Is Nintendo the Greatest Developer of All Time?

Recently, IGN ran a feature on the top 50 video game makers. This list was done in typical annoying IGN style, releasing 10 a day as a click-through list. The rest of the list isn’t important, all that does matter for this post is that they named Nintendo number 1. If you’re like me, your reaction would be, “of course they are, was there any doubt? This is like Rolling Stone magazine releasing a list of the Top 50 Greatest Rock and Roll bands of all time and listing the Beatles number 1.” Be that as it may, I knew we have some Stew Over editors that disagree with IGN (and the sane world)’s choice. What follows is one man’s defense of Nintendo.

Dave: As if there was any doubt…Nintendo is Number 1.

Kevin: From 15 years ago, sure. Today? Not even top 5.

Chas: I generally don’t like agreeing with Kevin but here we are.

Ben: I have to hit next page 50 times….skip

Dave: Just know America agrees with me.

Tyler: and Tyler.

Chas: It should also be noted that Tyler stopped playing video games exactly when Nintendo drove off a cliff.

Jim: It’s an all-time software list, so there’s a fine case for Nintendo at #1. None of the other software developers have had the same success over 30 years. I don’t even see another company that’s been in business for that length of time.

Capcom is listed as the #2 software developer and they reference Mega-man, Street Fighter and Resident Evil. Nintendo crushes that argument. I don’t know why I’m defending Nintendo. I literally haven’t played a Nintendo game in 10 years.

Blizzard at #8 is just LUDICROUS.

Our two leading contenders

Chas: There’s a quality over quantity argument here. On the whole I’d say Valve and Blizzard have a higher average quality than Nintendo. For every Mario Galaxy (read: fantastic game) there are many pieces of mediocrity e.g. Mario & Sonic at the London 12 olympics, Mario Party 3, Wii Play, etc. Also, Blizzard created WOW which is arguably the most important game of the generation.

Ben: I’d agree, look at all of Blizzard’s franchises and they all are pretty iconic in their genre, Warcraft (1,2,3) and Starcraft (1,2) as RTS’s which spawned professional leagues, WoW was the first “mainstream” MMO, Diablo created the whole 3rd person isometric dungeon crawler genre. They did make some crappy games in the SNES era but they moved primarily to the PC market and have had success there. Nintendo also crosses over the Hardware/Software line which gives them time to develop a really good game to go with their new platform. Nintendo wins on the number of great titles, while Blizzard’s games are much fewer in number and arguably stronger and more devoted playerbases.

The list is too generic as best developer. For instance Capcom at #2, I don’t care about side-scrolling platformers, fighting games, or survival horror so I’d have them much lower on my list, even though those games sold very well and very popular worldwide.

My favorite is Westwood when they were still independent.

Dave: If you’re going strictly quality over quantity I think it’s hard to compete with Valve. As much as you guys might have liked (?) Diablo 3, the quality of that game and Starcraft 2 I think would be on or very near the bottom of the list of games Valve has made. Plus, as Ben mentioned they did a bunch of crap from 91-95. Valve’s first game was Half-Life.

I don’t really understand the argument as WoW being the most “important” game of this generation. MMORPGs haven’t exactly taken over. If anything this generation was defined by the move AWAY from PC and towards the traditional consoles. Most notably online with Call of Duty, which every year breaks it’s own record for biggest entertainment release of all time. I guess my vote there would go to CoD 3 or whatever was the first big Call of Duty game to reach the masses (Ben, little help?)

In terms of importance to the industry there’s no doubt in my mind it’s Nintendo. There are a multitude of quotes from major developers that all say they were greatly influenced by Nintendo, and the NES is arguably the most important video game system of all time.

Nintendo’s innovation in controllers started with the D-pad.

I’d agree that the fact that they manufacture hardware does give them a big advantage as they’ve introduced a number of new innovations in controllers (first console with a directional pad, wireless controllers, radio frequency wireless, analog sticks, rumble controls, trigger buttons, 2 screens, etc..) all the way up to motion controls, which love them or hate them (I know you all hate them) has had a major influence on the current game market (see this year’s E3 with Kinect and Move being major presences at both conferences).

