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Talking Point: Challenges for the Future of Nintendo Gaming

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

If there’s one thing of which Nintendo has been the master, and continues to be so, it’s the art of fleshing out franchises and producing big-selling hit after hit. Colin Anderson spoke about the challenge of producing consistently profitable games: he provided the statistic that more than 90% of video game revenues are generated by less than 10% of releases. Nintendo has spent over 25 years nourishing franchises that epitomise pop culture in gaming: Mario stands tall, but Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid can’t be dismissed, while there are countless others that are less frequent such as Pikmin, Animal Crossing, Kid Icarus, Star Fox and Donkey Kong. There are others too, some that haven’t appeared for a while, but there are groups of fans eager to pounce on new releases or the chance to play as their favourite mascots: just look at the popularity of Super Smash Bros.

This is an area where Nintendo, simply through its extra years and experience, has developed an advantage over its rivals. Even those that feel Nintendo’s strength is weakening, such as mobile developer Ngmoco’s CEO Neil Young, acknowledge that the power of these brands gives Nintendo important assets, even if he ultimately believes that the company’s handheld ecosystem may fall apart.

… in that regard maybe we're competitive, but man, they've got some killer franchises. You wouldn't want to go up against Zelda and Mario and Pokémon and Kirby every day of the week.

Nintendo's challenge isn’t just to maintain this success, but in addition to produce franchises and game experiences that move beyond the perception that these are just fun distractions as video games, with nothing more substantial to offer than escapist fantasy. Much of the event we attended, and this feature, has been talking about ways that Nintendo can make its systems more than simple entertainment systems, the concept that defined NES in its branding. Rob Fahey, a video game writer for over a decade and with substantial experience, shared a view that video games need to evolve and grow up, along with its first generation of gamers that picked up a NES controller all those years ago.

Nintendo's challenge isn’t just to maintain this success, but in addition to produce franchises and game experiences that move beyond the perception that these are just fun distractions as video games.

Fahey shared the fact that after a year living in Japan he returned to the UK and played catch-up, playing as many games as possible to see what he missed. He cited examples of titles that he felt showed artistic creativity and a mature approach, showing that gaming can be about more than stomping koopas or, for many gamers with other systems, shooting bad guys in the face. Some of the games he listed ultimately pointed to Sony as a leader in terms of supporting, developing and publishing games that challenge the gamer with new ideas; these included Heavy Rain, Catherine and Journey. Titles of this ilk are rare or perhaps invisible on Nintendo platforms, with its systems often associated with variations on 20 year old themes.

There’s nothing wrong with giving Nintendo gamers more of what they love, of course, but Nintendo should make a conscious effort to give us different experiences that aren’t mature in the sense of aiming for headshots, but in the way the game asks us to interact, behave and think. It’s not all bad, the JRPG trilogy of Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower on Wii may have been evolutions of established game-types, but they were Nintendo-backed projects that dared to try new things and engage the gamer with extensive, varied storylines, some of which genuinely posed moral and emotional dilemmas.

Producing video games that push new ideas in narrative and story-telling doesn’t necessarily match up to a shareholder or accountant’s dream, but Nintendo is developing high quality digital platforms that can support smaller projects. Both the 3DS and Wii U eShop services can be testing grounds for ambitious new ideas, giving Nintendo’s audience yet another source of variety in their gaming habits. Sony is currently the master of this particular type of mature experience, but the game isn’t lost for Nintendo.

It's in Nintendo's hands

We’ve tackled some ideas and issues highlighted by five experienced industry figures over a three hour session, and it may seem a lot to ask Nintendo to address and develop them all. It is a lot, but that’s the industry as it is today. Consumers have the internet, smartphones, tablets, increasingly interactive televisions and rival gaming systems all screaming for their attention. Nintendo can take these on because it’s established, has a base of loyal supporters and franchises that consistently sell in big numbers. That safety net needs to be strengthened, however, if Nintendo is to be more than a game company that’s always a little behind the times, but adorably idealistic. Wii U and 3DS may not be graphical powerhouses, but they are innovative and can be utilised brilliantly by imaginative minds. Nintendo has some of the most creative staff in the business, and with enough boldness can set the agenda for the next generation of gaming.

