Every single year I find myself wondering, speculating, and analyzing what Nintendo is going to release next. I’m about 0 for 300 in predictions. Two Button Crew recently posted something on Facebook that made me laugh, but also made me wonder why Nintendo operates the way they do. What I mean by that is they never do what anyone is expecting. They are probably the most unpredictable company I have ever known. Yet, they are probably the company I have given the most money to. What is the driving force (from a business perspective) behind Nintendo’s decisions and how they market them?
The biggest thing I can think of is innovation. To be innovative, a company has to be different. Nintendo cannot reform the gaming industry by following the same old formula. Unfortunately, this also means that some fans are going to be let down because Nintendo tends to take what they love and either leave it in the dust, or change it just enough so it doesn’t feel old. An example of this for me is Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. I loved that game. I would love nothing more than a true sequel. Since that game came out, we’ve gotten Super Paper Mario, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and Paper Mario: Color Splash. Each subsequent game I just mentioned gets closer and closer to the formula that makes The Thousand Year Door, but none of those games kept my interest because of changes made by developers to keep the games “fresh”. Not all changes are bad though (I’m looking at you, Breath of the Wild). When Nintendo takes change and gets it right, that is when nothing else in the industry can come close. And it’s not just about software, the same applies to hardware. The Wii essentially revolutionized gaming, and the Switch so far is a success story as well. Nintendo is basically the cleanup hitter in the lineup. They hit more home runs than anyone, and they can hit them farther. Unfortunately, that also means they are likely going to strike out more than anyone.
The other thing that Nintendo doesn’t really seem to care about is competition. They are 100% independent when it comes to the decisions their competitors make. This is a very ambitious move, but not one that comes without risk. A company as large and with as big of a fan base as Nintendo can get away with this. They don’t have to keep making the same old games and systems because they don’t care about disrupting the status quo in the industry. People expect a new Gears of War game that does not stray far from the formula, because that is what Microsoft is good at making (I’m not saying it’s a bad series). There is very little risk for Microsoft here, because they can look at past sales, and without straying from the formula within the game, they can predict and model how profitable the game will be. My intent is not to start a console war, but in my opinion, no other competitor innovates like Nintendo. This is simply because other companies do not want to partake in the risk Nintendo takes on when they test the waters of the market.
I’ll always love Nintendo, and there are times when I’ll hate them. It’s just the way Nintendo works, and it will not change anytime soon because it’s how they operate. Innovation is what all companies should strive for, but Nintendo takes it to a whole different level. It’s a business model that would drive most companies into bankruptcy sooner than you can say “Mario Kart”. Innovation is something that does come with a cost, but one thing I can be confident in is that Nintendo will be innovating the industry and making my favorite games and consoles for years to come.