So I was browsing the net today and came across a…Well, I consider it a piece of ‘non-news’ from last week, really. I read it, nodded and said “Yeah, that makes sense”. And I was prepared to just close it and go back to playing Persona 4 when…
I glanced down at the comments and was forced to facepalm at the amount of people who missed the point.
What was the article about, you ask?
Talking to someone at CVG, Nintendo’s president Satoru Iwata said the following: “However, I’m really responsible for the long-term future of Nintendo as well, so I would never think about providing our precious resources for other platforms at all.” (emphasis mine)
Basically he was saying: “No, we’re not going to port our big first party games to other consoles. Our main games are all going to be exclusive to our own systems”.
Thank you, Magnets99 for summarizing this perfectly.
No one is surprised by this, right? This isn’t shocking. This is exactly what we expect from Nintendo. And yet, when I saw users on TheEscapist talking about it, I saw an overwhelming amount of posts to the effect of: “This is why Nintendo is doomed” “But everyone wants Zelda on PS3/PS4/Xbox360/Xbone!” “They’re being fools! Think of all the money they’re throwing away by not doing that!”.
So I thought it’d be nice to post my own take on this. Which is this: Those people are totally missing what’s going on here.
So I’ll break down a few of the arguments here.
1) “The WiiU is failing”
Most naysayers were going on about how badly the WiiU is doing and how Nintendo is failing because they are selling the console at a loss. Well I seem to remember another console to come out a while ago that was being sold at a TREMENDOUS loss, didn’t have any good games for a long long time, was regularly mocked for a long while after it’s launch, but somehow overcame all of that and became a very strong competitor. That console was the PS3. And you can bet your bionic arms that the Xbox 360 was sold at a loss at launch as well.
And that’s ignoring the DS which launched slowly at first before taking the gaming world by storm. Not to mention the 3DS, which was a joke at launch and is just now starting to make them a serious profit. The same thing is likely to happen with the WiiU as more games come out (and if you don’t think the next Smash Bros is gonna sell a ton of systems, you’re crazy).
2) “They could make a lot of money going third party”
This one is understandable. We’re used to North American game companies being greedy bastards who wildly chase short term profits to the detriment of all else. So when a company doesn’t do that, it feels weird.
Well, ask yourself this. What is the long term benefit for Nintendo to put their main games on other consoles?
There really isn’t any.
So they’ll sell a bunch of Mario PS3 edition NOW, but what about in the future? Will selling Zelda games on the PS3/4 make people want to buy a WiiU? I guarantee you that’s not going to be the case. Making any of their high value IPs multiplatform would be like stabbing themselves in the back, as it would kill people’s desire to get Nintendo consoles since they can just get the good games for their competitors’ console.
Even if they pull some EA levels of ‘Big-Corporate-Meanie’ and release one Mario/Zelda game on other systems just to tease/interest new people and then go back to making the games Nintendo exclusive again, that’s one game that could have drawn support for the WiiU instead. Not to mention most people who would actually be intrested in playing Zelda/Mario/whatever will have bought a WiiU already.
In the end, it brings few new sales at the expense of screwing over their struggling new console. While in the short term they’d make some more money, they would kill the WiiU and put their long term future at risk.
Finally, let’s look at the kind of company that Nintendo is. While their game consoles are innovative to a fault, as a business they’re firmly old-school, traditional, and even archaic at times. They don’t spazz out about the short term. They take the long view and adapt extremely slowly and cautiously.
In a time when most gaming companies are doing massive layoffs (EA just axed their Montreal division, putting some of my friends out of work, for example.) to keep posting a profit and keep their stocks high, Nintendo’s upper management instead took a pay cut (a 50% cut in Iwata’s case). Business people were astonished and some claimed that Nintend’s bucket had been kicked. That was 2 years ago, and Nintendo is looking pretty lively for a company that was supposed to be on its way to the morgue.
They’re also just now starting to maybe-kinda-hopefully think about of putting some of their digital releases on sale (at least a friend told me there was a sale recently), when a year or two ago they were dead set against it. They almost didn’t bring Xenoblade or The Last Story to North America because conventional wisdom told them that these kinds of games didn’t “sell” in the West, and we had to drag those games kicking and screaming across the ocean to be able to play them.
Nintendo ALWAYS adapts slowly. They always weigh every decision carefully. Often TOO carefully. So expecting them to make a huge shift like going third party is like expecting the oil establishment to make a sudden and massive shift towards Green Energy and away from fossil fuel. It CAN potentially happen, but it’ll need something huge and possibly catastrophic to push them over that edge.
And judging by the fact that Nintendo finished their first Quarter with a net profit of $88 million (largely due to the 3DS selling really well), It’s hard to argue that this ‘slow but steady’ strategy isn’t working for them.
You know, I’m reminded of that old story of the Tortoise and the Hare. And you can call me crazy all you want, but my money’s on the Turtle this time.
Because I’ve seen the Turtle. He’s over 10 feet tall, has spikes on his shell, can breathe fire, and has his own personal army. And although he suffers setbacks from time to time, he never goes down for long.
Oh look, here he is!
Edit: Just to be clear, I don’t think old Ninty’s gonna pull another Wii Miracle and dominate the next console generation. I DO think that they’re sure as heck going to stick around for a very long time to come, however.