There are literally hundreds of companies in the video gaming industry. Some names are bigger than others, some make games, some make gaming systems, and some even do both. Every gamer has their favorite system. However there is one name that has been vital almost from the very beginning of home gaming and they continue to be the single most important company in the industry: Nintendo. Before the Playstation and XBox fan-boys get up in arms realize that this is not saying that Nintendo is the best, just the most important. Depending on one’s taste one of the other systems might be a far better fit. For example, you might love DOTA and get dota 2 mmr boost, which is certainly not for Nintendo consoles. But the gaming industry as we know it would be a very different place if it weren’t for Nintendo and all they have done and continue to do.
The importance of Nintendo can be summed up in just one word: innovation. Nintendo has been at the forefront of nearly every single major innovation that’s ever been made in console gaming. So many things that gamers take for granted were originated by the minds over at Nintendo. The company first replaced the troublesome knobs and joysticks of earlier systems with a directional pad on their NES system. They would then take it the next step further as the N64 system was the first to introduce the analogue stick allowing for easy movement in 3D environments. The N64 also introduced the rumble pack which allowed players to feel vibrations through the controller to feel when their characters were impacted by enemies or obstacles. Sony quickly appropriated both of these new features into their updated “dual shock” controller for the original Playstation and their controller design hasn’t changed since. But Nintendo’s biggest leap was still on the horizon.
While Sony and Microsoft have been busy making their machines more powerful Nintendo changed the game completely with it’s motion controled Wii system. This system literally changed the way that games were played. While many “hardcore” gamers scoffed at the idea Nintendo cashed in on a whole new market by appealing to casual gamers who just want to be able to pick up and play for a little while. Sony and Microsoft both touted their improved graphics over Nintendo’s little novelty system only to be trounced by resounding success of the Wii. Both Sony and Microsoft unveiled their own motion control systems at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (known as E3) trying to grab a piece of the market that Nintendo has created.
Speaking of E3 Nintendo used the expo to give gaming journalists hands on time with their latest innovation: the handheld system dubbed the 3DS. Much more than another upgrade of the DS, the 3DS is able to give gamers 3D graphics without the need for special glasses. The technology for glasses free 3D images has actually been around for some time but until Nintendo nobody was able to think of a good way to use it. The problem with glasses free 3D is that the field of vision is very narrow, basically if the viewer is anywhere other than right in front of the screen (as well as fairly close to it) the effect doesn’t work. This makes the technology somewhat useless for something like a TV but absolutely perfect for a handheld video game. Sony and Microsoft have also been looking into 3D gaming, but they’ve been working on home console 3D. This of course requires not only 3D glasses but also expensive new televisions (not an enticing prospect considering most homes have only recently upgraded to HD televisions.) That immediately limits the market that Sony and Microsoft can entice with the promise of 3D gaming whereas Nintendo will there for anybody at the cost of a handheld system.
Microsoft and Sony have both done great things but there haven’t been very many game changing innovations from either one. For the most part both companies are more focused on making their consoles more powerful than doing anything truly outside of the box. In fact lately both companies have been chasing Nintendo’s glory. Both of the rival companies unveiled their own motion control technology in a blatant grab at the casual gaming market that Nintendo was able to tap into with the Wii. Sony and Microsoft have innovated in their own ways but their innovations are generally logical steps (installing a Blu-ray player on the PS3 when the PS2 had played DVDs.) Rarely have either of these two companies innovated as radically as Nintendo has done on a regular basis.
Now to be fair Nintendo hasn’t always gotten it right. When you take chances you can fall on your face, but Nintendo’s failures have had more to do with mis-judging the market than something they came up with actually not working out. There have been a few times that somebody thought of something important that Nintendo didn’t. But really they’ve only ever missed the boat twice. Once when the company stuck with cartridges for their N64 system while the original Playstation proved that discs were the future. Sony also beat them to the punch on having a system to more than just play games with their Playstation 2 which also played DVD movies. Nintendo also had an earlier failed attempt at handheld 3D gaming in the 1990s with the Virtual Boy which had a goggle like apparatus that gave gamers headaches. But the company has clearly learned from this earlier folly with the 3DS requiring no special device to enjoy the full three dimensions of gaming.
Nintendo has not always created the definitely best or most enjoyable consoles and games on the market. However what they have done consistently since the very beginning is push the entire industry and the way in which games are played in new exciting directions. Other companies have refined the ideas originated by Nintendo from time to time. However no other company has come close to doing as much to shape the way we play video games. Nintendo doesn’t have to have the best numbers but it’s vital that they continue to create gaming consoles. If we ever lose Nintendo we will lose the most inventive company in the business.