Nintendo is very significant in the videogaming industry. They are one of the 3 major console makers, the publisher that sells more games and the company that makes more profit. Their past is just as great. They are the brand with the most presence in the entire gaming history, from consoles to handhelds, from the crisis-savior NES to the highly innovative Wii, from the cutting-edge SNES to the market dominator 3DS.
Over decades, they have created a huge and dedicated fan base due to their ability of ever delivering highly appealing products. Nintendo is one of the strongest brands in the world, pleasing fans and the critic, selling to the masses and presenting enviable profits.
I perfectly understand why Nintendo is so acclaimed by the people and seen by many as the perfect company. They create games that are original, fun and engaging to the eye. Moreover, they don’t produce violent games. Staying out of all the controversies that come from here makes millions of parents to sympathize with Nintendo.
But the truth is: they are not what they seem to be. They have been very egocentric since the beginning, making unparalleled damage to developers, retailers, stakeholders and gamers.
1. Harming gamers
1.1. What Nintendo does with your dollar
It doesn’t take much time to search for graphics and tables on Google images about the profits of the big three and realize that Sony and Microsoft pick your dollar to spend on more games and consoles while Nintendo keeps much (if not most) of it.
1 dollar spent on Sony or Microsoft products means 1 dollar to feed hardware and software developers for the production of more and better games. 1 dollar spent on Nintendo products means a very significant part of it out of the videogaming industry. It’s interesting to realize that the only 100% gaming corporation making consoles nowadays is also the only one taking money away from the gaming cycle.
32B$, that is Nintendo’s “debt” towards gamers as of 2011. 1.2B$ is the Sony’s “debt” as of 2010 but now it must be nothing. With Microsoft, it’s the opposite: gamers have a “debt” of 6.8B$ as of 2011.
Some of you may tell that companies are meant to make profits and thus it’s totally legitimate for Nintendo to make billions at the gamer’s expense. That is true. However, you as a gamer have the power to choose. If there are companies that have been willing to give you as much as you give them, you can opt by them and make the market to operate on this logic. That is also fair.
1.2. How Nintendo has evolved along the time
Nintendo was cutting-edge with NES and SNES. They focused on the most popular genre at that time (platformer) and the gaming concepts they developed were the best one could see besides PC. Mario and Donkey Kong were the backbone of what Nintendo had to offer and even in other genres like Driving and RPG Nintendo had a word to say with Mario Kart and Zelda.
But, as gaming became more and more evolved, as digital experiences became more and more complex, and as genres were changing in both form and popularity, Nintendo wasn’t able to follow the market trends and the industry turns. They got stuck in the past, fearing change, more competitive segments that were emerging and refusing to leave behind the aging concepts that made them multi-millionaire.
The top-notch designs became cartoonish, the unparalleled gameplay level became too basic, the content remained linear and the genre focus continued to be the same (platformers, RPG and little more). As a result, the teenagers and adults that grew up with Nintendo were already too old to be pleased with the same experiences and kids became the main client of the “kindergarten” offers that Nintendo games had turned into.
With N64 and GC, Mario, a human, became a cartoon living in the wonderland like the crazy eastern barred bandicoot and the blue hedgehog with red sneakers (which has actually evolved into more realistic environments filled with humans - see Sonic Adventure - but I guess they couldn’t do much about the character itself, they went as realistic as they could).
On the other hand, Nintendo got clinged as much as they could to the old formulas. One big example of this is the balloon-based games. When videogames were not evolved enough to have voice acting, real-time animations or character full-control, developers usually opted by game architectures based on text balloons that would tell what the characters were saying or would give options to progress in the game or perform some actions (like it happens in all handheld Pokémon games). From the 5th generation onwards, developers began to move out of this archaic concept. Tech is what was preventing them from evolving. Nintendo got clinged to the cheap architectures. Money is what was preventing them from evolving.
