The video game industry would never be the same without Nintendo, and they're one of the reasons gaming has become such an artistic, meaningful industry. The Nintendo brand means something different to everyone. For some, it's that classic 2D space of mythical kingdoms and childhood fantasies, that Mario and Tetris machine so many enjoyed as children; to others, Nintendo is the most imaginative company in gaming history and by far the best developers in and out of The Mushroom Kingdom. To a number of gamers, Nintendo's gravest and most consistent errors besmirch that reputation, and some longtime fans have trouble backing Nintendo and their products.
The Nintendo Switch has had a brilliant first year, but not everything has been perfect, and there are plenty of skeptics who still have yet to put their faith back in Nintendo and buy their newest console. Today, I look at five errors Nintendo has made on multiple platforms and see how the Nintendo Switch has done with combatting them and turning things around for video game's most iconic developer.
1. Not Prioritizing 3rd Party Support
The Offenders: N64, GCN, Wii, Wii U
Nintendo's lack of attracting 3rd party developers and forcing Nintendo's franchises to be so synonymous with the success of their consoles isn't a surprise to anyone. They haven't had truly great 3rd party support since the SNES days over twenty years ago. Part of this has to do with just how much Nintendo controlled the gaming eco-system during the NES into the SNES era. 3rd party costs to Nintendo for Dev kits, royalty fees, and cartridge costs were expensive, and Sony mitigated a lot of these costs when they made the original PlayStation. This of course, with good branding and CDs, made PlayStation an ideal console to develop for, and huge series like Final Fantasy and Mega Man left Nintendo.
Nintendo has never really come back from this blow it seems. Looking at all their consoles from the N64 through the Wii U, there isn't a single game on the top ten bestseller list (barely top 15) that isn't either developed or published by Nintendo. The best selling 3rd party games were often huge franchises like Star Wars games for the N64 or Sonic games on the Gamecube (GCN).
That's not to say this has been completely disastrous for Nintendo. It has forced them to make top quality games themselves and consistently release amazing content, but they have lost a lot of old fans and hardcore gamers in the process. The Nintendo Wii, despite its great sales, is basically home to a bunch of mediocre mini-game titles and Nintendo's classic franchises. The Wii U is even worse. The bad news for Nintendo is that they lack a lot of mainstream genres like first-person shooters and fighting games. These are markets that Nintendo has almost completely taken themselves out of, and they have now felt the bitter winds of failure with the Wii U.
It's practically a Nintendo business model to make a quirky device that Nintendo can best develop games for and is completely different from the competition. Nintendo knows they can make excellent games, and 3rd party developers have often experienced great difficulty in developing and porting games for Nintendo infrastructures, which are usually vastly different than the other consoles and PC. It's hard to believe that they vigorously pursued 3rd party support or made it much easier for other companies to develop for when looking at consoles like the N64 and Wii U and just how little changed.
The Nintendo Switch
Has the Switch done better? It's been out for less than a year, and Nintendo has once again stated that getting 3rd party companies on board with the Switch is a top priority. Most of the switch's best games are made by Nintendo so far. Still, Capcom has been dipping their feet in the water, and most notably, will be releasing Mega Man 11 exclusively for the Switch in 2018.
Bethesda has jumped on board and brought Doom and Skyrim, and Square-Enix is releasing two bombshells for the Switch in 2018 with The Lost Sphere and Octopath Traveler (the latter being exclusive). The inclusion of a game like Doom could mean other modern FPS games may feel more welcome on the switch in the future. The great sales and success of 3rd party games are bound to grab the attention of other developers. There is definitely reason to believe that PlayStation 4 may hold onto a superior 3rd party lineup, but the Nintendo Switch is definitely looking at better 3rd party support than both the Wii consoles seemed to have possessed, and 2018 is just beginning.
2. Poor Marketing
The Offenders: GCN, Wii U, NES Mini, Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo has a strong name brand, and a Nintendo device is usually reliable, but that hasn't completely saved them from bad starts, gimmicky consoles, and failed devices in the past. The Wii U is the biggest offender on this list, being Nintendo's only true failing home console; it barely even felt like a new console. It had a full year to own the market before the PS4 and Xbox One came out, but it was barely advertised; the name was too similar to the Wii, and many people, especially the casual gamers who loved their Wiis for family entertainment, had no idea the Wii U was even a new device. Its name sounds like it could easily be an add-on or an accessory. Couple this with the fact that the Nintendo Wii U had a lackluster launch and no 3rd party support to help Nintendo, savor Monster Huter 3 Ultimate for a long time after it's launch, and you have a monster of a dilemma that not even a swipe of the Master Sword could defend from.
