May 30 2013 2:00pm

Gaming Roundup: Are We Witnessing the Slow Death of Nintendo?

Slow death of Nintendo

Despite Nintendo’s initial victory in the last console war (achieved largely by the Wii’s successful capture of the casual gamer market), there are some warning signs emerging of late that indicate the console giant—whose brand was once synonymous with gaming—may be on the verge of riding off into the sunset. Driven partly by Nintendo’s overestimation of the Wii’s staying power, partly by the fickle nature of casual gaming, and partly by developer abandonment, Nintendo is facing some interesting times, to say the least—times that are not helped one bit by the gaming community’s lukewarm reception of the Wii U.

The underpowered, uninspired Wii U has met with considerable criticism on a number of fronts since its release—ranging from disillusioned fans to skeptical developers. A few weeks ago, an EA spokesperson stated that EA currently has no games in development for the Wii U. Zero. Zilch. Nada. This was followed a week later by EA senior engineer Bob Summerwill sounding off on Twitter, calling the Wii U “crap” and an “awful console.” (Update! Now they're back-tracking.) Indeed, Summerwill went so far as to echo Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski’s February sentiment that Nintendo will soon be left as a software-only company, making games and farming out their premiere characters, Mario and Zelda, to the PS4 and Xbox.

So what lies ahead for Nintendo? You tell us below, dear reader. We all have our early NES, Game Boy SNES, and N64 memories to cherish, no doubt, but recent experiences are most welcome as well.

In other gaming news this week, A new Star Wars Battlefront game might be under way, Alan Wake is put on ice, and Microsoft may be shunning indie developers with the Xbox One. Read on!

  • EA’s working fast - could a new Star Wars Battlefront game already be in the works? Maybe, according to EA CFO Blake Jorgensen.
  • What inspired Naughty Dog’s latest IP? Apparently, the Coen brothers’ No Country For Old Men had a pretty significant impact on The Last of Us.

  • Blizzard’s hush-hush MMORPG, the as-yet unnamed Project Titan, has apparently undergone a complete reset. The developers are said to be starting from scratch, which means we won’t see the game until 2016 at the very earliest—knowing Blizzard, probably more like a half-decade after a release date is announced.
  • Why isn’t Alan Wake 2 happening? More aptly, why isn’t it happening yet? Remedy’s creative director, Sam Lake, explains.

  • On second thought, this might have had a little something to do with it. Meet Remedy’s new IP, exclusive to the Xbox One: Quantum Break.

If there are games you’d like us to cover or blogs you think we should be following for more news, please let us know @tdelucci or @pritpaulbains.

1. Tarcanus
I can definitely buy that Nintendo is going downhill. The first deathknell was how many, many Wii owners put the console down and got tired of swinging their arms/bodies around for longer than a couple minutes just to play a very simplistic game. Then they started shoe-horning the motion sensing into games where it didn't feel natural to have it. Then there was the massive amount of shovelware being allowed into the Wii's marketplace.

Then Sony and MS announced much more powerful machines and all Nintendo could do was usher in the finally-HD Wii-U, which was too little, too late. The Wii-U was a catch-up to the hardware and games of Sony and MS.

I was a long time Nintendo fan growing up. I loved Mario, Link, and many of their other franchises, but as I grew up, the franchises didn't. Nintendo, in their attempt to capture more market share, refused to age any of their franchises so they were more complex or had harder modes for experiences players. When I finished Twilight Princess, I pretty much told myself I'd never play another Zelda game, and I haven't. The game was pretty, but I swear to god if I have to fight another boss with a 3-5-hits-on-the-glowy-red-spot-to-win or bosses with laughably predictable attack patterns, or have to solve another sliding block puzzle or boomerang puzzle, I will puke. Then they shoe-horned in motion sensing gimmick for Skyward Sword and I was officially done.

I really hope that Nintendo does start whoring out its characters to Sony and MS, because I think other developers could age the franchises back to perfection the way Nintendo should have been doing all along.
Pritpaul Bains
2. Kickpuncher
@1 Tarcanus - Agreed -- after a hot start, Nintendo just made a few too many bad decisions with the Wii (totally agreed re: shoehorning in motion where it wasn't needed) and severly underestimated the impact of its lack of processing power.

I think Zelda is especially conducive to being aged up -- in the right hands, the results could be phenomenal. Not so sure about Mario, but I could see a few possibilities...
3. Cloudform
Nintendo has the best-selling consoles on earth currently (3DS and DS), and has been around for 120 years. It's not going anywhere.
4. Sanagi
The idea that Nintendo will go under or become a third party developer gets tossed around a lot, but it's like saying that Apple should give up making hardware. It's more likely that the company will downsize and cater to a smaller niche market of hardcore fans, rather than change their approach to design.
5. Tae
Very simply, the Wii U launched 6 months too early. The initial lineup was poor with only a single major first party title (NSMB U) backing it. The system still had some major optimization kinks as indicated by the major Spring firmware update to improve load times.

