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6:46 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Game Over For Nintendo? Not If Mario And Zelda Fans Keep Playing

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 5:09 pm

Some analysts say that Nintendo's days are numbered. Holiday sales of its new console, the Wii U, have been lackluster compared to Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4.

But since Nintendo still offers some of the most popular game franchises, the love of Zelda and Mario may keep the company going for a long time.

In preparation for this story, I put out a call to talk to die-hard Nintendo fans. I was inundated with responses. Among them, Brian White, 30, grew up playing the Zelda games.

Now he's got a daughter. "We named her Zelda," he says.

White says as a dad he's happy Nintendo games aren't filled with violence.

"It's something I can play and have my daughter sit in front of the TV and not be ashamed of and wonder how corrupt she's gonna be," he says.

Zelda is a series of fantasy adventure games where the main character, Link, has to save Princess Zelda and the world. The soundtrack is so beloved that it's been performed as a four movement symphony.

Manny Contreras, 25, has seen the symphony performed twice. He says the music reminds him of great experiences he's had playing Zelda. "It's great music just in general. Even if you're not a fan, if you listen to it, you're probably surprised by just how good it is."

Love of these long-time franchises is the main reason that game analyst P.J. McNealy thinks that predictions of Nintendo's demise are overblown.

"If you look at video game sales over the last 20 to 25 even 30 years and look at the top 10 games that have sold, Nintendo's probably owned five, six, seven, eight of those games on those lists," McNealy says.

Among them: Super Mario Bros., Zelda and Wii Sports. McNealy thinks the problem for Nintendo's Wii U is that there haven't been enough updates to its beloved franchises made specifically for it. But he imagines that once new game franchises are out it will help sales.

"Even though the Wii U hasn't been selling as well as Nintendo certainly has hoped, no one is sitting there calling it un-fun," McNealy says.

The Wii U is different from the original Wii console because it has a sort of tablet accessory called a GamePad. Kelly Bohm bought the Wii U as soon as it came out, and she's been a little disappointed. "There's not enough games to play on it," Bohm says. "It's like, you want to play more with the console because it's a cool concept, having the touch pad."

But this past fall Nintendo came out with Super Mario 3D World specifically for the Wii U. Mario's a plumber who goes on a lot of adventures.

"This one's a lot better," Bohm says. "A lot of the levels in the Mario game require you to use the touch pad. You have to press buttons to unlock things or open pathways and stuff like that."

Later this year, Nintendo is releasing even more updates of popular franchises for the Wii U — Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart and Donkey Kong.

But a lot of analysts say Nintendo is getting more competition from new titles created for mobile devices and PCs. Meanwhile, the hardcore gamers will buy the Xbox and the PlayStation for the power and better graphics.

Yet the love of Nintendo's franchises does run deep with fans like Bohm. She plans on buying every update and hopes to share the experience someday with her kids. "It's happy memories from your own childhood, and you always want to pass on stuff that you did as a kid to your own kids," she says.

And Nintendo is betting its future on many people feeling that way.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

So we've heard about Microsoft and Sony. Where does all the news about Xbox and PlayStation leave the third great game console power, Nintendo? It took Nintendo a year to sell as many Wii U consoles as Sony sold PlayStations in just a few weeks. And some say Nintendo, the company that gave us "Mario Brothers" and "Zelda," is on the way out.

As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, those old franchises may be enough to keep the company alive for a long time.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: In preparation for this story, I put out a call to die-hard Nintendo fans. I was inundated. Brian White is a 30-year-old who grew up playing the "Zelda" games.

(SOUNDBITE OF "ZELDA" VIDEOGAME)

SYDELL: Now he's got a daughter.

BRIAN WHITE: We named her Zelda.

SYDELL: White says, as a dad, he's happy Nintendo games aren't filled with violence.

WHITE: It's something I can play and have my daughter sit in front of the TV and not be ashamed of or wonder how corrupt she's going to be.

SYDELL: For those who are not "Zelda" fans, it's a series of fantasy adventure games where the main character, Link, has to save Princess Zelda and the world. The soundtrack is so beloved, it's been performed around the country as a four movement symphony.

MANNY CONTRERAS: I've seen that twice.

SYDELL: Twenty-five-year-old Manny Contreras says the music reminds him of great experiences he's had playing "Zelda."

CONTRERAS: It's great music, just in general. I think even if you're not a fan, if you listen to it, you're probably surprised by just how good it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF "ZELDA" THEME MUSIC)

SYDELL: This love of these long-time franchises is the main reason that game analyst P.J. McNealy thinks that predictions of Nintendo's demise are overblown.

P.J. MCNEALY: If you look at videogame sales over the last 20 to 25, even 30 years, and look at the top 10 games that have sold, Nintendo has probably owned five, six, seven, eight of those games on those lists.

SYDELL: Among them: "Mario Brothers," "Zelda" and "Wii Sports." McNealy thinks the problem for Nintendo's Wii U is that there haven't been enough updates to its beloved franchises made specifically for it. But he imagines that as the game franchises come out with updates, it will help sales.

MCNEALY: Even though the Wii U hasn't been selling as well as Nintendo certainly has hoped, no one is sitting there calling it un-fun.

SYDELL: The Wii U is different from the original Wii console because it has a sort of tablet accessory called a GamePad. Kelly Bohm bought the Wii U as soon as it came out and she's been a little disappointed.

KELLY BOHM: There's not enough games to play on it. It's like, you want to play more with the console 'cause it's a cool concept, having the touch pad.

SYDELL: But this past fall, Nintendo came out with "Super Mario 3D World," specifically for the Wii U. Mario is a plumber who goes on a lot of adventures.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEOGAME, "SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD")

BOHM: This one's a lot better because a lot of the levels in the "Mario" game require you to use the touch pad. But you have to press buttons to unlock things or open pathways and stuff like that.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEOGAME, "SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD")

SYDELL: Later this year, Nintendo is releasing even more updates of popular franchises for the Wii U: "Super Smash Brothers," "Mario Kart" and "Donkey Kong."

But a lot of analysts say Nintendo is getting more competition from new titles created for mobile devices and PCs. Meanwhile, the hardcore gamers will buy the Xbox and the PlayStation for the power and better graphics.

But the love of Nintendo's franchises does run deep with fans like Bohm. She plans on buying every update and hopes to share the experience someday with her kids.

BOHM: It's happy memories from your own childhood. And you always want to pass on stuff that you did as a kid to your own kids.

SYDELL: And Nintendo is betting its future on many people feeling that way.

Laura Sydell, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.