Is Nintendo trying to be something it’s not?

Yes, says Malstrom, the obscure, long-winded, and one time Infendo commentator.

“The Ultimate Big Problem is that the decision makers inside Nintendo (e.g. Iwata and Miyamoto) wish to define the company in a way different than how Nintendo customers wish to define it,” Malstrom writes on his blog. “When will Nintendo be Nintendo again? Not in the eyes of Iwata or Miyamoto but in the eyes of the customers who are paying for everything. Until Nintendo matches the definition of the business to how the market perceives and desires Nintendo to be, we can predict with 100% accuracy that there is only stagnation or decline in Nintendo’s future.”

As Malstrom sees it, Nintendo wants to be perceived as an innovative technology company, which they sometimes are. But most people buy Nintendo games because of their enduring appeal. For their ability to transport older gamers to simpler but still enjoyable times. For being accessibile to gamers of all ages.

Cases in point, The Virtual Boy, N64, GameCube, and most recently 3DS and the upcoming Wii U, which left a lot of people more confused than inspired when it was shown this summer. “They do not feel like Nintendo products,” Malstrom concludes. “The 3DS seemed to be more about pushing 3d technology and 3d content which has nothing to do with arcade type games. The Wii U seems to be more about gobbling up the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 markets which greatly annoys people. How can the Wii U have a Nintendo identity if it has Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games on it?”

What do you think: Agree… disagree?


  1. I disagree on most of his points. Though most of which are just based on “feeling” like Nintendo products or not. That’s naturally what I disagree with. Of course their Nintendo products, and they “feel” like it to me.

    “How can the Wii U have a Nintendo identity if it has Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games on it?” –The same way they do now, and have always done. Distinguish themselves by having great, exclusive, 1st party experiences; i.e. Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Donkey Kong, and Metroid. If nothing else, that will be the sole reason Nintendo will stay near and dear to me, and I’m sure, many.. many others in this world.

  2. I agree on the thesis, but not on the reasons. Nintendo has gotten into a little identity crisis in the past year due to seemingly contradicting successors to consoles that were once on the reign of the market. It’s trying to be a hardcore platform with the 3DS and sell it to teenage girls. It’s trying to be a casual games console and sell it to moms. It’s trying to make HD games and put them in SD handheld tablet controllers. It’s trying to get into digital distribution, but the prices and offerings are all wrong. It doesn’t want to do smartphone games, but sell their own games through smartphones. So I don’t know when Nintendo is going to do a single focused strategy that won’t focus on breaking the laws of physics, but until it does, we will have to deal with it. At least I am glad that they still make great games.

  3. Arguments seem solid enough but final Thesis doesn’t add up. We had 360/PS3 games on Wii during this gen (Skylanders just released) so there’s no problem with that. The GC might not have been #1 but it gave Nintendo lots of profit.

  4. Given a choice between a Nintendo that tries new ideas and follows its artists’ dreams and a Nintendo that just tries to please fans, I’ll pick the dreamer model: That’s where great ideas are born.

  5. *after reading Malstrom’s whole article*

    Dude dissed Shigeru Miyamoto.. SMH… I would not be playing video games were it not for that man. Other M, and Wii Music were a couple of games I really liked. I like what I like, and apparently that lines up with those in control on Ninty. All the better for me 🙂

  6. And…Gamecube, N64 and 3DS don’t feel like Nintendo products? Purely subjective; to me, they “feel” as Nintendo as can be.

  7. Question: How Do Nintendo Products Feel?
    The 3DS is an evolution of the DS just like the GBA was to the GB or GBC. The Wii U is an evolution of the Wii similar to how the SNES was an evolution of the NES. Nintendo has 1 bad year and the internet is full of Nintendo is dead articles. lol

  8. The land of Malstrom can use plenty of talking points, but often leaves vague generalizations and doesn’t consistently back up claims other than by anecdotes.