Nintendo's biggest problem has been tripping right out of the gate to fall flat on their face. With the 3DS they were able to pull themselves back up, dust off their pants, and throw down with some of the major franchises that aren't usually leading the way. Fire Emblem, Luigi, and Kid Icarus are the stand out victors here, with some big promises in the way of Animal Crossing, Zelda, and Pokemon coming up on the horizon. Capturing Shin Megami Tensei and Monster Hunter for their portable console is also nothing to sneeze at.

The Wii U's make-or-break moment is going to come next month with E3. Nintendo is poised to announce all the first party titles that should have at least been on the horizon on Day 1 if not already close to completion. With the move to skip the E3 keynote presentation, shift to a consumer-focused Nintendo Direct and actually host demos for people to play (albeit at Best Buy), we see Nintendo's focus slowly starting to change.

Along with all of that, their outreach to indie developers has improved greatly over the past year. Easier access to kits, eShop sales on both major consoles, and even seeing responses to Kickstarter campaigns that want to target Nintendo consoles. Microsoft and Sony will continue to pick at each other for the most powerful systems and most realistic shooting-foreign-people-for-unspecified-reason simulators, but Nintendo certainly isn't going anywhere. They're still turning a profit.
Pritpaul Bains
6. Kickpuncher
I'll say this -- I would love for Nintendo to come up with an absolute game-changer with their next console. One that competes graphically with Sony and MS, and that is put over the top by innovative, immersive functionality. Something groundbreaking that wrests Nintendo back into the center of living rooms everywhere. It does seem that for the present, Nintendo has pretty much conceded on the power front, and that makes for a difference in perception, both in the eye of the consumer and the developer.
Ryan Jackson
7. KakitaOCU
As said, people keep announcing doom before it's ever really practical or even likely.

Nintendo's had some hiccups, as mentioned above already.

But it owns the handheld market. They're also a far better innovator and creator that Sony could ever hope to be. Their placement against Microsoft is a bit more subjective.

Let's face it, Sony is lucky and solid but not innovative or impressive in anyway. The PS3 and coming PS4 will be amazing.. Just like their competitors. Heck, they only exist as they do now because Nintendo made a mistake, not because they were particuarly impressive. Years ago Nintendo Dumped Sony and then Alienated SquareSoft and a few other developers. Enter the now standing alone PS1 and Final Fantasy VII.

Microsoft at least works on their own. The X-Box came about from a very different animal than it became or that consoles are. When Microsoft wanted to copy Nintendo's success with Motion controls they went and blazed their own path and came up with something truly unique and potentially awesome (kinnect).

Sony tends to badmouth and copy. Sony calls the Wii a "casual" system using Casual as an insult. They mock the motion controls. Then copy them near exactly. Sony calls the DS and 3DS baby toys, then fails to compete in any meaningful way in the market. Sony Mocks the Wii U's game pad as being a novelty and pointless. Then immediately sets about making sure their PS Vita can be the exact same thing with the PS4.

The fact that Sony continues to do its best to badmouth and insult Nintendo, then quietly copy everything Ninendo does shows how little the company truly needs to fear so long as they keep putting in the effort.

Please note, I am not anti sony. I have all three consoles and generally always have. But they are what they are, and what they are is a solid company with very little vision. They can make virtually any product shine, but they can't innovate or develop ideas on their own.
Scott Silver
8. hihosilver28
Ugh, I'm sick of Remedy's new titles being XBox exclusives until they relent and release them on PC. Alan Wake became quite the seller once they finally released it on PC. Grr.
Christopher Morgan
9. cmorgan
The question as to whether or not we are witnessing the slow death is perfectly valid, and I do believe that we are in the west. The Jappanese and American markets in gaming have just diverged too much.

WiiU has no awesome app. It has no reason to buy it. No Mario, No Zelda, hell no Pinkman. Not to mention that Publishers like EA have openly bad mouthed the system's capabilities.

Yeah they have the DS and 3DS, but those are just mobile platforms that are swiftly approaching obsoletion because large market share of folks who do indulge in mobile gaming aren't core gamers, and are happy playing on their smart phones. No need to buy fancy hardware when games of quality like Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur's Gate, and Abe's Oddesey are on your ipad.

This ignores the fact that Nintendo has recently cracked down on Let's Players on YouTube, which earned them even more negative press in the gaming community.
10. Happytoscrap
I loved my NES, loved the gameboy and still have my N64 plugged into my TV. It doesn't get nearly the play, my XBOX 360 gets, but on occassion, I still get some buddies to come over after the bars and play MarioKart 64, Goldeneye or NBA Hangtime.

