My Dream Nintendo Doesn't Make Home Consoles

My Dream Nintendo Doesn't Make Home Consoles

Sometimes, when I'm lying awake in bed, I dream about Nintendo. And how great it would be if they didn't make home consoles anymore.

Before we go any further: this isn't a "I'm going to tell Nintendo what to do" kind of post. The company's been making hardware - and money - for longer than many games writers have been alive. The internet is full of those kind of stories, which are both a tad presumptuous and a little boring, since they're mired in reality.

They also tend to be complete downers. A world where Nintendo sells games on the App Store is one I don't want to live in.

Instead, it's a "I wish Nintendo would do this" kind of post. The difference being that while I'd love this to happen, I don't actually expect it to. At least not anytime soon.

Which bums me out.

While Nintendo isn't in trouble the way Sega was when it spiked the Dreamcast over a decade ago - it's got enough cash reserves to literally do nothing for a very long time and still pay the bills - there's still a sense of urgency about the company's position in the market and its ability to adjust to a gaming landscape that's changed radically over the past five years.

Most of that is down to the Wii U. Which has been a disaster. So much so that it'd be awesome if it's the last home console Nintendo ever makes.

I mean, look at the 3DS. That's a cheap system, it's easy to develop for, and as the last 18 months have shown, developers around the world - but especially at Nintendo - just can't stop making classic games for it.

Wouldn't it be great if that's all Nintendo had to worry about?

Here's my dream, then. That Nintendo stops making a home console, and instead focuses its efforts on a single new handheld device. Well, two (I'll get to that). But, more importantly, that Nintendo also radically changes the way it treats its software and sells it to consumers.

My Dream Nintendo Doesn't Make Home Consoles

THE HARDWARE

So, let's say Nintendo stops making home consoles. That's a lot of engineers and designers and money suddenly freed up to do something else. Like...make a better handheld.

My dream Nintendo begins at the end of the 3DS' lifespan. Whenever that may be. That would be the time they draw a line in the sand and say, OK, time for something new.

While the plastic boxes of the last 20 years have served the company well, there's no reason Nintendo can't make something comparable to the PlayStation Vitas and iPhones of the world. A handheld for a discerning adult customer. Something with glass, and metal, and a feeling that it's a premium piece of consumer electronics for the hardcore Nintendo fan.

I could buy that handheld for myself. For my kids, or my mum, maybe I can buy something else. Something a little cheaper. Plastic. More in line with the company's last few handhelds.

Both handhelds would boast identical specs (though the premium model could have something like a bigger capacity to help differentiate it further), and both would get around Nintendo's living room retreat - and retain the Wii U's coolest feature - by allowing them to display their content on either their own displays or on TV sets.

Speaking of specs...I don't know, I don't dream of specs. If the 3DS has reminded us of anything, it's that Nintendo handhelds don't need specs to make awesome games. It's not like Layton, or Phoenix Wright, or Fire Emblem or Animal Crossing needed a powerful system.

So long as it's powerful enough to play Wii U games - and at the rate mobile tech is advancing, we're only a few years off that level of performance becoming both common and affordable - then we're fine.

My Dream Nintendo Doesn't Make Home Consoles

THE SOFTWARE

Here's where I get a little crazy. Maybe I've been spoiled by stuff like Netflix and Spotify, but those services exist and prosper for a reason: they recognise the value of their library, not individual titles.

The most important thing Nintendo owns is not cash reserves, or any individual IP. It's the company's cumulative library of all-time classic titles, built over decades of industry-defining game development.

In my dreams, future Nintendo is smarter about these old games. They don't do the stupid thing - the stupid thing they're still doing despite this being 2013 - and charge $US5 for the original Super Mario Bros.

They charge you $US10-20 a month and let you have all the Nintendo games.

So long as you're paying, every game Nintendo has ever released on any platform is yours. You're behind the rope in the VIP room of Club Nintendo.

That might sound crazy, but I think Nintendo's back catalogue is worth the expenditure. Even if you never play a new game ever again - and I'm sure fantastic new games would always be coming down the pipeline - there's years of entertainment to be had catching up and discovering the classics of yesteryear.