The Gamecube was a solid console in its own right, but it's design made it seem like a child's toy, and the cell-shaded, cartoonish looks of many of the games further aligned gamers seeking a more mature experience with Xbox and PlayStation 2. Even many Zelda fans were outraged at Zelda Windwaker, despite it being a fantastic entry in the series.
The Nintendo Mini was a massive hit, but Nintendo didn't say how many units they were shipping, and they completely missed the mark on consumer demand. It wasn't even announced where they could be purchased, and it's these kinds of blunders that make longtime fans question why they remain faithful to Nintendo, even when they make a really neat console or device.
There are other cases such as the ugly and blocky look of the Nintendo DS and the release of a handheld device centered around 3D–a fad that was quickly waning before its launch–, not to mention the 3D feature was tricky to use properly and (thankfully) not necessary in many games.
If nothing else, choices like motion control. tablet controllers, and betting in 3D have given Nintendo a reputation for being audacious and creative. I personally loved the cell shaded look of games like Zelda Windwaker, and the 3DS still had an amazing library despite basically ditching the 3D gimmick it was advertised to be centered around, but these decisions did cost Nintendo dearly.
The Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch has clearly had no problems with advertising. It's nearly outsold the Wii U in less than a year, and it has sold faster than any console in history in the U.S.A. The Switch had a ton of hype, and everyone knew what the Switch was and that it was both portable and well priced. Nintendo has released two game of the year nominees, and it doesn't look like things are going to slow down much–if at all–in 2018.
Nintendo has learned a lot from the failure of the Wii U, and even if people aren't fully on board with the Nintendo Switch yet, they are hearing about it and it's on their radar. Even Sony has had to take an honest look at the Switch's success.
3. Accessory Hell
The Offenders: N64, Wii, Nintendo Switch
Nintendo has always been adventurous with their accessories, and some of these have been really cool like the Super Gameboy on SNES and the Classic Controller for the Wii, but others like the power glove and the Wii Car Power Adaptor were miserable flops. The accessories I am attacking today are the accessories that Nintendo has forced or almost forced consumers to purchase just to use their consoles with greater ease and to play certain games.
The first offender goes back to the Nintendo 64 and the Expansion Pak. This tiny pak added 4gb of ram to the N64, so it could support better textures and show better color depth. The real empty treasure chest of a deal came when both Zelda Majora's Mask and Perfect dark (two of the N64's most prominent games) required players to have one. Sure, some later N64s came with one in the box, and Donkey Kong 64 came with it packaged for $80, but it was a bit if a slap in the face to have to upgrade the N64 in order to play such a limited selection of games. On the bright side, a lot of other games received enhancements from the pak but didn't require it.
Then Nintendo essentially did the same thing, only with the Wii and the motion plus controllers. The original Wii motes were not responsive to different kinds of motions, and Nintendo wanted a more precise motion controller, especially for Zelda Skyward Sword. So, once again, close to the end of a console's lifespan, players were forced to pay about $50 for a motion plus controller if they wanted to play the new Zelda. Outside of Zelda Skyward Sword and Red Steel 2, not many noteworthy games required or even utilized the Motion Plus Wii mote.
The Wii also came with motes that ran off of batteries. While the world moved on to rechargeables, Nintendo waited until 3rd party companies made docks that could charge their Wii-motes. At least this was an accessory that saved you money in the end.
There are other cases such as the 3DS'S second analog stick, but the Wii definitely takes the crown for having the most accessories.
The Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch is affordable, but that doesn't mean players won't have to spend some money on stuff other than games after the initial purchase. If a player wants a new dock, a simple plastic casing with a USB port, HDMI, and wall charge input, it will run them $90 dollars. The Joy-Cons, which admittedly do have a lot of cool technology, cost $50 for one or $80 for a pair.
The Pro Controller itself, though it boasts great design, 40 hours of battery life, and good grips, is a steep $70 dollars.