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User Comments (36)

Zyph

#2

Zyph said:

These are the type of articles that keeps me going back for more :)

MegaAdam

#3

MegaAdam said:

Gamification is not really a good thing. Meaningless virtual rewards for using a gamepad as a TV remote? Not really seeing how that's a killer app.

RVN

#4

RVN said:

nintendo, pleeeeeeeeease, something competitive, like metroid hunters was on DS, i know it's all about fun, but some franchise sure could have a competitive tone, you know, starfox could be pretty fun if it was about skirmishes between fox team, wolf team... etc.
I'm not asking for no storyline at all (wich, let's be honest, it's common among competitive games), but come on, it's lots of fun improving your gaming in a game deep enough to explore it's mechanics

Samholy

#5

Samholy said:

apple provides fast food gaming and they should keep it that way.
when i see that square enix is releasing The world ends with you on iOS, it saddens me. leave those great titles on the right consoles. if people wanna try these, theyll buy the appropriate apparel.

and anyway.... playing on a touchscreen isnt fun at all. i need buttons. the touchscreen is interesting as a secondary or random feature, but not as the main ''gamepad''. try a fps on ios, youll see. its crap.

and i totally agree with RVN. make the game competitive, not only fun ! I can get fun everywhere. but competitive games, i get them on my ps3 only. on which i can also get tons of fun so...
do something nintendo,youre like on a cliff losing grip.

player310

#6

player310 said:

Our 'literacy' is kind of 'sci-fi' to some parts of the world... my prayers to developing countries...

grumblegrumble

#7

grumblegrumble said:

Personally, I don't think people will be happy until they have game chips implanted in their corneas and in their brains. I'll be the one old guy who stands out, clutching onto the holographic lamp post, saying "nooooo!" I'm perfectly happy with my Atari 7800, NES and 3DS XL :)

Squiggle55

#8

Squiggle55 said:

I'm just happy that Zelda and Mario will be in HD. And I will be more than happy if they simply make themselves more attractive to 3rd parties so that when a new downloadable title comes out I have to choose between the PSN and the Wii U Shop. But if Nintendo doesn't use a universal achievement system I'm going to choose PSN every time, unless the game pad provides a different/better way to play the game.

hydeks

#10

hydeks said:

I like how you show Journey (PSN) as a image for continuing new brands of games, cause all honesty, Journey, even though I know it's made by a studio of Sony's, feels so unique and artistically beautiful that you would think Nintendo, or there studios, did it. I would say Nintendo would have a brighter future if they stayed with there brands, but in the same time look at Sony games like Ico and Journey and take a idea or two from them, and make something new and awesome. Not everything with Nintendo needs to be made into a iconic mascot :P

GameLord08

#11

GameLord08 said:

If Apple is considered a major competitor in the gaming industry...

...then should Wii Fit truly be considered an actual self-fitness/exercise program?

ThomasBW84Admin

#12

ThomasBW84 said:

In terms of Apple being a part of the gaming industry, I believe it is. Is gaming on an Apple device part of my life, not in the slightest, and that may apply to a number within the NL community. Is Apple (and Google, with Android) part of the gaming industry in the wider world? I don't personally think that can be denied.

Exactly the kind of debate I'm hoping for, though :)

Mandoble

#13

Mandoble said:

This conference looks to me as "the future of the sport" attended by a football player while the conference talks about how good would be to sportify the races riding turtles or the epic tomatoe battles. The football player will exit the conference thinking "whatever while the football keeps existing ... "

Bankai

#15

Bankai said:

I like how people deny Apple is a gaming competitor and the reason? They personally don't like apple products.

Apparently some Nintendo fans are more important than a hundred million or so Apple owners. Good form.

c1pher_c0mplet

#16

c1pher_c0mplet said:

Nintendo will be fine. Sometimes they make eyebrow-raising decisions and take awhile to do certain things but I think they've really pulled out the stops thus far with the 3DS. While there are things that can be improved in 3DS, Nintendo has crafted the system with care in every possible way. Personalization (via your Mii), a single Friend Code, GameNotes (for jotting down important details), a multitasking OS (which I love), SwapNote for chatting, in-game voice chat (with games that support it), and the eShop is simply PHENOMENAL. There are so many great titles from indie games to classic games to play that even with the 3DS' slim library in North America/Europe (compared to Japan), you'll never run out of things to play, plus the promotions like "Mario Madness" before New Super Mario Bros. 2 was released really show that Nintendo is (finally) serious about the online space. While a lot of people may not use them as much (or at all), the cameras are great for taking funny AR pics with your Mii(s) and since I carry my 3DS around for StreetPass tags, the music player is great. (It's not iPod but it doesn't need to be.) Sure, improvements can be made but I for one think Nintendo's doing an excellent job thus far and I simply can't wait to see what the Wii U has in store.

