It’s a secret to no one that Nintendo is the oddball of the console industry. For years, the company has marched to the beat of its own drum; seemingly unmoved by any of the actions taken by its competitors. Though, Nintendo of today has actually become more adaptable to the general flow of the rest of the industry. Even so, it’s still definitely kept a solid degree of quirkiness, with the biggest example being the decision to produce a hybrid console: the Switch. But, why is Nintendo so insistent on ‘daring to be different’?
During a recent interview with Forbes, Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime briefly touched on this matter. According to him, being different is a “conscious decision” for Nintnedo and it always wants to do things that are “unexpected”. He also added that Nintendo wants to deliver products “that consumers didn’t know they wanted”, to the degree that it ends up being “the new normal”. Well, again, the Switch definitely fits the bill here. There’s never really been a system like this before that blurs the line between home console and handheld. When the idea was initially only a rumor, it was met with a lot of scrutinies. Now, generally speaking, the whole industry and gaming community has a whole lot of love for the Switch. That said, Reggie’s thoughts definitely aren’t misaligned with reality.
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In fact, Reggie also admitted that this behavior isn’t bullet-proof, saying that “taking those risks doesn’t come without a potential downside.” He then quoted the late Satoru Iwata who said: “as a company, we run toward risk”. That definitely describes many of Nintendo’s decisions in a nutshell. By comparison, Sony and Microsoft have consistently played things very safe. Those two simply upgrade their consoles every generation, and that’s about it. Occasionally there’s new breakout tech like the Xbox Kinect and PlayStation VR, but ironically, those are fields Nintendo had already dabbled in long before either of the other two.
That said, one area where Nintendo should definitely completely copy Sony and Microsoft’s design philosophy is with its online infrastructure. Switch Online is still way too basic; even the original Xbox Live was arguably better. So, Reggie, less innovation on that one and more implementation of functionality people actually want, please?