Those may be optional, but the Switch only has 32 GB of internal storage, and downloading full games digitally or getting bigger 3rd party games (3rd party companies are not as knowledgeable with the Switch's infrastructure) will devour your system space with just one or two purchases. Most players will likely use that space within a year or two anyway, even if they are modest spenders, and then you need to get SD cards to save files. SD cards are relatively cheap but still expensive for larger ones, and it's tedious to have to keep them around and change them as well as being anathema to Nintendo advertising the convenience and portability of the Switch.
Lastly, many players will want a screen protector and a case for the Switch, particularly if they are traveling with the console. This will run you between $30 and $50, and it's non-optional for a lot of players.
In the end, the Nintendo Switch does give you some very high-tech and beefy features with the controllers, which could be justifiable next to the already expensive PS4 and Xbox One controllers, but most people will be spending an extra $100-$200 on accessories if they plan on playing it often, and that factor does defeat the $300 price tag to some extent.
4. Launching With a Downgraded Device
The Offenders: GBA, DS, 3DS
The Switch is portable, and we finally get to take a closer look at Nintendo's other handheld devices. There have certainly been some poor launches and missing features only added to later updates of particular systems. Even the original GB and GBC were no strangers to iterations in color and theme, but the real issues really began with the GBA.
The GBA was released in 2001, and it was critically acclaimed, but it was missing one or two key features. There was no backlight. The device relied on natural light, and games like Castlevania Circle of the Moon (a launch title) had darker level designs that didn't accommodate most natural light settings. It wouldn't be until 2003–two years later– that the GBA SP was launched with a backlight. A backlight feels like a no-brainer, and one could certainly question whether or not Nintendo was just fishing for extra cash with the SP upgrade.
The original GBA also relied on changing batteries instead of switching over to a rechargeable battery. This was also upgraded with the GBA SP. There were other upgrades, but these two major changes made the GBA entirely obsolete.
The Nintendo DS wasn't as criminal as the GBA, but it was bulky and it lacked backlight options. In 2006, about two years after the initial launch, the DS Lite was released with backlighting options and increased battery life. The system was also slimmer and more aesthetically pleasing.
The Nintendo 3DS had a poor launch, and the 3D feature was far less popular than Nintendo anticipated. One of the biggest issues was that there was only one analog stick. Nintendo remedied this with an odd attachment that added a right analog, but the initial 3DS was still deemed a bit flawed. Nintendo later came out with the New Nintendo 3DS, a console with more processing power that would play certain games that the original 3DS couldn't. To be fair, there aren't many exclusives, but some popular titles like Xenoblade Chronicles 3DS and Fire Emblem Warriors were exclusive, and SNES VC games could only be played with the upgrade.
I recall being quite infuriated with the move (I was a 3DS launch purchaser) and thinking there would be new exclusives, which turned out to be less poignant. Of course, there was the cheaper 2DS option, and there is also the case of the Nintendo 3DS taking a first-year price cut from $250 to $170.
Nintendo has a solid history of releasing upgraded handhelds within a couple years of the initial device; skeptics may say Nintendo does it intentionally, and while I disagree, I do think Nintendo does make the upgraded devices an almost mandatory purchase: features like backlights, rechargeable batteries, and two analog sticks are all standards in modern gaming. The upgrades are nice, but it makes those of us who don't have a limitless supply of cash hardpressed to become early adopters of new Nintendo devices.
The Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch is still less than a year old. Potential upgrades are all speculative at this point. I could definitely see a system with chargeable joy-cons or smaller, more compact screens, but my initial impressions of the Switch are mostly positive. I wouldn't be surprised to see Switches made with more internal space, but all in all, the Nintendo Switch hasn't left out any key features savor a d-pad and small storage space. It's certainly not unthinkable that 2019 or2020 could bring a new upgraded Nintendo Switch with more features, though there hasn't been enough backlash to usher in a price drop or newer model, unlike past devices like the 3DS.
5. Going Against Modern Trends
Offenders: N64, GCN, Wii, Wii U
Nintendo has always marched to the beat of their own drums, and even when Nintendo makes an inferior console, they are always creative and offering something more than vanilla ice cream. Some are good while others are painful, and Nintendo has made some odd choices regarding modern trends that have definitely eaten sales and lost some loyal fans along the way.
