Nintendo has always been a familiar name in the gaming community. Everyone at some point has owned a Nintendo console, whether it be an early model like the NES, or a later model like the Wii. Of the top ten best-selling consoles, Nintendo makes up half the list. It’s no wonder that for a long period of time, Nintendo was a household brand.
But the decision to maintain focus on casual gamers and family audiences has caused the company to slowly fade in to the background in the face of their competitors. To make matters worse, smartphones and tablets, as well as other mobile devices, have over-saturated the casual gaming market. 53% of gamers play games on their smartphones, while 41% play on a wireless device. Everyone wants to make the next Candy Crush or Tetris, which leads to quite a few addicting, low-memory games for those who just want to play something quickly or while bored. Asia alone boasts almost $6 billion in revenue per year in the mobile game market.
With mobile devices as a competitor, it’s become pretty difficult for Nintendo to keep a foothold in the casual game market. While the plus side of this over-saturation is that gaming is far more commonplace and less of a ‘nerds-only’ stigma, it also means that consumers take games for granted now. Casual gamers merely want to be entertained, while a hardcore consumer wants to be impressed and challenged.
And with that, Nintendo wants to turn their focus to their core audience, their most passionate consumers.
There’s been little announced about how Nintendo plans to go about this focus, but I myself have high hopes. With the focus turning from the mass, passive audience to the core audience and their higher standards, it’s possible that we may see the innovation that led to the original Wii being such a success. Looking back, can you remember how crazy it was to hear of a console that was using motion control? Or the 3D function of the 3DS, without the use of funny blue-and-red glasses? The Wii U attempted that innovation again with the GamePad, but that ran into snags that even Nintendo execs have admitted to worrying over.
“Of course we had some concerns. After all, we’re human beings: our eyes cannot see two objects at the same time. But we were sure that, even with that kind of, say, weak point, we would be able to make something unprecedented and revolutionary.” Shigeru Miyamoto, General Manager of Nintendo EAD
There’s nothing to say that the casual gaming audience will be completely abandoned, but the company is making moves to focus back on the fans that expect more of them. And to me, this is a move that is rather brilliant. Is it high-risk? Absolutely. Any time innovation enters the picture, developers will run the risk of impressing their audience, or turning them off completely. But this focus will force the quality back into the games we’ve always loved from the company.
With the focus moving from the casual audiences, who will love anything as long as it’s ‘entertaining’, Nintendo will be forced to think bigger, and better, to re-capture the hardcore consumers that have turned to other consoles for games that challenge them. When the market demands and wants a game that will challenge them and go the extra mile, the companies are forced to respond.
There will always be games like Call of Duty and Madden that can churn out the same game year after year with a bit of innovation here and there, and a graphics boost. (Come on, we’ve all made that joke.) Even the Tales series can be guilty of being the same game in essence; Two heroes meet, gather a ragtag band that has at least one traitor/mercenary character, something bad happens to the world, learn the world’s true origins, there’s another world out there, oh my. But hardcore consumers are always demanding something new, something different than the same old tale, or even a return to a traditional game style, such as a survival horror game and not an action horror game.
But if Nintendo seriously plans on making a shift like this, then it can no longer expect to sell a game merely because Mario, Link, Kirby or DK are on the cover. With that in mind, I’m looking forward to whatever projects Nintendo has in the woodworks to support this shift in the market, plus we’ll be seeing more of its more mature third-party releases like Bayonetta 2 and Devil’s Third at some point. Is there a chance that I may still be disappointed and Nintendo is just talking big? Oh, absolutely.
Only time will tell.
Kayla Swenson is an aspiring author and former DJ from Seattle, WA that procrastinates far too much with video games to get a book out. When she’s not gaming until carpal tunnel sets in, she’s working on dreams of being a voice actor as well as a published writer. Fond of RPGs, she will happily disappear into the void to tackle whatever bad voice acting awaits. Contact her at the email above, or on all major systems/networks as Beltravi.