Bushnell: Nintendo could be on a 'path to irrelevance'

Atari founder believes single-function devices are losing their relevance; industry veteran is more positive about virtual-reality experiences.

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Atari founder Nolan Bushnell has said that he believes Nintendo may be facing a "path to irrelevance" with its current products.

Speaking with the BBC as part of the Campus Party developer event being held in the UK, Bushnell said he thinks the time for single-function gaming devices has passed, and that the device marketplace is simplifying.

"I don't think handheld game-only devices make sense anymore," he told the publication. "Not when you have an iPod or an Android microtablet.

"When it comes to the console market, I think the market is truncating," he said. "Nintendo always had a soft spot for young people--they sort of did the 12-and-under pretty well, and the other guys did the 12-and-over.

"And now I think the other [consoles] are good enough on those things, and the rush to upgrade from the 12-and-under is not nearly as important."

Bushnell is more positive about virtual-reality devices like the Oculus Rift, saying that provided the challenges of display latency and the feeling of motion sickness can be resolved, the device has a good chance to succeed.

"The problem with virtual reality has always been motion sickness," Bushnell said. "If they're able to really get the reality and the image right, with low latency, I think they'll get it. With most motion sickness, you can build up immunity--and I believe that will represent a brand new, really powerful gaming system."

Last month, a Nintendo rep confirmed that the company is still selling its Wii U system at a loss. Two weeks ago, the company revealed that it would be phasing out the basic version of its Wii U hardware, as well as slashing the price of its Wii U system from September 20.

Discussion

461 comments
VALikimlav
VALikimlav

Nintendo games are of the highest quality. If you compare Android and iPhone games to games developed by Nintendo, there is absolutely no competition. And the controls are terrible. I don't think even casual users that play games like Angry Birds really try to compare it to a *real* video game, so I don't know why all those in the industry are constantly saying something that isn't true, and that has not or will not happen yet. There will always be a place for Nintendo and dedicated gaming platforms as long as there are gamers and not those who merely play the occasional flash-type game on their phone.

Zeus
Zeus

Not sure that the founder of a failed company is the best source to turn to when discussing a company that's remained successful for decades...  Otherwise, the Wii basically disproved this notion last gen when it outsold the competition.  Nintendo also still has the handheld market corned, with its only conventional competitor not even being in the ball-park.

The fact that the WiiU system is being sold at a loss isn't a sign of anything, as profits are normally made from software rather than hardware in this industry.  The Wii was something of an exception.

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

This is what happens when you launch a console with few games. WTF were they thinking?

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

A lot of people on here seem to be confusing their own personal opinion for irrelevance. Being irrelevant means that the general public doesn't care and/or recognize you anymore. If you can honestly tell me that you believe that the most successful and profitable videogame developer, with currently the fastest selling console ever out right now with around 6-7 franchises that can sell over 5m units and another 5 that easily break 1m that has consistently dominated the handheld market is irrelevant, then I'm sorry but you're delusional. You personally may not care for them anymore and that's fine, but as long as millions upon millions still do, they're going to remain relevant. 

It's like me saying Apple is irrelevant because I've never purchased any of their products nor do I really care about them. They may be irrelevant to me, but they're far from being irrelevant as a company. 

lostn
lostn

They're not on a path to irrelevance, they're already there.

bl33kda58
bl33kda58

SO lets act like the 3ds isnt dominating the handheld market and sony is playing catch up with the vita ok

datkat
datkat

another hd remake and a 100 marios.

AlwaysRunning
AlwaysRunning

Despite what the Nintendo Faithful espouse, Nintendo has always been a company aimed at the young gamer. Parents buy Nintendos for their children and families, and that is the lion's share of their business. Once PlayStation came along with a product for older audiences, that sucked away most of the core gamer market, and 360 continued that trend.

Nintendo has continued to do well with the family tilt over the years, and the Wii was a great toy that sold like crazy--you must admit, most of its sales fit squarely into the novelty/toy bracket, with Wii Sports/Play/Fit being the primary draw. But with a generation coming up now that's been weaned on iPhones and tablets, Nintendo's family market is drying up, even with their continuing to make quality games. You can make the finest product in the world, but if your primary consumer sees it as unnecessary, you're in deep trouble.