As radical as it sounds, it's not like it would be without precedent; the WWE Network will be doing something almost identical starting next month, letting wrestling fans pay $US10 for access to pretty much every piece of wrestling entertainment of the last 30-40 years.

A subscription service would also tackle piracy - something Nintendo has battled ferociously for years - the same way services like Netflix have done; why bother going to all the trouble of flashing and copying games if everything is at your fingerprints, playable without the hassle?

Would that be perfect for me as a consumer? Sure. Would it be profitable for Nintendo? I...guess? It'd take some bravery on Nintendo's part, I know. Like the removal of Nintendo games from traditional retail channels. There wouldn't be new games to buy on a shelf, or order from Amazon. It'd only work if Nintendo games were only available to subscribers to this service. An App Store fronted by Mario.

If there are 20, then 50, then 100 million handhelds sold, and every one of them had a monthly subscriber attached to it at $US15 a month, well, we'd all need some new "it prints money" gifs.

My Dream Nintendo Doesn't Make Home Consoles

PINCH ME

Ok, so yeah, I'm dreaming. It's a bold dream, one that suits me as a plugged-in adult with an appreciation for the complete history of Nintendo video games.

In reality, there might be problems for consumers in areas where internet is patchy. And with kids not being able to pay monthly subscriptions. With angry retailers being cut out of the loop. And with Nintendo not actually being able to pull something like this off.

That's why it's a dream. But I think it's a lovely dream.

— -

Images: cinefil, Honou,


Comments

    something comparable to the PlayStation Vitas and iPhones of the world. A handheld for a discerning adult customer
    Sorry, but I don't see too many discerning adults using Vitas (and arguably iphones, the least discerning choice possible for phones), and I can't imagine too many discerning adults using a Nintendo handheld any time soon.

    I have the opposite view to you. I think Nintendo's problems are 100% software driven. They make interesting hardware and then fail to give people any reason whatsoever to buy it. They make mediocre re-tread after mediocre re-tread of tired old properties, without building in much retro charm but without competing with actual good current gen games either. So from a gamer's perspective, Nintendo looks like a great option if I want to play out of date, repetitive games with a sickly sweet level of cutesy childishness about them.

    I think Nintendo should go the other way - release a new console which does the following:

    1. Runs all contemporary on-line services well (web browser, Netflix, etc)

    2. Runs ALL previous Nintendo games (obviously I mean via download services) and allows the customer to buy 'classic' games from every previous platform for very low prices, like a couple of bucks a game max.

    3. Is a cheap, easily accessible platform for interesting indie development, and includes tools on the console itself to help people get into game development easily and share what they create. I have in mind a sort of DMZ/sandbox area on the console where you can run whatever code you want.

    4. Allows Nintendo to run a focused strategy of developing their existing catalogue in interesting, "indie" type directions - so very good 2D/platform type rendering, for instance, and a focus on responsive controls and the like.

    5. Plays every type of media you can think of from local or networked sources.

    In other words, Nintendo should become the retro/indie/online box you can have under your TV for (say) $200-250. Let Sony and MS brawl it out with $600+ mini-PCs, while Nintendo quietly does 90% of what 90% of people want.

    I really dislike the concept of subscriptions for anything other than system support or anything that has a human element to what you are paying for.

    It's why people who play WoW (and other subscription based games) fascinate me: They have thrown thousands of dollars at the game, but if they stop paying at any point they lose all access until they pay up again, and yet they're ok with that.

    Edit: It's 2014, not 2013.

    Last edited 22/01/14 10:47 am

    Nintendo have been making money since 1889.

      Yes but we are all experts and don't own Wii U's Surely that means the company will go bankrupt tomorrow?

        I (and I'm sure many people who frequent this site) grew up when Nintendo was synonymous with video-games.

        I used to buy Nintendo as my first choice every generation - begrudgingly getting a PSX when it became clear my favourite arcade game, Tekken 3 was exclusive to Sony.

        By the demise (drubbing in Australia) of the GameCube it was obvious to anyone that range and depth of software on the competing consoles was far better.

        I give Nintendo credit for making a good fist of 3rd party this time around - getting COD and Ass Creed was a good move but not landing GTA or so many games from last year (Bioshock, Tomb Raider) proved to be a huge blow.

