Nintendo are an interesting beast. On one hand, they are perceived as the weakling of the games industry - the 'console wars' are Xbox Vs Playstation, 3rd party developers with cross platform titles aren't supporting them, they don't seem to actually listen to fans and just do what they like etc - but on the other, they have the largest range of exclusive titles, a handheld that still thrives (even though mobile was allegedly killing off handheld consoles) and nostalgia is heavily on their side.
But what makes Nintendo so special? How are they not only going to avoid bankruptcy, but remain the last man standing?
Nintendo has been around for... a while.
Hardcore Nintendo fans will know this stuff, but for those that don't - Nintendo started in 1889. Just think about that for a second. That is now over 125 years. How many businesses do you know of that have been around that long? Of course, they haven't been making video games for all that time - for the first 6 decades Nintendo was solely a playing card game company. Since then, the company has had numerous ventures, including a taxi company, instant noodles, and even 'love hotels' as they are referred to in Japan. This chain of hotels was made up of short-stay rooms, where people could meet up with others to, you know, 'love'.
After many of these strange attempts (and subsequent failures) at all sorts of businesses, Nintendo finally had a win when it got into video games in the 1970's - beginning with the rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey. Once this business began to take traction, Nintendo moved on to several other game-related projects, including many famous devices - the Game & Watch, the Famicom, Gameboy, NES etc.
Nintendo, starting out as only a hobby shop for playing cards, has gone through an insane amount of transformations in its long history. It hasn't been afraid to try new things or shake it up a bit - 60 years doing one thing is a bloody long time, but even after being in the card game (pun intended) for that long, it was able to pivot and change its business strategies several times before landing on its feet with video games.
Even if Nintendo somehow ended up dwindling away to nothing in light of the games industry, they're going to find something else to focus on.
They got the MONEY HONEY
Wayyyy back in Feb 2012, 10 months before the Wii U was a thing people could buy, Nintendo had reported a massive loss for the previous year. Naysayers were predicting the fall of Nintendo, critics were saying Nintendo was doomed. But, as this article from Gamesradar points out, Nintendo has the dosh to continue running at a loss for the next 60 years. This loss comes at a time of high development costs for creating the Wii U prior to its release. Even though the Wii U didn't sell as well as people would've liked, Nintendo still has a very long time to play around and get it right.
Regardless of all that, if Nintendo do end up producing failure after failure after failure in the world of games, Nintendo will no doubt pivot its entire company if need be to find a new match for its business (see trading cards to gaming).
Wacky and wonderful
Nintendo isn't afraid to experiment with everything it has ever created - one look at a list of peripherals for any gaming system is enough to see that - but even with their key products, Nintendo is always willing to think outside the box.
Take the seventh console generation. The Xbox 360 and PS3 are released - big black powerful boxes with high def graphics and power galore. What did Nintendo do? It released an underpowered tiny (in comparison) white box with motion controls. Say what?! Gamers don't want to get off the couch to play their games!
The Wii has been sold to over 100 million customers. This makes the Wii the third highest selling home console in history.
Apart from motion controls, Nintendo introduced the gaming world to portable gaming, 3D gaming on the 3DS, second screens with the DS, mini discs with the Gamecube... the list goes on. While some of these experiences haven't necessarily been the greatest - let's face it, the 3D isn't the most useful feature on the 3DS - the point is that Nintendo isn't afraid to try something new. How many other massive corporations do you know change their main line of products so radically every time they introduce the next version?
Sony Playstation, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Nintendo
The Playstation and Xbox brands are divisions of their respective companies. Massive ones, true, but still only a compartment. Nintendo however, is purely about it's gaming products. It doesn't have TV's to produce, there's no operating system that is the basis of the company. It's all about the games.
When you only have a single focus, it helps you to chip away and get that focus just right. With everything riding on their main products, Nintendo are able to do this. The Wii U launched to lackluster sales and support, but since then they have worked hard on bringing out fantastic game after fantastic game that consumers want to play. In all the round ups of 2014 on major websites, everyone seemed to be saying the same thing - the Wii U is a must buy console.
Drawing in the unlikeliest of souls
As you can probably tell from this website, I love my games. My girlfriend Loren on the other hand, not so much. She isn't exactly into the massive open world RPG's that I sink hour upon hour into. She still does get into games sometimes - mostly mobile experiences like Plants vs Zombies, Candy Crush, Peggle - but there are other games that she enjoyed that are considered hardcore, such as LA Noire. That being said, it was more I'll play, Loren watches.
This year I decided to go out of the box and get my lovely girl a 2DS for Christmas. it was a nervous purchase, because I wasn't sure if she'd actually use it.
Turns out, 4 weeks after Christmas was all done and dusted, Loren has already finished the main story of Super Mario 3D Land, and has moved on to the special S levels. This super impressed me - here was a girl who wasn't necessarily into the same experiences as me, which is cool, who just blew through a fantastic Nintendo handheld game, and had fun doing it.
