The Old-School Path I Think Nintendo Needs To Reconsider to Stay Current

I started pretty early on the Atari 2600 and the TI-99/4A in the early 1980s. I started the NES at perhaps age 8 (~1985) playing games like Final Fantasy 1, Super Mario Bros 2, Contra, Tetris, and TMNT 1&2 quite frequently — and such games were often easily the best birthday or Christmas present I ever got. I never graduated to SNES or N64 except when visiting friends who had them, and I had the NES for the longest of any childhood system. As an adult (age ~25) I bought the Gameboy Advance specifically for Golden Sun, for how much it reminded me of Final Fantasy 1 and was rigidly turn-based (waiting indefinitely for you to take a turn) and eventually became hooked hardcore on Advance Wars to the point that I take it on road trips (somewhat common it our family) and play it for just about the entire trip and frequently being surprised at how fast it seemed between refuels.

I have heard that Nintendo is having some problems, and I think Nintendo needs a new direction in general than the weird directions they’re taking now. To me, Nintendo needs to focus on a few older and more widely successful concepts than where they are currently headed. I think if they went back to those tried-and-true directions, their marketshare (and stocks, possibly) just just explode and become a serious contender again.

#1 – Nintendo needs to enter the app market full steam.

Nintendo’s best games, to me, barely require any hardware behind it. The NES had fairly complicated games, and the processors of most mobile devices are leaps ahead of that — if there were official releases of classic (ported, with a twist perhaps) NES games as an official Nintendo app, you better watch out. Nintendo needs to refocus back into the arena of the kind of game that would require far simpler hardware, but that run on current mobile devices.

On problem with that idea is button-mashers. In my day, there was some serious controller wringing, and I could see how it would be problematic if kids started mashing some serious button if they were on a touch screen and possibly damage the hardware — so Nintendo could instead simply develop a hardware similar to how they already have a steering wheel for the Wii mote — develop an exterior controller device that has physical buttons for mashing, that attaches to the mobile device or otherwise bluetooths commands/etc.

An official line of Nintendo ported game apps is something I would definitely sink my money into — and I have yet to purchase any app at all, ever. The iPod Touch 5 is my first app device, and I have not yet purchased any app at all because I don’t find anything really worth it, even for $0.99. I would easily pay $30 or more, per, for an official Nintendo release to my liking, though — and as I understand it, that’s rather astronomical for apps.

#2 – The Skylander concept, as a whole, to me is vastly under-utilized.

My image of Nintendo hardware was a system that you plugged physical objects into, and that the physical objects had value. Nowadays you need to be very careful with Wii discs and the physical interface is too “sharp” and needs to go BACK to being something you connect like a wrench to a nut, rather than like a delicate disc into a slot.

One of the charms of the NES, to me, was the actually plugging of the physical game into the physical deck — and that interaction feels lost today. The wiggling, the blowing in the end, even if those things did no real good (but seemed to), I got a sense of buying a physical object and playing with a physical object in connection with video games. The Portal of Power and figure-collecting concept, to me, could be a tipping-point revolution for Nintendo if they created portal AS THE hardware system, and that the figurines were the GAMES.

I know there is a Wii version of Skylanders, but I’m not talking that particular intellectual property per se — instead, it would be seemingly rather easy to fit, say, a Raspberry Pi into a portal-of-power-looking case. Games could then be manufactured in the forms of figurines, and would themselves, be collectible. The interaction of putting a game figurine on the portal (and some kind of brief LED light show to signal the loading process, perhaps) would re-invent that blowing-in-the-end or wiggling action of seating a Nintendo GamePak inside the NES housing that I found charming.

The actual Skylander property, and the Disney rip-off Infinity (let’s be honest, that is a complete and blatant cheapshot copycat of the highest order), just as a game, are disturbingly expensive. The portal and game combo runs ~$70 and figurines are $13-ish, each. That is the kind of price that a SYSTEM should cost, not an add-on for existing systems. I, would, however, totally spring for a $70 system that had $15-30 games without a second thought, though.

If Nintendo could whip up a kind of system where the hardware deck itself were a kind of portal-of-power concept, and where games took the forms of figurines, people might even buy the SAME GAME over and over just to have an official figurine of their favorite game character or as a complete set for their own glory. That would also drive the market in terms of rarity for exclusive retail-store-only releases of characters, or special unique character editions for promotions that could escalate demand for figurines and still sell copies of the same game on them.

#3 – The account concept needs to be completely abandoned, if not scaled back massively.

By this, I mean the idea that game saves are stored on the deck hardware, rather than on the game hardware, and the idea of “accounts” to set up are required in order to play something. The NES and GBA didn’t have accounts (not even a visible operating system), and save games were stored on the game cartridges, not on the operating device. You didn’t have to sign in to something — you could just turned it on and the only interface was through the game. There was no user tracking or stat collecting across several games.

If that kind of thing appeals to many people, perhaps reconsider making the “deck” hardware itself to be a single user, so that a family that owns one could collectively contribute to the game completions count or whatnot as a collective unit, but had no particular password or username. The whole user/pass concept to me is a foreign idea to my image of Nintendo in general, and does not fit well in practice. I didn’t want to be recognized by the system.. I am me enough as it is, I don’t need additional false-me’s running around doing things.

Save games were the game characters at a certain point in games, not “me” or a user account, and were native to the cartridge. That created rarity of cartridges, to me, that someone could have played up to a certain point on a particular cartridge, and then leant or sold to me so I could play off that cartridge’s progress. That was one charm of renting game cartridges that had save games — you could find rental carts that had save games on them that were bizarrely-high levels for a rental, and you could also contribute to that save and pass it along to the next person when you returned it.

Am I just an oldschool gamer wanting to play my old games on the newer systems? Sure. But I’m willing to bet there are a lot of us out there who have been supporters of Nintendo from the earlier days and would fork over some serious change to get those days back in ways that made sense then..

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