Time for Nintendo to take a page out of Sega’s book…

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There was a time in the late 80’s and early 90’s when Nintendo was the top dog, a household name, the gaming name of the business. A time when Nintendo were defending their title against the likes of Sega and whatever other game manufacturer dared to crossover onto their turf.  Needless to say, those days are long gone.  Due to a series of poor decisions (this article focusing on those poor decisions…) and having to compete with the likes of Sony, Microsoft and now Valve’s Steam Machine, the viability of Nintendo developing consoles is looking ever bleaker.

Lets be frank, the world doesn’t really need more consoles, with two or three companies generally dominating the console gaming arena, there really isn’t room for yet another and because I doubt Valve is going anywhere anytime soon, the logical conclusion point is that not only is Nintendo’s glory days far behind them, but so is their console development.  Sega knew when they were beaten, and at the time it was hard to believe that the industry giant could ever topple, but it did and after the aftermath of the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast, Sega decided to abandon console development and do what they do best – develop games, and that’s exactly what Nintendo needs to do.

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The ill-fated Sega Dreamcast, Sega’s last console to date. Though it was ahead of its time, it was overlooked once the DVD-capable PS2 arrived.

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Losing Final Fantasy VII to the PlayStation was perhaps the largest nail in Nintendo’s coffin.

At this point I imagine that some of you would say, “Well Nintendo has sold over 110 million Wii consoles…”, and you’d be right in saying so however, with the Wii U only expected to move 25 million consoles in its entire lifespan Nintendo is definitely in trouble.  I will justify the latter statement with two examples of poor decision-making.  Firstly, the decision of implementing cartridge storage as opposed to superior CD-ROM back in 1996 meant that the Nintendo 64 lost out to Sony’s PlayStation console.  To give you a little perspective, the N64’s worldwide sales only totalled 32.93 million whereas the PlayStation topped out at 102.49 million.  Now that’s a pretty huge gap, and it doesn’t stop there, Nintendo’s love of the solid-state storage media meant losing one of their exclusive third-party developers, namely Squaresoft.  As Nintendo had exclusivity on the Final Fantasy series, Nintendo naturally expected the next instalment to feature on the N64.  As Final Fantasy VII was developed with a 3D engine, producer Hironobu Sakaguchi expressed growing concern that the N64’s cartridge format would not be a viable option for Final Fantasy VII.  As the N64’s ROM cartridges could only hold 64MB of data, that meant that the 3-CD game would have to be split over close to thirty cartridges.  Not only are cartridges expensive and time-consuming to manufacture, they’re vulnerable to long-term environmental damage too and due to their space limitations, full-motion video was rarely feasible.

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Even though the N64’s architecture was technically superior to the PlayStation, the poorly chosen decision to implement ROM cartridges meant losing to PlayStation.

This brings me to my second point – the Wii Mini.  Historically, once a company’s console has been on the market for some time, they tend to release a revised, slimmer and superior version of their kit.  So think new cooling systems, more efficient micro-circuitry and so forth such as with the slim PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.  Unless of course you happen to be Nintendo, who in what I can only imagine could be called utter desperation decide to release a slimmed down version of their most successful console to date.  When I say ‘slimmed down’ I mean devoid of features, a bare-bones console in the same vein as the SNES, so much so that they chose to use a composite cable as the video input.  Really Nintendo? A composite cable in this day and age… So what does that mean on a consumer level? Well, Nintendo’s main drawing point for the Wii Mini is its price, at just $99 you get access to an entire library of titles and all the fun of the original Wii console…buuuuut you don’t.  The original Wii was never designed for high-definition gaming, having a picture output of 480p, but as it implemented component cables, the picture 4499688711quality was still pretty decent, even though it had to scale (stretch the image).  With the Wii Mini however, the use of composite cables means that not only will the image be stretched in order to display correctly on the average HDTV, it will be fuzzy too, so fuzzy in fact to the point where games become unplayable due to the console’s 380p output.

I think it’s a safe bet to say that even a charismatic, Italian plumber will struggle to pull Nintendo out of the drain.  The Wii Mini will definitely sell due to ignorant parents rushing out to get their kid the Wii (read: Wii U) they ‘wanted’, thus allowing Nintendo to rake in a few million before the new year but if you’re reading this and are considering getting yourself a Wii Mini then I strongly urge you to reconsider and rather find yourself an original Wii.  Earlier I said that the Wii Mini was a ‘bare-bones’ console, so what is meant by this? Well for starters, apart from utilising a composite cable, unlike the original Wii, there is no internet connectivity and no internet (not even WiFi…really?) means no Virtual Console retro games and of course no WiiWare.  If that wasn’t bad enough, Nintendo’s own Ethernet adapter does not work on the console’s single USB port and there’s no backwards compatibility with GameCube titles, even though the disk drive could facilitate them.

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The butchered innards of the Wii Mini console. No component cable support, no internet connectivity, no backwards compatibility, no WiiWare and no Virtual Console retro games.

In conclusion, Nintendo’s latest hardware revision is merely a crippled version of the original Wii console and as a result it has no justifiable reason for existing apart from fulfilling the purpose of spitefully squeezing cash out of ignorant consumers. In a similar fashion akin to a dying man clutching onto his last breath of life, Nintendo needs to acknowledge that they can no longer stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Sony and Microsoft and that it’s time to let go.  However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Nintendo, if they’re smart they’ll tear a page out of Sega’s book, abandon the manufacture of consoles and become a third-party developer.

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