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Nintendo's Biggest Mistakes

Nintendo is back! Despite a string of dark days, the classic gaming company has recently come around to giving die-hard fans what they've truly wanted for years: mobile games like Pokemon Go, a new entry into the Zelda franchise, and the great specs that will packed into their upcoming NX system. They've even finally started to reach out to classic gamers with their upcoming Mini-NES, packed with 30 vintage games. It's a renaissance for the flagging company. Looking back, it's not the first time they avoided total ruination. Here are a few of the biggest mistakes in Nintendo's history.

Virtual Boy

The poster child for Nintendo's boneheaded ideas, Virtual Boy launched in 1995 and was completely discontinued within a year. To use it, gamers plant their faces into a stationary viewing port and play games with an external controller, while red LEDs simulate a parallax 3D environment within the system. All of this was years after Nintendo had begun using better 3D tech on games like Star Fox. Nintendo was forced to remove the virtual reality-like head tracking feature before the Virtual Boy's release due to health concerns, which may have made the system's reception even worse. Only 22 Virtual Boy games were released, and Nintendo seems to maintain their regret to this day, mostly because they were twenty years too early.

Power Glove

Even deeper in Nintendo's history is the terrible Power Glove, a sweaty mess of plastic from 1990 that players strapped onto their arms and desperately tried to control through a grand total of two dedicated games. Programmable finger motions make the Power Glove sound like it might be a fun novelty, but making Mario jump by flashing devil horns or poking at your arm with your one free hand proved too cumbersome of an alternate control scheme for most games. And the two games that specifically utilized on the device just weren't fun enough to make the Power Glove a successful peripheral. Plus, it made you look like a gigantic nerd.


It's a story right out of Mega Man or something: Nintendo built their own arch-nemesis. Back in the late '80s, Nintendo was already looking at CD technology to enhance their Super Nintendo, and began to work with Sony on the prospective console. Legend has it that Sony wasn't previously interested in entering the video game market, but after a few years of working with Nintendo and getting nowhere fast, they repurposed the work they'd already done and revealed the "PlayStation" at an electronics show in 1991. At the same time, Nintendo revealed their partnership with Philips, which eventually resulted in the epically awful CD-i system, and its "legendary" Zelda games.

Sony and Nintendo never made peace, and the Playstation eventually overtook Nintendo as the console of choice for serious gamers. One good thing did result, however: The Secret of Mana, developed originally for the CD-i, was ported to the SNES, and remains one of the best RPGs of all time.



A peripheral for the Game Boy Advance, the e-Reader could scan tiny bar codes on the edge of specific trading cards, collect the data, and either use that information to augment an existing game, or load up a classic NES game. The device was relatively popular in Japan and received support for about six years, but the whole thing tanked in the US after just two. The e-Reader often had difficulty reading codes, and scanning ten cards to run Excitebike never really caught on, especially when cartridges that did the exact same thing were readily available. Even the inclusion of bar codes on popular Pokemon trading cards wasn't enough to make the e-Reader seem cool.


The worst-ever commercial failure for Nintendo was the 64DD, a disc drive designed to attach to the Nintendo 64. The 64DD suffered four years of delays before finally releasing in 1999, only in Japan. The device promised to be a hub for buying Nintendo stuff on a proprietary network, a place to share content with other gamers, a music listening station, and all manner of other interactive things. Ultimately, only 15,000 units sold, because a 28k modem and magnetic 64MB discs have never really been enough to keep anything alive.

Ignoring mobile gaming

Even though Nintendo and Niantic's Pokemon Go broke all kinds of mobile gaming records, Nintendo was excruciatingly slow in getting into the app market. According to Forbes, Nintendo now owns 4000 mobile gaming patents which they're poised to use, but Nintendo's former CEO Satoru Iwata (who passed away in 2015) had previously repeatedly shot down the idea of Nintendo entering the mobile market. Engadget collected Iwata's quotes, which include, "If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo."

Iwata also said that free games just don't offer the level of fun that dedicated console games could, and were pumped out for quantity and not quality. Nintendo acknowledged that they were missing out on profits by ignoring the market, but continued to shun it anyhow. By 2014, Iwata's stance began to change, but Nintendo was already many years behind other developers.


The Nintendo Creators Program

Watching people play video games has become a huge business, but Nintendo is the only company to become territorial over the use of their games in derivative media. At one point, Nintendo and YouTube divided all revenue generated by fan-made videos, but things changed when Nintendo announced their Nintendo Creators Program. Under the terms of the program, creators actually get a small percentage of their own ad revenue ... but only under a slew of oppressive terms and conditions. Nintendo has to approve the video as representative of their brand, so all negative reviews are out. This means that Nintendo is essentially only approving free commercials for their products.

Nintendo also can claim ownership of any video they approve, and YouTubers can only make videos about specific games. It all falls under a very sticky area of "fair use," but it completely falls under making Nintendo look like an evil final boss.


Wii U

Even though plenty of Wii Us are in use, the system is still regarded as a huge commercial failure when compared its main competitors, not to mention its immediate predecessor, the Wii. There are hundreds of small reasons why the Wii U hasn't done well, but gamers just can't take the system seriously without a new Zelda or Metroid game available. There's also a weird touchscreen tablet control scheme dissonance that few games successfully overcome, and the tablet controller itself has a pathetic battery life. The only real killer app, Mario Maker, has a very specific audience. It seems unlikely that the Wii U will actually take off before the next Nintendo system emerges.