Nintendo hits hard times

The first video game I ever beat was “Pokémon Red Version.” Well, actually it was my sister’s game; all I did was beat the final boss, the rival who appears after beating the “Elite Four.”

The final battle was as climatic as it gets. We were both down to our last Pokémon: my (more precisely, my sister’s) Charizard versus my rival’s Blastoise. My disadvantaged Pokémon was in critical health, so I went to my last resort, a move that only works 30 percent of the time, but is an instant knockout if it hits: “Fissure.”

It hits. Game over. Credits roll.

I was hooked.

 

 

I went on to play every subsequent Pokémon series game, but I’m not writing about the hugely successful game series. This is about the company that publishes it: Nintendo.

Nintendo dwells in dark times. Revenues slipped 8 percent and profits plummeted 30 percent. The company’s next-gen console, the Wii U, failed to sell in the numbers the company had hoped. It figures to sell only 400,000 units this quarter; a paltry amount considering that rival company Sony recently announced that it has sold more than 4.2 million PlayStation 4 units so far, even though the PS4 has only been available for a little over two months.

It may be unfair to compare Nintendo’s system to Sony’s PS4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One because both consoles received tremendous hype at the end of last year. The thing is, it isn’t supposed to be unfair. Nintendo hoped its console would be just as successful as its rivals’. Sadly, those hopes have been dashed, and then some.

It’s time for Nintendo to face the facts.

The company has historically been a haven for casual gamers, featuring bright and playful characters such as Mario, Zelda and yes, my beloved Pikachu.

Just writing about them brings back joyful memories, but would I throw down the hundreds of dollars it would cost for a new console just to relive them? Absolutely not, considering I could just break out my N64.

Many of Nintendo’s former biggest fans are now, like me, young adults. We’ve changed. We want high-end graphics displayed on 60-inch flat screens. We want massive explosions, gory zombie mass murdering and nuanced storylines. We want what Nintendo no longer can offer.

That’s OK, Nintendo. Instead of chasing after those who have already left, it’s time to appeal to the new generation of casual gamers … mobile gamers. These kinds of people want access to their games at their fingertips and don’t really care about frivolous details like storylines or voice acting; they just want a way to kill fifteen minutes of their day.

The best thing about this? There are a lot of these people. I mean, who doesn’t own a smartphone these days and doesn’t have a few minutes to kill each day?

If you found out that you could play with all of your favorite characters from your childhood right on your phone, you’d be ecstatic, right? I know I would.

Unfortunately for Nintendo and us, the company’s president, Satoru Iwata, officially squashed the rumors that the company would finally enter the mobile gaming business, claiming, “If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo.”

I can wholeheartedly understand Iwata’s reluctance to overhaul the company’s business strategy. It can be a tough pill to swallow. But contrary to his fears, releasing a few mobile platform games would not result in the ceasing of existence of the company. What a company does is adapt to the ever-changing market in order to survive.

If Nintendo refuses to adapt? Well, then, Mr. Iwata, Nintendo might cease to be Nintendo. Literally.

Reach the columnist at jjmah@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @jonathanmah