The Nintendo Entertainment System was the home game console to have in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Nintendo shifted 10 million Nintendo game consoles in the United States in 1988 alone. When the Nintendo 64 was released in 1996, they were sure they had another winner on their hands, but then came the PlayStation. Nintendo continued to rely on cartridge technology, its limited IP and single genre entries to carry it through.
The Sony PlayStation introduced CD game technology, an updated controller and a wider variety of games to appeal to various audiences. Suddenly Nintendo was yesterday’s news. Now, however, everything old is new again and people have fallen back in love with Nintendo.
The Resurgence of Nintendo
Nintendo learned its lesson about relying on outdated technology. Its next big entry was the Wii which relied on Bluetooth connectivity in its console to allow full player movement. Unfortunately, Xbox was pushing something similar, the Kinect, which relied on a motion sensor so that no controller was needed. Combined with a better marketing plan, the Wii fizzled in the States.
While it has continually offered some sort of game package, the tide really turned when Nintendo entered the gaming market in 2017 with its first Switch. The hand-held console was popular right out of the gate, in part because, as Game Grumps Dan Avidan noted, “NES games pack so much content.”
It also didn’t hurt Nintendo that its release of Animal Crossing coincided with a global pandemic. It allowed people to connect with their loved ones even when they couldn’t do it IRL. The game became a global smash hit, selling over 66 million units worldwide in all its iterations. People who already loved the Switch bought family and friends their own units so they could play along and stay connected. It led to collaborations with everything from Puma clothing to Monopoly boardgames to Colourpop makeup.
Nintendo as Nostalgia
Nintendo hasn’t just been smart and lucky with their newest game and console releases, they have banked on a nostalgia for the late ’80s that has millennials emptying their wallets. They released a 35th-anniversary edition of Super Mario Brothers and have brought back other classic games like Game & Watch. Mario isn’t just coming back in his old incarnation either.
Super Mario Kart has been a staple of the Nintendo gaming systems since 1992. Mario Kart Live was introduced in October 2020. Using the hand-held Switch console, players control a real toy go-kart. The action on the screen influences how the kart behaves in real life. Nintendo certainly wasn’t behind the technology curve or understanding the market on this release.
Nintendo’s resurgence meant they were able to buy back some of their own stock and remove it from circulation. It’s a move only a company with a huge cash surplus can manage. While they continue to learn from the mistakes of the past and look forward to the next big thing, it’s clear that Nintendo still has it.
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