Platformers were still very popular but other genres emerged. Sports became very significant and Nintendo’s response was Mario Tennis, Golf, Strikers and Baseball, which were fun (Nintendo never stopped being competent in what they were committed to) but were too basic when compared to FIFA, PES, Virtua Tennis, MLB, NBA, NFL, etc. These games not only presented more complex and deeper gameplays but also attempted to be realistic in content (real players, real teams, real championships, real stadiums, etc.). With a tiny portion of such content, Nintendo Sports games could mostly appeal to kids but not to the majority, which moved to PlayStation.
The exact same thing happened with the Driving genre. Games like Need For Speed, Test Drive and Gran Turismo offered real cars, realistic environments and simulating gameplays when compared to Mario Kart and F-Zero. Once again, Nintendo avoided photo-realism, realistic gameplay modeling, car sounds and anything that couldn’t be done within the four walls of their studios or represented a major expense. Traditional-development / easy-business was their niche.
Same thing happened in the Fighting genre, where Nintendo came up with Super Smash Bros to compete with the complex and somehow realistic Tekken, Dead Or Alive and Soul Calibur. Recycling characters to an arcade experience shows the Nintendo’s commitment in regards to the Fighting genre. Same thing with the Strategy genre, where Pikmin was the only RTS to compete with the complex Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, Homeworld, Company of Heroes and the deep and simulating Civilization and Total War.
Platformers were now sharing protagonism with Action/Adventure games and the peeking Shooters. Nevertheless, Nintendo kept up with Mario and Donkey Kong while Zelda, Golden Eye and Metroid Prime were the only response for such a change. Again, with the exception of Golden Eye, Nintendo continued to be on the cartoonish/wonderland style that could solely rely on their talent to make games and nothing more. They were full of money but it was not to be spent like the others were doing. Even when they were drastically losing market share to PS1, the billions were to be kept in their pockets.
Although N64 and GC were powerful consoles, their media formats were obsolete and out of the standard. Nintendo also came last in the adoption of Online Gaming. Dreamcast was the pioneer, PS2 has followed it and Microsoft came up with the Xbox Live. This was another market trend that was hard for Nintendo to absorb.
With the Wii, things got even worse. Not only the media format and online continued to be weak spots but also the core capabilities were no longer at the same level as the rest of the industry. Even some of the most dedicated fans couldn’t take it once they felt betrayed by Nintendo. Motion got the main focus and Arcade became the main genre (Wii Sports / Play / Party), which has attracted many non-gamers and made the Wii a successful console. This was the way Nintendo has found to remain retro (evolution lagger) but be successful (social innovator).
The Wii U just continued the Wii’s path, being 1 generation behind on core capabilities and relying on another gimmick (the gamepad). But this time Nintendo was not capable of catching the casual market. Most of the non-gamers that bought the Wii just moved out of the market as fast as they had moved in, searching for new ways of entertainment (smartphones, social networks, etc.). Others evolved and became more demanding (like the NES/SNES clients) and moved to PlayStation or Xbox. Only a tiny part upgraded their Wii to Wii U, and the sales show that.
Over the last 2 decades, Nintendo did everything to avoid massive money spending. While Gran Turismo was modeling hundreds of real cars, TOCA was designing dozens of real tracks, Project Gotham was recreating several world cities and rFactor was modeling real car handlings, Nintendo was recycling the old same old Mario Kart. While Crytek, Epic and Polyphony were developing cutting-edge game engines, Nintendo was doing nothing special at all. While Fuel, Just Cause, Test Drive Unlimited and Operation Flashpoint were building thousands of square kilometers, Nintendo was keeping up with the small levels they had ever done. While Sonic was hiring bands to create dozens of quality music tracks to its games, Nintendo continued to use instrumental-only soundtracks for Mario. While The Getaway, Uncharted, LA Noire and Heavy Rain were raising up the gaming standards to compete with movies or TrackMania, Crashday, LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers were creating powerful level editors and promoting the play-create-share concept, Nintendo was doing nothing for it. While World of Warcraft, APB and MAG were revolutionizing the online gaming experience or while GTA, Total War and Arma were designing highly deep simulating environments, Nintendo was claiming that violence and photo-realism were out of their landscape.
