Editor Reaction (Johnny Blaze): Nolan Bushnell – Nintendo is on a “path to irrelevance”

Editor Reaction is my semi-regular section for fairly short commentary on statements and happenings in the gaming industry. It’s meant to be the middle ground between a flippant comment and an article that takes two weeks to research and produce. 

On 7 September 2013, Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of the famous Atari videogame home console, gave a real zinger of a quote that gaming websites quickly pounced on – Nintendo faces a “path to irrelevance”.


Nintendo naysayers gleefully jumped on it as further evidence that Nintendo was dying.

To me it looks like some people jumped on some choice quotes by Nolan. There’s no doubt Nintendo is going through a tough time now with the popular view among tech analysts and consultants is that handheld gaming will be taken over by iOS and Android within a few short years.

Based on the incremental improvements to Nintendo’s handheld hardware, the development of the OS behind it, and the physical move to merge Nintendo’s handheld and console teams together, it looks like Nintendo is already well underway in their plans for hardware and software that can be competitive in the market. Even now, despite the popularity of gaming on smartphones, hardware and software sales for the 3DS are very healthy and confounds ‘experts’ who believe handheld console gaming is already dead. You don’t move over 5 million units of a full retail game in today’s market conditions if handheld gaming is dead.

The problem I see with the statistics being used to back up such claims is it assumes an either/or scenario. As in, if people are spending X amount of time on mobile gaming, then that’s the same amount of time they’re spending NOT gaming on handheld gaming consoles. Which I believe is an inherently flawed hypothesis.

It does not account for the possibility that core gamers have added mobile gaming on smartphone devices to their gaming habits – so, instead of subtracting from overall gaming time, smartphone gaming has helped to expand the market further. As to whether that expansion is eating into the market for handheld gaming consoles, the data suggests that isn’t true. At least for now.

Looking at the oddly designed Nintendo 2DS, it feels like Nintendo is already well underway with their hardware revision plans for their handheld division – it feels like they’re testing the market with a low cost low risk product and will subsequently use feedback for the 2DS to drive the successor to the 3DS. That and the potential for the Wii U to be a portable gaming console leads to some interesting possibilities – but I can’t speculate further on that right now without turning this into a full fledged article (which isn’t the point of this column).



Life is for living so live life lively

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