Nintendo has over their history, made some questionable choices regarding the decisions made with their hardware and online services, some worse than others. Many of those criticisms are justified. However, and aspect that the Nintendo fandom should be way more critical of they are is Nintendo’s software.
As a Nintendo fan, I’m more interested in Nintendo as a software provider than a console manufacturer. They can do some neat hardware, but I don’t look at them the same way I look at Sony or Microsoft as hardware makers. Really, Nintendo is a game developer first, platform holder second in my eyes, always have been, always will be. So I couldn’t care less about Nintendo having super powered hardware and dominating the video game industry with an iron fist because times are different now, and Nintendo’s views and philosophies on gaming as a medium exist in a completely different realm from Sony and Microsoft, thus Nintendo has nothing to gain or lose by competing with Sony and Microsoft head on.
I’ll criticize hardware decisions Nintendo makes that I disagree with, but I won’t act like their consoles are suddenly “the worst of the big 3, and how Nintendo needs to dominate Sony and Microsoft” because we should all just accept that Nintendo forfeited that battle a long time ago. I have however, been very critical of Nintendo’s software output throughout much of the Wii U era. I’ll even go as far as to say Nintendo has fallen way behind other developers in terms of creativity, concept, development, and distribution. They haven fallen as hard as say Sega or Square Enix, but it was clear their games were nowhere near as important or influential as they used to be.
Many in the Nintendo fandom will pretend this is fine and act like the Wii U has the best first party lineup since the SNES (which is really quite laughable TBH). But the reality is, Nintendo has been surpassed by indie developers, mobile developers, and even some of the AAA developers in game development since at least 2010. They used to be a major force in mainstream gaming innovation, but with the Wii U, they became just a pretty good tribute band to themselves. I don’t want that. I don’t want safe rehashes with gimmicks Nintendo themselves doesn’t even use in a meaningful way, I want Nintendo to actually use their hardware in new and interesting ways. I want them to make games that turn the medium on it’s head and make the industry stand up and take notice. They did it with Super Mario Bros., they did it with Ocarina of Time, they did it with Metroid Prime, they did it with Wii Sports, but they did nothing of the sort for much of the Wii U’s life, and when the finally did, it was too little, too late. On top of that, it also felt like Nintendo was publishing LESS games on the Wii U than their previous systems. Nintendo systems have always sort of had software droughts, but the Wii U really tested our patience with the lack of games it was getting, and Nintendo wasn’t doing anything about it.
When you step back and take a look at the Wii U’s first party line up, and compare it to other Nintendo platforms, you’ll see just how lackluster the Wii U really is by comparison. Nintendo’s Wii U output wasn’t bad by any means, but as far as bold leaps in game design, or creative new gameplay concepts, or important, influential games go, the Wii U doesn’t even come close to the Wii. After all, Mario couldn’t save the Wii U, Zelda couldn’t save it, Wii rehashes couldn’t save it, co-productions couldn’t save it, not even Smash could save it. It got to the point where Nintendo needed a new hit, something that shows they still have the ingenuity and creativity they used to have.
This is why Splatoon was such a breath of fresh air. It was a title that not only the Wii U needed, but also Nintendo needed. Because it still showed that Nintendo still has the talent to do impressive, groundbreaking work. But even still, the pervasive feeling is also that of “Cool, but shouldn’t this have come out in 2013?”. This is why I’m excited for the Switch, not just because it’s a new Nintendo console with a new Zelda and Mario, but because Nintendo for the first time, in what feels like a long time, is the bold, daring publisher I expect from them. It’s not just that there’s a new Mario and Zelda, but there’s a new Mario and Zelda with honest to god effort put into them, and not just remasters and phoned-in sequels to handheld games.
So I’m certainly looking forward to Nintendo’s Switch output, I expect great thing to come from Nintendo as a game developer. But I also think that fans should be more aware and critical of Nintendo as a software developer and not just hate on Star Fox Zero or Federation Force simply because you don’t want those games. Instead, analyze and dissect exactly why games like those don’t work, and pay more attention to Nintendo’s output as a whole as well.