But the truth is that Nintendo has never tried to engage into bold concepts that could require a lot of money with the risk of being massive flops (other developers did). They ‘ve never done on Mario Kart what others did on ModNation Racers many years later. They’ve never done on Pokémon what others did on Spore many years later. The uncontrolled power of a game community fascinates most of developers but scares Nintendo. Their talent and creativity are only used to easily profit from gamers, who made them rich in the first place. Note that I’m not taking into account tastes when referring all those games earlier (like the Guinness book is not about the best people in the world). I’m just focusing on objective remarkable achievements of some games that could have only been done with effort/time/money. If the game X is beautiful or if the game Y is fun, that is already subjective (about tastes) and it is about talent (the only thing Nintendo games have relied on, despite their immense potential resources).
1.3. What Nintendo is willing to offer
Although NES and SNES were cutting-edge, Nintendo has always tried to slow down the gaming evolution pace. NES had 2KB of RAM (Master System had 64KB) and a cheaper, less functional, non-standard processor, while SNES came out 2 years after Mega Drive because Nintendo claimed the average gamer was not mature enough for 16-bit systems until seeing Mega Drive outselling the almighty NES by 3 to 1 in its first year.
Nintendo came also last with N64, GC and even Wii. Wii U is the exception, but if we really look at the tech, the system is more comparable to X360/PS3 than to XOne/PS4. The greater console maker of the videogaming industry was always forced by others (rather than forcing them) to move onto new generations and new evolutionary stages. If it was up to Nintendo, we would probably be still in the 32-bit and some generations behind because we wouldn’t be mature enough to experience the modern games we have now.
On the other hand, Nintendo has always kept high pricing points on their products but tried to disguise them. For example, the Wii was always seen as the most affordable investment of the 7th generation, since the console and the games were cheaper. However, the games didn’t drop the price and the low price point of the console was rapidly matched by X360 (although the machines were not on the same evolution step). Hence, summing up the console price with the best sold / critically acclaimed games and some peripherals that were part of the Wii’s core experience, Wii was more expensive than X360/PS3 from the 5th or 7th game to be added to the investment. From that point, even the expensive PS3 with its Cell and Blu-ray player was cheaper than the last-gen-tech-equipped Wii.
Of course that, if we take into account the online gaming, X360 becomes as expensive as Wii (probably cheaper if we consider many games in few years, probably more expensive if we consider few games in many years). If we take into account DLCs, the total investment values will be closer (even the PS3’s). However, it is fair to say that Xbox Live is superior to the other online services and that PS3/X360 games without any DLCs have yet far more content and are surely far more evolved than Wii games. Therefore, the initial analysis seems to be the best possible comparison and there we can conclude that Wii was only the most affordable investment until the 5th or 7th game bought.
Game Cube faced a similar scenario and N64 was even worse, once its games were extremely expensive compared to PS1, Saturn and even Dreamcast. But actually 75€ for a N64 game was not that much if we take into account that by that time the handheld market was dominated by Game Boy, which had NES-level games at 50€.
Nintendo wants to keep the perceived value of their products as high as possible and thus the fast evolution of videogames is something they have to carefully manage. The last thing they want is their cartoonish/retro-concepts to be compared to PC flash games that cost nothing but a 10-second advertisement before playing. They need their games to be put in the same level as PlayStation and Xbox.
Therefore, their pricing strategy is based on 2 pillars: put the prices high ; don’t lower them. They could never put a Mario game at 20€ or 10€ as Sony and Microsoft do with some of their games. Those are prices for virtual console titles. They could never offer the instant game collection and the 2 games per month Sony does with PS Plus. They could never launch a console redesign with better features for a lower price (see the Wii Family Edition, it had the same price, it was bigger and without retro-compatibility). They could never lower the Wii console price to 80€ like Sony did with the PS2.
