In 1991, breaking off the partnership with Sony to develop a CD-ROM based console, and deciding to work with Philips instead. If they kept that partnership, Sony never creates the rival Playstation. Sega still probably goes belly up by the end of the decade, and Nintendo dominates the market, with Microsoft a distant second.
Especially stupid was announcing they were ending the partnership one day after Sony unveiled the CD-based Super Famicon at the Consumer Electronics Show, pissing off Sony and motivating them to get into the console market with a vengeance.
Although I love mine, Nintendo went wrong with the Virtual Boy. Either it was a mistake to develop and market it, or it was a mistake not to get more developers to make games for it.
It was certainly a mistake to sell the VB without a cable that could be hooked up to a television set so your friends could watch you play.
Oh, almost forgot. The Nintendo Seal Of Quality chip. This was IIRC ruled illegal in the end. Wisdom Tree/Colordreams ingeniously got around the chip by having their cartridges have an open end- just plug a cartridge with the NSOQ chip into the WT/CD cartridge and you could play.
My understanding is that the advantage (to Nintendo) of cartridge-based systems was that the third-party developers had to pay fees to Nintendo for each cartridge sold, and such fees were not needed for disc-based systems.
I’ll have to agree that this was their worse business decision to date. They created a competitor who ended up taking a significant share of the market from Nintendo. That’s a huge blunder.
I think their biggest mistake regarding products was the Virtual Boy. A friend of mine bought one and after playing it I couldn’t understand how this thing ever made it into production. It wasn’t as good as a Super Nintendo and it really wasn’t portable like the Game Boy. Why was this made? At some point during it’s development, Nintendo really should have just cut their losses and killed the project.
The reason I say sticking with cartridges is the worst mistake Nintendo made and not breaking the SNES CD add-on deal with Sony is because if Nintendo had chosen to use CDs for the N64, they likely would have kept more third parties and beaten the Playstation, or at least not have lost as badly.
I do wonder if Sega would’ve done better against the “Nintendo Playstation” rather than going up against Sony and Nintendo separately. Sega had set themselves up as the “anti-Nintendo” and Sony kinda stole that market from them.
The second reason I say that sticking with cartridges was Nintendo’s worst mistake is because Final Fantasy VII was originally going to be on the N64, but because of Nintendo’s decision to stick with cartridges, Square jumped ship to Sony, where FFVII became a killer app for the PS1.
I wouldn’t call it Nintendo’s worst mistake, but it hit me extremely hard when it happened and (from what I gather) is almost universally regarded as a colossal misstep. The decision to market the SNES as a “family system”.
Let us be clear: What made the NES a runaway success and one of the most beloved, honored, revered, idolized, worshipped, and, oh yeah, still played systems of all time (Go look at TASVideos sometime! ) was its library. Full stop. It didn’t have the hardware mojo of the Master System or the visceral just-one-more-token thrill of the arcades, but the sheer variety of the games made it a must-have. Games that take a minute. Games that take a year. RPGs. Sports. Beat-'em-ups. Platformers. Space shooters. Westerns. Light gun games. Exercise games. Strategy games. Classic board games. Original board games. Cartoon spinoffs. Movie spinoffs. And on, and on, and on. And make no mistake, even if the gore wasn’t very detailed, horror and bloodshed and “adult themes” (I’m still a bit stunned Golgo 13 got an NES game) were a vital component of the NES experience.
And then the SNES goes family friendly, and just like that entire genres go out the window, dialogue gets mangled into borderline nonsense (World Heroes 2 for the SNES nearly gave me a migraine), and games that are actually fun get replaced by licensed dreck like the Animaniacs game that’s easier to fit in the guidelines. Then you get Mortal Kombat, a classic victim of “Sailor Moon Syndrome”, i.e. when a company adapts something because it’s super popular while despising and subsequently excising everything that made it super popular.
I ended up buying both Neo Geo systems. At a time when my sole income was a paper route. That’s how bad I took it.
What made the NES a runaway success was lack of competition. No serious challenger appeared in the US and European markets until Sega launched the Master System in late 1986, and by then Nintendo was the dominant player and able to bully third party developers (though to be fair, it was the first company to encourage third party developers to make games for its system).
Nintendo was forced to drop its “two year rule” in 1991 due to antitrust investigations, which left developers free to make games for Sega. That, and the fact that the Mega Drive/Genesis beat it to market, are the only reasons why the SNES didn’t duplicate the NES’ success. Hell, the NES itself was marketed as a family system. R.O.B. was not aimed at adults.
The only thing Nintendo “excised” from the SNES version of Mortal Kombat was blood, and a couple of finishers.
Look, industries are complicated things, I get it. I don’t question the fact that weaker competition helped the NES and stronger competition hampered the SNES. It absolutely was a factor. But I was there, real-time, in the trenches, and I felt the total selling out of the SNES in my damn bones. You point to R.O.B… I point to Monster Party, Bionic Commando, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Metal Gear, Rambo, Platoon, Narc, and of course Golgo 13 Top Secret Episode. Whatever it was advertised as, it wasn’t limited to that. It could have blood. It could say “kill” and “murder”. It could be about stock trading or slaughtering helpless animals or nuclear war. Whereas the SNES had Smash TV and I guess Street FIghter 2, and once this “family” crap hit I swear I could see all the quality and fun gradually drain out of the console.
And are you seriously trying to blow off taking out the blood from Mortal Kombat and absolutely nerfing four (not two) Fatalities? That was the whole goddam appeal of the game. It would be like releasing a Dead or Alive Xtreme game with nothing but 1-piece swimsuits. Players were up in arms over this. Again, I was there.
This one isn’t worst in terms of losing money or market share, but I still don’t get the reason they haven’t done it. They should release the full library of NES and SNES games for the Switch. The vast majority of the currently available games for those systems are the Mario and Zelda games, as well as some of the sports games. The Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games seem to have traded places (older FF and newer DQ on 3DS, newer FF and older DQ on Switch). Lots of other games that I enjoyed back in the day are unavailable on either system. It seems like it should be an easy task to gather them all in one place, but they stubbornly refuse to do it. As time passes the remaining working cartridges for games like Wizards & Warriors, Lufia, and many others will all eventually deteriorate, and that’ll be the the end of it. IMHO that’s a sad fate awaiting those games.