Nintendo RS – A Destined Revolution

Confused by the title? Well, the Nintendo RS isn’t the final name of the Revolution console, but here’s why Nintendo are giving us a Revolutionary System.

This is going to sound bizarre for a game article, but it must be said; I like my real world job. I work in a department store. Why do I like it? It gives me plenty of time to think, collect my thoughts and opinions, strike inspiration to write. Today, I must have been struck by a bus, because Nintendo’s business model, the Nintendo DS, the Revolution, the whole ‘gameplay over graphics’ ordeal; it all makes sense to me. And people are going to be shocked to learn the truth about it.

It began more than five years ago. Nintendo was about to embark on the biggest risk that any video game company ever had. It was unbeknownst to gamers, developers and even Nintendo employees. As the GameCube was nearing launch, Nintendo had faced two previous cycles of negative growth in their home console industry. The SNES and the Nintendo 64 sold less than their predecessors. Nintendo were beginning to feel the pinch. Why was it that they were no longer yielding the sales of previous machines? Increased competition was a major factor, as with the rise of Sega and Sony, Nintendo had the hardest fight that it had ever seen, especially since the market was handed to it by Atari in the 80s. But the GameCube was going to change that.

It was easy to develop for, cheaper, and designed with one thing in mind: playing the best video games available. Nintendo had extensive developer support. Developers on both sides of the pacific were into it, whether it was Capcom, Namco, Konami, Bandi and Sega or Activision, Electronic Arts, Midway, Acclaim and THQ. Praise of the console went into overdrive. This was to be Nintendo’s return to glory.

What went wrong? The prime answer: No Mario at launch. Bogged down with only three measly first party titles, the GCN never had the start it needed. Of course, there are the factors of Microsoft with a killer advertisement campaign and the head start of Sony. Soon, GameCube sales dwindled, developer support began to dry up, and in three short years, the console that was supposed to change everything changed nothing. Public image of Nintendo was worse, retailers were dropping the Cube and prices plummeted. However, Nintendo foresaw this.

The Revolution was never going to be as powerful as the competition. Right from day one, as soon as R&D began, it was only ever going to be a ‘souped up Xbox’. The Revolution was going to give a new experience, not just a new, visually stunning world in which to play the same old experience. This was all decided before the launch of the GCN.

The Revolution began development shortly after the release of the GCN. Every market for Nintendo was retracting. The United States was smaller, Japan didn’t receive the N64 well, and Europe failed to suffice. It couldn’t garner sales from pumped up hardware like its new main competitor Sony could. As a result, Nintendo now had to take a new path. So the Revolution was set to be different. It had to provide an experience that no other console could. So the ideas began to flow, patents were filed, and in five years, Nintendo now have the most secret console primed for release, with a new, bizarre way to play.

What does the Nintendo DS have to do with all of this? It seems rather superfluous to the Nintendo Revolution. The Nintendo DS actually began as an experiment for Nintendo shortly after the release of the Nintendo 64. Then President Yamauchi wanted to have a handheld capable of console power. At the time, however, components small enough to fit into a handheld to deliver that experience were expensive, and so the ‘Nitro’ was shelved, until an appropriate point in time.

The revival came after Yamauchi revealed in a February 2004 interview that he had apparently came up with the idea of the DS 18 months prior to that date, which would be around June 2002, which was before any announcement Sony made about a new handheld (late 2003). He handed it over to Nintendo, who then took the architecture of the Nitro, revamped it to comply with Yamauchi’s specifications, and at the end of 2004, Nintendo released its third pillar, the Nintendo DS.

Not related to either Nintendo’s home consoles or the Game Boy line, the DS sparked instant developer support and renewed interest in the handheld sector. It was never intended to compete with the PSP. It was meant to give a new experience, and so the ‘touch’ generation emerged. But of course, it is seen as competition to the PSP, and now, sales of the DS are more than 13 million globally, while the PSP sits near some 8 million, despite launching at roughly the same period. 13 million consoles in a 13 month period. Anyone would be happy with a million a month.

Now, it looks like Nintendo can maintain a hold on the handheld market, for the time being. Developers are predominantly going crazy for the Revolution’s bold ‘fashion statement’ of a controller. Yet, we don’t hear of any titles, there is no footage and no in game screen captures. So what’s going on? Well, Nintendo have assured us of 3rd party support, there are games in development as certain publishers and developers have committed their support. On top of all this, Nintendo maintains that the Revolution is not in direct competition with PS3 and Xbox 360. They have stated themselves that specifications will not be as powerful as the competition. The Revolution is intended to be a different experience, just as the DS was designed solely for different experiences, or was it?

In the interview that Yamauchi gave, he stated that the DS would be an important deciding factor in the success of Nintendo in the future. “If it succeeds, we rise to the heavens, if it fails, we sink into hell.” were his words. Get the picture yet? The DS was intended as an experiment on the rest of the world to observe how well gamers would accept a new play mechanic, or rather, several of them. It succeeded, even beyond Nintendo’s dreams. Now, the fate of the Revolution was set in stone: the main objective of Nintendo’s next console was to provide a new, fresh experience not available on any other console, ever. Nintendo now has the idea, and, if the success of the DS is to be used as a gauge, the Revolution will do remarkably well. The Nintendo DS has demonstrated that superior graphics are not the deciding factor, but rather, the game idea. Nintendo stated that it would just not be the games with the biggest budget that would be successful, but also games with the biggest idea.

This has proven correct, especially with hit simulators like Nintendogs, and the popular Brain Training titles in Japan. This all translates to one thing: develop a killer application, connect with your audience, and success will follow. All Nintendo need now is that killer app for the launch of the Revolution, and it will be a mighty force to be reckoned with.

Even the most beautiful graphics cannot save the most gameplay deprived video game. But we have all seen that big ideas are successful; Tetris, Meteos, Lumines, Animal Crossing, Xbox Live Arcade, The Classic NES Series, EyeToy, Snake. These things all have three similarities: they’re low budget and graphically deprived but immensely enjoyable. Gameplay over graphics? Anyday.