1.4. Nintendo’s policies towards gamers
As mentioned earlier, Nintendo has always tried to keep the perceived value of their products as high as possible. That could only have been done with a solid and long-term strategy based on exclusivity and elitism. Not letting any of their games to be launched out of their consoles (not even on PC) was a way to tell the consumer that, no matter what, Nintendo games will ever only be played on Nintendo consoles. Not dropping their price (even when pure supply/demand logic would demand it) was a way to tell that a Mario game is worth 50€, today and tomorrow.
This strategy could make them lose some potential sales in the short-term but it was a clever long-term arm-wrestling against gamers. It’s not easy to blackmail the market without a monopoly but Nintendo has always tried really hard to do so. And the most scary thing was that the more control they had over the market, the more control they tried to further get.
When NES had around 90% of market share, Nintendo implemented what they called “inventory management”, which consisted of limiting the amount of software units available at sale in order to keep high demand for games and thus put customers on a short leash. Gamers would buy what Nintendo wanted and at the price they wanted, once customers were concerned about which games were available rather than how much they would have to spend. Being able to buy a Nintendo game was a gift by itself. By design, Nintendo would not fill all of the retailers' orders and kept half or more of its library of games inactive and unavailable. In 1988, for instance, 33 million NES cartridges were sold, but market surveys indicated that upwards of 45 million could have been sold. This was a great attempt to get ultimate control over supply and demand.
They did this only with games, not with consoles. They did it when NES was already for 3 years in the market, not since the beginning (when customers could make the right assessment before making any investment). And they did it only when the console had already 90% of market share, when all 3rd parties were only developing for NES and thus Master System and Atari 7800 were much less appealing.
Another way to seize control over the market is by making it weaker. The console market is quite big and that makes it strong but, as any other market, it is made of individuals that naturally behave and react individually. Nintendo is at the moment the only major console maker to use region lock. That means you can’t buy games from any region to play on your console.
Thus, Nintendo can manage the availability of games and their prices by region to better squeeze each one of them. And, by doing so, there won’t be global negative reactions towards any of their localized abusive practices. If you’re from a tiny little region, you’re on your own against the powerful Nintendo.
Moreover, that makes them free to launch western versions of japanese games one year later the original launch at full retail price. Actually, that makes them free not to launch at all some games in some regions if they think it won’t be as profitable. There is a military maxim that says “divide and conquer”. I find it sad that Nintendo is at war with gamers.
2. Harming developers
2.1. Limiting third-party freedom
In the 1st and 2nd generations, game developers only needed to buy a platform’s equipment to build games for it. The console market was as free as the PC. In the 3rd generation, Nintendo invented a chip that blocked all the cartridges (unless a key code patented by them was used), preventing programmers from freely creating NES games without Nintendo’s permission.
This type of control became the standard and earnings from game licenses became the main business for console makers. One can argue that this logic was adopted by Nintendo as by anyone else so it’s not that censurable. But the fact is that Nintendo was the pioneer in such measures. No one was doing that and Nintendo just felt the need to control third-parties even further, to give them even less space in the market, to profit even more from an already successful business they had created. Nintendo proactively restricted third-parties’ freedom. The other console makers have only reactively adopted the same logic. And actually the pressure for doing so was huge. How could a company set an appealing price point to its console when refusing to earn a share from the software sales when the others could even do hardware dumping?
But surprisingly Nintendo did not use this leverage to lower the console’s price. On the contrary, NES remained almost at the same price from 1985 to 1989, making astronomical profits, which were subject to legal action ordering Nintendo to reimburse 25M$ to consumers. Nintendo has always preferred money over product spread and has always attempted for market dominance by means of intimidation and dirty moves towards gamers, retailers and, in this case, developers.
Using the very same power, Nintendo restricted publishers’ freedom regarding game launches. Each company could only release 5 titles per year and Nintendo has even controlled the media outlet that covered upcoming games. Nintendo has also oppressed many developers by withholding distribution rights on their platform if their specific conditions for approval were not met.