  9. I have got to say I don’t agree with most of Malstrom’s claims. In one paragraph he states N64 and Gamecube didn’t succeed because people viewed them as ‘kids only’, but then in the next he says that Nintendo shouldn’t try to be ‘mature’ because people view them as family friendly. Conflicting?

    I also have to disagree on his reasoning for the DS gaining momentum.

    The touch screen ‘gameplay’ was not interesting to consumers.

    The forced touch screen mechanics became largely ignored. The DS was being presented as a general games platform instead of ‘must use two screens or touch screen for unique gameplay concepts’. Screw ‘unique gameplay concepts’. People want fun games, not ‘unique’ games.

    I think the real reason for the success of the DS was exactly because of it’s uniqueness. Look at Brain Age and Nintendogs. Those two games just could not have been played on any other console or handheld at the time, which was a huge reason for their success. And yes, they relied heavily on the touch screen.

    I think Nintendo has been Nintendo all along, which is an innovator and trend setter. I still stand by my sentiment that 3DS and Wii U will do just fine. 3DS has been selling at about 200,000 a month since the price drop, which is nothing to scoff at. I can only imagine that as more quality software becomes available the system will continue to sell well.

    Only time will tell how both systems do in the long run, but as long as the games are there, people will buy them. If 3DS and Wii U don’t have quality software, they will fail, plain and simple. You hear that Nintendo…..bring on the games!

  10. @Eugene

    I would argue that the unique games that used the touch screen / dual screens like Kirby Canvas Curse and Nintendogs frankly weren’t that amazing, and while it certainly attracted more than a few sales, most of them put the DS down after that. It’s just that the sales numbers had a lot of third parties excited, so they put their game on it, which made it great for us.

    @Everyone else.

    I would agree with Malstrom, at least in the parts quoted in this post. I didn’t buy a 3DS for 3D. I didn’t buy a DS for touch control. I didn’t buy a Wii for motion. I bought them for Mario, I bought them for Zelda, and I bought them for the few third party games that actually try.

    Innovation is fine, and marketable innovation like motion control, touch control, or in theory 3D are, well, marketable. They sell. But what interests me more are gameplay innovations. I don’t care whether I’m using a stylus or a D-Pad as long as it functions. I love Kirby’s Dream Course, which applied actual gaming mechanics to golf. I love Mario Galaxy which flipped the platformer on it’s head–literally. Heck, more recently–I love Catherine for adding some maturity to gaming; I love Solatorobo for showing such a unique atmosphere, I love Cladun x2 for inventing a deep-yet-accessible RPG!

    For a while now, on the podcast, Blake and Derek have been talking about how gameplay is what is important, and graphics, music, etc. are secondary. Yet, all they seem to talk about are the method of reaching the gameplay. If Nintendo wants to have another DS, will they need a “Nintendogs” or something unique and marketable about the system? Yeah, they will. Do they need anything on the system, really? No. I’d be fine if the 3DS cost $175 at launch without 3D.

  11. The Gamecube, and the N64 especially, are to Nintendo as apple pie is to America.

    As soon as I read his closing argument, I discredited any point he was failing to put forth.

    There seems to be this tug-o-war between people who look at Nintendo as a business, completely ignoring that certain aura they have about them that enables them to pull through even in times of struggle (as depicted by dropping sales and the threat of mobile gaming), and people who strictly want to see it only as this fantasy gaming behemoth they revered it to be when they were a child, turning a blind eye to which I’m sad to say is real and has substance. My question is, why can’t we just embrace both perspectives?

    Some people like to think following the whole “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” philosophy is a safe, promising way to go about doing business. Sorry, it’s really not, even if a company is witnessing great success. Nintendo’s success, even with its franchises, is thanks to years of risk-taking and pushing the envelope. Obviously, when things are done with hardware that do not seem to pan out well, they are easier to critique because they impact every game. If one game flops with a revolutionary idea, we may have a laugh as customers, and quickly move on to something else. (Off-topic, I would love to see how Skylanders is received by the public, though I think it’s an expensive scheme that is too expensive for the typical consumer to embrace in a poor economy.)

