Is Nintendo "Irrelevant?"

Former Naughty Dog and THQ boss Jason Rubin thinks so. Do you agree?

News by Pete Davison, .

Speaking with GameTrailers, the former Naughty Dog and THQ boss Jason Rubin branded Nintendo "irrelevant" in the console hardware space, but admitted that the company as a whole was a "worldwide treasure."

Rubin's comments come amid continuing dismal sales figures for Nintendo's Wii U, with the latest being the recent revelations that in its first week on sale, Sony's PlayStation 4 has already surpassed Wii U's lifetime sales in the UK, and that considerably more people have bought a copy of Knack than Super Mario 3D World.

The sales figures have once again prompted the seemingly interminable discussion that Nintendo should consider releasing its games on non-Nintendo platforms -- Rubin said the fact that this hadn't happened yet was "a crime."

Nintendo platforms are still the only places you can do this.

Despite Wii U flagging in the face of significant, technologically superior competition, however, it still has a number of points in its favor. Most notably, Wii U exclusives are significantly more distinctive than those found on PlayStation 4 and Xbox 360, and include beloved Nintendo franchises such as Mario and Zelda -- plus more recent popular affairs such as Wii Fit and Wii Party which have that unmistakeable brand of Nintendo fun about them. This distinctiveness is almost certainly why we'll never see these games on non-Nintendo hardware: while Wii U is struggling to sell, somewhat like its spiritual precursor the GameCube, it's still the only place to have certain experiences, and that's unlikely to change any time soon.

Super Mario 3D World's launch week sales figures may look bad, but as always, Nintendo is in this for the long game: given the way things have worked in the past, it's more than likely that the critically acclaimed Super Mario 3D World will continue to sell a year from now, while PlayStation 4 owners will almost definitely have moved on from the -- to put it politely -- rather divisive Knack by then.

We had a good old argument about whether or not you should buy a Wii U recently, along with what the best Wii U games are. What do you think? Is Nintendo "irrelevant," as Rubin claims, or do you think it's fine continuing along its own path?

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Comments 27

  • Avatar for davidbabb52 #1 davidbabb52 4 years ago
    I've never seen Nintendo as irrelevant. The innovation Nintendo has shown over the years has always amazed me and by constraining them to someone else's hardware seems more of a crime than Jason Rubin's original statement. Part of what makes Nintendo's first and second party titles so great is the use of the hardware and its capabilities.
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  • Avatar for fwest316 #2 fwest316 4 years ago
    The notion that Nintendo should release their first party software on other consoles negates Rubin's point. If Nintendo were irrelevant there would be no call to release it's software on other consoles.
    Furthermore, there needs to be a company like Nintendo out there to produce noticeably different games. The last thing the gaming community needs is another Sony, Microsoft and third party AAA derivative games to compete. Nintendo should stay Nintendo.
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  • Avatar for gigantor21 #3 gigantor21 4 years ago
    I don't want Nintendo games on Xbox or Playstation. I like having a company that has it's own separate ecosystem for hardware AND software. The third-party dependent model that Sony and MS creates a lot of overlap in terms of who the consoles appeal to, and Nintendo leaving the hardware market would only make it worse.

    We need Nintendo around to counterbalance things. Apple and Samsung sure as shit aren't a good alternative.
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  • Avatar for GustinHardy #4 GustinHardy 4 years ago
    My countless hours spent with the 3DS seem to prove otherwise, Mr. Rubin.
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  • Avatar for dimasok #5 dimasok 4 years ago
    I think Rubin is the irrelevant party here.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #6 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    If Nintendo is irreverent in the hardware space, then why does everybody keep copying them?

    More importantly I wish that people would realize that Nintendo going third party does not equal instant success. They'd need to completely change their development process and it could result in a lot of fallout at the company.
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  • Avatar for alexb #7 alexb 4 years ago
    From the perspective of a third party looking to make games in this modern industry, I think it's fair of him to say Nintendo are currently irrelevant as a console hardware maker. They deliberately created a system that was so below the spec of the other two major systems that it was not possible for third parties to create ports of their multimillion dollar productions going forward.