Add in the total undesirability of the WiiU console itself, and irrelevancy is certainly the order of the day. Nintendo needs to reinvent themselves. They've been left behind.

Meta-Gnostic
Meta-Gnostic

Perhaps, but it's just as likely Nintendo does ok. As long as they turn a profit, even when they're appearing to be doing bad, they will have a chance to pull off a Wii again.

soulless4now
soulless4now

Nintendo just needs to join us in the 21st century already. They're taking small steps, but there always behind the Sony and Microsoft when it comes to consoles. 

Gargus
Gargus

Nintendo is irrelevant now really. If it wasn't for the Nintendo name brand they wouldn't survive.

All they do now is hardware gimmicks that fail. The 3d effect no one wanted enough they had to make a 2ds, the tablet on the wiiu no one wants. Motion controls that are horribly out of date.

All of their games are just re-hashes, re-makes, and re-releases. Even arguably the biggest wiiu game to come out since the systems launch is windwaker which is just a remake of a 10 year old game. Everything else is just franchise sequels and spinoffs.

Nintendo hasn't had an original idea or been creative in a decade.

Chico_Azteca
Chico_Azteca

Ironic, coming from the guy that founded the company that almost killed the industry back then


That Nintendo saved

danganronpas
danganronpas

Nintendo COULD be on a path to irrelevance? 


Nintendo IS on a path to irrelevance. The quality of their products has gone downhill. First of all, they need to ditch the "Wii" and make something thats actually good, and maybe not give it a ridiculous name this time around.

GreenvaleXYZ
GreenvaleXYZ

What's the point of a VR headset if the game isn't set in the first-person perspective?  A lot of games aren't.  And Nintendo was the first of the console giants to successfully implement cheap motion controls, and now everyone's acting like the other companies didn't completely ride its jock.

Nintendo may have botched the Wii U release, but the Wii U gamepad tech is pretty ingenious (it's like playing a huge DS with a detached touchscreen), and we might see some really interesting things when the first two-player gamepad games are released.  Imagine the possibilities.  Or why bother, since third-party developers lack the imagination and initiative to actually use the tech and push themselves to make something new.

sunbeam4
sunbeam4

the gamepad would be a better concept than the "shield". nintendo lack the finish touches.

Wesleypipes777
Wesleypipes777

Nintendo has been irrelevant to core gamers for years now. It's not hard to see where they took a wrong turn.

gangstalulu
gangstalulu

What I find ironic is that Atari founder Nolan Bushnell dares to say that Nintendo is irrelevant.

if I ask anyone who has ever heard of Atari or even had an Atari console, how they see Atari in the game industry.
then the top 3 answers are

'80 Videogame crash.
E. T. landfill.
and a company that long been IRRELEVANT!

Garm31
Garm31

Nintendo train is firmly on the path to irrelevance. The tracks only go one way. Bad choices from the dinosaurs running the company into the ground. Morons!

frylock1987
frylock1987

"I don't think handheld game-only devices make sense anymore," he told the publication. "Not when you have an iPod or an Android microtablet"

A screen isn't a controller or keyboard and mouse so fuck tablets for playing games...unless you like slicing Fruit in Fruit Ninja....

frylock1987
frylock1987

They have been on that path since 3 years ago.....so....yeah.

Vodoo
Vodoo

I would love to see a Psycho Mario game. Mario goes around with a meat clever and dismembers all the cutesy little creatures that populate his kingdom. C'mon Nintendo... think outside the box for once.

lsdbaby
lsdbaby

Finally a true expert's opinion! 100% agree with everything Bushnell said.

After all, who would know better about becoming irrelevant than the founder of Atari?

cantor2537
cantor2537

Well, for those of us who grew up with Nintendo and are now starting to have kids, we want our kids to play Nintendo because its family friendly. I may look forward to my GTA v but I don't want my young ones playing that game. Thus the Wii U still gets played in my house.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@lostn 

Only to judgmental ignoramuses who care WAY too much about videogames. 

lostn
lostn

@bl33kda58 The handheld market itself is shrinking. The 3DS is not doing anywhere near the sales of the DS Lite. So being the best dedicated handheld is like being the tallest midget in the room.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@datkat 

Oh yes, can't believe Nintendo's doing ANOTHER HD remake after ...... wait, this is the first time Nintendo's ever doing an HD remake. 

lostn
lostn

@Meta-Gnostic Profit won't last forever. If you continue finishing 3rd place, eventually people move on and you stop making profit.

