Posted by: seanmalstrom | December 3, 2013

Email: Nintendo going third party? Why?

I used to read your blog all the time but sort of got away for a while mainly it was hard for me to read the doom and gloom Nintendo articles even if they were right but at least yours are grounded in some logic and reason as opposed to any online gaming forum.
 
For years, pretty much since the N64 days, the hardcore gamers like to say how Nintendo would be better off as a third party developer making games for other systems.  I don’t get why they think this.  Some would just draw a parallel to Sega, but when was the last time Sega made a truly good game?  Sonic games have been awful.  You saw Sonic Lost World.  Some would say Sonic Generations was good but that relied heavily on nostalgia.  Meanwhile their attempts to resurrect other old Sega games have failed miserably. Nights, Samba D’Amigo, Goldenaxe and so on, all had awful modern illiterations.  Then again, who aside from some niche fans were clamoring for a Nights sequel anyway?  We could say the same about Rare when Microsoft bought them out.  Everyone expected Rare to be so much better off making Xbox games because they wouldn’t have mean old Nintendo holding them back like they did with Conker’s naughty content.  Yet Conker on the Xbox had all the swear words bleeped out and wasn’t Xbox supposed to be the big boy dudebro console?  As anyone could tell you the supposed “freedom” Rare had with Microsoft wasn’t to be.  MS bought them in hopes that their colorful, kid friendly games would bring the kids to the Xbox to remove its “shooter box” stigma.  I remember the massive marketing for Viva Pinata as their answer to Pokémon going so far to get a 4Kids cartoon tie in, but then Viva Pinata bombed. Parents saw the Wii as the cheaper, kid friendly alternative.  The Microsoft, basically forced Rare to “Nintendo-fy” the 360 making them create those stupid Avatars and reducing them to making Wii Sports HD 1,2 and 3.
 
Yet all I hear is “Nintendo would be so much better off making their games on the PS4 or Xbox One!”  I have tried to point out third party Sega and Microsoft Rare as examples but once again I made the mistake of trying to be logical with the hardcore gamers. Their response is “well Nintendo’s different. Sega was in bad shape before the Dreamcast!”  They fail to realize the reason Nintendo’s 1st party games are so good is that Nintendo is the only company that has the advantage of having software and hardware developers in the same building.  Sega stopped making good Sonic games because they no longer had to worry about making quality games to sell hardware and could whore Sonic out to parents looking for something to entertain their kids. And that’s when it hit me.  While the hardcore hate Nintendo’s “outdated gimmicky hardware” they still secretly love the games.  Also I do know of one guy who has an Xbox but was complaining about not having much in terms of good games for his kids. Seriously I feel bad for Xbox owning parents who’s options for kids are either half assed liscenced games, Kinect garbage or dropping a fortune for Skylanders (and even that sold the best on the Wii).  Nintendo’s got great, accessible games for kids that are good, but damn it, that means having to buy another console that isn’t “hardcore.”  Hardcore gamers want to have their cake and eat it too.
 
It’s a constant contradiction.  I hear “Nintendo just makes the same Mario and Zelda over and over again!!”  Then the same folks turn around and say “Man, I wish I could play Zelda on my PS4!”  We all know that publishers would love Nintendo to go third party because then they would no longer be a threat as they love to complain about how only Nintendo games sell on Nintendo systems.  MS and Sony would love Nintendo to go third party because they would go into a cannibalistic bidding war to get exclusive rights to the precious Mario and Zelda franchises that bring in sales.  Miyamoto and Anonuma would love it because without the pressure of having to sell hardware they would be free to make all the 3D Mario and puzzle Zelda they wanted. Everyone would be happy…except the expanded audience.
 
Sadly I think a third party Nintendo would turn into a 3rd party Sega or a Microsoft Rare.  At first everyone would be excited and happy.  Then we’d get some sloppy ports followed by several medicore games that phoned it in, until the games fell into medicore bargain bin kids games and then everyone starts making nostalgic vlogs about how awesome Nintendo games used to be.  Nintendo hindsight is common after all.  The N64 was a kiddie system with outdate carts, now viewed as one of the best systems of all.  The Gamecube was a purple lunchbox with no DVD player and no online and now all I hear is how great is was and had the best games.  And even now people are realizing the Wii had the right idea.
 
Explain again hardcore gamers why Nintendo going third party would be such a good thing?
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Nintendo was third party during the Atari Era. It is amazing Generation Two is never brought up in analyst discussions. In fact, I have yet to hear any game industry analyst acknowledge the existence of a video game generation before Generation Five.Microsoft and Sony will go third party sooner than Nintendo for various reasons (Microsoft and Sony don’t profit from their hardware like Nintendo does). The biggest advantage Nintendo has that no one talks about is that Nintendo has two console markets (the handheld and the home console). Microsoft only has one, and Sony has two.Nintendo always dominates in the handheld market. Always. Microsoft is currently a third party in the handheld console space. How come we never hear it phrased like that? And Sony’s PSP failed, and the Vita is essentially dead. How come we aren’t hearing how Nintendo kicked Sony’s ass in the handheld space? Why is it that the home console space is the only space that exists in the rhetoric?

There are five dedicated 8th Generation consoles out now: the Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, Vita, and 3DS. Wii U is not doing good but neither is the Vita. It is too early to say anything about Xbox One or PS4. We do know that the 3DS is doing OK despite a decline from DS sales.

Back during Generation Seven when the PSP was momentarily outselling the DS, all we heard was about the handheld space. Once the DS began outselling the PSP, incredibly the handheld console market never appeared again in news reports. When the Wii outsold the PS3 and Xbox 360, somehow it was said the Wii wasn’t a ‘real console’ and news reports omitted it while only talking about the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Nintendo is only said to be a console company when competitors outsell it. Otherwise, Nintendo doesn’t make game consoles. It makes *something else*. Something for kids. Something like toys. But whatever it is, it isn’t a REAL dedicated game console. Unless it is being outsold. Then, suddenly, Nintendo is a console company.

The game industry rhetoric and reporting matches the style of oppressed countries. My favorite is how history gets deliberately omitted or rewritten. Generation Seven never happened. And there were no game consoles before Generation Five. PlayStation 1 was the very first game console. Anything before that was just *junk* and not a ‘real’ game console.

Currently, in Game Industry Land, they are chattering that the reason for the industry decline is because of the long hardware cycle. No, it isn’t the recession or depression. It is all because the new game consoles hadn’t come out yet! By this industry logic, I expect to have new game consoles every year. Surely that would boost game sales everywhere!

What to watch for is the overall industry trend. After the loud headlines of the moment pass away (“PS4 fastest selling console ever! OMG!” during the Christmas rush), we’ll find out what is actually going on in January and February. I highly doubt the game industry will buck the macro-economic trends. I suspect the game consoles sales pattern is beginning to match the hardcore game sales pattern where sales are frontloaded.


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