As a result, PC became the only free platform and consoles (designed for accessibility) became even less casual than it. Every amateur was making experiments (and ultimately launching games) on the PC, not on consoles anymore. PC became the ultimate space for freedom and creativity and only now on the 8th generation Sony and Microsoft are taking the first steps to get indies back to the consoles. The consequences of Nintendo’s greedy initiatives have lasted all this time.
2.2. Despising partners’ needs
Along history, Nintendo has created systems primarily focused on their needs and ambitions in terms of software development. Then, 3rd parties would fit into the outcome of those needs (too bad if they wanted something else).
Sony and Microsoft have always attempted to develop powerful consoles using mainstream hardware tech that could please and be accessible to as many 3rd parties as possible, which could aim for protagonism within the console. Actually, Sony and Microsoft enhanced it, providing good software development tools and eventually financing some projects if they were to be exclusives. Their philosophy was: “if we develop the best system for 3rd party developers, it can’t be bad for our 1st party studios”.
This was a quite different logic from the one adopted by Nintendo, which made the powerful Game Cube lacking of a standard hardware media drive (CD or DVD) in order to prevent piracy. N64 had been even worse, providing cartridges with some few MB while the competition had the 700MB Compact Discs.
But the worst would have yet to come. With the Wii, Nintendo waived 7th gen tech, leaving only 50%-60% of the market to who wanted to raise the standards of videogaming and continue its evolution. The innovation made with motion controls was totally legitimate. The problem was that, from a financial point of view, Nintendo concluded it was better to opt by old tech hardware and make the 250€ worth it because of the Motion (which didn’t account much for the production costs). This way, Nintendo could play it safe (profit since the beginning on the console, games and peripherals) while opening up to the possibility of a major success, which ended up happening.
As a result, AAA games were feasible on the PC, on the X360, on the PS3, but not on the Wii. Some publishers eventually launched a downgraded version on the Wii that, in some cases, was just a different game with the same title. Wii’s biggest partners became Just Dance, Zumba Fitness, Lego Star Wars, Carnival Games and EA Sports Active.
With the Wii U, history repeats itself. A console with last-gen tech failing to meet major 3rd parties’ needs and, as a result, a migration of AAA games to the competition. The Wii U was only able to get the AAA games from those that were still in the 7th gen cycle. Again, Nintendo designing a console only for its needs, this time a system that wouldn’t make much noise so “mum wouldn't mind having it in the living room”.
Some developers making ports from PS3/X360 to the Wii U told they had to cut back on some features due to the CPU not being powerful enough, which has impacted the game as a whole.
One such developer has anonymously shared its experience with the system and told that the minimal documentation didn’t cover many of the issues faced, while the local support team couldn’t give answers either. They had to ask to the developers in Japan, which didn’t speak English and thus the process of asking-redirecting-translating-replying-translating-redirecting plus time-zone differences usually took an entire week. Sometimes, it was a week waiting for a few sentences of very broken English that didn't really answer the question that had been asked in the first place.
At the beginning, when the console was presented, Nintendo talked about how the Wii had been successful and that they needed them (the anonymous developer) to contribute to a similar shining future of the Wii U. In the end, after all those troubles, developers felt that the console was primarily focused on 1st party support and 3rd party titles were just to enlarge the game catalogue.
Other complaints were about manuals only written in Japanese and ignorance from the support team about competing online services (PSN and Live). Nintendo behaved like an amateur, like they were making their first system. Taking into account that Wii U is already their 6th home console, it is hard to imagine that, with the other 5, 3rd party developers have had a better experience.
2.3. Using fear to motivate developers
A console maker usually motivates software developers by means of advantages or rewards, some kind of special treatment that makes a 3rd party company to do for the console what they would not do under normal circumstances. For example, Sony and Microsoft are willing to provide tools developed by their 1st party studios that help building games or to pay for exclusive games or DLCs or even to collaborate in the creation of some highly awaited titles. The logic is to give something in return.
