Theory No. 5 About Why Nintendo Lost Money Last Year

Over at Yahoo (or maybe The Week), some unnamed editor has rounded up the opinions of four other writers to alchemize a theory or four about why Nintendo lost more than $400 million last year, the company's first annual loss.

I'm not sure how they missed the theory that I dare say is the right one: Nintendo didn't make any phenomenal games last year and hasn't for a while.

The article doesn't include that. Rather, the writers go with:

  1. Smartphones and tablets are taking over
  2. Microsoft and Sony are slowing sales of the Wii
  3. Nintendo doesn't allow other devices to use its brands
  4. Nintendo hasn't linked up its own devices

These are all things that may have hurt Nintendo. Some of them may be things that Nintendo should be doing or at least could be doing in order to make many fistfuls of cash.

None of these things, however, is the thing that made Nintendo a big deal the first time around, the second time around, the third time around nor the fourth. Nope. The things that did were Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Tetris and Pokemon on the Game Boy, Nintendogs, Brain Age, New Super Mario Bros. and Mario Kart DS on the DS and Wii Sports and Wii Fit on the Wii. Nintendo made most of those games. Most of those games were far more interesting to more people than any other games being made at the time. Most of those games were incredibly good.

Last year was not the first year when there were other machines on which people could play video games. Yes, it was a year when it was considerably cheaper to play games on other machines. But it was also—and I believe this is key—a year when no Nintendo games captured the general public's imagination. I may have loved Pushmo. So did a handful of other people. Super Mario 3D Land was great, as was Skyward Sword, but no one will accuse those games of containing the genius of Wii Sports. They're in the midst of a three-year drought of any games that would capture the public's imagination. This is a long time for them.

Nintendo is, as they have been so many times before, in need of an ingenious game this year. That's how the company works.

Even if it was somehow ethical for a reporter to own stock in a company they cover, I doubt I'd own stock in an outifit as terrifyingly dependent on great creative ideas as Nintendo. Very good is seldom enough for them. Even in their quieter years when they weren't the front-runner in the video game race, they were making very good games. That's what they do, and yes, they did turn a profit in previous less creatively-brilliant years. But if you're casting about to figure out what Nintendo did wrong and what they need to do well, it seems obvious to me that only one thing ever "saves" Nintendo: their next great idea.

Nintendo's worst year ever: 4 theories [The Week, via Yahoo News]