to run, but what it needs to do is bring out the games. We've seen what happens when Nintendo brings out a major title—sales go through the roof—but the titles need to be there. When the titles are there, the audiences take an interest. E3 proved that pretty conclusively, and “Mario Kart 8” is proving it too. But in the end, the titles need to be on hand before the gamers can get interested. As Nintendo brings out more of the stuff that we saw at E3, interest might well perk up with it.