If you haven’t seen it by now, Nintendo has reported its third straight year of losses after a recount of the fourth quarter’s financial results. While President Iwata believes he can turn the company around and back into the black soon, we have to wonder if Nintendo can regain the raw power it once held over the industry. Simply turning a profit is only the beginning of success. In the video game world, it’s cultural impact that really sells games. Nintendo has easily recognizable franchises in Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, even Pokemon, but none of these series is new or likely to draw in new gamers as a result. By comparison, we can look at the new game Watch_Dogs, which has become internet famous long before its release.
Nintendo surely has had its share of cultural impact. Many oddities of modern society have Nintendo mixed into them, and we can easily see the influence has had on the gaming industry. Everything from the NES’s Crystalis creating the Crystalys in Dota2, to the SNES’s Street Fighter inspiring a game on Intercasino. Super Mario definitely popularized the platformer genre, and many people remember classics like Dragon Quest as their inspiration for playing RPGs. However, all of these titles are from the distant past. How many new gamers say that they were drawn into gaming because of what Nintendo has done over the past couple of years?
Obviously the Wii U has failed to live up to its predecessor’s extreme success, selling a mere six million units compared to over 100 million that the the Wii put out. This is a disappointing time for Nintendo fans, but whatever their feelings on the newest console are, they should look ahead to the future of the company. Financial reporters are less than optimistic, and many expect Nintendo to operate at a loss for the foreseeable future. However, Iwata is hopefu, and presented several new strategies Nintendo is making to change the game, pun intended.
We recently reported about the new smartphone app, “Mario Kart TV,” which will allow users to upload videos to social media platforms and share them with friends. This coincides with the release of Mario Kart 8, which is sure to be a big boost for the Wii U. Similarly, the latest installment of the Super Smash Bros. series is set to release in the coming months. While these games will have a great impact on the reception of the Wii U—as one of the biggest issues it faces is a lack of genre-defining games—they are unlikely to make the cultural impact necessary to make Nintendo a huge name in the industry again.
Mario Kart TV is a step in the right direction, and Nintendo is attempting to push their console into new features exclusive to Nintendo. Whether or not these ideas work out and are successful remains to be seen, but they are interesting at the very least. The first and most reported update Iwata revealed is customizable Nintendo figurines. These items will be able to be placed on the gamepad controller and the NFC reader will interact with the figurine, transferring data between them.
In this manner, players will be able to “train” their figurines through the games they play, and they will become an integral part of the user’s gamer identity. Iwata hopes that the Nintendo Figurine Platform will become a core part of the business and help get Nintendo more brand recognition. It is certainly a great idea, and time will tell how much these figurines might change the world of gaming.
Nintendo is also starting to push its support for third party indie developers, and added a section to their e-shop solely for indie games. Download sales have more than doubled since the release of the indie e-shop last year, and Nintendo plans on keeping its support for third-party developers. This is a necessary step for Nintendo. They have been falling behind the indie world for quite some time and have already missed their chance to port famous titles like Minecraft. While third-party developers are not the key to Nintendo gaining cultural significance, there is no reason for Nintendo to lose out on the business of indie fans. Hopefully we will see developers give more attention to the Wii U in the near future.
Lastly, Nintendo plans on developing more “games for health” in the future. Wii Fit is largely credited as a huge source of new gamers into the franchise and a big reason for the Wii’s remarkable success. Iwata plans on following up on this market, largely untapped by the gaming industry so far, and making it one of Nintendo’s things. Nintendo’s dreams of a future in which gaming is also an improvement on the player’s quality of life is interesting, to say the least. Given the success of Wii Fit, it is a hopeful plan. Nintendo intends to steer away from games designed around extra hardware, and it will be interesting to see what they come up with.
While Nintendo has not been doing well since the release of the Wii U last year, they definitely have some bright ideas for the future. Whether you are as skeptical as investors appear to be, there is a lot to look forward to in the future of this industry titan. At the very least, the Wii U will have its signature Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros soon, and perhaps we will have interactive figurines of our favorite Nintendo characters to go with them.