Nintendo Is Its Own Worst Competition
I don’t know if it’s been said outright, or if it’s only perception, but I feel that it’s at least understood that when it comes to consoles, it’s Microsoft versus Sony, and then there’s Nintendo. The Wii and the WiiU are “ands” to the Xbox “or” PlayStation debate, should anyone feel money burning a hole in their pocket, and has time enough to multitask multiple consoles.
The playing field of competition notwithstanding — talking about feature-by-feature competition here — it’s the fact that Nintendo does not, or will not, or cannot compete with the other two that is it’s own worst problem.
The purpose of competition (at least back when it was true) is to force competitors to make better products at lower prices. It could be argued that neither MS nor Sony was interested in lower prices, but they target the same — *ahem* — hardcore market, which means that we did see a jockeying for position when all other elements were equal. If you’re buying Call of Duty: Duty Harder, do you get it for Xbox or PlayStation? Minutiae like pixel density and other fanboy saber-rattling aside, there are more concrete reasons for picking one over the other, which means that both MS and Sony need to ensure that they make their offerings (the game edition, and the on-console experience) better than the other guy’s.
More importantly, though, is the time frame. Come Christmastime, both MS and Sony want to sell more consoles, and since they’re marketing to the same audience, they need to keep neck-and-neck so that the other guy’s offerings aren’t more attractive than theirs.
And then there’s Nintendo. They move at their own speed and, consequently, that’s bad for the Nintendo gamers. More so than Xbox and PS combined, Nintendo is associated with iconic characters and experiences. They have a relatively enormous stable of brands that always come up when they announce a new platform. Do we get a new Mario? A new Zelda? A new Metroid? A new Pokemon? Out of all of the launches that Nintendo has done in recent memory (Wii, WiiU, DS, 3DS, etc.), how many have launched with a representative title from that list? Historically, how long has it been post-launch until we actually saw a representative title from the list? The Nintendo Core seems to always be disappointed at platform announcements because they never seem to get the support of the core brands that they had been hoping for. It seems to me (and no doubt, others) that if a Nintendo platform were to launch with a Zelda game, it would blow the doors of previous sales, but that never happens.
Just today, the Nintendo Direct address from Satoru Iwata (whom I am convinced is the prototype for the idea of the Mii) really offered one disappointing bomb after another. There will be no new Wii U releases in January or February. However, there will be two Zelda games! But one will be an HD upgrade to Wind Waker, and the other…? Well, I got the impression that they hadn’t even started work on it. The whole presentation was a horrible let-down. I’m just glad I didn’t buy a Wii U, or I’d probably be smashing it to pieces in frustration when I got home tonight.
By catering to their own demographic, marching to their own drummer, and not competing with Microsoft or Sony, Nintendo is free to develop what they like. But they also have absolutely no pressure to deliver, and can either hint or outright mention a project that may be years in delivery. Many Nintendo fans will be content with “when it’s done”, because getting something is better than getting nothing, but the frequency with which we get iterations in a franchise means we swing from Ocarina of Time to Wind Waker to Twilight Princess: three different takes on a single franchise that seem to all be experiments to see what works, and whose lessons are promptly tossed out the window to make way for the next experiment.
I’m sure this is a lot of impotent teeth-gnashing, but it’s partly stemming from a desire to see Nintendo do better than they are doing. Sure, the DS/3DS is still destroying the Vita, it’s next best competitor, but it’s not hard to win a game when no one really bothers to play. I love the idea of the Wii U, but I’m not at all compelled by the lineup. The next Monster Hunter, with it’s Wii U/3DS cross-platform-ness is the absolute perfect synergy that Nintendo’s lineup demands, but will we see more examples like this? And when it’s core franchises are either light-years away, or even unmentioned, where’t the buzz supposed to come from? The gimmick of the Wii U is right up there with the gimmick of the Wii. We all fell for it, but it faded, and now there are probably more Wii systems gathering dust than there are Xboxes or PlayStations in the same state.