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Video: Experts Believed Nintendo Was In Trouble Back In 1990, Too

Posted by Damien McFerran

Some things never change

When you're one of the world's most recognisable brands then it's only natural for people to predict your downfall. That has happened to Nintendo many times in the past, and history is repeating itself as a new console war begins in earnest. Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's Xbox One launch this Christmas, and these hardware releases — combined with poor sales of the Wii U — have led many experts to predict Nintendo's ultimate failure.

The important thing to remember here is that this dismal prediction has been repeated several times in the past, and Nintendo has always confounded expectations and pulled something out of the bag. If you need any proof check out the video below, unearthed by Howard "Gamemaster" Phillips — who also happens to star in the footage.

In the report — which aired on Good Morning America way back in 1990 — consumer editor Paula Lyons explored the issues facing Nintendo at the start of the '90s. The NES was dominant but global recession was about to hit and the games market was shrinking. To make matters worse, Sega's 16-bit Genesis had hit store shelves, providing the ageing NES with some stiff competition.

As we all know, Nintendo didn't roll over and die thanks to rival firms turning up and stealing its market share. The Genesis was a massive success, but so was the SNES, which had launched in Japan when this report was made but hadn't reached American shores. Another fascinating similarity between now and then is the importance of portable systems; Lyons notes that without a 16-bit console on the shelves, Nintendo was relying on the monochrome Game Boy to bolster sales — something which is equally true of the 3DS today.

It's interesting to see that console wars are just as tight and competitive these days as they were back in 1990 — if not more so.

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User Comments (82)



NintyMan said:

There are some similarities to back then and today. A down economy (though the 1990 recession was absolutely nothing like the Great Recession of 2008 that we're still recovering from), a new rival on the market, and a new system that some were unsure of. The video game industry was still fairly young back then, but I think Nintendo's challenges are stiffer today with two rivals, a much worse economy, and a console that's already out worldwide but is struggling to sell more. I still have faith that Nintendo will pull through, though. Experts have been pessimistic plenty of times in the past with N64 and GameCube and even the DS. But like Howard mentioned, it takes good games to sell.

That was an interesting video. I love how one of the kids said that video games are like TV shows but you can actually do stuff in them.



8bitforever said:

I loved seeing Howard Phillips again. This video brings back so many memories from my youth.



unrandomsam said:

@Wonder_Mask What is easy or difficult doesn't really matter only what turns out to be correct. (Strange that so many of these analyst types seem to keep doing what they are doing but are wrong so often.)



Shiryu said:

Ah, kids these days have no clue what it was all about!

... oh my God, I just turned into my dad _;



unrandomsam said:

If they continue as they are making these small losses then they won't be in trouble in the lifetime of anybody today. (Excluding some breakthrough that makes the average age to die 150).



unrandomsam said:

The only way they could get in trouble is by being really reckless which is something they have always avoided.



Marshi said:

Its like howard says. You can have a top of the range movie player but it dosnt matter a jot if you dont have fun movies to play on them. In other words, yes ps4 and xbone are much much better technologically speaking,but wiiu has lots of FUN games that arent bogged down in dull realism and cant be played anywhere else. All nintendo need to,all they have had to do for the last twelve month is ADVERTISE ADVERTISE ADVERTISE! They advertised the nes so much in the 90's as this video shows. Why arent they using the same aggresive marketing skills they had back then? They advertise the 3ds constantly,why not wiiu?
I know one thing. IF Nintendo ever go down,it will be Nintendos fault



Kyloctopus said:

I don't remember any "experts" saying Nintendo's doomed. Negative stuff, yes but doomed?
I think there are way too many Nintendo fans that take this a touch bit personally.



BlatantlyHeroic said:

As a gamer, I hate the console war. I really think that each company should just forget about their competition and start creating new systems with new experiences.



Lobster said:

Loved seeing Howard again. Notice the party line has not changed in over twenty years: it's the GAMES that matter! How true that is. It's carried them far and will carry them another twenty plus years for sure.