    The days of slightly worse ports of Batman and Assassin's Creed are over. The next iterations will be made for PS4 and Xbone. If third party software developers wanted to make a game that ran on Nintendo's system, they would have to design to the limitations of the Wii U, which by some estimates is actually weaker than the Xbox 360. This means that they would have to continue to do laborious things like pre-bake the lighting, spend tons of time optimizing the textures and polygon budget for every given scene, manually animate physics effects like cloth and exploding buildings that can all be handled more efficiently using the power of the newer systems (global illumination, robust physics systems, tessellation, etc.). All of this for a system that has a tiny install base and a frankly bleak future. It's simply a non-starter for most companies.

    He's not saying Nintendo makes trash games. He's saying their console is beyond consideration for anybody outside of Nintendo because of market realities and technical concerns. If you really want to see Nintendo continue to thrive, rather than pounding that minus button down below, you should hope that they learn the right things from this rough period in their history and emerge stronger for the next cycle.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #8 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    @alexb That's actually an interesting point, though to me that just raises more questions about where big budget gaming is headed at the moment.

    The biggest problem a lot of developers had last generation was adjusting to the cost of HD development. Even towards the end where you think developers would have a better grasp on it we still had stories of games selling multimillion copies and still failing to turn a profit.

    I'm guessing Nintendo's gamble was that the big studios would be attracted by the Wii U's lower, but still pretty good specs since it would probably cheaper to develop for. Instead they all seem to big ignoring it for the Xbox One and PS4 that while much more powerful than the Wii U are probably going to be more expensive to develop for. I'm not sure that's a good long-term plan for the industry.
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  • Avatar for docexe #9 docexe 4 years ago
    @DiscordInc I agree with the last paragraph of your first post. Many people just don’t understand what a transition from hardware manufacturer to only software producer would entail. It’s overhauling your primary business model, around which most of your company is built around. It’s not an easy task neither quick, a process like that can break a company. And while Nintendo has enough cash reserves that they might actually be able to complete a transition like that successfully, the company will just not be the same afterwards. Just a cursory glance at what happened to Sega will show as much.

    Say whatever you want about tired franchises, gimmicks, etc., the Nintendo of today still experiments with new gameplay concepts and peripherals, and occasionally revisits old and obscure franchises like Kid Icarus or Sin and Punishment. As a 3rd party publisher, you could say good bye to all that. That’s the primary reason why I believe they stopping to produce hardware and go multiplatform is undesirable. Rather, it seems preferable to hope for what alexb mentions before: That the company will learn the right lessons from from their embattled platform, and apply them with their next console to once again thrive on the hardware market.

    The PS4 surpassing the lifetime sales of the Wii U on the UK is a testament to two things: How much good will Sony managed to create with their new console, and how much Nintendo dropped the ball with their own. The company really needs to reevaluate and reinvent their approach to home consoles in the next console cycle, like they did with the original Wii.

    And well, as things stand, the Wii U being overshadowed by the launch of the PS4 and the XB One is not surprising in the least, it was to be expected. And the truth of the matter is that the Wii U is just NEVER going to get any success on the UK. That being said, I think the console might still recover some ground in the American market during the Christmas period that started with the Black Friday. But whether or not it will manage to do so, or even recover to a point that will ensure its continued survival until Nintendo can come with something else, remains to be seen.Edited December 2013 by docexe
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  • Avatar for docexe #10 docexe 4 years ago
    @DiscordInc As to where HD gaming might be going… well, while costs will inevitably rise again, many companies have been taking steps to mitigate them. The implementation of better tools and new game engines is probably the most visible. Truth to be told, those engines have been built and optimized to work with the next gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony, and are expected to be applied to a great variety of games in order to minimize risks and costs. This is part of the reason why EA abandoned the Wii U: Their tests of the Frostbite engine on the console didn’t look promising.

