When Did Nintendo Start Running Out of Steam?

As far as electronics companies go, Nintendo is as much of a giant as it is a legend. But as Sony and Microsoft trade heavyweight blows in the ring of console supremacy, Nintendo with its Wii U has been sidelined as far as media attention goes. With the possible exception of its falling share prices…
Mario Falling


In spite of having a one year head start, the Wii U is falling short, selling 3.5 million units instead of the targeted 4 million. Many gamers hold Nintendo as an important cornerstone our childhood and it’s a little worrying to consider that rough times may lie ahead for the company. Where did things start to go wrong?


The Nintendo Wii (Minus the ‘U’)


It wasn’t all that long ago when the Nintendo (against all the odds) proudly wore the champion’s belt for console supremacy. It could be argued that the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 were the “real” gamer’s choice, but Nintendo’s notably less powerful Wii was very much a head in the sales.

Wii Black

Some speculated that the Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, making Times Magazine’s Most Influential People list was a contributor to the company’s success between 2007 and 2010. It’s a bit of a long shot but it was awesome to see someone from the industry giving a big ol’ “GG noobs” to the world’s big shots. It was probably some decent PR and an indication that the company was anything but running out of steam. So what happened? Did things get too gimmicky?


Nintendo has a history of trying to improve immersion through innovative means. When the rumble pack was released for the Nintendo 64, it added at least a layer of sensory depth to awesome gaming experiences such as Super Mario 64 and StarFox 64. Many Leisure Suit Larry fans were left disappointed the franchise wasn’t ported over with some accessory modifications. But it was a cool feature nonetheless and soon enough other consoles copied it. Then, a few years later, Nintendo pushed the boundaries a step further.


The Right Controller at the Right Time?


It may be more than a coincidence that this time period saw an explosion in the number of people playing video games. It wasn’t just Nintendo’s sales boosting the figures; it could also be partly attributed to the original iPhone and mobile gaming. As we reported previously here on the Ultimate Gamer blog, market research nerds, Parks Associates reported that the gaming population of US surged by over 240% in 2008.

Android vs Apple

Is it possible that all of these new people with their new-found interest in our favorite hobby broadened their gaming horizons with a bit of a Wii Tennis and the likes? The Wii Fitness craze saw many an experienced salad-dodger wobbling around and burning calories in the comfort of their living rooms. It certainly added an element of mass appeal that would help outstrip Sony and Microsoft in the sales. While the sales may have been well above what anyone had expected, was it at the cost of burning its core audience? Casual gamers could be a great niche but they have one major flaw; they have no need or desire to upgrade to the next generation. Which brings us to…


The Turning Point…


It seems like the release of the Nintendo Wii U was indeed the turning point . Although the touchscreen controller is kind of a cool feature, it hardly has the same kind of impact on the gaming industry as the Wiimote. It’s possible that gamers smelt fear that this early move hinted at and the Wii U also missed many online features that people had come to expect from modern consoles.
Wii U
Knowing that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 release was just around the corner. Was everyone about to shell out cash for the Wii U when there could be some serious gaming goodies in the pipeline from the competition? Maybe we needed to know more…


Some critics say that Nintendo’s franchises are finally running out of legs, but if the reviews are anything to go by, Zelda and Mario still have plenty of life in them yet. When the new consoles hit the shelves, it’s likely that the Nintendo Wii U will see a price drop, a move that will no doubt improved sales, especially if the competition proved to be not what many were looking for.


Nintendo might be down, but it’s certainly not out. Miyamoto and the team have practically unrivalled experience in the industry and with so many changes in the console sector up-and-coming, there are plenty of opportunities still to be had.


Link riding horse











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4 thoughts on “When Did Nintendo Start Running Out of Steam?

  1. miyamotomusashi


    Look at the Kidtendo fanboys always hiding under sales figures of Wii, DS and 3DS skirt and not deal directly with what is happening with the Wii U. They always avoid the topic at hand.

    How can you have a good discussion with these damage controlling kids?
    Denial much?

    Instead of trying to help Nintendo by dealing with its mistakes they deny any constructive criticism and dismiss them as hate.
    Why not tell Iwata to his face all the screw ups they made with Wii U and help him solve the problem?

  2. miyamotomusashi

    I remember reading an interview with Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto-san that they specifically designed the Wii to not compete directly with PS3 and 360. He said they can not afford another N64 or Gamecube kind of loss scenario.

    So they changed their strategy
    1. made a very cheap affordably priced easy to sell console
    2. that is targeted on the parents of young casual and kiddie gamers with “family friendly image” games

    The motivation was more on recouping the losses on the Gamecube make a lot of ROI money for little investment.

    What puzzles me is why they did not improve on the Wiimote technology and went for a tried and failed gimmick with the gamepad. Why did they abandon the cheap price tag and casual gaming approach that made the Wii a commercial success?

    The backwards compatibility and upscaling is a very good feature and i was expecting a PS Move like accurate Wiimote instead of the gamepad.

    Now the Wii U is the exact opposite of the Blue Ocean strategy they did with the Wii.

    Its expensive and not casual friendly.

    Why? They added mature bloody games that parents did not like.
    Was it greed on Iwata’s part to cash in the FPS bandwagon? This is in direct irony with Shigeru’s kiddie friendly games.

    And on top of that Nintendo does not know how to make HD games! Its 2013 and they are hard pressed to make HD games.

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