I have come to the conclusion that Nintendo should stop selling game systems, be it the Wii U or the 3DS, in the long run it is a losing battle. Instead they should just start selling games.
With the release of the Wii U, I think we are seeing the last big try by the oldest and most successful video game company going back to the hay day of video game companies. The Wii U gamepad is just too big, for such a small screen. Most people don’t mind holding their iPad or Asus Transformer prime, because the screen real estate is huge and they are simple devices to use. Nintendo has built a game controller modeled after a tablet, but missing the point of what makes a tablet so useful in the first place. They have created a gamepad that requires both hands at all times, and that is likely going to be heavy, especially for the younger players. They have tried to innovate because it worked for them last time with the Wii, but the game market is no longer the same and the innovation is not as drastic in its nature to be as successful.
With the Wii, motion control was unique. The competition had nothing to compare and it made games more accessible to a broader market because it was simple. Today, the game market has the Microsoft Kinect and the Sony Move, both of these bring different but equal approaches to the motion control market. The core innovation, motion control is no longer new. The Wii U is trying to bring a two screen experience to its gamers, but Sony has already shown similar if not the same features by making use of the PS Vita with a PS3 system. In some ways this is even superior in that some games have already been slated to cross-play and cross-save allowing people to take their game with them, and not just within the range of the console as is with the Wii U. We also see Nintendo once again reacting to the game market in that the Wii U is trying to re-enter the graphics/hardware race so that it can be competitive with Xbox/PS3. These are all signs that Nintendo’s uniqueness is starting to falter.
Now that I have pointed out Nintendo’s growing weakness in the console market, one would next need to evaluate the mobile device market. Nintendo has dominated portable gaming for years, Sony barely scratched that nut with the PSP and Microsoft decided it was not really worth their time. The Gameboy’s, DS, 3DS, etc. systems have all been vastly popular and until very recently have not faced any real threat in its market share. Oddly enough, the real threat is still not from one of the established video game system manufacturers, it is from the other side of the mobile market … phone’s. Apple and Google have created for the most part mobile computers with powerful graphics support with iOS and Android. Combine this with the iTunes/Android Market distribution model and the constant availability and there is no better gaming platform to bring games to the masses. Smartphones are doing to Nintendo’s portable market what Microsoft/Sony is doing to its console market. I have owned multiple portable gaming systems from both Nintendo/Sony, but now that I have my Galaxy Nexus (and previously Droid X) I have no interest in ever buying or wanting to carry another mobile device. I like that I can carry one device to make calls, take pictures, check email, browse the web and especially play games. The mobile game industry is booming, games like Angry Birds have over a billion downloads worldwide and are still going strong. This is the wave of the future, your phone will be your portable gaming device, and a console (xbox/ps3) will be your home entertainment center (TV/Music/Games/etc).
So now that I have established that Nintendo doesn’t really fit with the industry anymore, both consoles (which they will likely last longer in) and mobile gaming (likely be pushed out of sooner than consoles) they need to change or die. I believe they should take their one truly unique asset they have left and conquer the gaming market. They should port all of the games in their portfolio to all the other platforms and just rake in the cash that it would generate. Think about it, if all of the hundreds of Nintendo games were published in Xbox Arcade, Sony PlayStation Store, iTunes and the Android Market they would be able to reach hundreds of millions of customers and sell something they have already built and just needs to be ported. I would love to play all the old Nintendo 8-bit games on my phone, and I would pay for every last one of them. Dr. Mario, Zelda, Mario Brothers, etc. If Nintendo wants to continue selling hardware they could create retro controllers for all of the platforms.
They are just sitting on the answer to their future; let’s hope they figure it out before they need to sell it to the highest bidder at auction to pay off their chapter 11 debts (or whatever they call it in Japan).