Nintendo on PC platforms is nothing new. The prime example of the Big N games on PC is Super Mario Bros. Special on the NEC PC-8801, Sharp X1 and SPC-1500. Nintendo games on other console platforms is nothing new. You have Nintendo’s Popeye, Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. on various other platforms, perhaps most famously on Atari 2600. Unlike what Nintendo wants you to believe, their first home console wasn’t the Family Computer. From 1977 we hail to the Colour TV-game headed by none other than Gunpei Yokoi and produced by Hiroshi Imanishi, the man we can all thank for convincing Hiroshi Yamauchi to move Nintendo towards electronic game development. I recommend my readers to read more about Imanishi, as his role in Nintendo wasn’t just to be another guy, but someone who answered directly to none other than Yamauchi himself and had practically as much power in the company as the president himself.
I wanted to keep away from writing anything about DeNA’s and Nintendo’s cooperation, because there was very little to no information in the end. Some have already called Nintendo a doomed company within and outside the industry, but the same song has been sung for the last thirty years or so ever since the NES was released. First, it was the PCs that will kill Nintendo. Then it was SEGA’s Mega Drive that would kill Nintendo. Then it was SONY’s PlayStation that would kill Nintendo. Then it was Microsoft’s Xbox that would kill Nintendo. Then it was Apple’s iPhone and iPad that would kill Nintendo. You’d think that the games and general electronics industry (especially the hardcore part of the industries that want to incorporate information technology to every damn thing in your life) would already realise that the only thing that can kill Nintendo is Nintendo themselves. It’s not like Nintendo hasn’t managed to push away their customers for their own obsession and managed to screw up their consoles’ libraries and quality. Still, Nintendo has maintained its behemoth status and when Nintendo speaks, people listen. Listen, and everybody and their mothers comment on it, which is why I hesitated to write anything about it, but this is a one-two punch from Nintendo.
First of all, DeNA. I had not heard of this company before as I don’t play games on smartphones. Actually, the one I have has slightly bust touch screen in that there’s an area where it doesn’t recognize any touch. Otherwise the phone is on pristine condition, but it’s also aged horribly much like how fast developing PC machines usually do. DeNA is mainly functioning in Japan, but it seems there is a level of presence outside that as well, but I couldn’t tell how much. What DeNA does in itself is less important than what their joint operation with Nintendo will, or rather can offer; universal account system on PC platforms and Nintendo consoles.
While we can argue about the quality of smartphone games, or the app market games, or mobile games, or whatever you want to call them, the cold truth is that they fetch a large amount of money and people find them of quality high enough to put money into them. You may personally dislike this, but it’s not one or two people who decide what quality is. Iwata talks about maximising the Nintendo IP, and this is something Nintendo has been doing from time to time by expanding where they see possibilities. With arcade games becoming relevant, Nintendo moved into the arcades where people were spending money. With the advent more television and centralised in the living room, Nintendo moved into the relatively empty home console market and conquered the television screen. Movement of people has always been something common, and Nintendo became a portable device with the GameBoy. None of Nintendo’s devices have been cutting edge technology, and there never has been any reason to be. A console’s mission is to deliver the best possible system to play games based on current technology, not advance it. That’s for the computer market.
Maximising IP has also meant that Nintendo IP spread everywhere. You had Super Mario cartoons, you had Captain N; The Game Master, Nintendo Power, cereals, candy, bags, caps and so on. Nintendo went where there was room to make money and allow their IP to grow. You can tell that games became culturally irrelevant when there is nothing like this anymore. Mario Mania was a thing, and outside something like Pokémon, there has been practically no other product that created new content for the larger culture, only for the hardcore gamers.
We have screens everywhere nowadays. Some time ago I had a post how everybody has some level of screen in their pocket where they are able to watch movies, surf the web and even do actual work with. We have experienced a paradigm shift, where the screen has been decentralised from the living room. We are less dependent on the big screen in the living room, and this shift most likely will continue to evolve further to the point where television itself as a device has to change. There already have been signs of this in form of television having Internet connection to access various web based content providers like Youtube. SONY Bravia PX300/22 was a product that Nintendo could never produce as they don’t produce televisions, but the PX300/22 was out of date when it came out. One could argue that televisions are coming extinct as they are and another kind of screen will take their place. Both Xbone and PlayStation 4 are sort of living relics at the moment, as they were designed to take the centre of the living room as its multimedia centre in an era where decentralisation has become apparent.
