On March 3, the Nintendo Switch went on sale, in which the Japanese company tried to combine all its positive experience in the production of portable consoles with an equally rich experience in the home console market.
I must say that Nintendo experiments of this kind are not always successful, and the situation with Wii U is an example of this. Another thing is that the company has proven more than once that it is more than anyone else ready to learn from its own mistakes. As history has shown, Nintendo is at its best when it doesn’t try to push and compete with the mainstream, but goes its own way and offers players its own unique take on video games.
1977 — Color TV-Game
Nintendo’s first foray into the burgeoning video game industry, albeit only within Japan so far. No cartridges, one console, one game. In total, five different models were produced, each with its own control system. TV-Game 6 and 15 included all kinds of Light Tennis modes, very similar to Pong. Racing 112 was a simple car simulator with a real steering wheel and gearbox. Remakes of Othello and Breakout have also been released.
Despite relative obscurity, at one time the total sales of all versions made the Color TV-Game one of the most successful first-generation consoles.
1980 — Game & Watch
Nintendo’s debut handheld console, which in a sense is a pocket-sized Color TV-Game. As in the case of the home console, each Game & Watch contained only one game, although this time Nintendo tried to diversify its repertoire as much as possible and released 60 different models of the console during the entire production period, including Donkey Kong and Zelda.
Game & Watch became a huge success and sold 43 million copies in ten years. By the way, it is on it that such Soviet clones as «Merry Chef», «Well, wait a minute!» are based. and Secrets of the Ocean.
1983 — Nintendo Entertainment System
Prior to the arrival of the NES in 1985 in the US market and the rebirth of a declining industry with it, Nintendo first tested the legendary console in Japan, where it was called the Famicom (Family Computer).
When it came time to try their hand at the US, Nintendo found that no retail chain wanted anything to do with video games. As a result, Nintendo had to enter into an extremely unfavorable contract for itself and act at its own peril and risk. In case of failure, the company would have to buy back the entire batch of goods.
Thanks in large part to very strong debut titles, sales of the console began to grow exponentially. The NES allowed Nintendo to dictate the terms of the entire industry for a long time — a status from which the company later weaned with great difficulty.
In 2016, Nintendo decided to nail the nostalgia and released the NES Classic Edition. The miniature console contains 30 legendary titles and is charged via USB. Soon after the release, hackers found a way to add not only additional NES games, but N64 titles as well.
1989 — Game Boy
In the late 80s, under the leadership of Game & Watch author Gunpei Yokoi, a portable console from Nintendo was developed with the ability to replace cartridges. The first version was not full of technical capabilities, but rather took it with its innovation and minimalism. Like Mario for home consoles, Tetris became the main title at the Game Boy’s launch, thus making it to the handheld console for the first time.
An impressive 200 million sales were achieved, also thanks to the subsequent release of other models. Seven years after the original, the Game Boy Portable came out, a more compact version with no technical advantages other than an improved screen.
The most popular was the Game Boy Color. In addition to the color in the console, a more powerful processor was clogged, and the memory was increased several times. But if the GBC was comparable to the NES in terms of capabilities, then the Game Boy Advance in 2001 was already advertised as the “Pocket SNES”. Of course, it was not without marketing exaggeration, but several remakes of the SNES classic were indeed made for the console.
1990 — Super Nintendo Entertainment System
By the time the 16-bit SNES was released, the positive industry climate created by Nintendo had spawned several competitors, the most serious of which at that time was Sega. Despite the great potential of the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive), the SNES still managed to overtake its rival in sales and even remain relatively popular during the period of 32-bit consoles.
True, fierce competition from Sega did have its consequences. Nintendo could no longer afford, as in the days of the NES, to personally control the quality of almost every game, and force developers to buy out lots of cartridges from themselves. Thus, more and more studios started releasing games for both systems.
1996 — Nintendo 64
After hitting bumps on the failed Virtual Boy experiment, Nintendo responded to the increasingly popular Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation with its 64-bit Nintendo 64 console. In addition to the new technical level, the N64’s main decoration was an innovative analog joystick controller. By the way, N64 became the first set-top box with the ability to connect four gamepads at the same time. Unfortunately, even Nintendo’s sweetest innovations paled in comparison to Sony’s PlayStation, released a year earlier.
While Nintendo has remained true to cartridges so far, Sony and Sega have used the larger, cheaper CDs to manufacture. This led independent developers to immediately turn their heads towards the PlayStation and Saturn.
