I’m someone who grew up with Nintendo. My first home console was the NES, and my first portable was the original Gameboy. But with each successive console generation, the magic that the big N once held for me began to vanish. The company that once played host to great developers like Square Soft, Capcom, and more began to fold in on itself, creating a home console environment that more or less told gamers: “Do you love our first-party properties? Because if you don’t, then we haven’t got squat for you here.” And despite being a trend that started nearly two decades ago with the Nintendo 64, to this day Nintendo has coasted along on the secure wave of first-party franchises such as Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon that will allow them to print money until the end of time, and seems to have no desire to change their ways either.
I honestly think that Nintendo is a relic of a bygone era when it comes to home consoles. Their commitment to good games — and I fully agree that their first-party support is second to none — is stellar, but with each successive generation, Nintendo consoles have only become more and more gimmicky and drifted away from simply providing players with a solid gaming experience. Take for example the Wii, while a gaming device that boasted strong sales in its infancy — over time the explosion that saw stores stripped of stock in its early days soon came to a screeching halt as the novelty of motion gaming faded away, leaving consumers with nothing more but a handful of solid games from Nintendo, and little else. And what did Nintendo do with their next system? Rather then addressing the problem that selling games based on gimmicks held, they amp’d those same gimmicks up to 11 and made the world’s most unwieldy controller in the process by strapping an SNES controller to a gigantic 3DS, and then followed that up by selling DLC via action figures.
It begs the question: what exactly is going on at Nintendo HQ? Do they really think this is the sort of thing that fans want? In the case of Amiibo’s, they might be right — geeks love collecting figures of their favorite characters, and there are few rosters of characters more popular than Nintendo’s. But where does that leave the rest of us? For people with no interest in owning an army of plastic doodads, all Nintendo has to offer on the home market is the same thing it did 10 or 20 years ago: a new Mario, a new Zelda, and the occasional Metroid or Starfox game. These games are good, and likely always will be, but at some point we have to sit down and ask ourselves: in this day and age, is it worth it to continue supporting a Nintendo home console just for a handful of nostalgic properties? With Nintendo’s next home console, the NX, on the horizon I think the time has come to cut the cord and allow this generation to be the gaming giant’s home console swansong. We’ve come a long way, but with the Wii U’s sales struggling to match those of its main competitors and the oddity of replacing a console after just three years of shelf-life forthcoming, it might just be the perfect time to hang up our hats and let an old friend die with grace and dignity.
Without a home console to support, Nintendo will likely focus more on their excellent handheld games and publish on other consoles, a small sliver of which we’re seeing even now as Nintendo recently announced a deal to get their massive backlog on mobile platforms. Sure it’d feel strange to see Mario or Link on the PS4, but we’ll get over it, just like we did when Sonic the Hedgehog went multi-platform back in the early 2000’s. It’d be a strange new world of gaming for sure, one with less gimmicks and less need to buy a subpar system for a few exclusives, but in the end I think that would be best for Nintendo and all of its millions of fans.
Will this ever happen? Probably not. But a girl can dream, right?