        Last edited 23/01/14 2:05 am

      Except they're expecting yet another multi-million dollar operating loss thanks to the dismally low sales of the Wii U. I love Nintendo as much as the next person, but don't just blindly support them as they destroy themselves with irrelevance.

        My point is in regard to the age of commentators. "The company has been making money... for longer than many games writers have been alive".

    Sounds cool, but I love my Wii U and don't want to see Nintendo consoles go away.

    I was going to launch into a treatise on why this wouldn't happen, but that's probably just beating the proverbial dead horse.

    But I am curious about the premise of the article which seems to imply that Nintendo has no future in home consoles.

      It's a stupid premise.
      The 64, while good in it's own right, struggled a bit against the newer more powerful consoles of the time like the PS1-2/Xbox. Years later they shrug off the same criticism and dominate the charts with a new and almost unexplored market, the Family.
      If they were doing things wrong then it's competitors wouldn't have scrambled over each other to try and get a sniff.

      My parents, myself, nephews/nieces, my kids and prob theirs will know who Mario is. I think Nintendo knows what they are doing and who they are doing it for. And in a gen where consoles don't seem to know what direction they should take, that should be respected.

        The Wii was a one-off, everyone knows that. The new casual market they created have since upgraded to PC/PS/XB or side-stepped to iOS/Android.

        Besides, the Wii U is proof positive they have no idea what they're doing in the console arena.

          The Wii was a one off huh? Nintendo, Super Nintendo, GameBoy, GBC, DS, Wii, DS Lite and 3DS. Last I checked having more than one success is the opposite of a one off.

          The casual market was never the target audience of the Wii, as mentioned it was the family unit.
          The Wii U is proof positive that they weren't able to market properlys time around and even if gamers move on to other offerings, there is still a new generation of families ready to play.
          And it has become clear this generation that no console really has a clue what they are doing because they are having a hard time pleasing such extreme camps.

          You are just another person who sings of Nintendo's impending doom without understanding that Nintendo has been going through ups and downs long before you were even a glint in your daddies eye.
          Nintendo Australia nearly had to shut down distribution before the Wii, surviving only on the sales of Pokemon cards. Even though the Wii U isn't doing great, they are far from suffering that fate again.

    The concept of the historic library being available for a subscription price is a good idea however the complexities of distributing revenue from such a model to the companies who made games in the past is where the idea would be deemed too difficult to realistically consider. If I were them I'd take your idea & along with the physical media of current gen games, I'd add to the Nintendo shop an account-based system where you can buy any previously developed Nintendo title for an appropriate price & also offer a small premium payment model which upgrades your account to do something similar to what you've mentioned.

    My subscription-based marketplace would be open to developers who wish to participate, and offers a pay-per-share style model which takes profits from the subscription model & divides the dividends to all studios based on the number of downloads made to active subscriber accounts. Naturally Nintendo would probably take the biggest portion given how many titles they own and what proportion of the marketplace they take up however it would give the incentive for 3rd party developers to join the premium marketplace & if they're successful then it means they'll be able to have a stable income for what could be a decent amount of time.

      Actually it's not as difficult to apportion revenue as you would think; record companies have been allocating royalties based on radio airplay for decades. Similarly I've worked for a textbook publisher and the fees people pay to copy books is distributed between the publishers and authors. Nintendo would have a comprehensive record of who plays what games for how long and revenue from the service could be split along those lines!

        Don't radio stations pay per play much like how people pay publishers per copy? A pay per play model for games is somewhat different imo because it's the consumer on the receiving end who is interacting with the games - compared to, for example the consumer who hears the music from the radio - they don't pay a cent for the service, it's the radio who does & they make their revenue from ads. I don't want to see a video game marketplace go down that kind of avenue.

          I'm not advocating a pay per play (arcade like) model but more a PS+ type model where you subscribe and have access to all the Nintendo classics.

          AFAIK radio stations pay a single fee to to ARIA or whoever and then send along their playlist info to that body to apportion the fee to all the different rights holders

    Nintendo is a traditional toy company. Why would you pay a subscription to play with your toys? You wouldn't. Nintendo, I would argue, are the only ones that actually get it. The physical is forever (until it breaks), subscription services only live as long as the servers are still switched on. Nintendo will be making home consoles when Microsoft and Sony drop out of the game and will retain their crown. Long live Nintendo and their home consoles. VIVA NINTENDO!!!

