Nowadays, Mac analysts have a similar obsession with Nintendo. The logic goes a bit like this: Nintendo is doing poorly because Apple and Samsung own the market for portable devices. If only Nintendo stopped making hardware and published their games for iOS instead, surely, it would do much better.
Update (2013-08-30): Federico Viticci:
Saying that Nintendo should shut everything down, go home, and start making games for iOS is an easy but flawed solution that just isn’t supported by the facts.
Update (2013-09-02): John Siracusa:
At the tail end of the GameCube’s life, Sony had sold many times more consoles and games than Nintendo over the course of a decade. Should Nintendo have started writing games for the overwhelmingly dominant Sony platform? Would that have helped Nintendo achieve Wii-like success? I don’t think so; no amount of software alone could have done that.
Update (2013-09-04): John Gruber:
That, to me, is how I wish Nintendo saw iOS gaming. It might not kill Nintendo’s own console platforms any more than The Mickey Mouse Club killed Disney’s feature film business. And if Nintendo’s hardware platforms are doomed, I think they’re doomed no matter what. Nintendo producing iOS games isn’t going to accelerate the demise of DS handhelds. Better to get a foothold in the new world as soon as possible, to do it before it’s too late.
The criticisms levelled against the DS and the Wii were exactly the same ones Gruber now levels against the current Nintendo consoles. But Nintendo is at its best when it doesn’t try to compete with other devices on the market, and often at its worst when it does. Nintendo is not competing on hardware. It’s competing on entertainment value.
I’m sure Nintendo wants the 3DS to sell better than the DS, and the Wii U to sell better than the Wii. Fortunately, Nintendo doesn’t need every console to sell 120 million units. Nintendo is a small company. It only has 5000 employees. It doesn’t need to be the number one videogame hardware maker to sustain itself.
Most of this whole discussion is based on the expectation that Nintendo will continue (and must continue) being as dominant as it was during the Wii/DS years. But these years were a fluke. Nintendo never did that well before, and possibly won’t do that well again. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to.
Update (2013-09-06): Lukas Mathis:
It’s always seductive to take a single aspect of a company, and view that company’s whole history through that lens. It’s also usually wrong. But it’s surprising how well it works in this particular case. «Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology» seems to correlate quite well with Nintendo’s ups and downs. Whenever Nintendo produced videogame systems that used established technology in surprising ways, it did well. When it tried to compete on specs, it did poorly.
Update (2013-09-08): John Gruber:
Here then, I can put my finger precisely on where Mathis and I disagree. Because I think this is nearly as applicable to video game consoles — portable ones in particular — as it is for BlackBerrys. People do not want to carry extra devices. It’s that simple.
I don’t think most people buy portable gaming systems with the intention of regularly carrying them in their pockets. I don’t think they ever did. I don’t remember knowing even a single person who routinely carried a portable gaming device in his or her pocket.
Update (2013-09-14): Lukas Mathis:
With historical data, you can’t do this type of experiment. But you can get close. If the Wii’s sales pattern truly is unusual, and mainly caused by the «post-PC era», then the following things should be true[…]
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