Also, if you look at the first half of this generation 2005-2008, you could argue that motion controls are what would define it. The Wii is still the best selling console of all time. Moving into the next gen, motion controls have soured and it looks like online and integration (console doing multiple things, TV, Netflix, etc…) will be the big takeaways from this generation, but motion controls would probably still be mentioned next to it.

Even I won’t disagree that the Wii has been at times frustrating. Their business model has shifted to a younger demo, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t make the occasional great game (see Super Mario Galaxy). This is arguably their worst 5-10 year stretch in terms of critically acclaimed games and they’ve still put out more than Blizzard or Valve has.

Regardless, as it’s an all time list, there really wasn’t any doubt in my mind they’d be number 1. I think any serious publication would rate them there.

Kevin: Here is why WoW is at the top of the list:

WoW has made a lot of money

10.5 BILLION dollars (and growing).

Dave: The most influential game of this generation and most important developer of all time are clearly two separate topics and there’s potential for it to get muddy here but, regardless…

Money plays a large part in this, but I’m more concerned about where the video game industry is going and what games are being made. WoW is losing subscribers and people are tired of the stale MMORPG model (How’s Star Wars doing?). I think it’s hard to argue that MMORPGs are the direction that games are moving. It’s pretty obvious it has been and will be first person shooters.

A couple of interesting things there regardless. If you add up the CoD franchises and you get 3B, you add up the Nintendo franchises you get close to 4B, and this doesn’t include all the CoDs, all of Nintendo’s franchises, or their revenue from Nintendo’s console sales (100 Million Wiis, 151 Million DSs, What’s 250 Million times $250?). If you add up that Nintendo’s made plenty more money than WoW. Per Wikipedia, CoD has sold 100 Million copies. Plus, just go ahead and take on 1.5B+ for the next X years for CoD.

Side note, I was wrong, the PS2 is the best selling console of all time. It beats the DS by 2 million. Nintendo has 4 of the top 6, and 6 of the top 11.

Also, if we want to use money as the end all argument, check out this list of profitable franchises. As if there’s any doubt, Mario is number 1 by more than a 2:1 margin. It’s only competition? Itself with Pokemon, and the “Wii” series.

Mario prints money.

Kevin: I just feel like for all the praise Nintendo should get for being the first and greatest in the 80’s and 90’s, they should also be docked for being absolutely wretched since the N64. Making money by putting out the same (or similiar) games with the same chacters over and over again and pandering to young kids and old people doesn’t advance the gaming industry in a direction I’d like it to go. Valve, EA, Ubisoft, Rockstar, Blizzard/Activation, etc. have done more the last 10-15 years to advance gaming. They’ve created whole new gaming experiences around brand new franchises.

And money is not the best measure here, I agree. The Wii made a ton of money, but from a gaming perspective it was an absolute failure. Everyone owned it and played it for 6 months before letting it collect dust. The Wii remote, while innovative technologically, was/is a gimmick, just like the Kinect was/is. Yes, they’re pumping that crap hard because it’s an extra peripheral to sell you. But we all know it’s crap and it won’t be around in the future.

Dave: Here’s the key part of your argument: “doesn’t advance the gaming industry in a direction I’d like it to go” At the end of the day I agree with you that motion controls aren’t the direction I like either but to say they haven’t been influential or financially lucrative is false.

There isn’t a developer with the history or cache of games that can touch what Nintendo has done.

Chas: At the end of the day, i’d say Nintendo would probably win this award from any “reputable site or magazine” since they have such a legacy. The only legacy that could compete might be Atari or Namco but if you consider Nintendo an IP recycler Namco and Atari are a hundred times as bad. I’d pay $500 of my own money to have Tekken and Pac-Man erased from god’s green earth. So overall, as much as it pains me to admit it, even with the last decade factored in Nintendo has the best quality to quantity ratio. It’s rare that they have a game that absolutely blows and they’ve been at it forever. Winner, winner.

Chas is not a fan

Kevin: I guess I don’t see the influence of motion controls. Of the top 25 games in the last generation, I can name one that used motion controls, Super Mario Galaxy, and all you did was point at shit on the screen and shake it to perform a spin move. It’s an after thought throw-in at this point, nothing that games have to have going forward. I admitted it made Nintendo money, but in terms of influence on the gaming industry it just created a cash grab, nothing that made games better.

