It’s a sad day when the press conference of a legendary giant like Nintendo feels like a little league baseball game amongst the professionals. Today, Nintendo put on their digital only E3 press conference to make their annual announcements. Being a Nintendo fan myself, I walked away disappointed in Nintendo questioning their future. I would hate to see the happenings of Sega play as a re-run for Nintendo, but signs point to that unfortunate fate. Hopefully, Nintendo will soon see the error of their ways and course-correct. (At least Curtis’s E3 prediction didn’t come true.)
While their conference wasn’t anything mind-blowing, Nintendo came out doing what they do best: making announcements about new entries in their classic franchises. The conference came down to two heavy hitter announcements: Star Fox Zero and Super Mario Maker.
Star Fox Zero made its debut today in an announcements. This is the first Star Fox title on the Wii U console. All of the staples of Star Fox are readily apparent, barrel rolls and all. What is unique about this game are the ways in which you use the gamepad to control your ship. By leveraging the gyroscope in the gamepad, you simply move it in the direction of where you want to fly and shoot from within the cockpit. Your television screen gives you the 3rd person perspective you know well from past games. It will be interesting to see how these new mechanics resonate with players as most unique gamepad uses have proven rather gimmicky in cases past.
The other title that made a splash during their digital press conference was Super Mario Maker. If Mario and Sackboy(Sackgirl…?) had a baby, it would be Super Mario Maker. The game allows you to bring together your creative juices and build your own worlds within the Mario galaxy. If there is one game I’m excited for from Nintendo, it’s Super Mario Maker.
Nintendo also announced quite a few other games including Zelda: TriForce Heroes, Metroid Prime Federation Force, Yokai Watch, and more. These new titles are great for hardcore Nintendo fans, but a horse can only be beaten so many times before its dead, and the pulse of this horse is slowing down.
The Bad and the Ugly
The biggest problem with Nintendo’s conference this year is that it was a spitting image of conferences for the past couple of years showing very little deviation from the classic Nintendo galaxy. A remake of Yoshi Island but with characters made out of yarn, a new Zelda game with a few new mechanics, and another entry in Mario Tennis? This has been done before by Nintendo for so many years and its one of the primary causes of them losing relevancy in the console war.
I challenge you to Google Search “console war.” In current news, you’ll find a myriad of articles pitting Sony against Microsoft with very little to say about Nintendo. The primary device keeping Nintendo above water is the Nintendo 3DS; a handheld that nearly failed until Nintendo made some drastic changes to gain back adoption. However, aside from the hardcore, the primary adopters of Nintendo’s handheld is limited to children; those who haven’t been exposed to all of Nintendo’s games in the past.
Nintendo sold 3.38 million Wii U’s in their past fiscal year. Sony sold nearly two-thirds that number in its first month on the market and almost doubled it within 5 months. The Wii U has sold a total of 9.54 million consoles in almost 3 years. Sony’s latest figure released in April put them at 23 million sold in just 1.5 years. While Nintendo reported its first profit this year, it’s hard not to attribute this to their recent release of Super Smash Brothers and its loyal colt following. If this is the cause, the spike will be temporary and the outlook for Nintendo isn’t the brightest. This is especially true in the United States, as over 75% of this past year’s sales took place overseas.
However, the company did report “net sales of 549.7 billion yen” or $4.6 billion dollars which is a positive indicator. One thing is for sure, Nintendo is a fighter and will not likely go down in flames anytime within the near future, but something needs to change for them to become a relevant competitor once again.
Sony and Microsoft have made huge strides in recent years in terms of innovation. While graphics are often considered irrelevant, the fact is that we gamers can better connect with more realistic images. Nintendo continues to live a generation behind in the graphics department. This is a problem.
That’s not to mention the efforts being made by both companies to create altered versions of reality. Project Morpheus has been in development for many years to create a completely engulfing virtual reality experience. Microsoft completely blew everyone away with their demonstration of Minecraft on the Hololens. It’s acts like these that keep things fresh for Sony and Microsoft and keep their forward momentum.
Nintendo’s ambition to innovate was its greatest strength and weakness. The company struck gold with the original Wii by bringing a new kind of gaming that can be enjoyed by new as well as familiar audiences alike. They continued on that path of deviation and innovation, but unfortunately swung and missed with the Wii U. It seems the move has put them into a state of caution which has led to very little innovation ever since.
Nintendo, if you’re listening, don’t be afraid to innovate, and don’t be afraid to learn from the successes of your competitors. Sony would not be where they are today without Microsoft and vice versus. Don’t allow your pride of being the innovator get in the way of your future success. I want to keep you around.