This generation of consoles has been a strange one for Nintendo so far, when the Wii U launched in late 2012 there was, for the first time in a long while, confusion regarding what a particular videogame console actually is.
When the Wii was announced, the video package and conference that Nintendo put together did wonders for the sales of the console, millions of people bought it purely due to the fact that it was a Nintendo console, a successor to their Gamecube, N64 or SNES, or whatever console they last remembered playing Mario on. Millions of people bought it because of the simplicity of it, swing the remote like a tennis racket to hit the ball back, retirement villages alone must have accounted for a couple of hundred thousand sales due to the pack-in of Wii Sports.
Millions of people, however, like myself, bought it purely for the inevitable games that Nintendo themselves would put out for it, your Zeldas, your Marios, Donkey Kongs, Metroids etc.
This early interest gave Nintendo a huge boost in sales, funds and public mind share, but it wasn’t enough for the long-term life of the console. The significantly lower spec of the console prevented games from looking as pretty or being as complex as their 360/PS3/PC counterparts. The early Wii Sports adopters were happy with just that one game, maybe also Wii Fit but the truth was that after many years of capturing our childhood hearts with whimsy and charm, Nintendo was starting to stagnate. Their games were fantastic, but they were few and far between.
Fast forward to the launch of the Wii U and Nintendo’s woes were not over. The console itself looked kind of like the Wii we already own, the Gamepad just seemed like a tablet add-on for the old machine, even Jimmy Fallon, a guy who seems pretty switched on and into games, mistakenly described it on his worldwide viewed show as an add-on for the existing Wii.
Sales were low, public opinion was scattered, third parties weren’t bringing their games to the system and all seemed lost for the legends of my childhood.
E3 2014: Nintendo formally show Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warrriors, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, The Legend of Zelda (WiiU), Super Mario Maker, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Code Name S.T.E.A.M, Mario Party 10, Mario vs Donkey Kong, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, Splatoon, Amiibo, Star Fox Zero, Super Smash Bros, Xenoblade Chronicles X and Yoshi’s Woolly World, plus a few third-party exclusives.
They’d done it, or at least it seemed they had. On the far side of E3 2014 and Nintendo seemed to have finally got it, with what I would describe as a fantastic showing where they featured a plethora of titles that excited the 5-year-old inside my heart and the 29-year-old writing this in equal measure. The big ship that is Ninty appeared to be finally turning around and joining the rest of the fleet whilst still keeping that charm that the Kyoto-based games giant has had since the 80’s. They even surprised me earlier this year by releasing a much better version of Majora’s Mask on 3DS (I kind of always knew they would, yet somehow doubted we’d ever see it).
With sales as low as they were and little hope for much software on the horizon, I was worried, I assumed that then president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata would have been voted out of his position at last year’s meeting of shareholders, he was not. E3 must have impressed and seen an upward turn for growth, especially with the news that Mario Kart 8 had sold over 2 million copies at the time. He was to remain at the helm for at least for another year, my worries for Nintendo had subsided.
Earlier this year Satoru Iwata tragically passed away. Succumbing to illness.
I was sad. I still am.
It’s an odd feeling of ambivalence to feel so sad for the loss of someone who was so important to videogames for decades but also happiness that this same man is no longer suffering.
During the months as we mourned his passing we have been looking out for that next big Nintendo product, whether it be a new franchise or a smash hit from a familiar face. I can only hope that Nintendo can pick itself up, dust itself off and keep going with the love of crafting excellent videogames that has carried them this far.
These tragic events have seen a changing of the guard at the top levels of the company. Here’s to a future of new possibilities for Nintendo, both financially and creatively.
More importantly, here’s to Satoru Iwata, a man who served as Nintendo’s president since 2002, a man who helped create so many games from Kirby to Earthbound, Pokémon, Mario, Metroid, Zelda and many, many more. Someone who was partially responsible for all of those gaming treasures and also a man who provided us with so many great memories in the process. Even if we don’t realise just how many that truly was.
Thank you Iwata-san.