The reason they make profits all this time is their hardware was underpowered. They will need to continue makign underpowered hardware and remain irrelevant just to continue being able to turn profits.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@Gargus 

Almost everything you stated is your opinion, which is fine and all but don't push it as if it's fact. The only thing that you said that's pretty factual is that the 3D effect of the 3DS turned out to be nothing more than a gimmick (some games use it well but overall it has no real impact on the gameplay). 

rinnis
rinnis

@GreenvaleXYZ  

I 100% agree with what you said about the VR headsets. Not much point if the game is not in first person. Though in my case I don't really get the appeal of VR anyway. 

I disagree with what you said about third party developers. It's up to Nintendo to sell their own tech to third party devs and not the devs' sole responsibility to invent how to use it. Besides, third party devs go where the money is, and lately they don't make as much money on Nintendo's consoles as on Sony's and Microsoft's.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@DaneGamer 

While I see your points and completely understand where you're coming from (I remember when you used to really defend them), the problem with some of your points is that you're completely generalizing the consumer. There are still many kids and teens who love Nintendo and it's not only Pokemon. I work at a middle school and I've rocked a Kirby and Zelda shirt and had numerous students compliment me on the shirts. Yes Nintendo is not as popular with children as they used to be, but to say that kids don't care about Nintendo anymore is a flat out lie. 

That period where the Wii U sold 160k basically saw NO noteworthy game releases, while it's a pathetic number, it's understandable since virtually nothing came out during that time. 

Finally you assume that what you listed is all Nintendo has. We are talking about the company with the richest history of games and franchises, as well being one of the most talented developers in the gaming industry. Why would you assume that an HD Zelda after the winter/spring line up is all we have to look forward to? From what we know there's the crossover title between Intelligent and Atlus, as well as a brand new IP from Miyamoto, you think Retro and Monolithsoft are just going to stop after DKC:TP and "X"? SEGA and Platinum have been really supportive also, as well as Mistwalker and Atlus. 

It may seem like they're irrelevant right now, but they've basically just laid low for a while, which happened when they first launched the 3DS and what happened when Nintendo decided to market the crap out of that system? It's an odd strategy, as well as being very risky, but we've always known Nintendo to do some crazy stuff and emerge successful no matter what. This holiday season will be the proving grounds for them though.

bigmikeOK
bigmikeOK

@gangstalulu He knows exactly what he's talking about. He was one of the main critics of Atari back in the 80's and left the company he founded out of frustration. Next thing you know, they are now a 3rd party developer. Sega is also a 3rd party developer so after two of the former greats have gone the way of the dodo bird is it not at least slightly possible for Nintendo to meet the same fate? Remember that pride goes before the fall.

bigmikeOK
bigmikeOK

@cantor2537 I understand that sentiment but my kids have plenty of games that are not rated M for the Xbox 360 and PS3 and those two companies are actually looking to expand the family base for the PS4 and Xbox One so for me, buying a system that caters more to a younger audience or buying systems that have games for everyone and also have the top technology for today's games is an easy decision.

lostn
lostn

@abHS4L88 @lostn Well those 97 million Wii owners who have not bought a Wii U (and the majority of which don't intend to) are probably judgmental ignoramuses who care way too much about videogames right? You can't ignore such a big subset.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@lostn

Yet the 3DS is the fastest selling system ever, kind of contradicts your statement. Also within the same time period, Pokemon Pearl and Diamond was already out, so if the 3DS is already the fastest selling system ever right now, imagine what will happen when Pokemon X/Y come out?

lostn
lostn

@abHS4L88 @datkat What he means is re-release. Which they have done plenty of. 

Zelda OOT on 3DS? LttP and a bunch of SNES games on GBA? 

Meta-Gnostic
Meta-Gnostic

@lostn Uh no. They made profit with Gamecube and that sold 22 million lifetime. GC was not underpowered. As long as they make profit when they're doing their worse then there's always opportunity for going from GC to Wii.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@lostn

Well, what about those 140m PS2 owners who didn't pick up a PS3 during its launch? So Sony was irrelevant when the PS3 first came out? MANY people have stated that they just feel like it's too early to pick up a Wii U, and with the price drop coming along with many key titles, it makes sense. 

