Oh boy. It seems Michael Pachter may have developed an addiction to stirring an insatiable blood-lust within Nintendo fans across the world. He’s certainly not made his feelings for Nintendo’s under-performing “next-gen” console a secret. But, whether you want to smack him upside the head or not, there is often a lot of validity to his arguments. However, has he gone too far this time? You be the judge.
Speaking with Nintendo Life, Pachter was asked at length about his feelings on Nintendo in general before targeting the Wii U in particular. Pachter reaffirmed his position saying, “I don’t hate Nintendo at all. I think that they have missed several opportunities on the hardware side, waited too long to provide multiplayer options and generally have alienated third party publishers across the board. Each of those missteps is likely to cost them in the next console generation.” Okay, so far so reasonable, everything Pachter claims about Nintendo’s current “missed opportunities” is true. As is often the case, Pachter explains in his longstanding GameTrailers Q&A series Pach-Attack!, “they did it right, they just did it late.”
Pachter was then questioned about the Wii U in particular, and what the console would need to do to survive, if not thrive, in the next-gen market. As has been reported in the past, Pachter believes the Wii U needs two core pillars to be successful: A large user install base and strong third-party support. As it stands right now, the Wii U lacks both. We’ve seen people hesitant to jump on board and invest in Nintendo’s next-gen offering because it’s hard to justify purchasing a new console specifically for first-party support; there needs to be confidence that a gamer’s favorite third-party games will be available as well before making a high-end purchase decision. Unfortunately, with the developers of AAA third-party games like Grand Theft Auto V, BioShock Infinite, and the Battlefield series opting not to port their multiplatform titles to the Wii U, it doesn’t instill all that much confidence in consumers.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Pachter sites a few more issues that, in his opinion, may just be the final nails in Nintendo’s console coffin. In his own words, “Nintendo blew it by ignoring online multiplayer until 2012. That’s why I thought we would see a Wii HD in 2009 or 2010, because it was time for them to get serious about competing with Sony and Microsoft,” he told Nintendo Life. “I’m not sure that they can recover and think that they may have blown it on the console side forever. I think that they should consider exiting the console business — but keep the handheld side — unless they have a clear plan for success. ‘Be patient’ is not a clear plan for success.”
It’s certainly true that Nintendo opted to ignore online, competitive multiplayer for a long time, and by that same token, took far too long before heavily investing in the downloadable market space with the introduction of the e-Shop and Virtual Console. The Virtual Console has yet to release on Wii U at all, but is scheduled to be available sometime this Spring. Their lack of desire to directly compete with Microsoft and Sony, and subsequent complacency with becoming consumer’s “secondary” console, is potentially something that could lead to their undoing.
Now, before we pounce upon Pachter like ravenous wolves to the helpless gazelle, it’s important to consider a few things. Most importantly, Pachter’s comments come from the perspective of a research analyst who’s job is to protect investor’s money. If a company’s stock is unlikely to offer a return on investment, than they are not of any value to Pachter’s clients. As it stands right now, Nintendo does not seem to be a safe, or even reasonable, investment from a portfolio perspective; and it’s from that angle that Pachter believes his statements are an accurate representation of Nintendo. Truth be told, it’s hard to argue. Sure, it’s early in the Wii U’s lifecycle; and even Pachter believes it’s best to wait until a console’s third holiday sales, which for the Wii U would be the 2014 holiday season, to judge whether or not the Wii U will become a success or failure. But the fact remains that Nintendo is off to a poor start this console generation and has positioned itself in such a way that it cannot compete directly with it’s competitors.
Does all this mean it’s time to write Nintendo off and encourage them to exit the console hardware market? Of course not. In reality, Nintendo is one great E3 conference away from winning back all of their adoring fans. It’s not just loyal Nintendo fans who are looking forward to HD releases of franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Mario, and Super Smash Bros., it’s the majority of the gaming community. I’ve said before, and I stand by my statement, that all Nintendo has to do is release a strong lineup of first-party support to draw in a dedicated install base, and then third-party developers will see the value in creating content exclusively on the Wii U. The problem they had this time around was a distinct lack of quality first-party titles to accompany the Wii U’s launch. I think it’s fair to say the console may have released a year too early and would’ve likely benefited from releasing later with a dedicated first-party launch lineup of classic Nintendo staple franchises.
As far as exiting the console market altogether, I think that’s the only area where Pachter is dead wrong. Of course, he’s looking at it from a financial perspective, so it makes sense for him to suggest abandoning the home console and focus solely on their popular software, while also continuing selling the portable consoles in a market where Nintendo unequivocally dominates. That’s sound investment advice from a purely financial standpoint. But the problem is, we as gamers, and I as a member of the game industry community, see things differently. We come from a perspective where Nintendo isn’t supposed to be competing with Sony and Microsoft for prettiest graphics and largest online community. The Nintendo we see paves the way for innovation; giving us systems like the DS and Wii, whose design concepts sounded like the ramblings of a raving lunatic wearing a tin hat and shouting from on top of a pile of dead cats. Every one of us would’ve said not to make these crazy machines, and every one of us would’ve been dead wrong.
So, here’s the thing: We need Nintendo. Not because we’re all nostalgic for the good ol’ days. Not because we can’t live without Mario and Link. Not because they provide us with the most high-end hardware and connect us with the largest group of our friends online. But because they innovate. In a world where every shooter looks just like every other shooter, in a world where every action-adventure game has a “detective mode”, in a world where every game of a similar genre uses the exact same controller layout to the point where instruction booklets and tutorials aren’t necessary for seasoned gamers, Nintendo innovates. They hand us a second screen and tell us to “try something new.” They hand us a Wiimote and nunchuk and tell us to “try something new.” They give us 5-player couch co-op including a Gamepad and tell us to “try something new.” I fear for an industry dominated by big-name publishers all doing the same dance without a company like Nintendo around to offer something fresh and unique. Creativity would diminish faster than anyone seems to realize.
But, this article has turned into a bit of a ramble, so I’ve reported on Pachter’s statements and added enough commentary to voice my concerns. Now it’s time for you, my cherished readers, to voice your concerns. Do you think Pachter’s making a lot of sense here? Or have you written him off for his harsh criticisms of the house that Mario built? What can the Wii U do on the software side to become successful this generation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.