As I read the first part of a great 20-year recap of Nintendo’s successes and foibles over at Next Generation today, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “was Nintendo ever really out of the game?”
Common knowledge seems to accept that the GameCube was the sour cherry atop a sundae of failure that was initially created in the twilight years of the Nintendo 64, but I’m not so sure after reading this article. Even at it’s “worst” Nintendo was making profits of more than $315 million, and its software continued to innovate even if it wasn’t selling at a 90% market share like it did in the hay day of the NES and SNES (90% of the entire video games market in 1990 — that’s utterly ridiculous).
That $315 million slump was in 2004, when the GameCube was giving off a death rattle felt by the entire industry, and people were writing off Nintendo as a kid’s gaming company that lost its edge (some ill-informed individuals even suggested Nintendo pull a Sega and go software-only. Fools.) Nintendo may have been more of a portable gaming company during these Dark Ages, but then again, without this period in its history Nintendo might never have stated R&D on the Wii. How a company can be so easily written off by the mainstream gaming media with $315 million in the bank is beyond me. My checking account has less than $315 and I’m still doing just fine.
Following the slump was an avalanche of Game Boy SP and Nintendo DS sales. The clam shell clunker sold millions in its first few weeks, shutting up critics and naysayers with a slew of ports like Mario 64 DS and Band Bros. The Wii arrived the following year. This leads me to believe Nintendo was never in any real danger. It was a sleeping giant. Now it’s awake again and it decided to jump into the pool with a billion dollar sized cannon ball and disrupt the hell out of everyone. The water level rose, Nintendo landed on Sony’s head, and Microsoft got a cramp because it drank too much extreme-to-the-max Mountain Dew. That’s where things stand today.
[Thanks Paul and FnbyDstryr]