Nintendo's Make or Break Moment

Convershaken Staff
January 4, 2016

Mounting competition, the relentless rise of gaming on smartphones and tablets and the death of company president Satoru Iwata conspired to make 2015 a difficult year for Nintendo. But a partnership with mobile games developer DeNa, an upcoming home console and the success of Amiibo could underpin a better year for the video game company.

Nintendo has struggled to replicate the success of its Wii console - released in 2006 - which transformed how people played games with its innovative motion controller and benefited from a raft of original games. The follow-up Wii U failed to impress, prompting many fans to decamp to Microsoft's Xbox One or Sony's PlayStation 4.

One of Nintendo's strengths has gradually become a weakness. Like Apple, it has historically focused on building an ecosystem of hardware and software, giving it control of the entire gaming experience of its customers. But the strategy restricted it to only selling games on its handheld and home consoles, meaning it missed out on soaring demand for games on smartphones and tablets.

Nintendo took steps to resolve the issue by acquiring a stake in DeNa in March 2015; the pair have already launched their first mobile game and are planning further releases in  2016. The company also followed Activision and Disney in launching Amiibo - figurines that connect with Nintendo's consoles to transport characters into the virtual realm. And it recently struck a deal with Universal that will see Mario, Link and other iconic characters appear in the movie studio's theme parks.

However, the real game-changer could be Nintendo NX. Details of the upcoming console are scarce, but fans could receive their first glimpse at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.  Early reports suggest that Nintendo is aiming to alter the gaming paradigm as it did with the Wii. But the raft of virtual reality devices expected next year, including Facebook's Oculus Rift headset, could leave the company behind the curve.