My Dream Nintendo Doesn't Make Home Consoles

Sometimes, when I'm lying awake in bed, I dream about Nintendo. And how great it would be if they didn't make home consoles anymore.

Before we go any further: this isn't a "I'm going to tell Nintendo what to do" kind of post. The company's been making hardware - and money - for longer than many games writers have been alive. The internet is full of those kind of stories, which are both a tad presumptuous and a little boring, since they're mired in reality.

They also tend to be complete downers. A world where Nintendo sells games on the App Store is one I don't want to live in.

Instead, it's a "I wish Nintendo would do this" kind of post. The difference being that while I'd love this to happen, I don't actually expect it to. At least not anytime soon.

Which bums me out.

While Nintendo isn't in trouble the way Sega was when it spiked the Dreamcast over a decade ago - it's got enough cash reserves to literally do nothing for a very long time and still pay the bills - there's still a sense of urgency about the company's position in the market and its ability to adjust to a gaming landscape that's changed radically over the past five years.

Most of that is down to the Wii U. Which has been a disaster. So much so that it'd be awesome if it's the last home console Nintendo ever makes.

I mean, look at the 3DS. That's a cheap system, it's easy to develop for, and as the last 18 months have shown, developers around the world - but especially at Nintendo - just can't stop making classic games for it.

Wouldn't it be great if that's all Nintendo had to worry about?

Here's my dream, then. That Nintendo stops making a home console, and instead focuses its efforts on a single new handheld device. Well, two (I'll get to that). But, more importantly, that Nintendo also radically changes the way it treats its software and sells it to consumers.

My Dream Nintendo Doesn't Make Home Consoles

THE HARDWARE

So, let's say Nintendo stops making home consoles. That's a lot of engineers and designers and money suddenly freed up to do something else. Like...make a better handheld.

My dream Nintendo begins at the end of the 3DS' lifespan. Whenever that may be. That would be the time they draw a line in the sand and say, OK, time for something new.

While the plastic boxes of the last twenty years have served the company well, there's no reason Nintendo can't make something comparable to the PlayStation Vitas and iPhones of the world. A handheld for a discerning adult customer. Something with glass, and metal, and a feeling that it's a premium piece of consumer electronics for the hardcore Nintendo fan.

I could buy that handheld for myself. For my kids, or my mum, maybe I can buy something else. Something a little cheaper. Plastic. More in line with the company's last few handhelds.

Both handhelds would boast identical specs (though the premium model could have something like a bigger capacity to help differentiate it further), and both would get around Nintendo's living room retreat - and retain the Wii U's coolest feature - by allowing them to display their content on either their own displays or on TV sets.

Speaking of specs...I don't know, I don't dream of specs. If the 3DS has reminded us of anything, it's that Nintendo handhelds don't need specs to make awesome games. It's not like Layton, or Phoenix Wright, or Fire Emblem or Animal Crossing needed a powerful system.

So long as it's powerful enough to play Wii U games - and at the rate mobile tech is advancing, we're only a few years off that level of performance becoming both common and affordable - then we're fine.

My Dream Nintendo Doesn't Make Home Consoles

THE SOFTWARE

Here's where I get a little crazy. Maybe I've been spoiled by stuff like Netflix and Spotify, but those services exist and prosper for a reason: they recognise the value of their library, not individual titles.

The most important thing Nintendo owns is not cash reserves, or any individual IP. It's the company's cumulative library of all-time classic titles, built over decades of industry-defining game development.

In my dreams, future Nintendo is smarter about these old games. They don't do the stupid thing - the stupid thing they're still doing despite this being 2013 - and charge $5 for the original Super Mario Bros.

They charge you $10-20 a month and let you have all the Nintendo games.

So long as you're paying, every game Nintendo has ever released on any platform is yours. You're behind the rope in the VIP room of Club Nintendo.

That might sound crazy, but I think Nintendo's back catalogue is worth the expenditure. Even if you never play a new game ever again - and I'm sure fantastic new games would always be coming down the pipeline - there's years of entertainment to be had catching up and discovering the classics of yesteryear.

As radical as it sounds, it's not like it would be without precedent; the WWE Network will be doing something almost identical starting next month, letting wrestling fans pay $10 for access to pretty much every piece of wrestling entertainment of the last 30-40 years.

A subscription service would also tackle piracy - something Nintendo has battled ferociously for years - the same way services like Netflix have done; why bother going to all the trouble of flashing and copying games if everything is at your fingerprints, playable without the hassle?

Would that be perfect for me as a consumer? Sure. Would it be profitable for Nintendo? I...guess? It'd take some bravery on Nintendo's part, I know. Like the removal of Nintendo games from traditional retail channels. There wouldn't be new games to buy on a shelf, or order from Amazon. It'd only work if Nintendo games were only available to subscribers to this service. An App Store fronted by Mario.

If there are 20, then 50, then 100 million handhelds sold, and every one of them had a monthly subscriber attached to it at $15 a month, well, we'd all need some new "it prints money" gifs.

My Dream Nintendo Doesn't Make Home Consoles

PINCH ME

Ok, so yeah, I'm dreaming. It's a bold dream, one that suits me as a plugged-in adult with an appreciation for the complete history of Nintendo video games.

In reality, there might be problems for consumers in areas where internet is patchy. And with kids not being able to pay monthly subscriptions. With angry retailers being cut out of the loop. And with Nintendo not actually being able to pull something like this off.

That's why it's a dream. But I think it's a lovely dream.

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Images: cinefil, Honou,