2017 has been a really good year for Nintendo far. After launching its new system, the Switch, sales have been high and the company’s reputation has been continuously boosting. A lot of fans are happy with Nintendo right now and there seems to be a wave of positivity flowing towards the company from a good chunk of the industry. While there are some salty gamers out there who are still looking for ways to bring the Big N down, I have to say, take the name of this website out of the picture for a moment —Nintendo genuinely deserves a pat on the back right now.
Before we get into how things are now, we first need to look at how things were just a few years ago. Primarily, from the beginning of the 7th-generation. Nintendo had experienced a low point with the GameCube being overshadowed by its competitors; even the (at the time) brand-new Xbox managed to outsell Nintendo’s system. For the company which played a major part in bringing the gaming industry back up on solid ground in the 80s/90s, this did not look very good for Nintendo. President Yamauchi had stepped down and passed the baton over to Satoru Iwata. Now, it was up to Mr. Iwata to try and turn Nintendo’s ship around. And boy did he do just that.
After the low sales GameCube, Nintendo decided to change its design philosophy. Instead of trying to go up against the other system’s directly, Nintendo took a different course with its systems and focused more on being unique. That resulted in the Wii and DS. They were affordable, but severely underpowered compared to other consoles. Even so, it’s because of their simplicity that they managed to become Nintendo’s best-selling home and handheld system to date. Just put yourself in Mr. Iwata shoes for a moment; you managed to take the company from its lowest point to its highest point in just a few years! No doubt Iwata must have felt quite joyful and inspired to keep Nintendo on this new course.
As a result of the Wii and DS’ success, Nintendo went ahead and created direct successors: the Wii U and 3DS. Ironically, this is what caused the company to tumble yet again. Both systems struggled in their early days. This was odd considering how big the ‘Wii’ and ‘DS’ brand names were. But, it proved that the crowd that made those systems so successful had no intentions of sticking around for the long haul. The 3DS spent its first few months in rough waters, but things eventually calmed down and the little handheld has been holding its own ever since. The Wii U, on the other hand, proved to be a detriment to Nintendo.
After rising to massive heights with the Wii and DS, Nintendo took a tumble with the 3DS and especially the Wii U.
I remember it well. Ever since the Wii U was first announced, the amount of flack thrown at Nintendo has been high. While the system did enjoy some initial good performance, things never really balanced out. It spent a year on the market as the only 8th-generation system, but the PS4 and Xbox One passed it down in sales like lightning. There was confusion from the consumer base as to what the Wii U was: “Is it an add-on or a system?”
While core gamers knew that the Wii U was indeed Nintendo’s newest system, they scoffed at it since it was ‘too weak and gimmicky’ to meet their tastes. The disinterest that major developers showed towards the system wasn’t helping either. Admittedly, Nintendo itself seemed like it didn’t quite know how to handle the situation. The system’s OS launched in a very half-baked state, its game lineup was scattered immensely. It was rather tough to watch it all.
The gaming media and community regularly smacked the Wii U and Nintendo with negativity and toxicity. If I saw 20 Wii U posts in a day, usually more than half would be negative. Even the more positive ones still had little inklets of doubt within them. Even so, the Wii U did have its true supporters, myself included. People who were genuinely enjoying the system despite its issues. They were few and far between, but the fanbase was there. Regardless, that wasn’t enough to hide the fact that Nintendo was once again in a tough spot; arguably an ever tougher spot than it was during the days of the GameCube.
I love the Wii U, but we can’t pretend that there weren’t some serious issues.
As the Wii U continued to trug on, things never really changed. While the system eventually did grow to have a decent library and some technical issues were mended, it still looked quite inadequate compared to its competitors. Nintendo very subtly grew more and more cold towards the system. That became very obvious when in Spring of 2015, the ‘NX’ was announced. This was a very odd move from Nintendo. Its existing system was only three years old at the time, and the announcement was not accompanied with any sort of solid information. Literally only the codename was revealed and that the system was “unique”. Nintendo refused to shed anymore light on the console until its full reveal in October 2016, when we were all formally introduced to the Nintendo Switch. Between those two events, the reveal and full announcement, a lot of stuff happened. A lot of bad stuff.
Nintendo went to E3 2015 with a very weak show. Gamers and even the media were not pleased at all with the company’s performance and were not shy about letting Nintendo know it. Many were expecting some news on the NX to be revealed, but Nintendo kept mum about it. Had something been said, things probably would have turned out better. Even so, “what’s done is done”, as they say. The negativity towards Nintendo’s performance was so great that Mr. Iwata released an apology. Iwata did not even attend E3 due to an illness. Unfortunately, things did not get any better. Just a few weeks after E3, Mr. Iwata passed away unexpectedly. The reason given was due to his cancer spreading and killing him. It was a known fact that Iwata was battling the illness, but his condition had improved just recently before his death, making it a large shock. But while he did have cancer, I don’t think that’s the only reason he died.
Again, put yourself in Iwata’s shoes. You’re the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the gaming industry; a multi-billion dollar worldwide company. As the CEO, whatever state the company—good or bad— in reflects directly off of you. With so much toxicity being thrown at Nintendo since the Wii U was released, more-so at that time after Nintendo’s weak E3 2015 show, just imagine how Iwata must have felt. He was already too sick to even be at the event, so just think what must have been going through his head when he learned that people were not happy with the company’s presentation. It was already stressful enough to be an ill CEO, so all of this put even more weight on him. I’m not saying that Iwata would still be alive today if Nintendo weren’t in such a weak state at the time, but I’m sure all of that negativity made him even weaker.
The darkest moment of recent Nintendo years was Iwata’s death.
While he did have cancer, dealing with the stress of Nintendo’s poor state surely didn’t help.
After Iwata’s death, Nintendo almost completely went mum. The company was no doubt hurting more than ever. Thankfully, the previously toxic gaming community turned quite sympathetic after learning of Iwata’s death. For a while, Nintendo was able to finally catch a break. When the company did eventually open up again—things were much different.
Not too long after appointing Tatsumi Kimishima as the new President of Nintendo, the NX was officially revealed to be the Nintendo Switch. The console’s design was previously leaked in the months leading up to its reveal, but it was still surprising to see that it was indeed a hybrid system. Its reveal was a lot better than the Wii U’s and Nintendo seemed much more confident this time around. Releasing just a few months later, the Switch came onto the scene with a bang and has been flying high ever since. Nintendo has taken the mistakes it made with the Wii U and have made them right with the Switch, thus giving us a system that is truly capable of being a front-runner.
Nintendo has been making a lot of good decisions. Like making sure to advertise the Switch to high heaven and even cross-platform multiplayer with Xbox One and PC players. The company has also been embracing indie developers even more and has been working alongside major third-party companies to ensure the Switch is a solid platform. All of this, and more, points to a new, more refined Nintendo. After going through those tumultuous years with the Wii U, the company has learned some painful, yet valuable lessons. While Mr. Iwata is gone, he still deserves credit for Nintendo’s current state. He played a major part in the Switch’s development, which showed that he really was affected by the missteps of the Wii U.
So, let’s look at the title of the article again—this is why Nintendo deserves praise right now. After falling hard with the Wii U, the company has been able to stand up again and come back even stronger. Of course it’s still not perfect, but the Nintendo we have now is more bold and proud. Having a healthy platform, no doubt the Big N will continue to improve over the course of the next few years. Even Sony and Microsoft have admitted that it’s good to have Nintendo back in a good state. So, let’s keep encouraging Nintendo to keep pushing. I’m waiting excitedly to see what else Nintendo has in store.