Nintendo is definitely a juggernaut in today's gaming landscape. They've been making consoles for 25 years, and franchises like Mario and Zelda have become synonymous with the industry. What is the secret to Nintendo's success? Well, it's actually not much of a secret. Nintendo tightly controls its products and creates consoles and games that work perfectly together. But what if Nintendo only created games? What if you could play Mario and Zelda on the PlayStation 3? The world would be a different place, for sure.
Love them or hate them, Nintendo has always led innovation with their hardware. From the 8-bit revolution on the NES to the dawn of pocket gaming led by the Game Boy, Nintendo has always created hardware first, and then supplied the necessary software to back it up. Even when we fast-forward to the current generation, it's fairly obvious that the Wii was only successful because Nintendo supplied games that causal gamers ate up. In fact, to drive the point home, Nintendo packed Wii Sports in the box so gamers could get the full experience and get "hooked" on motion-controlled gaming. Oh, and they courted hardcore gamers too with games like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, but they weren't as aggressive with their base as they could have been (a mistake that looks to be rectified by the Wii U).
So if you take away the hardware, what would drive Nintendo? I would have to say that they would be a lot like Valve, which is another juggernaut in the industry that likes to stray a bit from the beaten path. Nintendo has always looked at the gaming industry and tried to do things just a little differently in order to both drive the industry forward and increase sales. Would Nintendo just be content to have the next Mario game on all platforms, and put out the same old game on an annual basis? I don't think so. They would create new gameplay experiences through software, and use technology available on other consoles in new ways. Franchises like Mario and Zelda would still come out on a regular basis, but would take advantage of current hardware schemes. Perhaps they would also create experiences like Portal, Flower, or Child of Eden, which have been extremely cerebral and have pushed the medium forward not only in a technical sense, but in an artistic one as well.
If Nintendo was only a publisher, I'd also like to think that they would take a lot more risks with what they create. The Nintendo name is currently very tied up in its "family-friendly" image. Even though series like Metroid appeal to older, more "hardcore" gamers, Nintendo can't really take a chance and release M-rated content, for fear of losing much of their base. However, if Nintendo only published games, they could push the envelope a little bit more and create new studios around different experiences. In this way they could be like THQ, which has a family-friendly development wing (and makes licensed games based on properties like SpongeBob SquarePants and Super Hero Squad), as well as a hardcore development wing responsible for games like Homefront and Red Faction. Nintendo's number one priority has always been innovation, and if they switched to just publishing games, they could definitely reach new markets and shake up conventions in the gaming industry.
Although this all sounds great, I have to concede that Nintendo probably wouldn't be as lucrative a company if it only published games. Giants like EA and Activision have gotten where they are because they create annual franchises that have built-in bases and will sell like clockwork every year.
Series like Madden, Call of Duty, and Tiger Woods PGA are released every year with alarming regularity and little innovation. I can't see Nintendo putting out products on such a regular basis and sacrificing quality. Nintendo will probably have a few hits and a few misses, and will probably struggle some quarters. But with innovation leading the way, Nintendo would be a fairly successful, if not amazingly profitable like some of the other industry giants.
It is a little bit difficult to talk about Nintendo in only a publishing capacity, as so much of their identity is tied up in their ability to make games and hardware that work well together. I can't see Nintendo ever giving up the hardware ghost, especially because it has been so lucrative for them. The DS is the best-selling console of all time, with 150 million units sold worldwide. The Wii has also been an amazing success with 86 million units sold so far this console generation, besting both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. However, if Nintendo decided to get out of the game, I'm sure they would find moderate success in the publishing industry. Would they be an industry giant like EA or Activision? I don't think so. In fact, I'm not even sure if they'd be a household name. But I do believe they would keep innovating and make experiences that gamers care about.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*