And yes, Nintendo certainly has the history. But you’re ignoring half of their history. Example: the Beatles are still a group making music today. If they never released another good album after 1970, would they still be considered the greatest band ever? They’d have the history, they’d have the initial influence, they’d have fanboys buying a greatest hits cd ever 5-10 years, and the digitally remastered/original recording releases. But there’d be decades of nothing. That’s Nintendo to me. Great initial stuff. Really innovative and influential stuff. Then a bunch of nothing.

Dave: Kevin, I guess my question for you then is if not Nintendo who do you consider the top game maker per the criteria of the article?

For reference:
“Who are these video game makers, and what makes them special? What is their history? What have these developers done for the games industry in its 40 years of existence? What follows is IGN’s appreciation for the finest craftsmen to grace gaming. These companies consistently create incredible experiences, and their achievements and contributions to gaming are unmistakable. Whether over the course of a few years or a few decades, these 50 brilliant creators continue to have a strong influence in guiding the games industry to the top of entertainment.”

Kevin: Well again, I’m not disagreeing that in 2012 Nintendo doesn’t make a strong case for #1. I just don’t think it’s obvious. I think Blizzard should be up there, EA should be up there (though admittedly they’re more into buying franchises, but still they own a LOT of top franchises), Valve seems to have a new franchise each generation that’s great (Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Portal, L4D).

To me this line kills Nintendo’s claim: “These companies consistently create incredible experiences…”

Dave: I never heard you say this a first time: “Well again, i’m not disagreeing that in 2012 Nintendo doesn’t make a strong case for #1.”

Side note: EA can suck it.

Jim: Blizzard should be #2. Everyone that had any interest in a MMORPG played WoW to death. The game was so good that it burnt everyone out on the genre. Blizzard just needs to wait for everyone to recover from the burn-out and roll out a new game. The nerds will gobble it up. Wait 10 years and it’ll happen. All of the 13 year olds who played WoW will become 23 and funemployed. Perfect time to hit’ em with a new WoW.

Tyler: I like TENGEN’s most recent stuff.

Tengen’s latest is pretty old, unfortunately.

Burner: The band Kevin was looking for in his earlier allegory was The Rolling Stones and the answer to his question is “yes, they are still considered one of the greatest bands ever (though not by me)”.

Personally, the analogy that i would make is Anheuser Busch. They once had a dominant market share (10 years ago 1 in 4 beers sold in THE WORLD was an A-B beer) that has since declined but is still very large. They were once very innovative (1st company to be able to ship beer long distance, invented the refrigerated rail car, Michelob was one of the 1st “craft beers,” etc). However more recently they’ve been satisfied to continue releasing a product that appeals mainly to the masses and very little to not at all to anyone who considers themselves a connoisseur of the medium. By the criteria laid out that lead to Nintendo being #1 developer, AB would be the worlds greatest brewery.

Would I drink a Bud product if there was nothing else? Sure.

Would it be in my top 10 favorite breweries? Not a fucking chance.

Kevin: The Rolling Stones still had a number of hits after their heyday in the 60’s/70’s. In the 80’s Jaggar was creating amazing music videos. They won rock album of the year in 1995. It’s not like they just kept releasing greatest hits albums every 4 years.

Tyler: Did you mean to rail on Budweiser as an attempt to poke the bear here, or is making an analogy with Dave’s “other favorite thing” just an unfortunate coincidence?

Budweiser’s the king for a reason. It’s delicious.

Dave: I’m going to go home and listen to Metallica while I watch a tape of 2002 IU beating Duke all while playing Super Mario Bros. on my 3DS and sipping on an ice cold Budweiser.

While I agree that the Stones may be a better analogy I’m going to go back to Kevin’s Beatles argument for a second. I’m not a huge fan of their music but I can recognize that they’re the most influential band of all time.

Their psychedelic period? Those are motion controls. I just hope the Wii U isn’t Yoko and none of Miyamoto’s buddies think he’s a phony.


So what do you think? Is Nintendo the greatest developer of all time? Let us know in the comments!

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