When I first saw the leaked pictures of the NX (the codename for Nintendo’s new console) controller my first reaction was to panic. Why the hell are there analog sticks over the screen? Why are there no buttons? Wait, why is there a screen??? But then I thought about it for a while. Ever since video games made it into homes Nintendo has been there. They have put out the most memorable, most successful products for over thirty years and their success has cemented them as a household name. So why was my immediate reaction to panic when Nintendo has delivered new and innovative hardware before and delivered it quite successfully? This question prompted me to do some research.
Nintendo has always shown the consumer and the player what they didn’t know they wanted. Before the Wii came out back in 2006 no one thought motion controls would ever be anything more than a fad, a gimmick. But Nintendo showed everyone that motion controls can be intuitive, a new way to experience games. The Wii’s success pushed the competition to ape the idea with Xbox’s less successful Kinect and PlayStation’s even more less successful PlayStation Move. By taking an idea no one thought would work and many “hardcore gamers” griped about and making it an overnight success Nintendo proved not only to the industry but also to the world that they know what you want even before you do. Still not convinced? Let’s go back a little further then.
Before the Nintendo 64 there wasn’t a mainstream home console with a controller that had an analog stick. Sure there were arcade fighting games that used them and there was that horrendous Atari home console with the most unreliable analog stick ever made. But no company had successfully implemented an analog stick. Until Nintendo, that is. In 1996 Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 with the most bizarre looking, trident shaped controller ever. But this controller had an analog stick in the middle that would radically change the way we played games forever. With Mario 64, 007 Goldeneye and countless other games using an analog stick to make sense of traversing 3D environments for the first time in an intuitive and practical way Nintendo once again changed the industry through it’s controller.
If you’re still not convinced we’ll have to go all the way back to when Nintendo started it all with the NES. Before the NES released with it’s iconic rectangular controller with what’s arguably the greatest d-pad ever made there hadn’t been a popular home console in existence. Kids went to the arcades to play games. The thought of playing a game in your home was quite radical. But Nintendo took the control from the arcades and quite literally put it into the hands of people everywhere with their controller and made home console gaming a thing.
Taking all of this into account, every time that Nintendo took the initiative and decided to do something that no one had ever done with their controllers, it is hard to believe that they will drop the ball with their new controller. I still have my doubts of course. The Wii U gamepad is one of the worst controller ideas I’ve ever seen. Brian Altano aptly called it the “Fischer Price iPad”. But Nintendo has consistently shown that they can take an idea no one has done before and make it work. Not only make it work but make it so successful that it becomes standard practice. And with new leadership and younger talent being added all the time I feel like the large, cumbersome ship that is Nintendo is slowly being steered onto the right course. Whether they will get on course in time to stay as prevalent and relevant as they’ve been for so long remains to be seen…
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