Analyst Michael Pachter has struck again, claiming that ‘Nintendo’s a few years late’ with everything that they do. From consoles to concepts, Nintendo’s products are frequently outclassed by things from the past decade—something that rarely applies to Sony and Microsoft consoles and concepts. He goes on to lament how Nintendo’s online functionality is seven or eight years too late, compared to Nintendo’s competitors. Well, while that might be true, this sort of strategy has its own advantage. Being late to the party is what has kept Nintendo relevant all of these years, even if their hardware doesn’t make the cut.
The first and most notable advantage of publishing high-quality machines long after they are considered cutting-edge is the reduced manufacturing cost. Nintendo has consistently released consoles at a lower price than average for a machine of its strength. While it could pour a bunch of research into making the perfect machine, like Sony does, it wouldn’t be able to offer that machine at a higher price. What’s more, if it focused on making a cheap machine, it wouldn’t be able to assure its quality. They’d have a repeat of Microsoft’s red-ring-of-death dilemma. By waiting a few years before manufacturing their console, they can rest assured that their console is both stable and cheap—perfect for consumers, even if there are more powerful machines on the market.
Another advantage of waiting to act on their concepts is that they can tell what sells and what doesn’t. While the Wii’s controller was a huge deviation from the norm, it wasn’t the first time that we saw motion controllers. They knew that it would sell well because it was so different from its competitors, despite its underperformance on a graphics level. They also delayed the debut of social media on their platform, ensuring that when it finally arrived, it would be high-quality and unforgettable. Since Nintendo machines cater mainly to children and their families, the company has to ensure that everything that goes through the Wii, Wii U, or 3DS is both fun and safe for them.
Ultimately, their games still manage to perform well on the consoles, even with their outdated graphics and functions. Nintendo’s main target audience doesn’t fuss about the quality of graphics, how much power the machine takes up, or even how online services perform. They are just there for the exclusive games or a way to entertain a group of people. They’re there for the Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon releases that won’t show anywhere else. They’re there for huge Mario Kart parties where everyone curses at each other. While there might be people who get the consoles for other reasons, this kind of audience makes up the bulk of Nintendo’s consumers.
There’s a reason Nintendo has a reputation for high-quality consoles. They spend forever making sure that their consoles play well, entertain well, and generally withstand the test of time. The fact that their consoles can still compete with machines that far outclass theirs shows that at least one of those is true. By waiting to release high-quality, low-cost machines, Nintendo has kept itself relevant through all of these decades.