In 2013, Sony and Microsoft saw successful releases for their newest consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One, with a strong introductory lineup of next-gen video games: Titanfall, Infamous Second Son, and Watch Dogs.
Both companies were on a solid track to a lucrative future. Sony and Microsoft fanboys were ready for war. Anticipation was spurring. The future of gaming was here. But as 2014 developed, triple A games from these companies were no where to be seen. Promises were broken as E3 2014 branded highly-anticipated games such as Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts 3, and The Order 1866 with 2015 release dates. The hype slowly faded, faith in humanity was lost, and greatness awaited the following year.
By mid-2013, Nintendo’s future seemed woefully bleak. Their latest technology, the Wii U, paled in comparison to the capabilities of the PS3 and Xbox 360. The company reported losses of $385.7 million in profit due to a delay in game development according to CNN. In January of 2014, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, announced he would cut back his salary by 50% because of his company’s failures. Furthermore, Nintendo’s absence from the Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3 for the 2nd year in a row made it seem like they’d given up their place as a leading video game company.
2014 was the year of the comeback kid. Nintendo’s profits skyrocketed to $224 Million for the quarter between July and September with Wii U sales at an astounding 90% increase in November 2014, the most sales ever for Nintendo’s newest console. The company’s games boasted impressive reviews from critics with Mario Kart 8 given an 88/100 rating and Smash Bros. Wii U with 92/100 on Metacritic. It all begs the aching question: How did they do it?
Nintendo is best known for their brand name IP’s (Intellectual Properties). That’s Mario, Pikachu, Kirby, Link, etc. There’s no one who hasn’t heard of at least two of these names before. Their franchises are undoubtedly their strongest suit and their biggest selling point. The Super Smash Bros. series capitalizes on this fact having sold 490,000 copies in its first week, record numbers for the Wii U. The most fundamental characters in gaming are exclusively on Nintendo’s console from Pac-man and Mega Man to Mario and Sonic.
Nintendo often gets a bad rap for re-using the same franchises. They are often accused of “running out of ideas,” but I’m going to argue that they are anything but out of ideas. Yes, it’s Mario again and again, but it’s Mario with a new mechanic or in an entirely different genre. Among the most recent releases, Yoshi was reimagined in a world made of yarn in Yoshi’s Woolly World. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker gives one of Nintendo’s most under-appreciated sidekicks his very own maze-like platformer. Nintendo loves its characters and so do the fans, it’s what their company thrives on. Understandably, a new face playing tennis or racing karts could be nice, but it’s not what Nintendo is about. Their games are fun.
That’s what makes Nintendo win.