Yes, Nintendo is innovative and swings for the fences. But all too often I feel that anything that isn’t a revolutionary feature they either half ass or just choose not to incorporate because their competitors do it.
Here’s an example: online gaming. I own a Wii and XBOX360. Online multiplayer on the XBOX through XBOX Live couldn’t be easier. It’s tightly integrated with their games. When I was fresh out of college, it was incredibly easy to pick up a game of Halo 3 with anybody online. On the other hand, you have the Wii experience with Friend Codes, which is a random string that is assigned to your Wii. So if you want to play with a friend, you have to call/email/text them and get their random string from them. I also remember when Mario Kart for Wii came out and it just was such a hard experience playing multiplayer with random people online. Online multiplayer had already been growing for years before the Wii debuted. Why did they neglect this so badly?
You can continue this line of thinking with other Nintendo consoles. N64 introduced the joystick on controller. But Nintendo also chose to support cartridges when everyone else moved to discs. The Gamecube chose a poor disc format (miniDVD) and eschewed any online multiplayer. The WiiU brought a touchscreen interface to the home console (smart), but it’s a poor resistive touchcreen instead of capacitive. And Nintendo may have a first mover advantage with innovation, but it quickly gets surpassed. The technology in the PS Move and XBOX Kinect is arguably much more impressive then a controller with a gyroscope and IR sensor.
I grew up on a grey brick Game Boy (I owned them all the way through the Game Boy Advanced). I love Zelda, Mario, and Metroid. I’ve bought consoles just for these IPs. But I really don’t think Nintendo is a state of the art hardware company. If they were, they wouldn’t have neglected so many of these antes that gamers want in a modern console. yes, even if aimed at a more casual market.
Nintendo’s strengths are its culture of innovation and strong IP. My generation also has nostalgia for playing these IPs on an NES. Kids today won’t. I have to conclude that Nintendo should push the boundaries of what other modern pieces of hardware can do by bringing its IP to other platforms.