I love the term, “Big in Japan”, which is usually seen as a knock on something obscure stateside, but flourishing in the land of the rising sun. C’mon Japan is the sh*t, samurai’s, robots, girls that look like Kuroki Meisa in school girl outfits… I’d rather be big in Japan than huge in Turkey. Nintendo, creators of the legendary NES, SNES, the revered N64 and GameCube, the controller redefining Wii, and now the horrible WiiU… The house that Mario built has seen better days, and in the last few months the American video game industry has begun to craft the company’s eulogy. Recently EA sports developer Bob Summerwill called the system out for being “Crap”. But wait, Nintendo is still big in Japan damn it!
Nintendo means a lot to the gamer culture, it’s like a gearhead’s Mustang, a Marvel fan’s Jean Grey, a 80’s baby’s GI Joe. To bury Nintendo would mean to bury those memories of blowing those 8 bit cartridges, discovering the cheat code for Contra, Slaughtering your boys in Goldeneye, and the jaw dropping moment when you found out Samus Aran had tits. I’m not going to play the Zelda theme and pour out a little liquor just yet, but I do think from a fan’s standpoint that the only way Nintendo can thrive in America is to pull a Sega, license their software, and let the new kings of the mountain Microsoft and Sony, carry on the tradition of princes saving and turtle stomping. Here are a few reason why I think Nintendo will never be able to regain a market share in the United States.
Kids Like To Kill: Grand Theft, Call Of Duty, God of War, those are the games kids talk about, sure they are technically rated for adult pleasure, but just like porn, that makes it that much more alluring. Nintendo dominates the handheld market because there more simple games appeal to elementary and middle school kids, but with smartphones and mini tablets about to double its reach each year, Nintendo’s grip on the mobile gaming market share will slip and they will have to rely on console games. A kid goes to school, he’s not going to be like, “Hey, did you guys play that new Kirby?” Because he will be called a word rhyming with “cushy” and feel like sh*t because the rest of his class is talking about banging hookers on GTA 5. In short, the playground dictates what’s cool, and today’s kids want to do what older kids are doing, and that’s busting guns and severing zombie heads. There is a market for the light hearted yet challenging Nintendo games, but not an entire console worth in today’s America.
Nostalgic Nerds Would Rather Emulate: Die hard Nintendo geeks will never let go, but that doesn’t mean they’ll spend their money on a system so they can play one new Mario game every three years. Older gamers know how to hack the PS3 to play Punch Out, they can pull up Simon’s Quest on their IPad, they don’t need the Nintendo Online store to play the classic games they love. Dudes have been having WWF No Mercy tournaments via emulators since the early 2000s, for Yoshi’s sake! Yes older gamers will ride for the Nintendo banner, but they will not support the new systems in large numbers.
Party Games Were A Fad: Remember the Wii motion controller and how all the fat housewives dropped weight playing dancing and fit games? Well, that boom is over and Dr. Oz can’t boost sales on fit equipment alone. Additionally the era where Guitar Hero in the dorms and dancing to the Michael Jackson Experience at house parties were cool have ended. Hipsters may still break out a Wii controller after they had too much PBR, but it’s not console sustaining the same way a group of gamers on Xbox live playing a COD campaign is. Video games will always have boom periods but the WiiU is proof that you can’t strike with the same lighting twice.
Look Nintendo made $71,350,918 last year it’s not going out of business… sure it lost $365.5 mil but they are still turning a profit that keeps the lights on. However, is it just enough to stay afloat for such a storied brand? Even the most skilled Samurai has to look in the face of Gatling guns and realize that he’s outgunned and obsolete. It’s time for Nintendo to commit seppuku, stateside. If they want to continue to produce hardware in Japan and other foreign territories where their brand is strong, cool, but they owe it to the gamer community, even those who only play Madden and remember them as nostalgia, to evolve and mean something again. Unless they invent true virtual reality (not that red ass, “I know how Scott Summers Sees” Virtual Boy crap) then they will never again be hip or current enough to exceed in the American market. Let Microsoft license Zelda and make a deal with Sony for Mario games, this guarantees you’ll still be in the fight, and also create a new type of competition for the 21st century.
If Nintendo stays in the hardware business, they will fade into obscurity. Fifteen years from now an 8 year old will be streaming Fred Savage’s The Wizard on his Iphone 21s, get curious, google glass a screenshot to his dad at work, and ask, “What’s a Super Mario 3?” His dad will wipe a lone tear from his eye and say, “It was a Nintendo game, son… they’re still big in Japan”.