Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why We Need A Nintendo That Innovates

Whether people want to admit it or not, especially the older portion of the gaming demographic, video games have developed within the entertainment industry as a cross pollination between toys, games, and electronics.  Nintendo has always done an exceptional job at blurring the line between the three with their products, resonating with both gamers and non-gamers of any gender.

As opposed to Sony and Microsoft, whose foundations are built upon electronics and software solely, Nintendo's foundational products were toys. Every true Nintendo fan knows the history of the Hanafuda cards, the Ultra Hand, the Love Tester, and of course the Game & Watch.  It is because of this lineage, and the development of timeless cartoon-like character IP on par with Disney, that Nintendo has been able to capture the hearts and imaginations of countless children and adults. 

Nintendo's most appealing and inviting feature is also their most polarizing.  What most 'hardcore' gaming aficionados want is a Nintendo, the very same Nintendo that enraptured their childhood and brought them into gaming in the first place, that is more mainstream. They want a Nintendo that replicates what Sony and Microsoft are doing. They selfishly, but understandably, want their favorite Nintendo titles in the same manor that they get Halo, Call of Duty, or Metal Gear. 

The problem with this desire is that none of those franchises are as timeless as Mario, Metroid, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Star Fox, etc.  Many could make the argument that characters such as Rayman, Shovel Knight and Ori are examples of Nintendo-like IP on 'hardcore' systems. While those titles scratch the nostalgic itch that many older gamers have they will never be characters that are used for innovation.  Newer titles that do a fantastic job fine tuning retro style game play will never be more than love letters and homages. They will be awesome but they will never be innovative. 

That is what Nintendo does. That is what they have always done.  That is the very nature of the company. They innovate. 

The D-pad, shoulder buttons, directional thumb stick, wave bird wireless, 1-1 motion, a tablet and who knows what's next on the NX! All of these hardware innovations go directly hand in hand with game play development. Timeless and unforgettable play features such as precision platforming controls, seemingly endless open worlds, barrel rolls, 3D gameplay, inventory management, map availability that didn't take up screen space or force a game pause, sword combat with physical movement, and the ability to actually create our very own Mario levels!  These are all things we have Nintendo to be thankful for.

So many modern norms in gaming can be directly attributed to Nintendo and their willingness to innovate. Why would anyone want to stifle that?

Sure their were failed attempts such as the Power Glove and Virtual Boy.  These were ahead of their time but important none-the-less.  Nintendo is the fearless samurai of the gaming industry, always charging forward to find the blue ocean.  So many experts and analysts claim that they know what Nintendo needs to do. Some even go so far as to say that Nintendo needs to exit the hardware business completely. This would serve as an incredible loss to the industry. 

As we are all aboard the media hype train, waiting for out NX't destination, we need to remember what makes Nintendo such a great company and a necessary agent of change within the industry.  

What are your favorite ways Nintendo has innovated the gaming industry?  Tell us in the comments.

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