Where do I start? How about at the beginning? I don't mean when Nintendo was making hanafuda cards, though. Let's talk NES - the Nintendo Entertainment System. Not only did it single-handedly save the video game industry (yes, this is an exaggeration), but it's a fantastic 8-bit game console that still holds up today. Nintendo had a winner on their hands.
Next came the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System - Super Nintendo, or SNES, for short. No one knew how they could possibly top it, until the Nintendo 64 came along.
As great as the Nintendo 64 is, Nintendo was no longer competing with just Sega, who were pushing the Sega Saturn at the time (one of my personal favourite game consoles). Sony had entered the fray with the Playstation, and dominated, leaving Nintendo in second place for the first time ever, and annihilating the Saturn (and eventually Sega with it).
This new world of 3D games was amazing. It could only get better. Right? Well, Nintendo released the Gamecube next. I barely saw it in New Zealand, and I knew only one person who had one. As for Sega, the excellent Dreamcast was their downfall, and once again, Sony rose above the others with the truly amazing Playstation 2.
Nintendo were losing this fight. Gamecube sales were horrible. But the Gameboy sales were still phenomenal.
Then came the Wii. Stupid name and penis jokes aside, it was revolutionary with its motion controls and it's resonance with the casual gamer audience (i.e. families and your grandma). That was barely a year before Apple debuted the iPhone. The Xbox 360 was already out, and the Playstation 3 soon followed.
The Wii dominated in sales, but popularity wasn't exactly its forte, and yet the Nintendo DS continued to sell steadily and successfully in the portable market, even against Sony's PSP.
Jump forward to today and you'll find the Wii U and 3DS on store shelves. The smartphone market is booming. You have iPhone, Android, and even Windows Phone. You have dedicated devices like the OUYA on the horizon, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One (yes, I'll rant about that once it's released) recently announced, and Nintendo has a lot more competition than ever.
So what's their great competitive strategy? Keep doing what they always did and make sure they have great first-party games. Screw third-parties and smartphones and anything. This right here is their problem.
When the 3DS launched, I got one on launch day. Heck, I pre-ordered it and paid it all off BEFORE launch day. Sure, the 3D screen wasn't very revolutionary, but my DS had just hit the dust, and I was way too excited about the 3DS.
It cost me NZ$450 on day one. That's a LOT of cash. Currently, that's about US$380 (as of the time this was posted). Like I said - a lot of cash.
There was my experience with the store who gave me a used one (a story for another time - probably tomorrow), then there was the experience itself. There weren't any stand-out games for the longest time, but Street Fighter IV 3D was fun, even if I sucked at it.
Let me cut to the chase: Nintendo significantly cut the price about 6 months after release, because sales were bombing. Anyone who had bought it early got into the "Ambassador Programme" and got 10 free GBA games, and 10 free NES games. Sounds like a bargain. Except that it cost Nintendo nothing to do that, and whilst I was content at the time, I no longer am.
Needless to say they came out at E3 the next year, with the 3DS XL, with the same crappy 240p screen except bigger, but it was cheaper, and up until recently, you could get a free game with it when you bought the thing new. And I mean a new game. Not this emulated crap.
Let me preface this by saying I adore the NES and GBA, and their respective game libraries. I don't own the original versions of some of these games, so it was nice to have them. But given the size and resolution of the screen, it's only good for GBA games. Gameboy Color games look okay, but Gameboy and NES games are way too small on that puny screen.
Not to mention the 3DS eShop, which overprices games. Or maybe they're not overpriced, but when I can have just as much fun with a free or $1 iPhone game, Nintendo is doing something wrong.
Then there's the Wii U. A lot of people still think it's an add-on for the Wii. It's a mess. It has been terribly marketed, and it's already obsolete, with both Sony and Microsoft launching. New consoles at the end of the year. Sales on the Wii U are abysmal.
So what's the problem? Nintendo. They refuse change. They don't want to accept that the portable gaming market is no longer as lucrative as it once was. After the success of the Wii, they think everything they do is revolutionary and that people will enjoy it.
Basically, they've become lazy. They need to adapt and come up with better business strategies. Until they do that, they're on the same fast lane to failure as their old nemesis, Sega.
I'm also still NZ$150 out of pocket and use my Vita a hell of a lot more often than my 3DS (which I barely touch). Once upon a time, you couldn't keep me (or anyone else) away from Nintendo. Now I want nothing to do with them.