All this debate on the wii and the wii u and if this is Nintendo's death knell....yeah, Nintendo is dying but it's been dying since the Gamecube. I was a few years out of college when it came out and still living with my college roommate. He got a Gamecube. I got an Xbox. it was great. we figured we'd have the best of both words. How spoiled we would be. In college, we were always so broke. We had the N64. Now, we were young adults with incomes and the two newest gaming systems on the market.

Problem was, all the Gamecube games seemed tailored for kids. So we ended up playing a lot more Xbox. Even the gamecube version of MarioKart was almost unplayably bad. We were playing Halo on Xbox.

Wii continued Nintendo's concentration on making cartoonish looking games for children and the hard core gaming fans continued to play better games. The gaming world keeps turning and Nintendo is farther and farther from it.

It isn't too late for them to make some sort of epic comeback. They just need to get a few lightning bolts and stars and maybe a blue shell or two. But I don't see it happening.
Brent Longstaff
11. Brentus
@5 - I'd say that rather, the Wii U launched 6 years too late. As long as Nintendo insists on releasing last-gen hardware, they rule themselves out of all the cross-platform games. They have their own exclusives and that's about it. It's a huge turn-off to developers who want their games to have a wide audience. If you can make a game for PC/Xbox One/PS4, or for only the Wii U, it's a hard choice to go with Nintendo. Whether you buy the "graphics don't matter" philosophy or not, Nintendo's approach keeps most of the big titles away simply by not being compatible with the rest of the industry.
12. politeruin
See, i would have thought that anita sarkeesian's female tropes in video games project was worthy news. Despite her getting all the depressingly vile type of attention* it should get exposure. I'm hoping the last of us subverts at least some of what she's talking about...anyway, part 2 is now up -

Pritpaul Bains
13. Kickpuncher
@10 - I will forever be indebted to Gamecube for Super Smash Bros Melee... but that's about it.

@8 - Agreed - I mean, really, it's inevitable with Remedy that a good PC release will become available. May as well be direct.
Ryan Jackson
14. KakitaOCU
Eh, they've been dying since the N64. That's when the alienated Square and Sony and did a few other moronic choices that basically amounted to saying "We're king of the world, we'll do what we want!"

Something Sony's started doing lately.

The thing is, Nintendo was delcared dead with the Gamecube's lackluster performance. Then came the Wii. Now Nintendo's being delcared dead again because the WiiU made the mistake of launching with next to no titles ready to go. We'll see if this death sticks any better than the last one or two did.

As for the handheld market, it's not becoming obsolete. Nothing I've seen in the stats or market suggest this. There is a great call for easier and more casual games, and those go to the smart phone and ipads. But there's also still a very solid market for complex games that the multitasking phones can't really handle. Sure I can get older games on my phone. And fun and simple things like Angry Birds, but I'm not seeing things like FE or Uprising or Monster Hunter showing up for them. Don't think we will for a while. By the time multitasking devices can reliably handle complex games we'll be looking at the death of the console as well.

Moving on to Nintendo's "crack down" on Let's Plays. It'll cause some anger. Just like Microsoft caused anger when they said the X-Box One games won't be tradable or resellable. Just like Sony did when it arbitrarily insulted anyone with a DS. Just like multiple Developers suffered when they tried that garbage DRM stuff to "stop piracy". And then in the end each company made a quality product and everyone either forgave or just pretended to be angry while still buying.

As I said above, so long as they remain creative and innovative power houses, nintendo won't be going anywhere.
Ty Myrick
15. tymyrick
This is a totally off-the-cuff prediction, and not necessarily what I would wish to see happen, but I suppose it is as likely as anything else.

The Wii U does not perform anywhere near as well as the Wii, and Nintendo rapidly begins to loose more market share to Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo bets big on a new iteration of the the DS/3DS which functions as a controller for the Wii U with hopes that will spur sales of both platforms. They release crossover games like Animal Crossing and Mario Kart that are playable on both platforms, as long the player buys both versions. This arrives with a huge media splash to the delight of many gamers.

Unfortunately, Apple iOS and Google Android continue to cut into the mobile gaming market share and the integration of iOS and Android into televisions cuts away much of Nintendo's casual games market.

Pressured on the high end and the low end, Nintendo's market share continues to drop and the stock price plummets. Nintendo tries to fend of buyout advances from both Microsoft and Sony, but stockholders pressure the company to sell.

