As Nintendo grows desperate, the chances your dreams will come true increase

Opinion

Mario Kart 8's sales numbers are amazing. The attach rate between the game and the console is something that every console holder should envy, but the problem is that with so few consoles there is a ceiling to the total number of sales Mario Kart 8 can do. Even assuming the game will cause systems to move, it’s likely to be the worst-selling game in the existence of the series.

On the other hand, Watch Dogs is now the best selling new IP in the history of the video game business. It’s very hard to find any apples to match with these oranges; Ubisoft matched a game that was announced in near-perfect fashion with a huge marketing spend and a release that spanned five consoles. The news would be more interesting if the sales didn’t break records.

These two events tell us much about the opportunities in the video game industry right now.

More players than ever

We’re at an interesting point in the industry where there are five consoles worth supporting on a broad basis: The Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and the PC. The hype of the new consoles will attract a new audience, and current generation systems will also move to a new audience as prices go down. This is a time when the audience is going to be the biggest it may have ever been for consoles, across the a wide number of discrete platforms.

This is a temporary situation, in a year or so the prices on the new consoles will drop and support will dwindle for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. But for now? If you want the huge sales, you launch across these five systems. Anyone hoping for games that will focus exclusively on the latest consoles will likely have to wait a bit until the huge install base and active users of the previous generation of consoles begins to wane.

Watch Dogs showed us the power of effectively launching a blockbuster to the widest possible audience, and Nintendo is struggling with having some of the best software in the business, only to have potential sales smothered by the dismal reach of the Wii U. As Nintendo's losses grow and begin to cut into the massive piles of cash the company has in reserve, expect them to be willing to try new things to begin making money, and making it quickly.

So what's YOUR dream?

My dream for Nintendo, and one that's unlikely to happen in the near future, involves the company simply collecting all of its best Mario games, adding high-resolution textures, and releasing them on every damned platform there is.

Super Mario 64 may be one of the best games ever created, and the re-release of the game sold over six million copies on the DS. There is a version on the virtual console, but fans playing emulated versions are already enjoying the game in high resolution. Why isn't Nintendo selling the game to us in this manner legally?

Imagine if they threw in the Galaxy series of games. Maybe Sunshine. Yeah, put that in there! How about Super Mario 3D World? Put it in! Legend of the Seven Stars? Why not? New Super Mario Bros.? Of course.

Let’s add a fresh coat of paint to the great Mario games on the portable systems and let console players enjoy them for the first time. The only option Nintendo has given us to pick up Super Mario Galaxy 2, an amazing game, is to track down a Wii and a used copy, and play in standard definition. [Update: As people have pointed out, backwards compatibility is also an option.] What a waste.

Throw all the best Mario games in one disc, and say, as a one-time treat, anyone with a console can come and see how good Nintendo really is. Release the collection on the Xbox One, the Xbox 360, put it on Steam, put it on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. Put it on the Wii U, for crying out loud. Show the world what happens when Nintendo’s best IP isn’t constrained by a console that’s on life support.

Imagine what would happen if one day everyone, with any high-definition console, could play Nintendo’s best Mario games and have them look better than they ever have. Hell, have Nintendo go to Sony and Microsoft and start a bidding war for exclusive rights for the game, and just pocket the huge check that would result. Microsoft has to be desperate for weapons to help it gain the ground it lost to Sony, this would be an amazing battle in that war.

When you have the best games in the business and nowhere to release them, it may be time to start looking outside of your own ecosystem.

Nintendo will do everything it can to keep its games locked to its own hardware, and will likely never consider a move this big until things have grown truly dire. Still, we can look at what a game like Watch Dogs can do across five platforms and start to dream about what Nintendo could do with six.

When you have the best games in the business and nowhere to release them, it may be time to start looking outside of your own ecosystem.

This sort of move interests me much more than the constant claim that Nintendo needs to move to mobile and casual gaming; Nintendo games deserve buttons. Having all the best Mario games available on modern hardware, in high definition, easily playable by anyone who doesn't want to have to track down old systems? This would be the best thing possible for fans of the series, and possibly even Nintendo as a company.

Nintendo's most underutilized asset is its amazing array of classic and modern games in its best franchises, and it has yet to really tap into what it could do with those games and characters on modern consoles if it stepped outside of the Wii U. The possibilities could be amazing, and profitable; the idea of playing Galaxy and Galaxy 2 in HD with a PlayStation 4 controller is incredibly attractive.

We all have dreams for what Nintendo might do if it grows truly desperate, and this is mine. What's yours?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Polygon as an organization.

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