Chris720

#17

Chris720 said:

@Waltzy I personally don't think of Apple as a gaming competitor simply because I find none of the "games" on their App Store appealing to me in any way, shape or form. If I want a true gaming experience I'll choose a Vita or 3DS. However, others, like yourself, enjoy these games.

Just because others don't think the same way as you about Apple doesn't allow you to think they hate Apple products - not everyone will have the same opinion and YOU have to respect that rather than being Mr. High & Mighty and that you know best for everyone.

OMG PEOPLE THINK DIFFERENTLY TO EVERYBODY ELSE, HOLY SHI-!!!

Jukilum

#18

Jukilum said:

I don't think I'll be doing it for several more years, but eventually I'll probably get a PS3 for games like Journey, The Unfinished Swan and Puppeteer.

To those who are saying that gaming on a touch screen with no physical button input doesn't work for them, hasn't the DS proved over and over again that it can work great? Kirby Mass attack was touch screen only and worked great and was fun. The same goes for Elite Beat Agents, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, the entire Ace Attorney franchise, etc.

Nintendo has had some of the "new experience" type games on their systems, like Zack and Wiki.

player310

#19

player310 said:

@OlympicCho I personally love Apple products, I have a range of them and have recommended them to friends and family - but - I think that gaming on the iPhone is a joke with no real substance... besides the 99 cent shovelware, playing even a simple game like Megaman on the platform was frustrating and seemingly pointless because of the controls. Long live Nintendo handhelds.

Bankai

#20

Bankai said:

@Chris720 You misunderstand me. Apple is competition to the gaming industry. That has nothing whatsoever to do with my, yours, or anyone else's opinion of Apple devices. It is simple fact: Apple has platforms that play games that are in the hands of hundreds of millions of people and every single third party developer - big and small - is diverting resources to mobile game development.

ergo, competition.

mudjo

#21

mudjo said:

“Gamification”. In basic terms, this means applying video games to activities and mediums outside of gaming, therefore expanding the audience further.

Mediums!?!?

You should say 'media'!

Bankai

#22

Bankai said:

"“Gamification”. In basic terms, this means applying video games to activities and mediums outside of gaming, therefore expanding the audience further."

Actually, technically, Gamification simply means to take the idea of a "game" and apply it to mundane activities.

ThomasBW84Admin

#23

ThomasBW84 said:

@OlympicCho My use of the term gamification was based on how it was presented in that particular talk. I'm sure your definition is right, but Mark Sorrell was making specific examples in the context I've given :-)

Bankai

#24

Bankai said:

@ThomasBW84 Well yeah, naturally at a game industry conference they'll be defining it in the way that it applies to them. :)

Nothing wrong with that - sorry if it sounded like I was criticising, that wasn't the intention - I just thought I'd clarify what the broad definition of the term is.

Hokori

#25

Hokori said:

Othello is also gaming, let's just all agree EVERYTHING entertainment wise (besides movies and TV shows) is considered gaming
Heck twirling your thumbs is free and everyone can do it, let's just say that will kill Nintendo as well

triforcepower73

#26

triforcepower73 said:

Gamification is ok, I guess. As long as it doesn't effect their main franchises. Just make pointless, storyless games with a simple idea like typing to protect a military base from being destroyed by meteors or something like that. Just don't make a game where you type to deflect Ganon's sword strikes or type to make mario jump from place to place to reach the button/lever to kill bowser. That would ruin those series.

Chris720

#27

Chris720 said:

@Waltz Okay, yes Apple has a footing in everybody's life somewhere, so developers can easily target them and sell them games. However, I'm personally not a fan of touch screen controls, I like them on the 3DS because they work well and also aren't the main way of controlling the game. The iPod and iPhone both rely on touch control entirely which is alright for some games, but terrible for others - for example, platformers.