The first example is that the N64 stuck to cartridges while everyone else switched to CDs. The N64 was an absolute success and a tour de force in its own right, but they did lose a lot of 3rd companies like Squaresoft who started making games for PlayStation instead. CD's had more space and could handle more FMVs and dialogue etc, but for me, Nintendo made a move based on a time before Sony was really even in the mix, and the N64 turned out alright
The GCN was actually more powerful than the more successful PS2, but it had no DVD player, and the internet was a very secondary feature. Only eight GCN games had online capability, and it was far less of a multi-media device; this was at a time when watching DVDs and online service was in more demand and was fairly expensive technology.
The lack of multi-media efforts continued with the Nintendo Wii which had no DVD player–PS3 had blue-ray–and no HDMI input. The internet was far less reliable, and the eShop was a complete mess to navigate. Released in 2006, the Wii Motes had no chargeable batteries either. The Wii was a glorified Nintendo franchise player with almost no extra features outside of the motion controls, which were certainly cool at the time, but not preferable to classic controllers for most gamers.
The Wii U took a lot of hits for using computing power more resemblant of the previous generation, but to Nintendo's credit, the handheld Wii U controller was powerful for its size, had a great display, and was costly to produce. Using more modern hardware to compete with the other consoles would have driven console prices through the roof.
In the case of the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo pushed away a lot of popular series like Call of Duty, Bioshock, and Mass Effect etc; first person fans had little reason to pick up a Nintendo console, and many 3rd party companies saw their games looking and functioning better on a PlayStation or Xbox console. Nintendo has always remained special, but they can only sacrifice so much and still remain successful,
The Nintendo Switch
It isn't exactly fair to compare raw processing power and hardware between the Switch and its competitors since it's portable and accommodated so many different control schemes, but Nintendo's controllers (as expensive as they are) offer a gyroscope, HD rumble, and battery life that at least doubles their competitors.
The Switch has less ram, internal memory, and GPU power, but Nvidia made an excellent chip for the switch, and the HDMI on the Nintendo Switch looks impressive. There is definitely a slight graphical downgrade with the Switch, but it's still utterly gorgeous, and games should be judged for the gameplay, not just the graphics.
One mind-boggling omission is not having Netflix. Many people like to use a PC or console to stream TV shows and movies, and it seems paramount that Nintendo and Netflix come to an agreement, so Switch owners can stream videos from their Switch. It would be cool to watch movies on the smaller screen too.
There is also no Nintendo Switch VR, but it's early, and it's still a niche feature. It's also expensive and competitive, and Nintendo will certainly think twice about entering the world of VR after the enormous flop that was the Nintendo Virtual Boy.
The Nintendo Switch is definitely the most graphically impressive Nintendo console (for its time) since at least the GCN, if not even earlier. It's loaded with features, has portability, and seeing the kingdom of Hyrule or Mario exploring a metropolis in HD is simply fantastic. If Nintendo gets key apps like Netflix, is more friendly to genres like FPS as well as some key 3rd party companies the Nintendo Switch won't be taking much flack for being behind in the times. In fact, the Switch may look more like the future of gaming.
The Switch has taken a lot of the mistakes Nintendo has made over countless gaming generations and has certainly worked towards turning them around. There is solid 3rd party support for the Switch, and games like Doom, Dark Souls Remastered, Mega Man 11, and Octopath Traveler definitely make it seem like Nintendo truly is pushing for more friendly relations with 3rd party developers.
The Switch has sold better than even Nintendo could have wished for, and the accessories at least come with enough features to justify a purchase. Hopefully, the prices will come down, but, you certainly get a lot of mileage in features like battery life, motion controls, and the Joy-Cons catering to multi-player and expanding into two separate pads.
It wouldn't be surprising to see an upgraded Switch in a couple years, but after almost one year, the Nintendo Switch isn't lacking many key features that make an immediate purchase non-agreeable. The game catalog is growing fast, and Zelda BOTW has already won game of the year for 2017 with Mario Odyssey right behind it.
The Switch looks beautiful, and the portability is amazing. It finally looks like Nintendo has made a console that should remain consistent and rich throughout its lifespan. It's not hard to believe that the Switch will be Nintendo's most successful console since at least the SNES, and throughout the first year, and glimpsing into 2018, the Switch is no Wii U: this console is built for success and it's truly something special. Maybe Nintendo will finally fix many of the flaws that have unfortunately attached themselves to the Nintendo brand.