Atari founder says Kyoto publisher in a “very difficult position.” Handhelds “don’t make sense anymore.” Big N has deep rethinking to do, among other things.
In the wake of Nintendo Wii U struggles, the famed game company could be on the, “path to irrelevance,” Atari founder, Nolan Bushnell told BBC in a recent interview. Bushnell, now the head of educational software company, Brainrush, thinks Nintendo no longer has sole appeal over the family-centric demographic.
“Nintendo always had a soft spot for young people - they sort of did the 12-and-under pretty well and the other guys did the 12-and-over,” Bushnell says. “And now I think the other [consoles] are good enough on those things, and the rush to upgrade from the 12-and-under is not nearly as important.”
Truth be told, Bushnell has a point. Unlike the Wii, Wii U does not have the new, intuitive, intrigue of its predecessor. A gamepad controller with Wii-mote compatibility yields asymmetric gameplay experiences. For core gamers, sense can be made of that, but for everyone else, it’s a hard sell. And considering the sales thus far (needless to say) times are more than hard for the little console.
The other point to consider from Bushnell is that Sony and Microsoft are in a better position to appeal to the expanded audience, including families, which also doesn’t help Nintendo’s predicament. The only problem facing PS4 and Xbox One are the blatant similarities between the systems, which - unless we’re talking about exclusives and price, won’t help either machine runaway with the market, but let’s digress.
On the bright side, Nintendo’s 3DS - since the price drop - has seen steady progress and strong 3rd party support. Though Bushnell is not so convinced with handhelds.
“I don’t think handheld game-only devices make sense anymore,” Bushnell said. “Not when you have an iPod or an Android microtablet.”
To be fair, mobile gaming does make more money than dedicated handhelds, however, tablets aren’t dominating game sales and iPods - in truth - are multi-functional media players, not gaming devices. That said, should Nintendo focus on multi-media as much as gaming? It’s not really their forte, and in my opinion, not the answer. Wii U has multi-media attributes and is struggling profusely. And as mentioned above, 3DS is steady going.
With that said, there is no doubt that Nintendo will have to bring more to the table with their next handheld system besides a visual gimmick and dumbed downed add-ons - browser and camera - we’re talking about you.
As for the Wii U, the ensuing price drop will help, but there’s no guarantee the hardware will recover like 3DS did. The next Nintendo console, if it’s in the cards, will need much better planning as far as design, launch lineup, 3rd party support and a broader marketing campaign go. Otherwise, Mario and company better start packing their bags for other platforms.