But Nintendo acted differently back in the 3rd generation. When NES had 90% of market share, they demanded all 3rd party titles to be exclusives giving nothing in return. If a developer wanted to tackle 90% of the market, it would have to dispense with the other 10% for free. The fear of being out of the 90% made all 3rd parties to migrate to NES, leaving Master System and Atari 7800 only with their own 1st party games. Nintendo has never needed to pay for exclusivity or even care about the partners that were at their feet.
What if Sony would have done that with the PS2? What if they had prostituted their 75% market share forcing EA, Ubisoft, Activision and Rockstar to only produce their games for the PS2? These are powerful companies with powerful IPs, but could they have the strength to ignore 75% of the market? Could EA solely rely on Game Cube and Xbox to sell FIFA, leaving PES with a 150M “blue ocean”? And even if Konami was willing to waive this golden opportunity moving PES out of the PS2, the console would still have This Is Football, a 1st party emerging football game that could have earned a tremendous popularity and changed the sports videogame history, making Sony to profit even more from such a greedy action. And what about Ubisoft launching all Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six games exclusively on the PS2, or Rockstar doing the same with Midnight Club and GTA? What would have happened to the Xbox? Would the console market be a better place now?
One thing that some people could never understand was why the PS1 made such an astounding success while enhancing the industry into a whole new level. Nintendo was there for so many years, with an empire of game studios and IPs already established in the market, and yet PS1 with nothing special at all (no motion, no price advantage, no exclusive feature whatsoever) earned 70% of the market from scratch due to an “unexplainable” migration of 3rd parties to it. To those people I tell: read the previous 3 paragraphs.
2.4. Suffocating competition
The “inventory management” made with NES was not just to limit the amount of 1st party software available at sale but all the cartridges, which has largely affected 3rd party sales. Small studios wouldn’t survive to the lack of high sales in the first weeks of a game release (due to cartridge rationalization) since the profits would not come in fast enough to keep them afloat. Sales were more spread over the year, subject to ludicrous royalties (which suppressed developers’ revenues to fill in Nintendo’s deep pockets) and limited to 5 games per year (while Nintendo could launch whatever they wanted).
Significant competition could only come from inside, once Nintendo suffocated Sega and Atari with the mandatory exclusivity policies that made 3rd parties to avoid their consoles and thus making them representing only 10% of the market. With the inventory management strategy, Nintendo cleverly suffocated the competition that could come from the other 90%, small and promising firms that are not alive today but, if they were, they could have become prominent developers like Valve, Bungie and Naughty Dog. What we have now is what could have survived those atrocities or what fortunately grew up in times where Nintendo was not the market dominator anymore.
3. Harming other stakeholders
3.1. Blackmailing retailers
Sony and Microsoft are large companies with diversified businesses (Sony mainly on hardware and Microsoft mainly on software) and they are used to negotiate. Negotiation was always vital for them to stay in business. But Nintendo thinks and acts differently. They take the presence of other companies in the value-chain as a constant thread so they would rather dominate them than negotiate with them.
Yet in the 3rd generation, Nintendo got so much power with NES that its egocentrism became painfully obvious. The others would have to bend to their will, including retailers, which would sell what they wanted and at the price they wanted. Child World, the second largest toy-store chain in the USA refused to play by Nintendo’s rules and ended relations with them. By 1989, they were experiencing severe financial difficulties due to the loss of 20% of their sales through video games. They came back to Nintendo, trying to appease them, and were met with open hostility. Nintendo agreed to sell them product again but they would have to pay for it a year in advance.
Another Nintendo’s decision that made retailers furious was their return policy, or lack thereof. Because Nintendo's quality control was boasting a defect rate of 0.9% for hardware and 0.25% for software by 1988, Nintendo executives did not see a need for their previous 90 day guarantee. A new policy was announced to the retailers: no returns. Once a game cartridge box or system box was opened, a refund was out of the question. Pandemonium followed. One of the largest retailers in the country threatened to stop carrying Nintendo Systems and products. Nintendo refused to change the policy and the retailer refused the products. The retailer held out for three months, after that it crawled back and agreed to Nintendo's terms.
