Nintendo sure isn’t making it easy to be a Nintendo fan these days. For as much joy as the company has brought into the world, the last few years have been rough for the Mario company — and its fans. With the Wii U, we invested in a console whose lifespan was cut short by poor sales. We suffered through 2015, which saw Nintendo’s worst video game output in many years. It’s now clear that 2016 will be even more dire, because you can count on one hand the number of notable Wii U games coming out. Heck, you’d still have enough fingers left to play a game from the company’s heyday over a decade ago.
It seems like everyone is pissed off at Nintendo these days, if they even still care at all. Many of the biggest Nintendo fans — myself included — feel let down and disappointed that Nintendo has squandered its potential in recent years on gimmick-based hardware and lackluster games. What’s going on? How did it get this way? Let’s take a look.
It all started with the Wii
Nintendo has always put its own unique spin on its video game consoles. Just look at the controllers it concocted for Nintendo 64 and GameCube. But when it launched the Wii in 2006, it forged a new path all its own that alienated third-party developers.
For one thing, it was built around motion controls. The “Wiimote,” its main controller, had far fewer buttons than its competition, which meant third-party developers had to put in extra work to port games to it — if they even bothered. Worse yet, the Wii was a lot less powerful than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. That made the Wii cheaper than its competition, but it disappointed longtime Nintendo fans who wanted Nintendo games to look as good as anything else on the market.
The problems with success
To Nintendo’s credit, those out-of-left-field design decisions didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the Wii. The console sold in record numbers, making it the third highest-selling system in history, and Nintendo’s best-selling console ever. It even outsold the Xbox 360 and PS3 by 15 and 20 million units respectively.
The Wii succeeded because it was affordable and appealed especially to non-gamers. People who never would have considered buying a pricy Xbox 360 or PS3 played the Wii at parties and went home and bought one for themselves. It had incredibly wide appeal.
Ironically, most of Nintendo’s current problems are rooted in the Wii’s success.