If an Apple product is your first line of gaming then I think you're an idiot. The iPod can play games but it will never be a definitive handheld console while Sony and Nintendo are around - it's holding in the gaming market may be large, but when most Apple owners most likely own a 3DS, Vita, Wii, 360 etc. in the first place then Apple's footing in the gaming market is very weak.

StarDust4Ever

#28

StarDust4Ever said:

Screw Pokemon; I actually learned how to type using Mario Teaches Typing. Can y'all believe that?

Bankai

#29

Bankai said:

@Chris720 You might think that people whose primary way of playing games is through Apple products are "idiots." I have even less respect for people who allow their opinion of people be determined based on their own entertainment preferences. No one made you the supreme arbiter of what is and isn't fun, so can it.

For the record (why the hell I need to make a disclaimer to you I have no idea), Apple products are no more my primary source of games than Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft. I seem to be the only person on the planet sane enough to care more about the games I play than the platform I play them so, so I go wherever the good games are.

Chunky_Droid

#31

Chunky_Droid said:

Apple is a HUGE competitor in gaming, and Google is increasing its speed too, I would say definitely moreso within the age bracket of anyone over 15 however, being that the majority of the AppStore/PlayStore users (I have no evidence to back this up, though I believe it to be common sense) are mobile phone users with credit cards capable of buying these games.

Personally, I can't stand iPhones themselves (I'm an Android user), though I can't stand playing games on my Android either, it's a clumsy mess in 90% of the games I should enjoy playing. However, this is a personal choice, I prefer my 3DS, then my Vita (still waiting for something I'm interested in other than Katamari that will get me back on it), then, if I have absolutely nothing left to do and I'm waiting for a doctor's appointment or waiting for a train, I'll play some Zombie Dash or whatever on my Samsung Galaxy SIII.

Chris720

#32

Chris720 said:

@Waltz I forgot to explain what I meant by this sentence didn't I? :P "If an Apple product is your first line of gaming then I think you're an idiot"

What I meant by that was this, if they prefer playing on an Apple product over a Vita or 3DS (if they own one) for their gaming needs then I personally think they're a bit weird. Everyone has their own choice of where and how they receive their entertainment, but when I see people saying that the "iPod experience" outweighs the experience on a dedicated handheld... well y'know... and @ChunkyDroid has helped make my point, nothing can beat playing on a dedicated console, Apple/Android are still useful for those 5-minute games, but in my opinion, that is as far as I would ever take that Apple product.

Also, since when I have been making myself the supreme arbiter? I've just been stating my opinion and you've been stating your opinion. Oh and how are you the only "sane" person on this planet? Get off your high horse and stop thinking you're Mr. "Definitive" and you know best for everyone and that your opinion outweighs everybody else's.

Some times I do agree with some of the statements you make and you can back them up rather well, but I'm pretty sure that just goes to your head and you starting drifting around the stratosphere.

Geonjaha

#33

Geonjaha said:

"Some times I do agree with some of the statements you make and you can back them up rather well, but I'm pretty sure that just goes to your head and you starting drifting around the stratosphere."

Hahaha. Brilliant.

JohnPhilipSousa

#34

JohnPhilipSousa said:

I personally find that a smartphone is quite an important device in this day and age. I myself decided to get a Windows Phone so that my money would go to a company that makes real gaming machines. For me games are a small part of smartphones. The real important thing about them is internet and productivity usages. Games belong on game systems. Not phones.

SilverArrow

#35

SilverArrow said:

Ugh. Some people won't be happy until Nintendo successfully divide by zero.

Nintendo, keep doing what you're doing. Everything will be A-OK. :)

kdognumba1

#36

kdognumba1 said:

Reading about these typing games reminded me of my Phantasy Star Online days on Dreamcast and Gamecube. I learned how to type previous to these games but got good by playing these games and typing on the keyboards (love the GC KB controller). Also for me, the 3DS is a great device that I use for more then just gaming. I use it as a portable digital art pad, I use it as my primary netflix device (it helps for those hot Texas summer nights), take it everywhere and use the pedometer.

I really like the direction Nintendo has been going because it seems to me they get this, they get that there's many more people out there playing games now and that new ideas and content need to come about. On the 3DS, we've already seen several new IP's come from Nintendo and the return of Kid Icarus. I'm very happy with what they've been doing over this past year and the major turn around they've made.

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