The Case Against Nintendo Hardware

Nintendo has prided themselves on always being a company that creatively participates in both hardware and software creation.  This is very much in line with, and typical of, artists in other mediums as well.  Brownie points if you are 100% in control and not under someone else’s leash whether it’s a studio executive for a film or a record label, constantly checking in on you and ruining your special groove thing.  Personally I would argue that there is nothing wrong with this in principle except that artists with complete freedom tend to get lost in themselves and forget about their audiences, and only successful people can afford such agamestop-wario-money luxury.  But of course, successful people were only successful at the start because they couldn’t afford to forget about their audience.  If they did, well no paycheck, and no paycheck means no success.

 

Nintendo found success long ago and they can afford such luxuries, of course the privilege is only temporary.  That, however, is neither here nor there.  Let’s examine what they do during this “temporary” period of artistic freedom.  To begin, if there was ever a question of when such a period has occurred, it would most certainly be now after their most successful era to date throughout the Wii frenzy back in the late-2000’s.  They captured an audience with a tremendous install base in not only hardware but also software, and Wii became the first console to have at least 10 titles sell over 30 million copies, from Wii Sports Resort all the way to Smash Bros, Mario Kart, and Wii Fit.  It was a diverse lineup to say the least, and therefore a diverse audience as well.  And they were captured.  The audience was waiting in their seats for the next act, or so Nintendo thought, and Gourmet-Kosher-Meal_KoreaNintendo prepared their favorite dish: an acquired taste.  But the smell clearly reached their nostrils first before the juices touched their tongues, and the bitter contrast between what they had just ate was to much to bear.  What was it that was bitter?  The price?  The size?  The appearance? The food itself?  That will be debated for ages.

Again, what did Nintendo do during this period of assumed freedom?  They focused on hardware, in a huge way.  Line up all of Nintendo’s past hardware side by side and there will be no doubt that the Wii U is Nintendo’s penultimate achievement when it comes to hardware.  Never have they had a system with more options for player input (Wii-mote/Nunchuck, Wii Pro controller, Wii U Pro controller, GamePad, GameCube controller) and never have they sold such expensive hardware (the GameCube was the next most expensive and accordingly is the next most unsuccessful hardware to date).  But let’s not gloss over the main controller so fast, the GamePad: it has 15 buttons, a 6-inch LCD, a touchscreen, motion controls, a D pad, two analog sticks, a stylus, stereo speakers, an infrared port, a webcam, a microphone, a headphone jack, a volume slider, a charging port, a rumble pack, and an accessory port for other potential attachments.  This comes directly after the Wii-mote which had the fewest buttons since the original NES.

wii-u

And as of most recently their latest hardware innovation is Amiibo which interacts with the GamePad controller to unlock additional methods of play within the game as well as being a pretty cool figurine for anyone who particular fancies one of Nintendo’s all stars.  Now I don’t think there is anything wrong with this hardware-centric approach (well, it’s not working), except that it’s sharing space with software and when one dominates then the other subordinates.  The Wii U software lineup is fantastic, no argument there.  But like I said, it has less space to shine.  It’s there and no one knows because no one can buy the system at that price, no one can immediately understand a controller with 15 buttons and 15 features, no one can understand why they have to use another iPad-thingamajig.  But again, neither here nor there.  This is what Nintendo has done with their artistic freedom, there privilege that the Wii has bought them.  The privilege is temporary and once it wears off they will have to go back to a more software-centric approach like that of the Wii.

Make no mistake about it, the Wii hardware was revolutionary, but what was revolutionary about it was that it decreased the gap between that of the player and the software.  You didn’t know it was there once you started playing, but the GamePad, it’s impossible not to notice it because it’s on display at all times relating to everything you do.  The only exception is in games that make no use of it’s functions in which case you still need to use it just to play a game that uses two buttons and a d-pad like New Super Mario Bros.!  It’s a shame to see such great software coming out in 2015 on a system that is more well-known for it’s hardware than it’s software, but perhaps a better balance can be found in Nintendo’s next hardware creation.

 

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About The Author

News Reporter

I'm an EarthBound kinda guy but I love everything Mario and certainly anything Nintendo related. I was born in North America and live there presently.