Nintendo’s holiday season (and future) just got brighter

WiiHere’s a wild question: What if Grand Theft Auto IV never came out?

Don’t get me wrong, it will. But I think it’s a fair question given that Take Two/Rockstar are having, shall we say, issues, and as of last night the publisher’s financial future was grim. Manhunt 2, as we all know, if shelved indefinitely (2008 release tentative) due to its AO rating. An expose in Wired magazine earlier this year on the inner workings of Rockstar betrayed, well, a brash unchecked rockstar culture. And today we received word that this year will not see a GTA Christmas. The stock price tanked on the news.

What this means to the Nintendo picture is that marquee titles like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. can basically coast into people’s living rooms this fall and winter. The results could be amazing, considering how well people have predicted these games would have done with GTA competing alongside them. It also bodes well for hardware sales. Why? Because there is now one less system seller on the market for Nintendo’s competition. Those people who have been holding off on an Xbox 360 or a PS3 will now wait a little longer. Or maybe they’ll take a second look at the Wii they saw at Target for a few seconds last week before it was snatched up by someone’s gaming grandma. I realize Nintendo had no direct role in delaying one of the most anticipated games of the season, but they sure couldn’t have written a better script than the one playing out in the industry right now if they tried.

What this means to third party companies developing games for any of the systems is that their holiday season just got a lot more lucrative. Simply put, companies will make more money due to the large GTA4-sized hole in the game landscape this winter; money that they simply would not have made if GTA4 had arrived on time. For third party players developing Wii games this fall and winter, their games will not be drowned out by GTA hype and insane sales figures. They have a better chance now of reaching consumers, make a profit, and as a result encourage their developers and publishers to make more Wii games in the future.

What this means to the industry remains to be seen. Take Two cited “technological challenges” in its conference call to explain the delay and said going into detail would not be “helpful or beneficial.” Was it hardware related? Development process related? Media storage size related? Were the challenges system-specific? Who knows. Obviously Take Two isn’t going to say. Their investors might want to know what’s up however, given that they were promised an October release as recently as last week.

But back to my initial question. What if? What if the financial woes, “technological challenges” and another X factor like Manhunt 2 never coming out coalesce next year in April, when GTA4 is now listed as coming out (at the earliest)? You think you’ve seen a shift in the industry thus far? If D-Day comes and GTA4 stumbles into oblivion, you can bet you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.