February 18th, 2019, 20:12 Posted By: wraggster
There's been a notable change to the way Nintendo does business over the last five years, and last month company president Shuntaro Furukawa put it into words for investors.
During the early 2000s, Nintendo famously felt that the increasing complexity of video games was causing fewer and fewer people to engage with them. This line of thinking affected everything from The Legend of Zelda (with games like Phantom Hourglass and Skyward Sword designed to be simpler and more approachable takes on the Zelda school of design) to the company's game devices, with hardware innovations like the Nintendo DS (easy-to-use touch screen controls and puzzle games) and Wii (motion controls and an almost singular focus on gaming as a physical activity).
These changes and innovations to their design approach, Nintendo felt, would allow them to "expand the gaming population" and entice more people to pick up video games.
The idea was that if they could release a large number of games and game devices that were easy to use, more people would be willing to engage with video games as a hobby, and this would lead to an increase in the total number of people spending money on games and the games industry. In the ideal scenario, these people would eventually "graduate" from simpler games like Wii Sports to more complex games and turn into lifelong fans of the medium.
"In making games more approachable, Nintendo had neglected to draw a clear line that would lead users from a Wii Sports or a Mario to, say, a Zelda or Metroid" There was just one problem: while Nintendo did indeed manage to get a large number of people to buy a Nintendo DS with Brain Age, most of those people never went on to buy a game like Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Likewise, while a large number of people did buy a Wii with Wii Sports or New Super Mario Bros Wii, the vast majority of them never graduated to more complex Wii games.
In executing their vision to simplify games and make them more approachable, Nintendo had neglected to draw a clear line that would lead users from a Wii Sports or a Mario to, say, a Zelda or Metroid. This led to a half-fulfilled vision of sorts, where there were more people engaging with games, but more because Brain Age and Wii Sports were trendy, rather than because they were interested in the medium.
Luckily, there were others to pick up the baton. As time would go by, smartphones would continue what Nintendo had started and make video games more accessible to a large number of people. Free-to-play payment models and the rise of smaller indie games would make them more affordable. In parallel, game developers both large and small would create an appetite for games that were complex, deep, and even weird, with more and more people willing to engage not just with major brands, but also smaller, more experimental games.
By 2015, it would become obvious that the industry had managed to avert the "gamer drift" catastrophe that Nintendo was concerned about in the early 2000s. Nintendo themselves would develop far fewer "casual" games on devices like the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U during this period, with both those machines known for much more traditional, meaty experiences.
This brings us to last month, and the company laying out their current approach, which they say they began pursuing around 2014.
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