Emblematic figure in the video game industry, Nintendo is living doubtlessly the most difficult period in its history and that is a secret to no one. Its living-room console is left neglected (even the new Zelda will not be enough to give it a second breath) whereas its portable console suffers from the competitiveness of mobile games which keep on taking more and more market shares. However, some still believe that the editor is able to find its past glory. Big N. has indeed proved several times that it can rebound, innovate and distance itself from its competitors thanks to its video games and its consoles. Here is a list of innovations that will make you come back to the time where Nintendo was at its edge.
The back-up copy in the video games
Today, not saving a part after a game session seems inconceivable. In the 80’s and until the beginning of the 90’s, 80% of the games were conceived as one-shots (games were finished in only one session) whereas others used an awkward “password” system (impossible to save some information depending on the player’s progress such as their life points).
The buttons on the joystick
The Super Nintendo marked people for the quality of its video games such as Donkey Kong Country or the very first Mario Kart but, also for its legendary joystick. Its particularity : it is the first time that the buttons “L” and “R” appeared in order to avoid having six of them aligned (e.g. the six buttons of the Megadrive joystick). That system had soon been copied by every game companies. These buttons allowed games to be more complex by multiplying the possibilities thanks to the combinations with action’s keys – ideal for versus fighting- or racing games. Without it, the slideslips on Mario Kart would have been less funny.
The crosspad or “D-pad”
In the 80’s, a Nintendo engineer, Gunpei Yokoi, caught sight of a businessman playing with his calculator on the train to kill the time. He had then the idea to create small consoles that could be carried easily in a pocket. This is how Ball was born – the very first Game & Watch in 1980. Two years later the Game & Watch, Donkey Kong brought a major ergonomic novelty which would be used for every joystick created afterwards : the crosspad or “D-pad”. A couple of years later, Gunpei Yokoi came up with a new portable console which sold to 118 millions copies : the Game Boy.
The portable consoles
Today, nobody really needs a portable console : everyone (or almost) can play on their tablets or their smartphones at home, in the metro, in the toilets,… Feel thankful because, in the 70’s and 80’s, what looked the most like a portable console was a calculator. Big N. simply dominated the market successfully with the Game Boy (1989), the Game Boy Color (1998), the Game Boy Advance (2001), the Nintendo DS (2004) and the 3DS (2010).
The analog stick
Analog sticks appeared on our joysticks from the 70’s with mainly the Atari 5200. Despite everything, the crosspad stayed the default choice of gaming companies during several years until Nintendo stood out with its joystick shaped as a trident for the Nintendo 64. Its shape was so particular that it allowed people to use the stick which added precision in the moves and allowed them to manipulate the other buttons at the same time.
Super Mario 64, the 3D revolution
With the release of the Playstation and the Nintendo 64, in the 90’s, the video games saw a significant revolution with the arrival of the 3D games. If Nintendo tested the waters on SNES with StarFox and F-Zero, the results were nothing comparable to Super Mario 64 which came out in 1996. Considered as one of the most striking games of history for the impact it had, it served as a model and sold 11 millions of copies in the whole world which makes it the most sold Nintendo 64 game.
The wireless joystick
If today you do not have to worry about untangling the wires that bind your joystick to your console (because there are none), it is partly thanks to Nintendo. In reality, Big N. first had the idea to commercialise wireless joysticks. The honour goes to Atari 2600 and its “CX-42” joysticks, in the 80’s, which were an actual commercial flop thanks to the very weak batteries. Then Nintendo rekindled it twenty years later with the Wavebird – a joystick for the GameCube working thanks to radio waves. This console’s joystick also had the advantage to have great battery life (about 50 hours). Ever since every console is equipped with wireless models.
The move recognition
The use of move recognition in the video games is not as recent as we could think. The arcades already offered, years ago, shooting games which required to aim at targets on the screen with a device – which will be transferred in 1985 in our living-rooms by Nintendo and its competitor NES Zapper. Playstation tried to take over the market in 2003 with Eye Toy but it is Nintendo that succeeded to effectively insert the move recognition in the video games with its WII in 2006, which was an enormous hit (100 million copies sold, more than the PS3 and the XBOX 360), thanks to its joysticks equipped with laser sensors which were paired up with a “sensor bar” above the TV and allowed the console to pick up and to use the player’s movements as a “gameplay” element.
The multiplayer games on a divided-screen
When we think about Nintendo, we come to think first about conviviality and family games. The divided-screen is almost as old as the video game : it appeared in 1976 on arcade game, Speed Race Twin, and became a trend, in the 90’s, thanks to Super Mario Kart on SNES in 1992, which generalised and popularised this display mode, not forgetting the legendary Golden Eye on Nintendo 64 released in 1997, which had animated several parties. This function, we may think it is about to disappear – in front of the popularity of online games -, is and will stay the most convivial game system being. Among the three biggest console brands, Nintendo is the only one that has tried to reinvent itself with the WII U.
Ever since Nintendo decided to turn to the video game industry, in the 70’s, the Japanese company brought a lot more innovations then the ones we listed in this article.
Which are the ones that marked the history the most? Tell us in the comment section down below !