You can't just make up random rules throw around nonsense to try and validate your point. The 3DS alone proves that they're very relevant. 

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@lostn

The DS brand was already 2 years old when the DS Lite came out so it's pretty stupid to compare the 3DS to the DS Lite since the DS Lite had the complete advantage of having several killer apps already available by the time it was released. 

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@lostn

Nintendo recognizes the demand for them and sees the value in allowing a new generation of gamers experience some of their best games, it's not their fault that they actually bother to create timeless games that are still amazing decades from now. You also act like that's all they rely on. Remakes actually do take a lot of effort, a significant amount more than remasters, which is why they tend to go for near full price whereas remasters sell for about half the price or less. 

Remakes is exactly how it sounds, remakes, whereas remaster indicates improved visual quality. Super Mario 64 DS is a remake in the sense that they've added in 3 other playable characters along with extra content. Had it just been Mario with some minigames, then it would've been a rerelease. 

Not really since you actually pay for the Virtual Console titles, just like how you'd normally pay for games on PSN and XBLA. 

lostn
lostn

@abHS4L88 @lostn Remakes, rereleases, and remasters.. I consider them all coming from the same basket. The effort needed to do them varies, but there is no new map/level design, mechanics or gameplay design. It's no where near the effort needed to build a new game from ground up. And Nintendo does quite a lot of these. I think it's lazy development.

Mario 64's graphics look the same as the N64's to me. This is more like a HD remaster that you see a lot on PS3/360. Ocarina took a bit more effort, but not a lot more. The graphics are still dated compared to other games on 3DS. The N64 roots are still there. LttP I consider a port. There's been quite a few of these.

I don't count virtual console. I equate that to downloading a rom and running an emulator.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@lostn 
Oh I'm well aware of those, it's just funny that he said HD remake when Nintendo has only officially done one of those. Also what you listed are mostly remakes, not re-releases, there's a difference. Games on the Virtual Console are re-releases, Ocarina of Time 3D, Star Fox 64 3D, Super Mario 64 DS and such are all remakes. I hope I don't have to explain the differences.

Also I think it's interesting that Nintendo is all of a sudden getting hate for this when, like you stated, they've been doing this for a long time, ever since the SNES to be exact, especially now when re-releases are very popular among most major developers. 

Meta-Gnostic
Meta-Gnostic

@lostn @Meta-Gnostic The reason why their hardware is underpowered is because they have controllers that are innovative or gimmicky and/or add quite a bit of cost to the console. 

Nintendo has had more powerful hardware than the competition in the past, sometimes at a lower price. They still have the ability to have hardware that is at least pretty close to their competitors, if they choose to.

In any case, they currently have lots of cash in their reserves so until they start losing large amounts of money, they will survive. They can survive with just mainly 1st party games as long as they sell enough consoles. As we saw with Gamecube, 22 million consoles is enough, when combined with their portables.

They might be irrelevant to the majority when they are at their worst, but they may still be able to hold onto their core-fans, with the ability to return to prominence from time to time.

lostn
lostn

@Meta-Gnostic @lostn Yes they will make profit because of cheap hardware and making a bit of money on each console sold. But if they continue to sell the fewest consoles, that won't last. Eventually people will stop buying those too and the profits will go away. 

They're digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole. They justify their continued presence in hardware by saying they continue to make a profit. But in order to continue making that profit they have to release outdated hardware for a similar price or a bit cheaper, just so they can make money on hardware. They won't be making hardware at parity with the competition because they can't make profit on each console sold, and without that it's unsustainable because they know they won't sell as many consoles as MS and Sony. This means they have to remain irrelevant forever pretty much. 

Meanwhile all the core games will not release on Nintendo's console because it isn't powerful enough to handle them. I'm talking about the GTAs and CoDs. They will continue to get ports as long as developers are making PS3/360 versions, but once devs stop doing PS3/360 games it will take some effort to do a Wii U version. 

The same will happen in the generation after this one. Nintendo's hardware will be inferior (but they will make a profit) and they will again be an irrelevancy.

RedLegZeff
RedLegZeff

@juboner @bigmikeOK @cantor2537 Hmm, if they want to play mario they won't get it on the wii u either. When were they going to finally get a mario game on their anyway? Don't think they've even announced it's name yet.