There is no shortage of people eager to advise Nintendo on its business. Some advice is good, some not so much. Neither good nor bad advice has much effect on Nintendo’s executives, who choose to steer their own course through the stormy seas of the video game market. But that doesn’t stop the advice from coming. Here are the four dumbest pieces of advice Nintendo has received lately.
Advice: Stop making consoles.
The argument: Nintendo should stop making consoles. Their games are great and their franchises hugely popular. They could make a fortune selling Zelda games on the PS3 and 360.
Why it’s dumb: Seriously? The company that created the hugely successful DS and the hugely successful Wii needs to get out of the console business? Why would Nintendo stop doing something it’s very successful at?
I know core gamers don’t take Nintendo consoles seriously, but they can't just ignore how well they sell. According to Wikipedia, Nintendo has three of the top-five all-time best selling consoles. The DS is the second best-selling console of all time, beaten only by the PS2, and the Wii is number 5, ahead of both the 360 and the PS3. While other console makers bank on software sales to make up for selling consoles at a loss, Nintendo usually profits on each machine. I could understand this argument after Nintendo’s lackluster GameCube, but in spite of the 3DS debacle, Nintendo is, overall, doing very well with their hardware.
This argument also ignores the synchronicity between Nintendo hardware and software. Yes, Nintendo makes great games, but part of what fuels those games is Nintendo’s hardware. Where would the cool DS and Wii games be if Nintendo had nothing to put them on?
Nintendo would also lose much of its cachet, as SEGA did after they gave up on consoles. Part of what makes Nintendo special is that they are of a piece, hardware and software together. Mario on the PS3 will just be yet another third party franchise. It won’t be nearly as special.
Advice: Make smartphone games.
Examples: Investors Urge Nintendo to Develop for Smartphones
Payne: Sony and Nintendo should stop making consoles (this fits both this category and the “stop making consoles” category)
The argument: Smartphone games have taken over the world. Why not get in on a huge market?
Why it’s dumb: Yes, smartphones have become a significant part of the video game market. Does that mean all game developers need to make games for the iPhone? No. Sometimes it’s best to just focus on what you’re good at. Sure, Nintendo could make a few smartphone games, but since they have limited resources, this means their console game output would take a hit. And as mentioned above, Nintendo games would lose eminence if they were tossed onto every available platform.
Sure, the smartphone market is huge, but it’s also oversaturated. Nintendo would ultimately be just another maker of cheap little games for your phone in competition with hundreds of others making cheap little games for your phone.
The insistence on a Nintendo smartphone presence has a lot to do with the belief that smartphone and casual games are going to kill consoles, which, as I’ve explained, they’re not.
Advice: Change the name of the Wii U
Example: Wii U: It's Time to Change the Name
The argument: The Wii U is a terrible name. At last year’s E3, many people didn’t understand that Nintendo was introducing a new console at all; they just thought it was a Wii with a new controller. Nintendo needs make it clear that this is not just another Wii, especially to woo core gamers, whose negative impression of the Wii makes them loathe to buy its successor.
Why it’s dumb: Why would Nintendo would want to distance its next console from its insanely successful current one? No one tells Microsoft to ditch the Xbox brand? Those insisting the Wii U needs to be severed from the Wii are often gamers who just don’t like the Wii. They don’t really want a Wii or a Wii U; they want a Nintendo Xbox. Distancing the new console from the old one won’t win over the core gamers; they’re not so stupid they can’t recognize a next-gen Wii; it still uses the Wii remote, for crying out loud! What will win the core are good games and solid third party support. Nintendo may or may not get that, but if they don’t, the name won’t matter. In the 1970s, CBS wanted to change viewers’ perception that it was a TV network for an un-hip, older audience. They didn’t change their name, they replaced The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres with The Mary Tyler Moore Show and M*A*S*H.
Yes, Wii U is dumb name; I don’t think anyone is arguing that it’s not. But so was Wii. It was a moronic name. I thought Nintendo was foolish to use it. And yet, the console did very well with that name. Does anyone think it would have sold better with a different one?
Advice: Follow the pack.
Example: No one has actually written an article telling Nintendo to “follow the pack,” but critics often insist that Nintendo’s big flaw is ignoring thing things Sony and Microsoft focus on.
The argument: Nintendo needs to make consoles that give gamers what their competitors do; state-of-the-art graphics, a slick online presence, an entertainment-hub approach.
Why it’s dumb: Remember the GameCube? No double screens, no motion detection, no touch-screen controller. About the same power as the Xbox, which came out around the same time. While it sold decently, it always felt like a bit of a third wheel in the console wars.
Then they made the DS, a two-screen handheld that critics were sure would be trounced by Sony’s much more powerful PSP handheld. Only it was the PSP that received the trouncing.
Many analysts dismissed their follow up, the Wii, as a toy that could never compete with the 360 and the PS3. It easily outsold them both.
The truth is, Nintendo is not all that good at doing what everyone else is doing, but they’re great at doing the stuff no one else is doing. This means that if Nintendo tries to make a console just like the ones from Sony and Microsoft, they will wind up with another GameCube. And if they are going to put out another GameCube, they might as well just quit making consoles. Which, as I explained above, is a terrible idea.