The fact that these games and characters, that have been around for decades, are able to draw in new people and provide new experiences, is a massive part of what makes Nintendo work. Skyrim isn't exactly the most accessible to newcomers of gaming - Mario on the other hand, is fantastic.
Releasing your inner child
Did you know that children laugh, on average, 300 times per day? Adults - 5. Crazy right?
Nintendo has a culture and appearance of childlike glee. The characters they create and the games that relate are innocent, cute, fun, childlike. Take the most recent Nintendo release, Captain Toad's treasure tracker.
Have you ever seen anything so damn cute?
By all accounts, I'm a grown man. I have a full time job. I can be a bit serious at times. OK, a lot of the time. Then I look at the picture of this game, and this childlike wonder creeps in. It makes me want to laugh, to play, to enjoy.
I know there are plenty of people out there that could use a bit of this in their lives.
A good judge of character
Mario. Zelda. Samus. Link. Donkey Kong. Luigi. Peach. Bowser. Toad.
You just pictured each and every one of those guys in your head didn't you?
In a world filled with Assassins creeds, Call of Duties and Skyrims, Nintendo has Marios, Pokemon and Zeldas. The biggest blockbuster releases for 3rd party developers often miss Nintendo with games such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - they prefer to release on PS4, Xbox One, maybe old gen and PC.
Hold up. PS4. Xbox One. PC. PC.
Anyone that has used Steam to purchase games in the passed 5 years can attest to this - Steam has a massive catalog of titles, which includes both big budget releases and a swath of indie titles. These games are often heavily discounted, whether that be in general or in Steams' infamous sales. within six months of release, it is easy to find the biggest titles for as little as $30 or less. Many of these are 3rd party titles - for example, Assassins Creed - which are still full price on console! Why pay $100 for a console version when the same game is $30 on sale on steam for PC?
While they are taking their sweet time, Valve (the company who created Steam) are working on releasing what they call "Steam machines'. These boxes, which are essentially small but powerful computers, are designed for your living room. They will be priced similarly to the current gen consoles.
Similar hardware. Cheap games. Controller support. Living room. See where I'm going with this?
I'd wager that this generation will be close to being the last for Microsoft and Sony. If Steam machines take off - which they should, considering what they are offering (assuming they actually work) - these guys will need to change up some of their tactics in order to keep competitive.
Meanwhile, in the other corner... Nintendo. Ah, Nintendo. The company that has a fantastic array of games, that aren't available on any other platform. The company that has long since not been a part of the 'console wars' - instead, being the console that people buy after they have chosen one of the other two. The company that still has a massive winner in the handheld space, despite mobile, with the 3DS.
Imagine Steam machines do take over the living room. Imagine Microsoft and Sony battling it out in a 3 way fight to put that black box in under your TV. Meanwhile, Nintendo does what it always does - sits on the sidelines. Sells you consoles. Gives you the Mario, Pokemon, Zelda.
Gettin' the gang back together
Some of the greatest Nintendo hits for fans are often the ones that don't seem like they make any sense when you actually think about them. Super Smash Bros. Mario Kart. Mario Party. These games are some of the most fun you can have with these characters, yet they don't have any real story, are not lore friendly and don't really make any sense. Seriously, do you think Bowser is ever going to just get in a go kart and race around a track to beat Mario in a traditional game?
Sony tried to follow suit with Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. It was meant to be a direct competitor to Smash Bros. As a comparison, All-Stars has sold roughly 900,000 copies to date. Not bad. Smash Bros 3DS - on a system that was, according to the industry, not meant for Smash Bros - sold more than 3.2 million copies worldwide within the first few weeks of sale.
The characters in the Nintendo universe hold a special place in many, many gamers' hearts. Throwing these characters together in a game that is a completely random genre works, yet no other company seems to be able to pull it off as well as Nintendo.
It just works.
With 2014 being such a terrible year for broken game releases, as I've mentioned previously, Nintendo have consistently released polished titles that have no significant issues. Mario Kart 8 is potentially the most perfectly packaged, fine tuned game I played in 2014. Where games like Assassins Creed Unity would have you get stuck falling through the world with no face, Super Smash Bros had extremely tight controls with a ton of content that worked flawlessly. The biggest issue I have heard of regarding Smash Bros is that some circle pad nubs on 3DS's were breaking because people were playing the game so hard. If that is the biggest thing you have to worry about with your game, then you got it in the bag.
Bring on 2015
Nintendo seem to always have great games on the horizon for both of their systems. Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii U looks amazing, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. for 3DS has me pumped, then there's the 'normal' Nintendo games such as Mario Party 10, the new Zelda, Star Fox, Kirby, Yoshi's Wooly World... the list goes on.
Bring it on Nintendo.