3.2. Harming promoters
With the emergence of internet in our lives, Internet Marketing is becoming more and more relevant for companies to promote their products. It is a business that has been growing very fast and ever more diversified. In videogames, one such way of doing it is by making “let’s plays” videos on YouTube (full play-through of games with commentary from the person playing). Viewers get to know a new videogame experience, the video makers gets paid by a share of the revenue from the site’s advertisements and the game producer gets free promotion of its product. It’s a win-win situation and everyone is happy, right?
Not really. Sony has already found it abusive that their IP content gets spread for free over the internet and asked for the removal of such videos. Fair enough, not very intelligent from them but they do have a point.
However, Nintendo has reacted differently when facing the same situation. They did not ask for the videos’ removal. Instead, in 2013 (when they became an YouTube partner), they have ID matched their videos in order to get the ads revenues. They did not found abusive their IP content to be exposed, they just wanted to profit from the videos even more and let the video maker with no ads revenue.
This has angered major video makers (who make a living from those videos) and has lead some of them to stop publishing videos of Nintendo games. In the end, Nintendo has harmed themselves so badly that they were making a 180 turnaround to these policies a month later.
3.3. Damaging the gaming ecosystem
During all these years, Nintendo has attempted to profit the most delivering the least. They were always forced by others (rather than forcing them) to move onto new generations and new evolutionary stages, both on hardware and software. As the most profitable gaming company, Nintendo could have engaged into bold concepts that could require massive money spending to achieve new skies in the videogame evolution. Instead, they chose to play it safe, taking as much wealth as possible away from the gaming cycle.
This was achieved through a solid and long-term strategy based on exclusivity and disguised elitism as well as dirty moves (like the inventory management, region lock, key-chip, limit of yearly launches, “no returns” policy and media outlet control) to put developers, retailers and customers on a short leash. To make Nintendo stronger, such moves have only weakened/killed promising developers and the gamers’ ambitions, holding back the industry for many years.
Nintendo has created consoles primarily focused on their needs in terms of software development, constantly waiving tech standards (and doing it in full for 2 consecutive generations). When dealing with partners, they behaved like amateurs, offering inadequate documentation and incompetent help support.
Weakening gamers was the gateway for Nintendo to suffocate competition and meet partners with open hostility. It became clear that one can use power to get even more power. Only 3 companies have had such an opportunity: Atari, Nintendo and Sony. Only 1 has done so.
Nintendo was also the company that has contributed the most for game exclusives. Making any title from a 1st party studio to be exclusive, demanding every 3rd party NES game to be exclusive in the 3rd gen, making many of the 5th gen multi-platform to release a “64” version and buying exclusive rights for many games like no other company has done before (maybe, and only maybe Microsoft could have done something similar).
Moreover, Nintendo has promoted low competitive environments, where shovelware could thrive and sell millions on the Wii. A console with less than 40% of market share was able to collect many more (and far more successful) trash games than PS1 with 70% or PS2 with 75%.
The only side showing Nintendo’s positive contribution to the gaming ecosystem is the critic. Most of websites give high scores to Nintendo games. However, let’s not forget that game websites are a business by themselves. They cannot afford to be unpopular. Even if they don’t see quality in a certain videogame, they will give a high score if the game sells well. How many games do you know that sell millions and have a score of less than 50/100? Let me give you one example: Just Dance. IGN gave it 2/10 because they perceived no quality on that game. After seeing that it sold many millions, they gave 8/10 to Just Dance 2. Do you think the same doesn’t happen with Nintendo games?
In conclusion, despite Nintendo’s ability to produce highly appealing products, their real positive contribution was to their shareholders: 32B$ at your expense and all the atrocities Nintendo has made.
Prediction made in 14/01/2014 for 31/12/2020: PS4: 100M XOne: 70M WiiU: 25M