Nintendo has long been known as the “quirky” company in the console making space. This led to many discussions across the gaming community, usually consisting of people saying that the Big N is often behind the times and unnecessarily different when compared to the rest of the competition, while its fans praise its unique nature. Miyamoto summed up Nintendo’s design philosophy in a recent interview with Famitsu. There, he put it rather well, saying that “Nintendo makes things that have yet to be seen.”
Preceding that line, Miyamoto explains that trying to make an item that already appeals to a mass-market typically ends up becoming exactly like something else that already exists.
For instance, look at how similar smartphones became after the launch of the original iPhone. Nowadays, despite there being so many different brands, most phones are generally very close to one another in terms of identity and features. This is why Nintendo’s creations are often more on the unique side of the spectrum.
He also mentioned that it is better to “make something you believe is fun, rather than something that would sell”. Again, we can certainly see Nintendo following that philosophy in many of its systems and games.
Here is Miyamoto’s full statement on the matter:
“If you make something for the sake of selling then it’ll have all kinds of failures. The most important thing is to make something you believe is fun, rather than something that would sell.”
“If you try making something that sells, it eventually ends up becoming like something that’s already out there. If what you make looks like something that might already be out there, then it won’t sell well. That’s why Nintendo makes things that have yet to be seen.”
Daring to be different
Sometimes, Nintendo’s inventions lead to setting industry standards.
For instance, the popularity of the d-pad in the NES controller helped that to become a common feature of every controller since. Another example is how the N64’s Rumble Pak introduced millions to controller vibration, which then led to that also becoming a common feature in controllers afterward. The quirky designs of the Wii and DS were initially met with criticism from some, but both systems went on to become Nintendo’s best-selling home console and handheld, respectively.
True, not all of Nintendo’s zany ideas pan out well. The Wii U and 3DS were created as direct responses to the success of their predecessors. However, both systems struggled out of the gate. The 3DS managed to regain its footing and has lead a decent life sales-wise with over 80 million units sold. The Wii U, however, fell hard. It sold only a minuscule 13+ million in a short lifespan of just four years. Yet, Nintendo still went ahead and opted to go the creative route with its next and current system, the Switch.
Adopting a hybrid design that blends the worlds of home consoles and handhelds, the Switch has gone on to be a smashing success for the company. Miyamoto said in another part of the interview that he feels Nintendo nailed the timing with the launch of this system. As of the time of writing, the Switch has sold over 52 million units worldwide, and many projections put it at eventually selling beyond 100 million. If it does so, its success would mirror that of the Wii, which is still Nintendo’s best-selling home console to date, and still one of the best-selling game systems of all time.