    But rather than freak out about Nintendo’s recent risky moves concerning their hardware, shouldn’t we think, wait a minute, is it possible they are just trying to enhance the gaming experience for their fans everywhere, and revolutionize the industry so we can be entertained in never-before conceived ways? It should be encouraging to these game designers, who I assume are passionate individuals, that Nintendo is promoting creativity and taking it to a whole new level. (Unless you are EA and the people who develop, or rather recycle, Madden. They don’t deserve to be in this industry.) And it should be especially refreshing to us fans. It is for me anyway. Why do I feel that way? It probably has something to do with how in 1998 the Ocarina of Time was released and took my child’s imagination (I was 9) and turned it on its head. That was ballsy, risky, and it succeeded, so of course no one freaked out or complained that the Zelda franchise was altered forever. Same with Mario 64. These concepts were not guaranteed to succeed at the time, even though in retrospect you look back and think how could they not? Despite those successes, the N64 was not as well received as the Playstation, yet, the real fans are not dwelling on that now, are they? People bring up those numbers like they matter when they try to prove an argument against Nintendo and how for years they’ve been getting it wrong, and yet Nintendo is still around isn’t it?

    By being different and “Un-Nintendo-like” Nintendo has embodied the very essence of their being, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Rather than complaining about Nintendo not appealing to other customers, and failing to sell the 3DS, why don’t we simply focus on what we have, and anticipate to get out of the system? Surely the doom and gloom scares fellow Nintendo fans away, when really if we just spread the word of the positive things about the 3DS, and the positive things we can say about the Wii U, we will be doing our favorite company a solid, and in turn make things brighter for ourselves. If I knew how to make video games, I would. If I had the money to produce them, I would. I don’t. Nintendo does. They can tell me whatever they want, and I expect them to listen to me only on occasion. Not many of us have too many revolutionary ideas, we simply ask of them what already exists, and what we’ve seen from rival companies. Thank you Nintendo, for not following the norm.

  12. “The Virtual Boy, N64, GameCube, and most recently 3DS… don’t feel like Nintendo products.”

    Seriously. WTF. Pick up a DS. Then pick up a 3DS. They feel exactly the same, only the one is the next gen version of the last one. Good god this is a pile of rubbish.

    This is the garbage kind of article I expect on infendo nowadays.

    Wow. When Nintendo recovers from this bump in the road and infendo wonders why they can’t interview people at Nintendo, this BS they are posting will be the reason why.

  13. this is a garbage article. i expect better at infendo.

  14. I hate to be pessimistic, but I can see Blake’s point with all of his recent articles. Nintendo… just isn’t Nintendo anymore. No matter what you consider it – temporary slowdown, pessimistic views, or a “bump in the road” – the Big N’s changed. Look at the Game Boy. Now look at the 3DS. In one, you see a handheld that defines the word – a humongous library of software, endless entertainment value, a lack of region locking, and one of the most important aspects of a handheld video game system: the ability to last on car rides that last more than three hours. In the other, you see, quite frankly, a gimmick that Nintendo expected to sell the system on its own, a package of useless software supplemented with useless copies of games most Infendo readers (including myself) already own, and a company that’s unsure whether it’s supposed to be a 2D or 3D console, even going as far as to call its newest game “3D that plays like 2D”. Can you guess which is which?

    I’ve been spending a lot of time on Amazon recently, buying games. I’m hunkering down for the winter with a collection of *Game Boy games*. Game Boy games! Because the fact is that in recent times, Nintendo’s game quality has decreased dramatically. Remember the instruction booklets for NES games? The first page guaranteed the highest standards of quality and entertainment, and warned the reader to care for and guard the game with his/her life, protecting it from such hazards as damage from dropping or hitting it, water coming into contact with the connectors, and dust or dirt entering the cartridge. It’s obvious to all that Nintendo’s first priority was to ensure that the consumer got the greatest possible amount of enjoyment from that game cart. Now, game manuals are lifeless collections of paper, often coming packaged with long warnings against seizures. Personally, I think that it’s because Nintendo actually wants the consumer to be uneducated in proper game treatment, so the game will break and another one will inevitably be bought. Does that sound like the same behavior of the company that just wanted every consumer to squeeze every last hour of enjoyment from their cartridges? I didn’t think so.

