Feature: Nintendo under fire: A history of adversity Subscribe to this RSS feed
Over the years Nintendo has been criticized from analyst, gamers, and developers alike. Let's look back and analyze the criticism towards Nintendo's fall from the top of the mountain to its dominance with the Wii.
Let's face it... before it came out, the Wii wasn't many people's pick for the horse to win this console race. With the system far outselling the competitors, many people are a little stunned. Considering the amount of adversity the company's faced from critics, they should be downright shocked.
Nintendo may have won this console generation and produced one of the greatest consoles of all time in the SNES, but the company earned the label of "kid's toy" with one game. While Nintendo had been censoring games for years--Maniac Mansion on the original NES is a prime example--Mortal Kombat proved to be a breaking point and a precident for consumer opinion on Nintendo that still follows the company to this day. By presenting a bloodless version of the game while Sega delivered the gore, Nintendo became the parent-approved system in the face of edgier competition, which arguably cost them quite a few system sales during the N64 and GameCube days.
Cartridge based format:
As Sony's Playstation implemented a CD based format, Nintendo stuck with cartridges. It was far the less superior format in many respects, but it did boast more durability and faster loading times. Nonetheless, the proprietary format cost them a generation of SquareSoft RPGs, and many other companies refocused priorities on Sony's more successful PlayStation. Cartridges contained less data and lower sound quality with high production cost in manufacturing them. N64 games cost $50-$60 dollars and significantly took longer for them to drop in price. These limiting factors didn't stop the N64 from producing some of the best games to date, however. Many all-time classics like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and Perfect Dark were N64 exclusives.
This thing was big, oddly shaped, and had three different control methods. It remains one of the weirdest looking controllers to date, but it was, undeniably, one of the most important too. The N64's controller was the first major controller to arrive on the scene to have an analog stick. This allowed more precision in gaming to occur. With the release of Goldeneye 007, it paved the way for console first person shooters as it caught like wildfire throughout the industry. The controller was also one of the first to popularize force feedback via the rumble pak.
Gamecube's Optical Discs:
Nintendo always seems to create its own medium of storage for its console and handheld systems, largely due to an understandable fear of piracy of it's games. This criticism drew similar comparisons to the cartridge format from Nintendo's previous console. These disc were smaller compared to Sony's and Microsoft's use of DVD based storage. With it's smaller size, it held less data and developers would need compress audio and full motion videos thus reducing it's quality. Due to limited amount of data, quite a few games required two disks, but the Gamecube still produced great titles like Metroid Prime, Eternal Darkness, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Smash Bros. Melee, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Pikmin, and Star Wars: Rogue Leader.
The Kiddie Image:
Nintendo has always maintained a family oriented image of themselves, but the "hardcore" gaming crowd heavily used this negative comment towards the Gamecube. With games like Pikmin, Pokemon, Animal Crossing, and other family friendly games, gamers derided Nintendo for not having mature content games on the GameCube, even after the company acquired exclusivity of Resident Evil series for it. While it didn't catch on with the mainstream quite as well at that point, Nintendo was simply stressing the same fun, casual gaming atmosphere that would propel the DS and Wii to great heights. Bring your friends over, play the Mario Party series, the Mario sports games, Super Monkey Ball, or Smash Bros Melee, and everyone, regardless of skill level, will have a blast.
Third Party Support:
This particular criticism carried over from the N64 to the Gamecube. Third party developers couldn't compete against Nintendo's top titles as they sold poorly for the Gamecube. Just the it's predecessor, Nintendo largely went it alone, although there were a few companies pitching in support like Namco-Bandai and Capcom. Whereas an similar lack of support sunk the Dreamcast, Nintendo was able to work its past relationships with companies like SquareSoft, leverage the success of the Game Boy Advance, and procure enough support to stay alive during what was arguably its worst-performing console era.
Consoles previously had been a two console race--any other consoles during the 8/16/32-bit eras weren't considered major competitors. With Sony's Playstation 2 knocking Sega's Dreamcast down for the count, and Microsoft entering the console arena, gamers believed that there wasn't any room for a third console. With Microsoft's deep pockets, and Sony's continued success with the Playstaion 2, it looked like Nintendo would be the next to be outed from the console arena. With the PS2 way beyond the GCN and Xbox, it was a race for 2nd. Gamecube and the Xbox were neck and neck until the Xbox managed to push past the Gamecube and claim second. When this happened, many "hardcore" enthusiasts believed Nintendo would drop out and focus on it's handheld and become a third party developer. When the dust settled, Nintendo managed to make a pretty penny on the Gamecube and their software. While many gamers claimed the Gamecube was a failure, Nintendo made profit on it. Success is in the eye of the beholder.