It’s only natural to see Nintendo moving where the screen is. It’s in your pocket and it’s not the 3DS. While you might wonder why would Nintendo move their products to a competing platform, I wish to remind you that PC and consoles are not direct competitors. The platform is now changing with Nintendo. Instead of them using the physical reality as the platform, it seems that they are moving towards a new platform; the account system. We’re going beyond physical platforms here. Think it this way; PSN is the platform SONY works rather than PSVita or the PS4, XLBA is the platform Microsoft works on rather than PC or Xbone. This applies to Steam as well and this now then reflects how Steam is a digital console.
The platform is no longer a physical manifestation, but what we think as the account system.
Nintendo’s next game system, the NX, is this. The NX can either describe the account system itself, where X stands for cross. Nintendo Cross would make sense in this context, where the consumer is able to cross the physical limitations to the smart devices and to dedicated console. Nintendo pushed the decentralisation with Wii U’s gamepad, and I can see the NX actually being a combination of both home console and a handheld device with the account system. We won’t be getting any new info on the NX before next year, which is bullshit, but then again Nintendo’s conference was to show their new plans to the investors.
I guess the N3DS Flanders is some sort of example what’s going on. While I hate the idea of updating a console to play the same games slightly better, it make sense if you think the platform is the account rather than the console. Unlike with the most previous handheld iterations, the Flanders wasn’t just a redesign of the same technology, but a straight up hardware update. I may not like the idea of upgrading my consoles every few years similar to smart devices, but with DeNA this seems to be a possibility. After all, when you get a Nintendo game on your smart device, you are purchasing a Nintendo platform.
My guess based on all this is that the NX will be two things; first of all a more traditional console for Nintendo produce its games on as usual, and secondly (and more importantly) a cross machine account platform not bound to one machine alone. I’m most likely wrong, as Nintendo separates NX in a chart as “dedicated game system,” which more or less means it’s a console. Interestingly, both 3DS and Wii U are accounted into this circle, but I wouldn’t put too much emphasize on this as Nintendo previously has ignored their own ideas, namely when they said DS would not replace GameBoy and they would have a three pillar structure with GameBoy, DS and GameCube. Guess which pillar doesn’t stand anymore.
Is Nintendo doomed? Has Nintendo become a third party developer? No. The DeNA cooperation seems to imply strongly that DeNA will be the one making most smart device products for Nintendo next to giving the helping hand in creating the account system, and Nintendo will concentrate on the physical console NX. Th keyword here is that DeNA is helping Nintendo IP on smart devices and giving a helping hand in developing the account system, as told by a simple two-point image. It’s more likely that Nintendo VC games will be ported to the account system by DeNA, as Nintendo has basically abandoned the whole VC with all other companies.
However, we can already say that NX wants to drive 3D gaming further. According to an interview in Time magazine, Iwata hates the tem free-2-play and Miyamoto further showing his obsession with 3D. Almost every Nintendo home console, and later handhelds, have tried to push 3D to the masses somehow. Famicom had failed 3D System, Super NES pushed Mode 7 and polygon graphics in 3D, N64 was all about bringing everything into 3D, Virtual Boy was all about awful ‘virtual reality,’ the GameCube had a 3D peripheral that was luckily never put into production due to its cost, the DS initially pushed the same ideas as N64 before Nintendo wisely changed their way and the 3DS is nothing but 3D masturbation techwise. The Wii had less 3D obsession because it followed the same ideals as NES and SNES, but we can argue that the Wiimote was all about three dimensional controls. Wii U has decentralisation going for it. The NX will try to further the 3D further into the market, despite the market has already made their stance against it. Interestingly enough, Nintendo has produced one of the worst titles that use 3DS’ 3D effect.
Whether or not Nintendo designs the NX and the account system to work in tandem or whether or not they are the same thing is an open question to me. If the account system is a digital game console, we’re going to have to rethink how we approach home entertainment electronics overall. The platform becomes more relevant, separate from the machine it runs on.
There’s one thing that really needs to be answered in the end; how will the games be? Either NX and the account system are worth nothing if the games aren’t there to meet the customer wants.