JimLad said:

I never thought Nintendo was doomed, but I think the Wii U is if it doesn't turn a corner this christmas.
I'd hate for them to stop making consoles because of it.
They released too early and didn't have enough ideas to make the pad worthwhile. That's all.



fchinaski said:

@BlatantlyHeroic Competition is what drives inovation. Competition is healthy, you're mistaking it for fanboyism, which is childish. It's competition that makes companies think: "what can we do differently from the others?"



MAB said:

You peops need to understand that the market has changed since back in the good old days... It's not about fun anymore but about how many dudebro punks you can impress with bland rehashed FPS games



ajcismo said:

I dig your style dude. Couldn't agree more.

Wii U will have yet one more holiday season to do something. We still have Zelda, SSB, and (hopefully) X in 2014. And you can't tell me there isn't a Metroid game in the works. The problem is nobody is paying attention because Iwata was too cheep to spend some coin on MAKING everyone pay attention. Kinda like what MS/Sony are doing right now with their commercial saturation. Iwata will be looking for a job before the Wii U dies as he should be.



triforcepower73 said:

@Shiryu Fun, right? Cause Nintendo have always offered more fun for me than the other two. Not all kids don't have a clue what it was all about, so don't stereotype a whole generation!



Deathgaze said:

I don't think they're doomed but they have plummeted downhill. The last Nintendo console I loved was the SNES (Heck it is my favourite system of all time). GameCube had some great games too though. But N64 and Wii were meh IMO. Wii U is looking grimmer with each and every day. I have no reason to turn it on.

I don't mean any disrespect to the big N but I don't think they're anywhere near as good as their 8 and 16 bit self.



pinta_vodki said:

Yes, except this time it's Nintendo, not Sega who released earlier, and unlike Genesis Wii U really isn't on par with the competition. So, Wii U (I hope not all of Nintendo) seems indeed doomed.



NintyMan said:

@BlatantlyHeroic: Competition isn't about fans arguing with each other, it's about companies competing with one other to make the best products. Before the 90's Nintendo was almost like a monopoly, and while they still made some good games, a monopoly tends to slack off on its products since people would still buy it because the monopoly would be the only company making the good. But when a rival comes in making the same kind of good, that makes the company think about how they could make better products to offset them. For non-business folks this is a good thing because it gives us more variety to choose from and it's a good thing for the economy as a whole. It's when fanboys of a company take it and use it as a ridiculing tool against other fanboys that it becomes silly.



TruenoGT said:

Seeing those newly wrapped NES games makes me wish I could go back in time to a game store and buy a brand new NES and games...



theberrage said:

Anyone familiar with Everyday it seems they write articles outlining the demise/impending doom of Nintendo. The articles are always shown on the front page of yahoo. I often wonder who pays for these articles or is it just some strange ray finkle-esque obsession?



Mk_II said:

Imagine the uproar and gnashing of teeth if Nintendo decided to delay the launch of their newest console by a year in the USA (and two in Europe). The internet would explode!



Zombie_Barioth said:

Its interesting just how many similarities there between then and now, right down to wether or not people will want to upgrade. Hearing the ids talk about why they like Nintendo was pretty heartwarming too.

I think you might be taking the console war thing a bit too seriously. Companies have always competed with one another, there have always been people arguing over one thing being better than another, whats different is back then we didn't have a place to anonymously hurl insults at one another. Many of us were also kids so the tone of many arguements were often different.



MrGawain said:

How we can rate the Wii U when the XboxOne and PS4 haven't even been released, yet alone have a years worth of sales and ratings under their belt is beyond me.

I think that unlike 1990, we now have the internet telling us ever miniscule amount of info about how many consoles have sold and immediate updates about releases and delays. When I was a kid we read about new systems and games, but usually only knew they were out when we walked into a shop and saw it on the shelf.

