If Nintendo Stopped Existing…

How would you react to the loss of Nintendo?

What if Nintendo stopped existing?

Okay, let me take a step back. First, I am not implying that Nintendo is going to go out of business any time soon. This has nothing to do with them being “doomed,” nor is it I trying to tell the company how to fix its issues. I am merely bringing up a hypothetical situation in which Nintendo no longer exists, and how I believe the gaming industry would react to it.

Now that I got that out of the way, let us return to the original question at hand. What if Nintendo stopped existing? Keep in mind that when I say, “stopped existing,” I mean exactly that. This is not a scenario where Nintendo makes games for Sony or Microsoft, not one where other companies will buy out Nintendo IP’s, not even one where Nintendo ports its classics onto mobile. Assume here that Nintendo simply just disappeared.

Back when I was still a child, I made the bold claim that if Nintendo stopped making games, I would stop playing them. Like many gamers, I grew up with Nintendo, and many of my fondest video game memories were of playing Nintendo games. Unlike many gamers, however, Nintendo has continued to be a very important aspect of my gaming life into high school, and now even into university. There was even a point in time where it affected what I wanted to be when I grew up, to be a game designer just like Miyamoto (for those wondering, that desire no longer exists). Needless to say, they were , and in many ways still am, an influential part of my life.

These past few months have been rough for Nintendo. January in particular was home to all sorts of bad news, from forecast downgrades to salary cuts to investor disgruntlement. Of course, Nintendo is no stranger to adversity, but thanks to social networking and the proliferation of online news media, their struggles seem to have been amplified by word of mouth. You cannot visit a video game website without seeing some sort of opinion on the Big N’s current woes.

I remember in December listening to an episode of NintendoWorldReport.com’s podcast “Radio Free Nintendo,” right after the NPD group reported their video game sales numbers to the public. The tone of much of the episode was distress – there was concern about Nintendo’s future as a company and the vitality of their console business as a whole. Perhaps more importantly, however, was that there was fear. I have never listened to a podcast before where I actually felt a sense of fear before. I was scared that Nintendo was not going to make it. I am not talking specifically about the next year or two; surely, Nintendo can survive another console generation without going bankrupt. But who is to say twenty years from now? Thirty? I am eighteen right now, and I certainly hope to still be gaming by fifty.

When looking at a world where Nintendo does not exist, one must ask two questions: how it will affect the industry and how it will affect me as a gamer.

There is no denying that Nintendo influences the industry. When the Wii hit store shelves, its massive success caused Sony and Microsoft to follow suit, each attempting to capture a part of the mass audience Nintendo managed to break through. On the software front, many developers try to create “clones” of Nintendo games in an effort to replicate their successes. Indie developers are very open about their influences, and many often point to classic Nintendo titles as being inspirations to their game design.

There is also no denying that Nintendo played a major role in the development of our industry. Without Nintendo, North America may have never recovered from the infamous video game crash of 1983. Without Nintendo we would be without some of the most important video games of all time, including Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Certainly, the video game industry as we know of today would not be the same without Nintendo.

However, these two claims look mostly at how Nintendo has influenced the gaming industry in the past. Our scenario asks us to look at how the lack of Nintendo would affect the industry in the future. Obviously, there is no way to tell what the future will bring, so the following statements are mostly hypothetical. Nevertheless, it is still interesting to ponder how exactly our industry might react to the loss of such an important player.

First, I would like to address the common claim that Nintendo’s absence would lead to less competition in the industry and thus the downfall of Sony and Microsoft. The problem with this idea is that it assumes that Sony and Microsoft are actually innovative. Okay, that was just a joke… sort of. While Nintendo strives to be different, Sony and Microsoft strive to be, well, the same. I do not mean that in a derogatory manner; indeed, Sony and Microsoft seem to also thrive for being the same. They know who they are marketing their consoles to, and what their audiences want. In many ways, they do not care what Nintendo does, much like how Nintendo cares little what Sony and Microsoft do. The gaming industry will not just stop existing because Nintendo is gone. Sony and Microsoft will continue doing their thing as always, and PC gaming will continue to thrive.

Nintendo’s absence, however, will leave one particular audience abandoned. There is a reason why Nintendo games do well. They are different from most other games in that they put gameplay before anything else. They evoke a childlike innocence and happiness. They are fun before flavor. Nintendo sells because there is a subset of gamers who prefer these sorts of games. Without Nintendo, these types of games will no longer exist… unless Sony and Microsoft decide to begin making them. Sony has a history of these sort of “Nintendo” games; their attempts with Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, and Ape Escape in the PS1/early-PS2 era were meant to be in direct competition with Nintendo’s own Mario, Zelda, and Kirby. Microsoft has RARE – or what is left of it – so certainly a Banjo-Kazooie revival would be possible. Obviously, the two companies have stopped making these types of games mostly because their current audiences stopped demanding them.

The Nintendo audience is not insignificant. In addition to Sony and Microsoft trying to capture the lost market, other developers will jump in trying to replicate Nintendo’s previous software successes by creating clones of hugely popular Nintendo franchises as Mario and Zelda, because the gamers who have grown so dependent on Nintendo to create these experiences in the past are no longer satiated by the current market. On mobile, we may begin to see developers trying to create experiences similar to Animal Crossing and Pokemon. In a way, “Nintendo” games will not disappear, but at the same time there is no way these companies can perfectly replicate the charm and joy that Nintendo managed to pull off in the past. It took years for Nintendo to create such a robust and active culture around their franchises; certainly, it would take just as long – if not longer – for others to replicate that success.

And so something would definitely be lost in this industry when Nintendo ceases to exist. There is a reason why you often hear the statement “no one makes games quite like Nintendo,” because it is true. Nintendo magic exists, and it exists in almost every one of their big-budget titles. Many have tried to replicate this feeling but so far none has succeeded; Sony in particular attempted this with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and LittleBigPlanet Karting. The gaping hole that Nintendo will leave may never fill, and even if it does, it would be with concrete – an artificial replacement that, while effective, does not completely feel the same.

There will be gamers out there who will more or less feel nothing if Nintendo were to stop existing. These are likely the gamers who also grew up with Nintendo, but moved on to PlayStation or Xbox as they became older. To them, Nintendo has not existed for quite a while. Perhaps they will look back and reminisce the memories they had with that console, and perhaps they may even feel a sense of loss, but in terms of their current gaming habits little would change.

Personally, I would probably break down in tears the day I find out Nintendo is pulling out of the gaming industry. It would be like losing a close, childhood friend. Obviously, Nintendo has always played a major role in my life as not only a gamer, but also as a person. To lose Nintendo would be devastating.

However, I doubt I would stop gaming. Those who follow me know that I am still a pretty big PC gamer. I am no stranger to Sony’s systems either, so I would not hesitate to pick up a PlayStation (I do enjoy many of their franchises after all). But little can replace the special spot in my heart where Nintendo lives. Looking back, a very large portion of my gaming library consists of Nintendo titles. I wish for that to continue. Eventually, I wish to pass this love down to my children. I am sure a lot of other gamers out there feel the same way.

A world without Nintendo is not a world I would like to live in. There is no other company on the planet that gives me more joy and happiness than the Big N, and I pray that it would stay that way.

How would you react if Nintendo stopped existing? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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