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6 games industry mistakes absolutely no-one learned from

Thinking everybody loves stupid proprietary formats

Made by: Sony

Should have learned from: Sony, Nintendo

The original mistake(s): When everyone else was switching to the cheaper, bigger, more efficient medium of CDs, stubborn old Nintendo insisted on sticking with bulky, expensive, high-capacity cartridges for the N64. Cartridges they manufactured themselves, which bumped the cost of games right up for both devs and gamers. Cartridges which didn’t have the capacity to live up to contemporary developers’ ambitions. Third-party support, oh how it did nosedive.

And then the Gamecube came around and Nintendo embraced shiny discs. But they were tiny plastic biscuits, based on the MiniDVD design but again, a proprietary Nintendo format. Used partially to avoid DVD licensing fees, they lacked the full capacity of the proper, grown-up DVDs used by the Xbox and PS2, forcing compressed video and audio and the use of multiple discs on big games. Again, costs went up, and again, no-one was really impressed.

And in 1992, Sony launched the MiniDisc, a new digital format intended to take the media world by storm. But with little and short-lived music industry support, and little demand from the public, it tanked.

 The new mistake: While Nintendo was realising that the smaller, battery-friendly, more efficient medium of mini cartridges was still the best format for handhelds, stubborn old Sony insisted on another new format. One that looked suspiciously similar to a baby MiniDisc. It was called the UMD and promised to take the media world by storm, bringing both games and films to the PSP. But it gobbled batteries, and with little and short-lived film industry support, and little demand from the public, it tanked. And now the newest PSP doesn’t even use it for games.  

Forgetting console add-ons are expensive and annoying

Made by: Nintendo

Should have learned from: Sega

The original mistake: During Sega and Nintendo’s last great console war, the House of Hedgehog threw every bit of tech it could think of at Nintendo in an attempt to make the Mega Drive appear increasingly more powerful and relevant. First up was the Mega-CD add-on, which gave the MD a metric shedload more storage capacity, and should have heralded an era of gen 1.5 gaming. Then around the time of the Saturn’s launch, it made a Frankensteinian resuscitation attempt on the flailing old black box with the 32X, a plug-in that boosted the Mega Drive’s processing grunt and allowed proper 3D games. Well we say ‘proper’. They actually looked a bit crap.

What did these add-ons achieve? Bugger all. They just split the market, reducing the number of copies any game using them could sell and - particularly as the 32X competed with Sega’s own real next-gen machine - confused the merry hell out of consumers.

The new mistake: Having seen Sega’s errors the previous generation, Nintendo immediately forgot all about them and repeated almost the exact same ones with the Nintendo 64. The RAM-boosting Expansion Pak (Ninty’s spelling, not ours) cranked up visual capacity but split devs and gamers; some games were gimped without it and a few required the unit to even run. And then, there was the poor, beaten, ginger stepchild was the 64DD.

Announced before the console’s launch, this higher capacity disc drive was eventually shuffled out towards the end of the N64’s life when it was all frankly too late. It gained miserable support, and after years of hype-trumpeting didn’t even manage a release outside of Japan. To this day, if you go out at the right time on a Friday night, you can find it getting drunk with the 32X under one of Kyoto’s railway bridges.

Forgetting that third-party developers are your friends

Made by: Nintendo

Should have learned from: Nintendo

The original mistake(s): Nintendo has never been good with third-party developers. Well hey, it’s not like they’re that important is it? After all, what do they really do, other than provide all that attractive exclusive software support that separates your console from the competition? Hangers-on and time-wasters, the lot of them.

Back in the NES days, it was all about uber-restrictive content guidelines. On the SNES, it was the same, until the Nintendo version of Mortal Kombat sold like herpes cake. N64, crap expensive cartridges. Ninty made more of an effort with the Gamecube, and got some generation-defining exclusives like Resident Evil 4 and Eternal Darkness, but by then it was all a bit too late. Its market share was just too low for many devs to care. But hey, Nintendo could turn things around if it somehow managed to start selling a shit-ton of consoles, right? If only there was a way that could happen…

 

The new mistake: When the Wii started selling exactly that shit-ton of consoles, it seemed for a while like Nintendo was going to eat the whole industry. It was back on top like it had been with NESes both normal and Super. It had a new experience everyone wanted to get in on. Game development costs on its machine were way lower than the trouser-troubling budgets devs were already suffering with the HD machines. Finally, Nintendo had the full package. It was actually going to get it right this time. Look! Look, can you see it happening!