Now everyone has an opinion, and the internet to tell the world about it. And frequently it's a vile lash back at the competitors to 'their' game companies. The question is: Can the internet destroy sales for something via negative press?



XavandSo said:

I saw this awhile back and it still keeps me jealous. Sometimes I do wish I grew up in the late 1980's in suburban America, just to experience the Golden Age of Nintendo.. Ah... A man can dream.

Nintendo aren't going anywhere, the 3DS is too strong. The Wii U does have challenges ahead, but if Nintendo made profit off both the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, I have a feeling they'll eventually profit off the Wii U.



bezerker99 said:

@3:15 - "You don't stop playing because you get old. But you could get old if you stop playing." Haha, words to live by!

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this video. It really took me back.



mookysam said:

Nintendo's "been in trouble" for years. The difference now is that it actually is.



marnelljm said:

anyone who says Nintendo is in trouble should google about Sony selling off their buildings to cover losses from the PS3 launch disaster



Finntendo said:


yet here 1990s recession was horrible but we learnt from it nd 2008 didn't hit so bad. But our small nation doesn't really make difference in this case.

But the gaming has changed so much. Back then, you got one game and played it until next christmas when you got the next game. Now it's game here and game there, buybuybuy. Gaming was for children, now it's for the whole family. Those who grew up with NES are still plaiying and their kids are the next gen.
They all have their ups and downs, just like political parties

But oh my dear Nintendo, you won't fall! <3



Artwark said:

Nintendo has never failed me and I love it. I want to work on Nintendo somehow. But I don't know how.

I can try to work with sega and make good sonic games but that still wouldn't be enough.

the 16 bit war is the best video game war in my life.



WhiteTrashGuy said:

The biggest difference is that the SNES wasn't released yet. The WiiU has been here for a year. Don't get me wrong, I've loved my WiiU since launch day, but the fact remains that Nintendo NEEDS to get families on-board for Christmas. Talk up the off-tv play, it has been the most used feature in our house. I honestly think dumbing it down and calling it the Wii2 would have resolved a lot of issues. : (



fchinaski said:

@WhiteTrashGuy I agree. Families aren't flocking towards the Wii U like they did with the Wii. Maybe, and just maybe, Nintendo missed the spot when they tried to make the Wii U a machine aimed to appeal to both casual gamers (families, mostly) and gamers that tend to prefer what MS and Sony have to offer. (I don't like this causal/hardcore division, but it exists to some extent). The latter will probably stick with Sony/MS, the former don't seem to understand what the Wii U is all about. Nintendo will fail in getting the Wii U across if they don't change their strategy asap — people need to know that the system can be as fun as the Wii and better in every way, or they won't jump in.



dok5555555 said:

Great video. I missed out on NES but that still reminded me of the days where I used to go over my friend's house and play N64.




@theberrage Yeah...the motley fool? They are a bunch of idiots. They never outline their arguments, and they're invested in Microsoft and Apple. Don't listen to what any of those fools say.



VeeFlamesNL said:

@LUIGITORNADO Ugh, tell me 'bout it! I get useless emails from 'em, just 'cuz I went on their site ONCE!

Anyway, I don't think Ninty are going anywhere! Just make the Wii U like the 3DS and you are gold! Thing is... Why does it seem like it's taking a long time?




The other day I was thinking about maybe getting an X1 or PS4, and then it hit me.........what games do these consoles have that I want or don't already have access to. NO GAMES, and I can't buy a new machine just for 1 or 2 games



AtlanteanMan said:

The real secret to Nintendo's success is hidden in plain sight: their family-friendliness. Look at the game libraries of their competitors, Sony and Microsoft; a heavy emphasis on mature-rated titles typically with realistic visuals and gritty and/or violent themes, including a gross oversaturation of first-person shooters. After awhile all of these games really begin to look, sound, and play alike, occasionally to borderline plagiaristic levels.