    Of course, whether this and other measures will work in their favor remains to be seen. Truth to be told, there are so many unhealthy trends (and many problems with what can only be called poor management decisions) in AAA games development, that it’s not entirely surprising why so many analysts keep fearing that this will be the last console generation.
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  • Avatar for Arrowned #11 Arrowned 4 years ago
    I'm not going to comment on Nintendo's fortunes; I think things can go one of many different ways for them, though the amount of cash they're pulling in with the 3DS makes me think any talk of them switching business models or going out of business is premature.

    What I will say is that I don't honestly think the guy who was in control of THQ when it drove itself into the ground in bankruptcy should comment on other companies being irrelevant, but that's just me.
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  • Avatar for Thusian #12 Thusian 4 years ago
    I always thought anyone talking smack about another dev is sort of crass. Make your games and let them speak for themselves. Relevance as a universal concept is also strange. If you love shooters or games rated a hard M, yeah Nintendo is largely irrelevant to you. If you like family and party games they might be the most relevant. Its the continued quest for consensus in the enthusiast space. Tevis Thompson wrote that brilliant piece about why its dumb and I agree. If all this medium is going to be about is what serves the biggest audience and everything else is "irreverent" get ready for an even more homogeneous AAA space. And if that's what happens the irreverent thing to me will be AAA games.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #13 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    IMO the 3DS is THE system to own right now. That's where all the best games are lately. Luckily the popularity of that system seems to line up with it's quality, however I don't think the same can be said of any of the new consoles.

    If we just evaluate the games available on the three next gen systems, and those in the near future, Wii-U is a clear winner in my mind. Sales may not reflect this, but what's popular is not always what's best. Dreamcast was an amazing system that did not deserve it's fate; if the Wii-U does indeed die, it'll go down in history as another Dreamcast.
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  • Avatar for Shadowfire #14 Shadowfire 4 years ago
    So... the same argument we've been having since the N64 then. Got it.
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  • Avatar for Guy-Guy #15 Guy-Guy 4 years ago
    As someone who grew tired of Nintendo titles post-Gamecube my own opinion is that they should go third-party. Nintendo consoles are almost exclusive to Nintendo games: 3rd-party tends to get eaten alive and while their exclusives tend to be eclectic and really great experiences because of the unique Nintendo software there is still a readily apparent "drop off" of those 3rd-party companies, usually because the titles simply don't sell on Nintendo hardware and the fact is they have mammoth price-drops right after they release and so even the supportive gamers really can't be expected to support these games at release when they know damn well that in a month they will be down $30-40 dollars.
    I said I grew tired of Nintendo, but I don't mean that to sound like a criticism. Nintendo still makes great games and all of that, but because they share formula's and aesthetics I think the only natural path MOST Nintendo consumers can go is one alike myself. I started with the NES and loved Nintendo titles--- but eventually they lost all of their flavor and intrigue. If this is so for other consumers, then there is no way that Nintendo can continue to support its hardware with solely their own games: people have diverse tastes, but nintendo titles, despite their genre differences, just aren't separate enough to justify owning a console borderline exclusive to those same-feel games.
    I'd like for Nintendo to be 3rd-party, but at the same time their bizarre hardware really does amount to some terrific 3rd-party stuff like Wonderful 101, Madworld, and Pandora's Tower. All the same though, those titles can all potentially be replicated on other systems, and if that were so I really wouldn't care to play it on a Nintendo system because, again, the focal point of their HW is Nintendo games--- which I'm so tired of.
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #16 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    He would know about irrelevance wouldnt he?

