An in-depth look at Nintendo: The Present

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Upon entering the new millennium, Sony launched the PlayStation 2 and fans all over the world. Just one day after it’s launch, the Sony PlayStation 2 sold nearly a million units just on the first day. Sega also announced that they will no longer be making hardware, but will continue to develop and produce software, effectively bowing out of the console wars. However, eager to obtain a foothold in the console market, Microsoft would develop and launch it’s own console as well, the Xbox, making them another of Nintendo’s competitor. With stiffer competition than ever before, Nintendo would eventually lose the 6th console generation war with their GameCube.

Launched in late 2001, the Nintendo GameCube featured optical discs rather than game paks from their previous home consoles. But instead of conventional full-sized DVDs, Nintendo opted for miniDVDs instead which did not support DVD-Video and audio CD playback. The GameCube was also the first console in Japan to officially support online play but with only 4 games with online support and lackluster advertising, Nintendo was not as actively involved in the online competition as compared to the Sony PlayStation 2, Xbox or Sega Dreamcast. As such, the GameCube could only come in 3rd, selling only 21.74 million units in the 6th console generation war. The Sony PlayStation 2 came in at 1st with 155 million units sold before being discontinued in 2012 and the Xbox came in at 2nd with 24 million units sold as of 2006. Despite poor sales, the GameCube did have some of the best-rated games ever made; games like Metroid Prime, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and Super Smash Bros. Melee.

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The Nintendo DS

Despite some hits and misses in the home console wars, Nintendo has always made fantastic handheld portable devices. Take the Game Boy for instance, to date, Nintendo have sold more than 200 million units. Looking for the same success of the Game Boy, Nintendo released the Nintendo DS in November 2004 while Sony released the PlayStation Portable a month later. The Nintendo DS, short for dual screen, introduced new features; a LCD screen working in tandem with a touchscreen display at the bottom, wireless connectivity as well as a built-in microphone. Although Nintendo never meant for the Nintendo DS to replace the Game Boy Advance, the backwards compatibility of the Nintendo DS and title lineup such as Nintendogs, New Super Mario Bros., and Super Mario 64 DS made it the natural successor to the Game Boy series. The success of the Nintendo DS (14 million units sold) spawned various redesigns of the original handheld device such as the Nintendo DS Lite, the Nintendo DSi and the Nintendo DS XL. In total, all variations of the Nintendo DS would sell 153.67 million units worldwide. But the Nintendo DS would only be ultimately succeeded by the Nintendo 3DS in 2011.

As part of the 7th generation console wars, Nintendo released the Wii in late 2006. Rather than targeting the self proclaimed ‘hardcore’ gamers, the Wii decided to cast a wider net instead. Nintendo stated that the Wii would be targeted at a broader demographic as compared to it’s competitors, the Xbox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3. They also stated that their intention for the Wii wasn’t to compete with Sony or Microsoft, but it was to get as many people as possible to play their games. Their ad campaign also complimented their goal for Wii, with advertising slogans such as “Wii would like to play” and video clips showing a wide assortment of people enjoying the Wii system. While some might say that the Wii was more of a gimmick, no one can argue that the Wii was at that point, ahead of it’s time and was the first in the industry to introduce motion controls. Even Sony and Microsoft eventually tried to copy the Wii motion controls with the PlayStation Move and the Kinect. Together with it’s Virtual Console service, the Wii allowed gamers to download and play select games from past consoles. The Wii also boasts backwards compatibility with the GameCube, a feature which neither the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 had. As such, Nintendo managed to reap the rewards of their hard work. With the 7th console generation coming to an end, the Wii has managed to outsell the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 with a total of 99.38 million units sold worldwide.

In early 2011, Nintendo launched the Nintendo 3DS, the successor of the Nintendo DS line. Although similar to the Nintendo DS, the Nintendo 3DS boasts that it is capable of 3D effects without the need of 3D glasses. The launch of the Nintendo 3DS also allowed Nintendo to launch their new Nintendo Network. A new online system that is separate from the existing Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. This meant that players would have to make a new account on the Nintendo Network and have to repurchase games again which naturally, did not sit well with players. The Nintendo 3DS also raised a health concern from players. Nintendo had publicly stated that the 3D function of the Nintendo 3DS was unsuitable for children below the age of 6 as it might damage their vision. Some owners who used the 3D feature of the device experienced dizzyness and headaches as well. On top of all these issues, the Nintendo 3DS did not have a particularly long battery life, with up to a maximum of 4.5 hours of play from the device. Despite these flaws, the Nintendo 3DS managed to do well selling 29.84 million units worldwide and later even released a redesigned version of the Nintendo 3DS, the Nintendo 3DS XL which boast a larger screen as well as longer battery life. 

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The Wii U

And finally, the most recent of Nintendo’s console launch, the Wii U. Released just last November, the Wii U is the successor to the Wii. The Wii U is Nintendo’s first console to support high definition graphics and is part of the 8th console generation. The main feature of the Wii U is it’s controller, the Wii U GamePad. The Wii U GamePad has a in-built touchscreen which can either supplement or replicate the gameplay on the main display. The controller can also function on “Off TV Play” where the controller can function as a standalone screen without the use of a television. Nintendo has always been an advocate of backwards compatibility, so it is no surprise that the Wii U also supports backwards compatibility with the Wii and it’s hardware. That being said, sales for the Wii U have been slow at best due to the fact that aside from the launch titles, the Wii U have not seen many releases so far. Much of the year’s releases have not been released on the Wii U and as such, Nintendo have not been able to sell many units. The Wii U also had some issues on launch where it required players to download a patch that was about 1GB in size. However, should the connection fail or the download cancelled, the console would “brick” and be rendered useless. As a result, Nintendo had to offer free exchanges for owners who experienced such issues. And let’s be honest, the Wii U is much harder to sell to the 40 – 50 year olds because it is not as easy to use as the Wii. With the Wii, players are only just swinging their arms but Wii U takes Nintendo motion controls and reverts it back to an ordinary gamepad. And not to mention the launch lineup for the Wii U was less than impressive. It is no surprise that the Wii U did not sell as well as Nintendo had hoped.

Nintendo should also be praised for releasing a new console for the next console generation. It should have helped Nintendo solidify their foothold for the 8th console generation. However, the lack of game releases have significantly hurt Wii U sales. The Wii U have been released for 6 months and yet the only big title game release so far has been Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and even that is a rehash of an old game. Nintendo had a full year on Sony and Microsoft to establish a market presence with the Wii U but they are wasting this opportunity. Even now, there is still nothing on the horizon for the Wii U. Yes, Nintendo have made promises to release more games and content for the Wii U, but we have still not seen any concept or ideas. And until we see something solid, those are just empty promises. Nintendo could have taken this time to put some pressure on Sony and Microsoft but it does not seem like they are aware that they are throwing away this opportunity.

While Nintendo have not managed to do as well as many would have hoped, the fact that the Wii is the best selling console in the 7th console generation is something Nintendo should be proud of. The chances of Nintendo pulling ahead of the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3 was something no one predicted, and yet despite the odds, Nintendo did it. It does not matter that the Wii is packing less power than it’s competition, it doesn’t even matter if the Wii is a fad, because like it or not, Nintendo sold the most number of units.