There are a lot of people who would rather that Nintendo go entirely third party, and make its excellent games for existing game platforms, such as PC, PS4, Xbox One, and smartphones. And while Nintendo started to cautiously venture into the world of publishing games for other systems last year with Pokemon GO and Super Mario Run, it remains staunchly committed to making their own hardware, and making their games inextricably married to their hardware.
But is that a wise decision? Speaking on the YouTube channel Game Theorists, and taking on all the common reasoning and criticisms that are thrown Nintendo’s way for why the company should go third party, Nintendo’s president Reggie Fils-Aime explored why it is important for Nintendo to keep making consoles.
‘What Nintendo does for the industry is important. It’s what we take pride in,’ he said, referring to Nintendo’s role as the innovator of the gaming world. ‘Innovating the world of video games, pushing the industry forwards… and a big part of that is by creating unique hardware that allows for more unique gaming experiences. The biggest and most obvious example of this is the Wii, which introduced a tracking system and accelerometer, and made gaming more than just the press of a button. We did this all at a price point that most families could afford. By taking a risk, Nintendo was able to introduce the world to a new way of playing. It made gamers out of people who had never touched a gaming console before.
‘In fact, a lot of elements considered standard today for the way you play or control games today were either invented, or made mainstream by Nintendo. The D-Pad, Start, Select, Saving, portable gaming, shoulder buttons, rumble, thumbsticks, wireless controllers, touch screen gaming, motion controls, 3D gaming, augmented reality, and asymmetrical gaming. Even endeavors that some gamers consider non starters like the Virtual Boy were pursuing concepts decades ahead of their time.’
In fact, innovation is intrinsic to how Nintendo approaches its hardware design- for Nintendo, simply designing a more powerful version of an existing machine is not enough.
‘Without taking risks, the gaming industry would stagnate, and innovations would stay at “what’s the best graphics card we can put into this?” Instead of, “how can we create a more unique gaming experience?” Our goal is to change how the world thinks of console gaming, and we’ll be doing it again with Nintendo Switch,’ Fils-Aime said. ‘When Nintendo creates a gaming console, we’re not just thinking about the next generation of an easily used gaming computer. We are rethinking the way we play games. That’s what differentiates us from the rest of the market, no matter what platform we are talking. Take Nintendo Switch- it combines the power of a home console with the mobility of a handheld… we are introducing the world to new ways to play, made possible by the unique characteristics of the Nintendo Switch hardware, and the Joycons.”
Fils-Aime also said that beyond just innovation, Nintendo was also important to the industry because it was the last console manufacturer dedicated to creating a gaming environment safe, fun, and wholesome from younger gamers and entire families.
That said, he decided to tackle the question of gamers having to purchase Nintendo consoles in addition to ones they already own just to play a handful of Nintendo games- why should they keep doing that? Especially when Nintendo consoles are infamous for the long droughts bereft of notable game releases that they suffer from?
‘We don’t want to prevent gamers from having access to our games- that’s a large part of why we try to keep our consoles low priced,’ Reggie said. ‘With the Switch, we are dedicated to creating a steady flow of games, first and third party games, at launch, and through the Holiday, and beyond.’
He also added that the Switch would not just be a system with just Nintendo’s games, and that Nintendo was committed to delivering a lineup of varied games not just by itself, but also from help with third party partners.
‘If you’re worried about third party support on our systems, don’t,’ he said. ‘We recognize that delivering a wide catalog from the top third party companies is essential to creating a competitive console in today’s market. And with the Nintendo Switch, we are looking forward to broad third party support from the top names in the business, including Activision, EA, Take 2, Ubisoft, and more. Did you notice that Bethesda is joining Nintendo for the first time with the Switch? Nintendo Switch players will be seeing some of their favorite franchises, like The Elder Scrolls, NBA 2K, Minecraft, and more. We just announced that there are over 80 games in development for the Switch by our third party partners.’
Finally, speaking about the argument that Nintendo should do what is financially best for it and go third party, Fils-Aime pointed out that Nintendo has been around for over a hundred years, and is financially flush- people really shouldn’t be worrying about Nintendo’s finances.
‘Nintendo has been around for over a hundred years, and it’s my job to ensure they’re around for many more years to come,’ he said. ‘While we appreciate your concern and the concern of all the gamers out there, rest assured Nintendo is doing just fine… let us worry about the business, and let us have the privilege of bringing great experiences to gamers everywhere with the launch of Nintendo Switch. We can’t wait.’
Personally, I agree with the gist of his points, even if I don’t agree with the specifics- I do think that what Nintendo brings to the gaming hardware market is different, and without it, we’d all be worse off. Nintendo doesn’t always stick the landing – see Virtual Boy and Wii U – but when it does, its innovations become a part of the gaming landscape for years to come. For the industry to remain thriving and creative, it is imperative that Nintendo remain a part of the hardware side of things, too.