    A guy who owns a 3ds and 1 game
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  • Avatar for BigBauss #17 BigBauss 4 years ago
    @jareljones06 He wasn't at THQ until they were already on their death bed. Shrewd business move, actually; if it went under, it wasn't his fault, as he got there too late, but if he saved it, he would be lauded as a great leader and businessman.
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  • Avatar for BigBauss #18 BigBauss 4 years ago
    I feel Nintendo consoles are important BECAUSE they have been languishing in sales. Nintendo's style when they are down isn't to copy the competition, it's to disrupt everything and shake up the industry; the competition will usually then copy Ninty.

    The N64 pioneered 3D controls in games and four-player multiplayer. The GameCube emphasized ease of development. The Wii showed that there were people who would love to play games, but were intimidated by high prices and complex controls. The Wii U has the potential to be the standard-bearer in second screen gaming.

    So, Nintendo currently has their back against a wall? I'm ready to see what comes from that.
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  • Avatar for novo1858 #19 novo1858 4 years ago
    @alexb I simply do not agree. With all three major console using x86 based systems, porting games will be much easier for all platforms. Last gen we saw PC games with Direct X technology two versions ahead of consoles, and the games were still available on all platforms, as the games were quite scalable. As these consoles are ever closer to pc architecture I think they will be again even more scalable.

    And there is no way the Xbox 360 is more powerful than the Wii U. For one one thing The Wii U actually outputs in 1080p, some games are only up-scaled 720p but menus and games going forward are 1080p. The lighting effects and texture resolutions and process's I have seen in Nintendo Land and Super Mario 3D World are better then anything I saw on my Xbox 360 through its entire life span.

    Wii U doesn't support DriectX 11 natively, but it uses a system that allows users to essentially translate DX11 code onto Wii U.

    Sure the Wii U isn't as powerful as the other next-gen platforms but it uses similar technology that should allow for developers to provide many ports of their games in the future.

    And if all you care about is the bleeding edge of power and tech... get a PC, they are, and have always been the most technically advanced gaming platforms.
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  • Avatar for benjaminenglish #20 benjaminenglish 4 years ago
    @nimzy Console exclusives ARE increasingly irrelevant for Sony and Microsoft. Other than some odd outliers like Halo and Uncharted, the biggest sellers on PS and Xbox are multiplatform: Call of Duty, Assassins Creed, Grand Theft Auto, etc. Nintendo can experiment with hardware and gameplay styles so freely because unlike Sony and Microsoft, they're not totally beholden to needs of 3rd party developers. The fact that the Wii U is less powerful than the other two consoles is significant, but if Nintendo hadn't made so many mistakes at launch, if they'd been able to get the system into homes, then 3rd parties would be singing a different tune.
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  • Avatar for benjaminenglish #21 benjaminenglish 4 years ago
    @docexe And there's the rub: What Nintendo is doing provides much needed diversification in the games industry. Triple A games are increasingly being hammered into a niche. Developers are unable or unwilling to take a risk and either crowd-fund something that goes on to uninspiring sales or release it as digital only. The Indie scene is great, but it can't replace AA development outright, let alone help diversify the AAA games market.

    So Nintendo is probably more relevant than ever now... but in a way, they're so good at what they specifically do that no other company can seem to turn a profit at it.
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  • Avatar for raymondfernandes09 #22 raymondfernandes09 4 years ago
    The 3DS and it's 35 million consoles sold says hi. That number is more than likely to climb a bit after this holiday season.

    That said, Nintendo dropped the ball with the marketing of the Wii U. Mostly with the naming of the system. Most consumers still have no idea that it's a brand new system and not an accessory for the Wii. I don't think this makes Nintendo "irrelevant". Nintendo knows how to make a profit, eve on systems with soft install bases.
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  • Avatar for alexb #23 alexb 4 years ago
    @novo1858 The Wii U is not x86-based, actually. It's running on a further iteration of the same PowerPC architecture Nintendo chose for the Gamecube over a decade ago. And it is appreciably weaker than the XBox 360 in terms of its computational power and the latency of its memory. This is directly responsible for the loss of framerate in multiplatform games like Batman: AC and Assassin's Creed III and IV over the Xbox 360 versions.

