Not too long ago I found a videotape that contained all the trips I made as a child to visit Santa Claus. There were five visits, ranging in age from four to nine, and each visit was exactly the same as the last. "I would like Lego’s and a Nintendo." The first year of this monotonous journey began in 1987 and I'm still a devoted Nintendo fan.
Although I never received a Nintendo during those years, I had several very understanding friends whose parents were cool enough to purchase the systems for them. I mooched off them for years perfecting my Mike Tyson Punch Out skills, until at the age of 13 (and the year the N64 was released) I purchased my very own SNES, their first 16-bit system to hit the market. From that point on, almost every Nintendo product and game has made its way through my home.
Nintendo has gained its entry into almost every facet of pop culture since its introduction of the Donkey Kong arcade game in 1981. When looking back over my life, there are few years without the memories created by hours and hours of smashing my fingers on square and rounded Nintendo controllers. In fact there are none, but somehow that is now the very problem with the Nintendo brand.
In the upcoming months Nintendo is going to launch their fifth generation console system, the Wii (I've heard all the jokes about this name change, but at least there isn't the possibility of it being called the Dolphin). Here is a system that took top honors at the E3 show earlier this spring but still many people view it, and Nintendo, as out of the video game market. In fact Microsoft (the maker of the Xbox 360) and Sony (with it's upcoming PlayStation 3) don't even mention Nintendo in the marketing materials for their respective systems. To them and most gamers, only Xbox and PlayStation are the current home systems. And I fear I may know why.
There is no doubt about it that Nintendo (other than Atari which collapsed as a console maker in 1984) is the Father of the modern home console video game. Their ideas revolutionized the market and their research even created the initial PlayStation (Nintendo contracted with Sony in the early to mid-90's to make a CD-ROM attachment for the SNES that never came to fruition). Even though Nintendo has continued to grow like their competitors, one thing has remained the same: people view Nintendo as outdated.
There isn't a video gamer out there who doesn't own (or hasn't though about buying) a retro Nintendo t-shirt depicting Mario, Zelda or even "The Code." All this publicity is great, but it keeps Nintendo in that nostalgic realm rather than in the forefront of the console wars currently being waged. Nintendo has already stumbled in one such war (the 16-bit era between the SNES and the Sega Genesis). Even though Nintendo came out on top in the long run, it has hurt their share of the market.
Hopefully this fall Nintendo will recapture their former glory and dominance of the 1980’s. With a unit that is reported to have stunning graphics, revolutionary game play and a much lower price than its competitors, they have a good shot at doing just that. While we may never see such iconic characters such as Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong created anytime soon; we will always have the memory of them in their heyday, and the potential of even better things to come.