    One final point. Think of the Game Boy which I keep bringing up. Consider this: Which have you played more: your Game Boy in its first few months of launch, or your 3DS, which is nearing its sixth or seventh unsuccessful month on the market? Which would you say provides a higher entertainment value? Which would you take along on an eight hour car ride? And finally, if the 3DS were a competitor for the Game Boy in the 90s, which would you honestly choose: the $180 piece of plastic with no games and an upcoming add-on that oozes clunkiness and uncertainty from the very company that put it on the market, or the cheaper one with a large library of titles and aggressive marketing from its ever-confident parent, Nintendo?

  15. I’d pick the one that plays the new Zelda, Mario and Kirby portable games AND is getting GB, GBC an more consoles on the go as well.

  16. I don’t think Nintendo is trying to be an innovative tech company. Their story of how they developed the Wii and the Wii+ sound more like they’re making good use of found technology that the market was ignoring. Compared to Microsoft’s Kinect development, it’s just feels not as company intrinsic.

    But, more to the point, I don’t think that it’s Nintendo’s image or self-image that is the problem. It’s Nintendo’s products.

  17. @shayminfreak

    I’d honestly say the 3ds. The 3ds in comparison, has potential, whereas the GB was just capable of smaller things.

    Comparing established hardware/software libraries with a budding new system is kinda silly, don’t you think? lol Come on, be a little more optimistic and enjoy games. 🙂 It’s kinda why Nintendo is who they are, and why most of us like games. They’re fun, and have a wide variety of games to play/enjoy, simple huh?

  18. @Hitokiri_Ace

    I agree to an extent, the 3DS definitely has potential. But you missed a point I made – a comparison between titles available for each system within the first few months they were out. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy games, I’m just saying that the 3DS isn’t providing games I enjoy. Case in point: the Game Boy launch titles in the US were the incredibly addicting Tetris and insanely fun Super Mario Land, among others. In Europe, one of their launch titles was Qix, which I find very addicting. And how could I possibly play a EU title on a US Game Boy? Easy – the Game Boy wasn’t region locked. Now let’s take a look at 3DS launch titles. Samurai Warriors: Chronicles… Asphalt 3D… Bust-A-Move Universe… Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D…. All very forgettable, meaningless titles. Another region got a new Professor Layton game, I believe, which would certainly spur many to buy it… but the 3DS is region locked, so it doesn’t matter anyway. Do you see what I’m getting at? Nintendo seems to be forgetting why it succeeded in the past, and I’m using my own term to describe it – de-evolving, or “devolving”. They’re actually doing that which they denounced in the past, and I’m not loving it. And, like it or not, at this point in time, the Game Boy has more bang for your buck than the 3DS. Super Mario 3D Land looks like Galaxy 3, and including Miis and the ability to customize your kart doesn’t make Mario Kart 7 any better than Mario Kart 64. And their main innovation for the system – its selling point – is stereoscopic 3D, which, believe it or not, they already tried on the Gamecube! It was only used in one title, Luigi’s Mansion. And now we have – guess what – Luigi’s Mansion 2! Creative thinking, Nintendo, creative thinking. Speaking of the system’s titular selling point, Nintendo sure does like telling everyone that 3D offers no significant improvement over 2D. A few six-year-olds who can’t use it causes Nintendo to reject the system’s premise altogether? Doesn’t sound like the same Nintendo from before: bravely pioneering and expanding the market, immune to criticism and selling huge amounts of systems and games alike – while other companies were left in the dust, trying madly to come up with an idea. Now Nintendo seems to be trailing behind, offering an HD console that will likely be outclassed by the time it comes to market. And what’s with the trend of releasing all these blockbuster DS games while the 3DS collects dust? Kirby: Mass Attack had no excuse, really. Or maybe it’s just that HAL Laboratories has realized the same thing I have – Nintendo has a trend of releasing an excellent system, followed by a mediocre one (at least in terms of sales). N64… followed by a personal favorite of my, Gamecube. Wii… followed by Wii U (yes, I just predicted that). DS… followed by 3DS. Even the Super NES offered no hugely significant improvement over the NES, but everyone was on a Nintendo high from the 80s, so they went ahead and bought one anyway. To be frank, I’m getting tired of it – that’s why I play the older systems now. Oh, I missed one point you made – a variety of games. Does the variety even matter if all the games are equally mediocre?

