My Childhood with Nintendo

Back in the days of winter 2004, when I had just started ‘slaving away’ for my 11+ exams, an advertisement on the window of the GAME(currently in administration) caught my eye as I was walking to my piano lesson. A grey slab of electronic kit from Nintendo was about to go on sale, at an eye-watering launch price of £99.99 (please bear in mind that this was about eight years ago, when petrol had not yet reach £1 a litre and a loaf of bread was still below 50p, so £100 is a lot of money). The advert had the image of the product in question: a cuboid-shaped piece of plastic hardware which opens up to reveal two screens, with the bottom one being capable to respond to touch. Its casing also housed the iconic stylus, which can be pulled out and used to pinpoint specific actions on the bottom screen.

The moment I saw this advert, this piece of entertainment gear became number one on my wish list, knocking the Hasbro Optimus Prime figurine off top spot. A few days later, its glorious material form emerged before my eyes under a willow tree in the playground of my primary school, as a spoilt brat brought it out of his bag to show it off to everyone. This caused quite a commotion, with every one of my friends elbowing past each other just to get a glimpse of this new (and expensive) toy. Such a large group had gathered by the tree that it caught the attention of the teachers, and soon they swooped down upon us to learn of the cause. Within minutes, they departed and the cluster of kids disbanded, leaving the spoilt brat to weep on his own. Having discovered the consequences of bringing a games console into school, he sobbed and prayed that he would cradle it in his arms once more.

For the past 300 words, which games console was I talking about?

Of course, I was talking about the instant smash hit of Nintendo DS. The best-selling handheld console to date, and the second best-selling games console overall, it can be viewed as a device which redefined gaming: the ability to have multiplayer on a mobile gadget through a wireless connection, no matter where the players are, whether they are in the same room as you or not. It is also the first apparatus that is able to access the internet, opening up a new whole world of downloadable content, primarily trial version of games yet to be released.

The Japanese product was so successful that Nintendo decided to stick with this creation, rather than developing a new invention. Hence, the DS has digi-volved many times, first into the DS Lite. This redesign was a ‘smaller, slimmer, and lighter’ version of its predecessor. Apart from the styling and weight, the two DS consoles were virtually the same, in terms of processing power. But apart from those, there were a few noticeable changes: the more recent of the two featured a brighter screen as well as improved battery life.

Two years after the launch of the DS Lite came the release of the DSi, with the DSi XL following soon after. Like many contraptions nowadays, it introduces a forward and rear facing 0.3MP camera as well as camera software which allow you to tweak certain aspects in the onscreen image. Nintendo had also updated its online shop to give it a fresh feel. Furthermore, the DSi XL packs a 4.2 in screen, the biggest screen to date.

In terms of games, Nintendo gives an impression that it only focuses on interaction between the game and the player, while its rivals, Sony Entertainment and Microsoft, concentrates on the quality of gameplay for hardcore gamers who want to be engaged in action. This is evident in the games that Nintendo produces. The game ‘Nintendogs’ will sound very familiar for readers of this article who have sisters. Similar to the once fashionable ‘Tamagotchi’, it allows players (mostly girls, but sometimes lonely boys too!) to keep a pet dog and to entertain it with the purpose of keeping it happy. Overtime, the dog will become hungrier and dirtier if no action has been taken to improve its condition. Therefore, constant attention is required, which may prove wearisome after prolonged periods.

However, the most popular game in Nintendo’s history does not involve house-trained animals, but a rather unlikely candidate; an Italian plumber. As soon as the world-famous theme tune is played, its swung rhythm coupled with the synthesised sounds will capture your imagination immediately. Indeed, Mario is arguably the mascot for the gaming industry. His face appears everywhere: from T-shirts to lunch boxes. Usually depicted as a mushroom-eating hero, it has gone on to become the best-selling video game franchise of all time.

Coming back to Nintendo consoles, the most technologically advanced device in production is ultimately the 3DS. As suggested by the name, it is capable of playing games in 3D without the use of glasses, provided that the game is designed for that purpose. Inside the plastic housing, there is a gyroscope and an accelerometer, meaning that the game can be control by movement.
Despite these impressive party pieces, the sales figures weren’t remarkable. Perhaps this could be down to the price tag of £230. This, when coupled with possible health risks and an incredibly short battery life in 3D mode, does not make the handheld a very attractive gadget. As a result, net profits fell 74% to 49.5bn yen ($598m; £376m) in the nine months to the end of December 2011. The strong yen had also contributed to the loss of 84.4bn yen in exchange rate losses.

Nintendo has realised this, and responded by cutting its price down to £150. Obeying the laws of demand and supply, sales naturally increased. Now, at the time of writing, more than 25 million units have been sold.

In summary, let’s turn away from portable consoles and look into the future. Nintendo is planning to launch the Wii U, the successor to the Wii. The first console able to produce HD 1080p from the company, it aims to add realism and depth to the gaming graphics and compete with its rival companies. The controllers have also been re-designed: it will now contain a camera as well as a resistive touchscreen which is similar to the 3DS. Although these features seem appealing, share prices fell almost 10% following the unveiling of the new product. While this may be a bad omen, I’m sure Nintendo will pull through and emerge stronger than ever, producing innovative designs and continuing to make gamers, young and old, immersed in this fanatical pastime.

Contributed by Hin Cheong Wong

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