I'm not doing a lot of research to back up the thesis of this post. I don't need to ...you will all testify that what I am about to say is true.
Nintendo is one of the most impressive and innovative companies in the world. They've revinvented what it means for humans to play games four times. Four!
The Nintendo Entertainment System
This was the first console. Oh sure, those of you my age will say, what about Atari. Yeah, I spent more hours wasting days away with Atari than I care to admit, but it was nothing like playing games on a Nintendo. The capability, the controllers, the games. This was the first modern console and all the rest have been based on it. For you young guns out there...Nintendo is why I can still give my 14 year old son a run for his money in NBA, or Madden, or MLB, or NHL (or, or, or...) on either X-box or Playstation, even if I haven't played in 2 years and he is completely obsessed with it. It makes him insane. Same games...same basic controllers. "What, you can make you're own uniforms? Good for you. I'm still going to crush you." Nintendo ruled the world in the late 80's and I was in college in the late 80's....
Then Sony and Microsoft came gunning for them. The Nintendo 64 was good, but so were the Playstation and the X-Box and Nintendo's competitors had deeper pockets. You have to give them credit - they quickly realized that this was an arms race with two of the biggest companies in the world, and it was time to move on.
If you can't beat them, change the game. Nintendo's Game Boy proved that it can be really fun to play games on a handheld. Every kid in the world wanted one and a big chunk of them got them. My kids had them...I played on them a lot...sports games (exactly like the ones on the consoles), action games, one about being a line chef that I played with my daughter, the Nintendo classics. As a platform it was good enough, the games were fun (as long as they were fun games) and that was revolutionary for its time.
Once again, Sony came after them, and then the iPhone showed up and that was that. I didn't think I would ever see Nintendo make a splash again....and then...
You can almost hear the conversation at Nintendo. "Let's let those lunatics beat each other to death in the graphics processing death struggle. We're going to let people play games by behaving just like they behave in the real world." Sensor based controller, 2 buttons. Complete game changer.
My grandparents saw the Wii and were like, give me that thing, I love bowling. My mom wanted to beat me in tennis. My kids went crazy. You couldn't get your hands on one for almost a year. We had to wait until after Christmas and apologize to our kids for not delivering ("it wasn't Santa's fault, mom and I screwed up"). I still break out the Wii every once in a while (on our old TV) and play Guitar Hero. But they never came out with a Wii 2. Another thing the Smartphone killed - they put the Wii's sensor controllers right in your phone after all. Smartphones have great games and awesome graphics and kids are getting what the Wii gave them on their phones (or mom's phone or the family iPad).
It had been almost 10 years since the Wii...I thought they were toast.
You have to be kidding me. "Screw the hardware game, it's for chumps," you can hear them saying, "Let's use other people's hardware and network and come out with a revolutionary mobile game leveraging cutting edge software." Good idea. So Nintendo just goes ahead and releases BY FAR THE MOST POPULAR AND DOWNLOADED MOBILE GAME EVER CREATED AND IT ISN'T EVEN 2 WEEKS OLD!
There are kids running around my neighborhood in packs, playing an augmented reality game on their smartphones....the reports of kids falling into ditches are already showing up. If you go to a public park in my town, it is swarmed by kids looking for Picachu. If you haven't seen the game yet, ask the next kid you see show it to you....(s)he has it. I heard a stat the other day on the radio that 1/2 of all Android phones worldwide have already downloaded it. Um....what??!!??
My wife said, "Yeah, but how are they making any money off of it? It's free." So I said, "Hey honey, do you think there are any moms who would pay $5 / month for a 'secret spot' pack or some such thing if it would keep her kids out of the house and running around the neighborhood instead of eating junkfood in a dark room while glued to a PS4?"
Then I told hear about my breakfast meeting that morning at my favorite local coffee shop, which is a little off the beaten path.
I'm not sure how long it will last, or how many other copycats are going to show up, but Nintendo has taken the concept of Augumented Reality (AR), which has been around for several years as a cool, 'coming somewhere down the road' technology, and made it something the majority of the modern world is aware of and comfortable with. And they did it with a game. In less than a month.
I couldn't be more impressed with this company.
Thank you Nintendo. You keep making the world a bit more fun.