The prefix was rescued by games. GoldenEye 007, Star Fox 64 and especially the 3D platformer Super Mario 64 brought the console to the top on their shoulders, second only to Sony. In addition to everything, two years after the release, Shigeru Miyamoto’s cult masterpiece The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released, more than once called the best game in the history of the industry.
2001 — GameCube
In contrast to the wildly successful PlayStation 2 and now the Xbox, Nintendo has introduced the GameCube. It became crystal clear that Nintendo has lost ground, and its products are increasingly moving into the category of «connoisseurs». The company even ditched its favorite cartridges in favor of mini-DVDs. Even the design of the console got it. Despite the extremely convenient gamepad, the appearance of the GameCube itself has been called “too toy” more than once and compared to lunch boxes. Adding to the ranks of the traditional Nintendo game lines also failed to change the situation.
As a result, many developers completely removed Nintendo from their field of vision and preferred to work exclusively with Sony and Microsoft. Thankfully, despite the GameCube’s poor sales, the parallel success of the Game Boy Advance rehabilitated Nintendo.
2004 — Nintendo DS
Nintendo did not grieve for very long and decided to remind herself where she already had twenty years of experience — in the production of portable consoles. The company decided that although it had lost ground among home consoles, the PlayStation Portable, looming on the horizon, would not take away its main trump card from Nintendo.
Shortly before the release of the console, the then-former president of Nintendo stated: “If the DS succeeds, we will be in heaven. If not, the nightmare will begin.
Soon after the start of sales, it became clear that the DS is the most successful creation of Nintendo. A couple of innovations like a dual screen, separate processors, Game Boy Advance compatibility and a convenient touchpad did their job and over the next ten years, sales exceeded 150 million.
Among other things, DS stood out because players could use Wi-Fi to play Pokemon, Mario Kart DS, and Animal Crossing: Wild World together. Including it was possible to add a person «as a friend» through the Friend Code system.
2006 — Wii
Instead of breaking through the closed door behind which the Xbox and PlayStation were already proudly sharing the throne, Nintendo went the other way and got into an even larger audience, among which it felt like a queen again. With the release of the Wii, Nintendo aimed at a more casual audience and presented the console as entertainment for companies and families. Its once again innovative motion-technologies and the original Wii Remote gamepad appealed to those people who had not even thought about video games before.
No doubt this maneuver thinned out Nintendo’s hardcore fan base, but after the failure of the GameCube, the company was willing to do anything to restore its position. She undoubtedly succeeded, and Nintendo was back on horseback.
By the way, despite the non-trivial approach to control, the console did not remain deprived of a series of traditional adventures of Mario and Link in the form of the hit Mario Kart Wii, Super Mario Galaxy and Skyward Sword. True, at that moment they all faded into the background, because the adventures of their favorite characters were suddenly overshadowed by the new Nintendo hit — Wii Sports.
2011 — Nintendo 3DS
Prior to the development of the 3DS, Nintendo had already tried its hand at 3D technology through two failed experiments: the Famicom 3D System and the Virtual Boy. This time, the attempt to capitalize on the success of the DS by adding a 3D effect to the top screen can be considered successful. The line did not become as profitable as the DS, but the players liked it and overtook the PS Vita in sales without any problems.
Due to numerous jabs at the 3DS design, a redesigned version of the Nintendo 2DS was released in 2013 without the 3D effect, but otherwise with pretty much the same stuffing.
2012 — Wii U
Biggest failure of the company. After a hugely successful experiment with the Wii, Nintendo decided to return to the competition with representatives of the eighth generation of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. Initially, the company enlisted the support of third-party developers and such well-known game franchises as Assassin’s Creed, FIFA and Mass Effect.
However, after the release of the console, it became clear that most players do not see the point in delving into the Wii U, but prefer to use the familiar system. The effort that Nintendo put into developing a fresh gamepad with a built-in six-inch screen did not justify itself at all. As a result, third-party support for the console ended fairly quickly, and the Wii U almost ceased to have any weight in the industry.
2017 — Nintendo Switch
As with the GameCube, after Wii U, Nintendo decided to rehabilitate its position by baffling the gaming world as much as possible. The Nintendo Switch is the company’s first hybrid console and is trying to be as mobile as possible. At any time, you can get the console from the docking station, attach the so-called «Joy-Cons» to it, and now, you already have a portable console with a six-inch screen in your hands. In this way, Nintendo intends to reach and please as many players as possible.
It’s still too early to draw firm conclusions about the success of the entire Switch venture. At this stage, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the main hit and concurrently the main motivator for buying a console. However, according to Nintendo, the company has enlisted the support of 70 third-party studios, and a total of about 100 individual titles are expected. Will wait.