Nintendo is not just the oldest video game company in existence, but they’re basically the oldest game company in existence, having been founded in 1889. Over the past 130 years, the company has gone through many ups and downs, and their time in the video game market—since the NES—has been anything but smooth sailing.
They mastered the “home console” idea 35 years ago with the NES, and once it made its way to the US, millions of people around the world fell in love with the company. But Nintendo has also made countless mistakes over and over again that have really hurt their success.
Luckily, the Switch turned everything around for them. But before that, starting with the Nintendo 64 (which made mistakes from the SNES), GameCube, Wii, and Wii U, it was one problem after another, and the company always found themselves far behind in the race against Sony and Microsoft (and others like Sega, depending on the time).
Here are 18 past mistakes Nintendo has repeated.
18 Early Missteps
When the NES was released in North America 30 years ago, it was a flawless machine. The main problem was finding Super Mario Bros. 2 and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link in stores. It sold out way too quickly. Now, the recent struggle to find an NES Classic and SNES Classic has led to speculation that Nintendo is either a) very bad at anticipating the success of its products, or b) limiting supply on purpose to drive up market value.
17 Early Backwards Incompatibility
If the NES was flawless, the SNES was perfect. It’s often considered the best gaming console of all time. But when it was released in 1991, the gaming industry hadn’t experienced “generation shifts,” and parents weren’t happy that they had to buy their kids a new console that was supposedly better than the old one. And the worst part, the NES games didn’t even work on this one! Backwards compatibility wasn’t really a thing until the PlayStation 2 came around.
16 Overpricing Games
When the Nintendo 64 came out, it quickly fell out of favor because of the CD technology of the PlayStation. The games just didn’t look as good, and Nintendo became a distant second behind Sony. Even worse (and this still goes on today), N64 games reached shelves at $59.99 and $69.99—the entry fee for games in those days, while Sony was releasing interesting, better games for $39.99!
15 Losing Their Bread And Butter
Nintendo made a huge mistake it’s never recovered from, starting with the SNES, when they didn’t translate many RPGs to the North American system. They figured Americans wouldn’t want games they had to read. Fast-forward a generation, and Square developed Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation, and that sealed the deal for many: Sony gave the US the introduction to RPGs that Nintendo should have done, had they played their cards right in the beginning.
14 Late To The Race
Just as Nintendo was a bit late with the N64 (against the PlayStation), they were also late with the underappreciated GameCube. Had it been released a few years earlier, the GameCube would have done great. But as it was, the system looked like a toy for children. Nintendo continued their “kiddy” persona, which hurt them big time, with the N64 to GameCube switch. The system just couldn’t keep up with the “mature” games coming out on PS2 and Xbox.
13 Failing To Separate From Its Predecessor
After Nintendo finally found success again with the Wii (and before the overnight sensation of the Switch that shot the company back to #1), they repeated a big mistake with the Wii U. The problem was with the marketing team, which utterly failed to separate the U from its predecessor. People didn’t know if the Wii U was a new system or an expansion on the old one, and people flooded the stores dazed and confused, just like with the released of the Super Nintendo.
12 Third-Party Companies Fleeing
When the Wii U failed big time, it led to mistakes that Nintendo abhorred but was well aware of: third-party companies parting ways with Nintendo to go to Sony and Microsoft. When companies left Nintendo, like they had with the SNES and N64, it all but ensured the Wii U’s defeat, and gave Nintendo a very hard lesson for a second time.
11 Wii U And Switch Lacking Details
When the Wii U was first released in 2012, its roll-out and execution were massive failures. Nintendo went to New York City in September just 17 months after revealing the project, but without any information about the Wii U’s online capabilities. Just 700 days after Nintendo revealed plans to succeed the U with the Switch (codenamed NX), at a similar NYC reveal event, they came just as unprepared.
10 Missing Switch Information
Just 14 days before the Switch was released, it was just as much of an enigma as ever. People couldn’t see the console’s menu system; people had no idea if the hated “friends code” would make a return; no one knew anything about future digital purchases, if it would be tied to a profile or the hardware. People didn’t know if the eShop would work. When the U was released, a full patch that took about a day to download was released with it, terribly enough.
9 Nintendo Network ID And Nintendo Account
Nintendo partnered with Japanese mobile giant DeNA to reveal the revamped “membership service,” which is mysteriously similar to the much-loathed Nintendo Network ID. The new Switch service was simply called Nintendo Account, and the U updated its system to the new Account system. It was released in advance of the Miitomo and My Nintendo rewards programs, and the déjà vu was real.
8 Online Functionality
Nintendo has always been cagey about its online functionality, mostly because they showcase their consoles before the online capabilities are even finished. This happened with the Wii U and the massive patch download/installation, and it happened with the Switch—though it wasn’t nearly as bad thanks to their partnering with DeNA, who could work out the core deficiencies.
7 A Tablet That’s Not A Tablet
The Wii U was always limited because it was a tablet that wasn’t a tablet—and even with the massive functionality updates, it couldn’t compete with Microsoft or Sony. Only 13.5 millions units sold (far less than the 100 million estimated). Luckily, the Switch, which is also a tablet but not a tablet, but stronger, has fared better, and already sold 34.74 million units since 2017, and 187.52 million copies of software.
6 Missing Netflix
One big hurdle that the Switch faces is that it doesn’t currently support Netflix, though Hulu and YouTube can be found in the eShop. This parallels a problem that the Wii faced, after Netflix was pulled from the system at the beginning of this year. Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, and YouTube no longer work for Nintendo’s older platform, and the hope is that these streaming services will return to the Switch, and soon.
5 Stingy Virtual Console
One of the initial problems with the Switch was that the online service’s “free” monthly games came with a huge catch. Subscribers were only able to play NES and SNES “free” games for a month, before users had to buy into a subscription. This made a lot of people upset, but it should have been expected since Nintendo has always been stingy with their VC (Virtual Console) services. This is mostly due to digital rights and ownership being a big issue over the last 20 years.
4 Not Giving Users Ownership
While purchases made on the Xbox 360 work on an Xbox One, and purchases bought on a PlayStation 4 usually work on a PS3, the same isn’t true for Nintendo products. They’ve historically resisted giving customers that kind of ownership, making people buy games two and three times just to play them again. Nintendo has always treated its library as a premium offering, and not something that they give away.
3 Ignoring Virtual Reality
Nintendo has always been a bit late to the game. Virtual Reality is huge right now, but at E3 2016, they showed up without the Nintendo NX (Switch), and COO Reggie Fils-Aime revealed that Nintendo had no intention of investing in VR, saying it “needs to be mainstream” before it’s even a consideration. Despite being an innovator with the Wii Remote and 3DS Touchscreen, they’re strangely behind on the time with other tech.
2 Wii And Wii U Inferiority
The Xbox 360 and PS3 came out in November 2005 and 2006, respectively, and the Wii came out several days after the PS3, within the same month. It was expected that the 360 would be the weakest, but the Wii took that title, with inferior graphics to the competition. The same happened next generation, as the Wii U came out in 2012, and the PS4 and Xbox in 2014, and the Wii U was still the weakest, only managing to match the power of the previous generation.
1 Not Capitalizing On Potentials
The Switch followed the same trend as above: it wasn’t as powerful as the PS4 or Xbox One, in terms of Tflops—it had one-half to one-third the Tflop power, making its graphic capabilities inferior. With the Switch, Nintendo was in the unique position of releasing a console that was on equal grounds with the competition—such as utilizing VR—but it didn’t capitalize on that until 2019, a full two years after release.
References: polygon.com, thenerdy.com, techtimes.com, n4g.com, mynintendonews.com