But turn on a new Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, or other Nintendo game and there's an emotional reaction (at least for me) that most other games just no longer offer: sheer, bubbly joy. They're clean and family-safe (though in certain cases like the Fire Emblem series, still offer very serious and mature subjects and complex storylines), the visuals, while artistic rather than based upon real life, are brighter, FAR more colorful, and actually seem to provide more "escapism", and whether you're talking about the puzzles of Zelda, the deceptively hair-pulling challenge of some Mario levels (seriously, anybody who says those games are for kids needs to try getting all the stars for Mario 64 or either Mario Galaxy game), or the isolated atmosphere of Metroid.

Compared to other game developers Nintendo frankly has far fewer "stinkers" because their commitment to quality is so high. You can see the love and genuine care put into every level, dungeon, storyline, and puzzle (and where many gamers complain about the lack of online emphasis, look at it this way: when you buy a Nintendo title you're getting a COMPLETE GAME EXPERIENCE that won't keep gouging you for more money and diminishing returns).

Don't get me wrong; I enjoy many of Sony and Microsoft's offerings, too. But where they are two electronics/computer software mega-corporations that also happen to make videogames, Nintendo is a VIDEOGAME COMPANY, heart and soul. It's what they do, and their entire focus revolves around it and making games that, as they've so eloquently put it, "players won't want to sell/trade in". And this is why, despite all the forecasts of their imminent demise, Nintendo keeps going strong. They're really not in direct competition with Sony, Microsoft, mobiles, or anyone else who're just looking at the "bottom line" and the cross-merchandising aspects of making people shell out money, because the products they offer are really entirely different animals.



hYdeks said:

yup, Nintendo has been picked on for as long as I can remember, sad thing is, these so called "experts" have been very much wrong



audiobrainiac said:

I remember this. Its funny that the future of the company is now something that interests a lot of players. And EVERYONE'S an "expert". It was so much simpler when all i cared about was actually playing games. I want Nintendo's hardware to stick around and i'm pretty sure it will. Past events like these are why they reassure that everything is fine.



MasterWario said:

I don't know what will happen with Nintendo's consoles, but I really have no idea how Nintendo could possibly fail with how well the 3DS is doing.



ledreppe said:

Some things never change indeed! We still have crystal ball gazing market analysts predicting the doom of Nintendo cough Michael cough Pachter cough.



tripunktoj said:

"You don't stop playing because you get old...
But you could get old if you stop playing"
I loved that!



sdelfin said:

I thought the report was surprisingly well done and more accurate and fair than we'd get these days. There was little mention of any real trouble for Nintendo, which wasn't a realistic prediction looking back, but the concerns raised were valid. With the crazy market share Nintendo had, there was nowhere to go but down if a competitor could get a foothold. Strangely enough, Sega's Genesis would surge in sales after the SNES launched.



Lobster said:

@sdelfin I agree with you, that report WAS a lot more accurate and fair than you'd see these days. I think news in general was! There weren't multiple 24 hour networks scampering to fill all that air time, searching for ways to get the most eyeballs. That always seems to mean scare tactics, blowing things out of proportion, and eventually beating a dead horse. This report was short and to the point, and didn't do any of those other things. I've watched Good Morning America a few times in recent years and it has just gotten totally inane, in part I think because they can't compete in the news business anymore.



FluttershyGuy said:

1990: The Sega Genesis is coming, Nintendo is DOOMED!
2013: The PS4 & Xbone are coming, Nintendo is DOOMED!
2036: The (fill in the blank) is coming, Nintendo is DOOMED!

Seriously, I hope when a doctor tells me I'm doomed that I have Nintendo's longevity.



gamingreal said:

ahh this was before the console cycles were set in motion so no one knew what to expect,
seems that despite superior graphics and shooters taking over platformers as the popular genre that the gaming industry or its target audiance hasn't changed in the slightest,
There were a lot of copy and paste platformers in the day so this fad of copy and paste cash in shooters isnt even new



KingMike said:

I'm not the only one who loves the NES but will admit that, with the NES monopoly, that was the year it went from (pretty much) no competition to having competition. So yup, they're doomed. (and I think it was 1991 when the feds broke that monopoly)
And why Sega was so memorably AGGRESSIVE in the 16-bit console war.

