It is no surprise that Nintendo has reported its first annual loss in over 30 years. While this was officially reported recently, it has been a safe speculation for some time. In the age of high-definition and military shooters, some might say that Nintendo hasn’t properly adapted to the ever-changing market. The truth is, the misinformed have been shouting that “Nintendo is Doomed” since 2003, a few years into the GameCube’s lifespan. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was cell-shaded and the PS2 hosted more “hardcore” titles, but the GameCube is now placed among the greatest consoles that Nintendo has ever produced. Before diving into the current-generation, one must understand the GameCube’s legacy, and why it signifies Nintendo’s stability in the industry.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; our generation is obsessed with Call of Duty. Even so, many gamers have protested the franchise. Shortly after launch, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 started to receive low user-scores on Metacritic. At one point, the game averaged a 1.7 out of 10. The gamers protesting called for a single thing; innovation. Call of Duty is often critiqued for its lack of originality. In 2003, The Nintendo GameCube saw similar public backlash as the Nintendo Wii. The public complained about the casual nature of the GameCube, but didn’t notice the creativity and innovation that flourished during this generation.
Let’s take a look at some of the major releases during the GameCube’s five-year lifespan. Luigi’s Mansion was a launch title in 2001, and received fair critical reception. Nintendo consoles usually launch alongside a Mario platformer. The GameCube replaced that with a quirky adventure game that starred the plumber’s brother; Luigi. Fast-forwarding ten years, IGN claims that this under-appreciated and innovative title is more important to Nintendo fans than we could have ever imagined. This, of course, is in an article completely dedicated to the game, titled “The 10-Year Mortgage on Luigi’s Mansion”.
Super Smash Bros. Melee is another game that proved itself over time. Unlike Lugi’s Mansion, though, SSBM launched to exceptional reviews. This was because it was an improvement to its predecessor in every way. Boasting more characters, stages, and better balance, both critics and fans remember this game fondly. But what makes this game innovative? Super Smash Bros. Melee added a hardcore element to the franchise. It popularized tournament-play for the series, and is still used for many major league Smash Bros. tournaments.
The list goes on. Super Mario Sunshine was a unique adventure game that created completely new mechanics for not only the franchise, but the industry. Mario Kart Double Dash added a strategic twist to the simple concept of kart-racing. Meanwhile, Starfox Adventures completely changed the series’ genre.
The point is, first-party Nintendo games are much more than great games; they are innovative. If the reaction to last year’s Call of Duty holds any ground, innovation is what gamers want. The truth is, we don’t know what the next Mario game will look like. Kid Icarus: Uprising is the perfect example of Nintendo’s flexibility. Kid Icarus has been dubbed “Nintendo’s new IP” for a reason.
Furthermore, Nintendo’s loss may simply say more about poor timing than the state of the company. In 2011, Nintendo was advertising the 3DS and building the Wii U. While the 3DS’ advertisement costs have not been revealed to the public, Nintendo spent over 200 million dollars launching the Nintendo Wii. Clearly, the lack of major first-party software can be a result of the focus on hardware. Take a look at Microsoft. The Xbox 360 had little-to-no AAA titles. Gears of War 3 and Forza Motorsport 4 are simply not enough to last an entire year, let alone satisfy the many sub-markets in the industry. The company’s inactivity, besides their focus on the Kinect’s first year, gave them a steady cash flow.
Nintendo’s presence is still prevalent, and their influence is still bursting at the seams. While analysts and investors continue to call for Mario’s leap to foreign platforms, Nintendo has repeatedly refused. Nintendo remains confident that the Wii U will be the success that the company both needs and deserves. With a new Mario and Pikmin title confirmed for an E3 appearance, they have every right to be. If the company has learned anything from this past year, its the importance of a variety of quality software. Until Nintendo officially licenses a Legend of Zelda title on the IPhone, take your picket signs elsewhere.