    The Wii U does have a more modern GPU and more RAM, but you would hope so, given that it came out a full seven years after the 360. As for Direct X 11 features, the Wii U is not powerful to actually use a lot of them in a gameplay setting. Tessellation is more or less out of the question.

    One other thing. The Xbone can output in 1080p. The 360 and I believe even the original Xbox are capable of this. But resolution by itself means little. The WiiU can output in 1080p, but the only games to actually use this resolution are small games like Nanoassault Neo and ports of older, less demanding games from previous systems, like Monster Hunter Tri and Wind Waker. In other words, fairly undemanding games from a technological standpoint.

    Full scope, modern games like Nintendo Land, NSMBU, Mario 3D World, Wonderful 101, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, and Lego City Undercover all run at 720p. Some multiplatform ports actually run at resolutions well below that. In short, this is because the Wii does not have the strength to run a modern scope game at 1080p.

    Nintendo's games generally look very good and run well for the system they're on, but the games play to the strengths of the hardware Nintendo chose. Bright colors and shiny shader effects, but relatively little in the way of computationally heavy things like robust physics models and complex AI routines.

    By all means, love the Wii U, but assess its abilities (and liabilities) and the reasons why third parties ignore it honestly.
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  • Avatar for Rory-Taylor #24 Rory-Taylor 4 years ago
    Ignoring the 3DS for a moment, I wouldn't call Nintendo "irrelevant". It's just the WiiU will be what their home consoles have been for a while now - good for that handful of really excellent first party games, and frankly not much else. It's a situation Nintendo has created by trying to be so different, and it's not an easy one to reverse. The WiiU is not a viable platform for third parties. The effort to get a game to run on that system isn't justified with its dismal install base.
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  • Avatar for Folkenhellfang #25 Folkenhellfang 4 years ago
    If you like video games and try to refute Nintendo's importance, you are only fooling yourself. Their games connect with people of all ages, and that is a really wonderful thing. The Nintendo faithful like to cite the long sale legs the Mario games have, evergreen titles if you like, but those only work if people keep jumping on the platform.
    With that said, I have to wonder what this year of Wii U would have looked like if they had used the same aggressive and frankly cagey strategies that put the 3DS on top for the home console. Their successful wooing of Capcom and Monster Hunter pretty much assures the handheld market, but if that is true the console equivalent is more elusive.
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  • Avatar for novo1858 #26 novo1858 4 years ago
    @alexb hmmm ok my mistake I forgot Wii U was Powerpc based. That is definitely a bit of problem then, but at least it allowed for Wii backwards compatibility... anyone?
    (Joking aside I have enjoyed backwards compatibility in dry spells of releases)

    Owell to be perfectly honest I only really care about 1st party content on Nintendo systems, or 3rd parties who make exclusives which harness the unique flavour of Nintendo consoles.

    I almost think this is a bit of a strength for Nintendo as Microsoft and Sony's 1st party content has been weaning in recent years and allows Nintendo to Stand out. Now if only Nintendo could snap up some more games from Japanese studios like they did for Wonder 101 and Bayonetta 2 I am more than happy.

    And recently I've been seeing less and less incentive to grab MS or Sony consoles because of lack of internal software development, if all they are is third party media boxes, I'll just use my pc.

    But yes I'll admit when it comes to getting the next Battlefields, Call of duty's, War fighting male power fantasy simulation, and whatever other crap sports games, Wii U will lag behind... Were still stuck with Just Dance though, sigh.
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  • Avatar for abuele #27 abuele 4 years ago
    Nintendo has no need to sell their properties to other plataforms and risk their properties against AAA titles.

    If what this guy had in mind are quick bucks($$$), then there is no discussion to it.
    Nintendo Seems to be straying away of the console wars looking for other venues where to fit their games. As you fairly state people will be playing Mario 3D World a year from now or more, and people with PS4 will be buying the next AAA hit.
    Now the AAA market is another affair altogether.
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