Well, here we are again. Discussing a somewhat irrelevant topic that somehow means a great deal to me at the moment. It seems that’s how life goes…I mean that’s what I get for reading this.
So the big players have all flipped over one of their cards each…or in Microsoft’s case, mistakenly thrown down the whole hand before realizing that there is another round of betting left. 10 to 20 lucky people have gotten their hands on new Xbox 360’s, while the rest of you are perpetually selling them on ebay. (That’s a whole different article in and of itself.) But I’m writing today to talk about one of the players in particular. Nintendo of course. They, as of late, seem to be doing things their own way, which has always seemed to work out for them. Of course, back in the early days of videogames, Nintendo’s way was THE way to do it.
In the old days…
Nintendo started out with the NES, which pretty much set the tone for modern day videogame systems. (Yes, I know there are alot of systems that came before this, but none of them really found a place in everyone’s entertainment center.) The SNES that followed raised the bar as far as graphics and sound were concerned. It had, at the time, to compete with the Sega Genesis, which had a substantially larger installed base. But through gameplay and quality, Nintendo was ultimately able to win the majority of the market. The actualy technical differences between these consoles was negligible at best.
In the next round, the N64 and the Playstation competed with a myriad of technical differences. Firstly, Nintendo stuck with a cartridge, while Sony went with newer/cheaper CD technology. This is a strike in Nintendo’s direction if you ask me. Cartridges were much more expensive, and had far less storage capacity than CDs. Despite this though, the N64 had a graphical edge on the Playstation. This, coupled with really good first party games helped Nintendo compete with, but not overpower, Sony’s Playstation. A newcomer had managed to fend off Nintendo. But why?
In my opinion, Sony has always made a mistake of not developing quality, in-house, first party properties. I mean, Nintendo has always had Mario, Zelda, etc. but what great franchise do you remember being a Sony property? All the good ones you may list come from third party developers, who often end up bringing them to other platforms. Its this area where I believe Nintendo has always led the pack. But the Playstation held people’s attention, I believe, due to its overall lower cost of ownership, and number of new game series.
Mario64 was a great game, but ultimately, one that people had pretty much played before. Sony had Wipeout, Resident Evil, and Tomb Raider. All new franchises at the time. I believe this rift is what lent the Playstation it’s success. There were those that loved the tried and true series, and those that thirsted for new blood.
The landscape today
In the next round, Nintendo’s Gamecube had to compete with both the PS2 and the Xbox. (We’ll leave Sega out of these rounds due to the fact that they’re a non-issue today.) The PS2 and Xbox were both priced quite high, and basically toted as videogame powerhouses that would blow you away with graphics and sound, the likes of which had never been seen before. Nintendo, however, went with a lower price point, and went back to its usual stance on gameplay rather than graphics or technology.
All things aside, I believe that all three of these consoles produce games that are roughly of the same calibre in the graphics or sound category. Each console has its standout titles, but I feel that Nintendo has slipped here. I own a Gamecube(and neither Xbox nor PS2) and can honestly say that I love the system. I can see no reason why people prefer the Xbox or PS2 over it. That said, however, at this point, Nintendo has gained an image and notoriety for developing games that are aimed at younger kids. The Pokemons’, the Yu-Gi-Ohs’, and what have you. To me, this is a bad thing. Sure the Gamecube has violent titles like any other system, but being marked as the company that caters to kids means that you’re ignoring a HUGE demographic group. Young adults (ages 18-34….or so) have proven that they’re the main consumers of videogames. I personally have never played Pokemon or anything like it just due to the fact that I’m not a kid myself(I’m 25…I’m a man!)
Destination: The future!
So enter tomorrows market. The Xbox 360 has shipped, and its still too early to tell on that one. The PS3, if you ask me, will probably battle with the Xbox 360 over who has the lead in market share(at least in the US,) and then comes Nintendo’s Revolution. What to think of it? As it looks right now, it appears to be significantly less powerfull than either of the other consoles on paper. To me, that doesn’t mean much. Nintendo is trying to reposition themselves as leaders of gameplay innovation, and not strictly technology. I feel that the only hope for the big N is to develop new and diverse titles. Something they were somewhat successful in doing for the Gamecube(Pikmin comes to mind.) They must also diversify their portfolio and develop some games that are targetted at young adults. Ones’ that aren’t necessarily violent, but ones’ that don’t feature cartoon characters and pastel colors.
In the end…
I personally haven’t decided what next generation system I plan on buying. I own(sitting in my entertainment center right now) an 8-bit NES, a 16-bit SNES(thanks Tina!), and a Gamecube. Notice the absense of the N64. There isn’t an empty spot for a Revolution either…I reserve judgement upon its release. Lets all just hope and pray that Nintendo can reinvigorate itself and breath some life into its next system.
PS: Buy the rights from Rare to make another installment of Uniracers…that game is a GEM!!
Addendum – Read this for a more in-depth and hands-on preview with the Nintendo Revolution.