Pokemon GO: Nintendo’s Gimmicks
Earlier this year I started writing an article titled “The Eventual Fall of Nintendo”. It was going to be the statistics surrounding Nintendo’s stock, showcasing how weird gimmick after gimmick couldn’t possibly keep them running forever. I never published the article, however, because of Nintendo’s newest production. Thanks to the people over at Niantic Incorporated, a mobile game company, Nintendo has been able to bounce higher than ever expected in recent years thanks to one free game: Pokemon Go.
Releasing on IOS and Android (because screw Windows phones), Pokemon Go is Nintendo’s first step into the mobile game industry. Nintendo has always been the gimmick company. Many of their devices have been publicity stunts, little schemes with exclusive gadgets in an attempt to attract attention within the gaming community. Sometimes, this is a good thing. The Wii, released in 2006, became a literal money machine for the Japanese gaming company. However, not all of their gimmicks have been successful.
The Virtual Boy is the perfect example of that. The 32-bit table-top 3D video game console released in 1995, the Virtual Boy was supposed to be ahead of its time. Instead, it proved to be a commercial failure that was quickly abandoned and discontinued less than seven months later. A high price, uncomfortable mechanics, and a poorly handled marketing campaign smashed the Virtual Boy to pieces.
But fast forward twenty-one years later, to Nintendo’s first step into the mobile industry. While the Virtual Boy had been a step into the future – a poorly planned and terribly manufactured step, but a step in the very least – Pokemon Go seems to be a little late to the party. The interesting part? The Virtual Boy crashed and burned, and Pokemon Go is incredibly successful.
Nintendo sometimes innovates when they really don’t need to innovate. Sometimes, innovation works out for them. Splatoon, for example, was a relatively great idea for them.
The art directors over at Nintendo had sketched out several different ideas for the characters in Splatoon, including the rehashed Mario designs. However, the settled on creating a brand new IP – one with original characters and new concepts. It worked well for Nintendo, being dubbed the Best Shooter and Best Multiplayer Game of 2015 by The Game Awards.
But, Nintendo has basically refused to understand progress in terms of development now. We’re getting the same rehashed Pokemon games with new gimmicky tricks (in Generation 5 we got the awkward ‘triple battles’ and in Generation 6 they released ‘wild hoards’ in tall grass). We’re getting little plastic Amiibo men to implement mechanics and characters into Nintendo games.
Nintendo really doesn’t have an idea of what it’s doing when it comes to home consoles. The Wii was fantastic, but other than that the Nintendo Console Machine has been relatively dry in terms of success. Don’t get me wrong, we have to give Nintendo credit for the They’re usually outshined by Xbox and Playstation for the most part, and they tend to quietly exit the market.
The Wii U, comparative to its predecessor, was just there. The Gamecube was wrecked in terms of sales by the PS2. The N64 – another innovation that was supposed to “skip a generation” of gaming – fell flat on its face after Nintendo was forced to use cartridges for such a “graphically advanced” system.
That’s not to say Nintendo doesn’t understand handheld gaming, though. From the Gameboy Color to the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo’s handheld gaming systems have remained incredibly popular – especially in Japan. These handheld devices have always dominated the market. Just ask Sony’s PS Vita how it feels to be crushed by the Nintendo handheld powerhouse.
But for a company that is relatively famed in the handheld gaming industry, Nintendo has been so utterly turned off by mobile game platforms for the longest time. Pokemon GO is the first actual step Nintendo, the company of “innovation ahead of its time” has ever made. Yet this first step has been a very successful one, with Nintendo making $35 million within its first two weeks of launch. According to Venture Beat, Pokemon GO is bringing in just short of $2 million every day – and that’s from iPhone users alone!
Many have suggested that Nintendo should start licensing their games to mobile game makers for several years now. Nintendo should take on that publisher title, perhaps following the path of Sega. But, they haven’t. Until now.
Will Pokemon GO fix Nintendo’s money problem? Hell no. One popular mobile game will not be able to fix several years of floundering console sales. Nintendo is still averaging about $48 million in LOSSES every year.
Not to mention Pokemon GO is a fad. It really is. How could Nintendo get just about everyone interested in this new game? Well, for starters, they’ve been sitting on this gold mine of nostalgia – the original 150 Pokémon – for years now. People have been begging for better interaction with their favorite childhood digital monsters ever since proper augmented reality / virtual reality became possible. And let’s be real, those Pokewalkers from Heart Gold and Soul Silver didn’t really work out. They were, if anything, a cash grab to make the games more expensive.
Pokemon games tend to drop older numbers in that national Pokedex as the years go on. It makes it harder to catch them all like the game asks. It’s a cash grab in itself; buy all the games so you can trade them all to the newest game.
But by releasing these original Generation 1 Pokemon, Nintendo has managed to crack into a nostalgia mine that original players have been having since the very beginning.
Pokemon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow (the first generation of the games back in the 1990s) are Nintendo’s second highest selling games of all time. By bringing the creatures from these games “to life” in a mobile platform that just about everyone has access to, they’ve created interest in all Pokemon players – young and old.
Had Pokemon GO started with the…
The game won’t be “mesmerizing” for long. Let’s be real. It’s a shitty Unity game that constantly crashes and glitches. It’s a copy paste model of Niantic’s Ingress with pretty bad 3D models plugged into it. It’s a privacy concern – taking data from your email account and having access to your camera at all times. It’s a rather boring game in terms of mechanics, but it keeps players coming to collect and evolve their favorite Pokemon from yesteryear.
It’s another gimmick – this time a bit late rather than “ahead of its time” – that Nintendo is cashing in on. Perhaps, though, it’s a sign of good things to come for Nintendo in the mobile game industry.