And $50 for Play Action Football?



QuickSilver88 said:

Nintendo has made some mistakes with WiiU and while they are righting the ship this may just be a down generation for them like GC was. First off they were behind in online services and HD development. They are making progress....the eShop is a little more than 2yrs old and already looks and runs smoother than the bloated PSN. They still need to make their games more online featured but they are learning and leading with 3DS with good online in games like Star Ox, MK, and now Pokemon. Shiiggy admited they weren't ready for HD and that is really pathetic considering nothing of meaning came out for Wii after Zelda SS in my question is WTF were your teams doing? Conceptually WiiU is good and better for core gamers than the haters that haven't tried it will admit. I have gamed since the beginning of games and owned just about every pc, console, handheld ever made....lso I have seen a lot. So expect in the coming years Nintendo's stuff will look great in Hd and have more online....right now they seem a little confused as to how to fit in. Their tremendous success with casuals with the Wii was a one time phenomina and I think they know that, the last time they made a play for core gamers was GC which was a great little system but failed commercially compared to the ps2. The WiiU concept could be a universal system for families and core gamers but honestly the specs are a little weak to impress core gamers. Also Nintendo just doesn't seem to be able to maintain good relations with Western 3rd parties and has a poor rep with core gamers since Wii and has already lost that market to $ony/M$. So they are sort of stuck......what they need to do is what they are doing with 3DS and that is to just make great games across the spectrum.....3DS appeals to kids, teens, adults, familes, core gamers because it has games for everyone. Just do that for WiiU and people will be drawn to good games there are enough two generaion households to accomodate the model if the games for all parties are available. Meanwhile Nintendo needs to do a lot more to work with 3rd parties than just sell units. They need to advertise, they need to colaborate and they need to in some cases pony up money to get certain titles. I personally think their best strength is their vast llibrary of IPs many of which they leave dormat for ever...why not outsource some of them that they can't develop internally and then publish them. This would encourage 3rd parties to develop on the system and give them expsosure to the system and Nintendo in a more likely to succeed environment. Whatdev wouldn't want to colaborate on something like starfox, metriod, fzero or another great franchise?



KnightRider666 said:

"Will the SNES fly off the shelves like it has in Japan?" I think we already know the answer to that one, lol.



G3ry said:

@fchinaski I dont see many diferences in the "new" consoles, only Nintendo keeps saying that, but thats not enough for kids and adults these days...



element187 said:

Ahhhh the golden age of gaming. NES was the best console ever made and the games still hold up really well.... Well the ones from Nintendo, Tecmo, Konami, Capcom do.



BulbasaurusRex said:

For comparison's sake, prices in the U.S. have approximately doubled since 1990, which means those Sega games were really expensive.



Ichiban said:

ah the good ole days when Nintendo has 3rd party support on their home consoles....
sheds a tear



Kolzig said:

Howard Phillips should be hired as the boss of Nintendo of Europe to fix our issues.
The return of the Gamemaster.



GamerforGod said:

I think that we all need to remember a couple of things here. First of all, the PS3 got off to a completely abysmal start in its console generation (I mean the Wii had better sales than the 360 and the PS3 combined in the earlier part of the console generation), and the PS3 has done just fine. Also, while nothing is impossible, I find it highly unlikely that Nintendo will ever lose its stranglehold in Japan, and as long as they have that, they will be just fine.



NESguy94 said:

SEGA does what NIntendon't, that brings back memories. SEGA practically died and barely managed to survive. Nintendo could emulate their worst sales years for the next 50 years and they would still have money to keep going.

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