    The wii was an amazing home console that sold outstandingly but now the wiiu isnt faring as well people believe that nintendo home consoles should be forgotten is ridiculous. The wiiu is alot like the gamecube but the wii took off what if the successor to the wiiu with be a big seller like the wii was. The only thing I can think of is having a handheld and a home console in a combined one package deal. By moving from pure home console yet not completely removing it is the only future I would like to see if nintendo decided to move away from that hardware. The wiiu is an awesome console and a great purchase for anyone with an already existing wii library. People do not appreciate backwards compatibility enough.

    I would rather that nintendo go back to their roots and build a range of NES SNES and N64 consoles. Original hardware with a hdmi out. Tell me they wouldnt make a killing, and that you wouldnt buy a brand new in box SNES.

    They could do a short run of big titles on the original carts, and have the new consoles run the old carts......

      A few years ago they did that with the Megadrive - you could get it in Knart for like $50, they had 20 titles built in but it would also play the old carts!

    I love all these people who probably don't own a Wii U, yet want Nintendo to 'stay the course'. Staying the course so far will cost Nintendo it's third consecutive operating loss, this time at $336 million. I love my Wii U, but it could've been so much more, and Nintendo could do so much more.

    I like the idea of there not being a home console as such, but a handheld that *is* the home console, the new mobile chipsets for 2014 are supposedly now at 360/PS3 graphics capability levels, so in two years time I think this would be feasible. If you had two or more units (i.e. friends come around), and any of them can link up with one or more displaying on your TV, then that would also be kinda cool.

    Subscription, I dunno. I have netflix but I still buy the shows I love on BD. I love having a huge library at my fingertips, but still want to be able to pull the console out in ten years time and play the games I purchased, and not be dependant on a server somewhere still existing.

    I can't help but feel like Nintendo have an opportunity here that they need to take advantage of. We all know about the ps4 and the xbox one now. All Nintendo have to do is, in the next year or so, abandon the wii u as a failure, announce a new console that's similarly priced to the xbox one and ps4, but more powerful, have games that cater to the wii crowd as well as the playstation/xbox crowd, and that is still compatible with all the wii u games and peripherals. Give it a nostalgic name, like Nintendo Entertainment System, and proceed to print money.
    They won't do it, but they should.

      Yeah, I'd be SUPER pleased if Nintendo abandons the Wii U... I'll have myself a real cool looking paperweight/doorstop.

      But would Nintendo really shaft their loyal customers like that?

    Nintendos primary problem is their lack of inspiring games. same shit each generation. Fix that, then fix their home consoles. Oh, and give miyamoto the boot. Thanks for the 80s and 90s, but youre living in the past.

    Last edited 22/01/14 6:44 pm

      I agree Miyamoto (more than Iwata) is dragging the company down. Let him make games but keep him the hell away from console and controller development - Gunpei Yokoi he is not

    I have a 3DS which I rarely use. I drive everywhere and I don't need to play a handheld at home when I have 3 consoles and a PC.

    On the other hand, I have a Wii U which I use daily, for several hours at a time.

    I want to live in a world where people either chose to buy a product that is available or they don't. Either way, they shut up about what they want the product to be.

    the wii u sounded like a great premise.
    i like the controller (it works much better than say remote play on the PS4/vita)
    i love the miiverse, it is a fantastic innovation that i had wished MS or Sony would have blatantly ripped off.
    i like the fact i have a huge range of controllers to play with. i like the fact it is quiet.

    I dont like how slow it can be to do simple things
    the limited internal storage
    the fact games are not cheaper on the estore
    the fact it is underpowered compared to XB1 and PS4
    and lastly that there just arent many good games for it.

    i personally would be sad if nintendo gave up the console game. i dont think their developers would be competitive in the multiple console market. having to make engines to run on different hardware, not controlled by them would be a HUGE impact on their ability to make games.
    im sure their game design would still be great but overal quality would suffer or games would just take forever to release

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