  19. I really don’t know what Nintendo can do. There is a sort of Walt Disney vibe I get from their classic franchises that I think should always be a part of their marketing and design sensibility for all future hardware, but the NES and SNES also had tons of AAA first party hardcore games. The first time I ever heard about Solid Snake, it was in reference to an NES game. Now, I never expect to see anything like that on a Nintendo console. Battlefield 3 is one of the biggest games of the year, and you can get it on just about everything except existing Nintendo hardware. When the Wii U is out, I will have already played the PC version enough.

    It seems to me that they need that balance they had in the days of NES and SNES. All of my gaming tastes were satiated in those days. These days there are whole genres I know I will need either a gaming PC or a second console for because it simply ain’t happening on a Wii, and I fear it will be the same once the Wii U is overshadowed by more powerful stuff a couple years from now.

    Still, Nintendo has tons of cash, you won’t hear any doom and gloom or “Sega” talk from me yet. I still am taking a wait and see attitude with Nintendo’s near future. I just wish they would always take care of the fundamentals when they put out new hardware. Everything from a lack of disc media with the N64, SD graphics, pathetic online functionality, and tacked on control peripherals for 3DS suggests that Nintendo may need some outside influences from time to time. They are only hearing their own voices, and they seem to like too much of what they hear.

  20. @shayminfreak
    “All very forgettable, meaningless titles.” -Harsh opinion, and forgetting to mention the AR games, and the other StreetPass puzzle/Find Mii games. It was lacking obviously, but no worse than the DS did.

    “..the 3DS isn’t providing games I enjoy.” – Again, another opinion of game tastes. I’ve been enjoying Zelda, Pokemon Blast, DoA, and all the eShop titles for a while now. All of which suit my tastes just fine. 🙂 I’m sorry you dislike the current titles, but more are on the way.

    “..the Game Boy launch titles in the US were the incredibly addicting” – I really dislike Tetris, and other non-plot driven, active titles. Mario Land was OK for a GB game, but it too was extremely light on content to me. I loved the GB, but it was nowhere near the experience of the SNES in terms of quality, or depth of gameplay.

    “..3D offers no significant improvement over 2D.” – Oh come on, just because you can get through life with one eye doesn’t mean 3d doesn’t add anything. Technically color doesn’t add anything either, and neither does HD… but I sure as heck love them. Wear an eyepatch for a whole day, then come back and say, 3d doesn’t add to the experience.

    Other than that, ya, I agree with you. Then again, bang for your buck-wise? Newer consoles are always a horrible investment. I’ll say again that potentially, the 3ds has much, much bigger dreams than the GB.

    It’s fun discussing things without getting over-heated.. and for that I thank you :). I guess in the end it really does come down to how soon you want to support Nintendo’s endeavor’s. Spend more money at launch, and wait for good games.. Or wait for a year or 2, and get games that suit your taste more. 🙂 Personally, I’m not hurting for money, so I like to help Nintendo out when I can. The games have to not suck of course, but I’m not as hard on them as seems to be the trend lately! lol

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