Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Nintendo's Genius

Watching the E3 media briefings this week, it quickly comes apparent the kind of value that a history of game design has.

Sony, as a power in the video game world is only 15 or so years old. Microsoft is only 10. Nintendo is 25. The grandfather of modern console gaming is proving, in the HD age, why it is setting the agenda, not the power houses.

Nintendo has come a long way. It reinvented the wheel in the '80s with the Nintendo Entertainment System, a newfangled 'console' that was built solely to play games. It gave us Super Mario Brothers, a revelation. It gave us Zelda, the first computer game that actually allowed you to save your progress through the game.

These things were revelatory. It then simply upped the horsepower with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (my first video games console) and produced some of the greatest classics in gaming history - Starfox, Super Metroid, Super Mario World.

But it was then that Sony reared its head and forced Nintendo to adapt. They game up with the first fully 3D game ever created; Super Mario 64, and followed it with games like Goldeneye 007 and Conker's Bad Fur Day, two other games that had a massive impact on the way we play games.

As using a console to play DVDs and act as a media centre became more popular, Nintendo seemed to start slipping behind. They produced the Gamecube to compete with the PS2 and original XBox. They announced that their unnamed followup would not be an HD console. It seemed as if they were losing their way.

No, they were reinventing the wheel again.

The Gamecube gave us the first wireless controller, the Wavebird. It's follow up is a little white box called the Wii.

Enough has been written about the Wii to explain it's revolutionary success. The sales figures speak for themselves (in Japan it outsells the PS3 and XBox 360 6:1). All there is to say that in the purported age of HD, online gaming, the little white box with sticks for controllers, no HDMI and fairly bog standard networking abilities is the market leader.

Which brings us to this week' E3. While Microsoft and Sony are showing off Kinect and Move, their own motion control toys, Nintendo debuted the 3DS. The world's first - and only - fully 3D gaming device (we can also note here that despite having half the horse power of the PSP the original Nintendo DS is the second best selling gaming system of all time, having sold over 129million units).

As Microsoft and Sony are playing catchup (and to be fair to them Microsoft's Kinect is pretty revolutionary) Nintendo is taking strides - once again - into the unknown.

They turned gaming on it's head with the NES, Gameboy and Nintendo 64, and then suffered as they waited for technology to catch up to their next great visions; the DS and Wii. Nintendo's lean years of 1998-2004 were spent biding their time, waiting for the right moment to do what they have always done best: not just lead the market, but invent it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone/iPad

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