Eventually, Nintendo accepts a buyout offer from Disney, who immeditately leases away the videogame rights and goes onto make billions of dollars in merchandising and media sales off of Nintendo's IP.
Pritpaul Bains
16. Kickpuncher
@12 I believe we made mention of Sarkeesian's project in this space earlier in the year, as well, but the update to her link is certainly worthy of mention and discussion. Appreciate the links -- I have a feeling they'll be showing up in next week's roundup.

@15 So the Star Wars story, at least in ending. ;)
Jenny Creed
17. JennyCreed
Nintendo's videogame business may be in a death spiral, but to call it a dying company is rather a confusion of terms I think. Maybe they'll go back to playing cards, maybe they'll come up with a new toy, but one way or another they'll inevitably make it through the next videogame market collapse better than most developers.
David Thomson
18. ZetaStriker
I'm surprised so many people write off the Gamecube, it had some amazing titles. We got the fantastic Twin Snakes remake of Metal Gear Solid, F-Zero GX which remains the best high speed racing game I've ever played, Eternal Darkness which was an amazing Lovecraftian survival horror title. and that's just naming a few. It didn't have a huge library of great games, but the great games they did have were more memorable than those on competing consoles in my mind.

That said, Nintendo is in no way in trouble. As others have pointed out, the DS and 3DS are doing very, very well, and due to their poor controls, devices like tablets and smartphones will never fully replace portable game consoles. The WiiU is missing its mark at present time, and probably wont be the runaway success the Wii was, but it's still early yet. Sony wasn't doing much better at this point with the PS3 not too long ago.
19. politeruin
#16 Now you mention it, i do seem to recall something about it on here when her kickstarter began and the appalling reaction from concern trolls. It's not that i think you wouldn't cover it, it's just i see this as an ongoing serious topic when the concern trolls don't seem to be crawling back into their holes any time soon. I'm sure many would say 'oh it's just video games, don't bring sexual politics into it' but as she says games do not exist in a vacuum so it's as valid a place as any.
20. HuntarX
Huh, Nintendo is quite the zombie, its been dying or done since 1998.

They lost 2 Generations against Sony.
And now look where Sony is and where Nintendo. Nintendo still has billions of dollar in the bank because of the Wii and DS. If they survived the lackluster performance of N64 and GCube, they will easily survive the WiiU. Sony on the other hand NEEDS the PS4 to do better than PS3. They cant lose anymore money with the PS4. The Vita right now already looks worst than WiiU.

The real one dying is Sony, not Nintendo.
21. Sandwich Man
EA can go die in a hole. They suck, and a lot of gamers hate them. Nintendo is not going anywhere anytime soon.
22. WhereismynextMajorasMask?
OOT fans please read throughly before bashing me (comment edited by moderator; let's keep things civil.)

Nintendo needs to make a remake of Majoras Mask but this time a system where you can save anywhere at anytime and use the 7 day system they originally planned since we have the disc space for it now.

Many people claim that Majoras Mask save system sucked but then again so did Ocarina of Time because unless you saved in a dungeon you either started at Link's house (Default) or The Temple of Time if you saved in there.

In Majoras Mask you can use you're ocarina's Song Of Soaring to warp to the front of a dungeon/temple at ANY time even during the middle of boss battles and then quicly save at an owl statue to freshen up.

You can also use the Song of Time backwards to slow down the flow of time to half it's speed which is useful if you plant to do the fairy sidequests for extra powers or skip half a day forward to go quickly to an event instead of loitering around with nothing to do.

Plus once you gain extra masks you can replay boss fights using those masks and defeat Boss fights using different methods and all the NPC's have different responses to what you wear such as the Postman's mask you can get into all the mailboxes you see.

Hint. The mailboxes make a cunning return in Wind Waker!!

Majoras Mask was a clear step in the right direction.
23. Quality Control
Well, I grew up with Nintendo, and a lot of people my age grew up playing on a 64, and then they graduated to one of the big three, keeping that old console for the longevity. 64 introduced so many new gamers that it's not even funny. From that era, you had Goldeneye (the best console FPS at the time), Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time (Still held to be one of the most influential games of all time), Conker's Bad Fur Day (Which pushed the limits of the ESRB, and still proved to be a very fun and hilarious game.), Super Smash Brothers, Pokemon Stadium, Donkey Kong 64, even Star Wars Episode I: Pod Racer was an amazing game. People seem to forget that way too easily. Nintendo may be going down the tubes, but it's played its hand well in the last couple of years, enough to begin a comeback or at least keep its face.
Pritpaul Bains
24. Kickpuncher
The N64 definitely qualifies as a defining console. In addition to all you mentioned, Majora's, Turok, Mario Kart 64... the list goes on.

This seems like as good a place as any to mention that Wind Waker HD is totally rocking it right now on the Wii U.

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