Well 30 seconds later, no, no you couldn’t see it any more. Because Nintendo pushed its entire market towards grannies, and suddenly it had even less of a haven for hardcore devs than ever. And with low development costs and absolutely no Nintendo quality control, that market was immediately flooded with enough low-grade pap to choke Godzilla. With a lack of hardcore gamers and a glut of rubbish competition, developers once again headed to the safe hills of Nintendo’s rivals, and the situation still hasn’t righted itself.

But what you do you think? Is the games industry doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again? And why does it keep doing it? Are there any other repeated howlers that make you facepalm whenever you think about them? Let us know in the comments, or via our throbbing social opinion-holes on Facebook and Twitter.

*The first person to correctly identify this quotation automatically becomes my favourite reader of the day. There is no prize, but be safe in the knowledge that you have won nonetheless.

50 comments

  • blaze-sportelli - January 9, 2013 1:52 p.m.

    this is retarded. there is no such thing as an xbox 2 mention in the black clunky models. there is only xbox and xbox 360
  • NeoTechni - November 24, 2010 7:44 a.m.

    And PSP would have failed outright if it werent for UMD. Flash is still more expensive than what UMD was SIX years ago.
  • NeoTechni - November 24, 2010 7:43 a.m.

    Wait, Sony was right about processing power. PSP is the single most successful non-nintendo handheld BECAUSE of it. Nor did gamegear have a lot of processing power. It had color, thats it
  • Sickooo - July 23, 2010 12:54 a.m.

    yeah i gotta say i agree on everything except the new 360 does not look ugly
  • philipshaw - July 22, 2010 10:18 a.m.

    Great article and for a while I thought I was the only one that thought the new 360 looked ugly
  • jmcgrotty - July 22, 2010 7:25 a.m.

    Way wrong on the black console part. No system should be released in any color but black. It's in the bible.
  • NullG7 - July 22, 2010 1:59 a.m.

    Personally I think that the new Xbox looks pretty snazzy. Just on time too my old first release finally bit down hard on the rapid release cyanide tablet. Great article, too bad no one from any of our favorite 3 console designers will ever see it though
  • Conman93 - July 21, 2010 11:41 p.m.

    I wonder will nintendo be able to fix the last mistake with Metroid:Other M
  • SwampRock - July 21, 2010 11:07 p.m.

    The original 360 model is the worst in my opinion I like the black ones much more especially the original xbox that thing was unbreakable and red ring never haunted your nightmares.
  • wormytables - July 21, 2010 11:05 p.m.

    which are the hardiest though? i've had to fix my ps1 a few times, and my ps2 one time... my amiga shattered and i got paint under the buttons of my gameboy... screens scratch, pixels stick... isn't there a console which just keeps going - like those old people who have a car from the 1950s which still 'just works'... :(
  • Thuperman - July 21, 2010 10:23 p.m.

    Great article but i do like the look of the new xbox and i still want to pick one up when i get some more money but other than that i would have to agree with this article completely
  • Psylockerules - July 21, 2010 10:20 p.m.

    good article
  • bkoz117 - July 21, 2010 9:57 p.m.

    I liked the gamecube's discs, I could fit more of them in my cd cases
  • prfctmilkshak - July 21, 2010 9:38 p.m.

    sorry dave, I said that quote.
  • Redeater - July 21, 2010 9:29 p.m.

    Wow you guys at gamesradar must be in constant odds. I swear to god I read a bunch of articles on this exact website praising the new xbox look. Regardless, I am loving my new xbox.
  • mtsflyingmonkey77 - July 21, 2010 9:15 p.m.

    Quote of the day: "... enough low-grade pap to choke Godzilla." I chuckle every time I read it.
  • reveffect - July 21, 2010 9:05 p.m.

    Actually jakeybaby the reason why microsoft wont adopt bluray for the 360 is quite simple and the only reason why i figured this out was because someone at G4 (probably adam sessler) or on this site pointed it out. Microsoft won't adopt bluray because sony owns bluray which would mean that they would have to spend even more money just so they could make their games look a little "prettier" for the graphics worshipers who obsess over 1080p everything. That would also mean that they would be giving money to their competitor which doesn't help out microsoft at all. Plus since sony owns bluray and bluray is one of the advantages they have over the 360, the chances of sony letting microsoft use it (even if microsoft were willing to pay)are slim to none.
  • ThePrivateer - July 21, 2010 8:33 p.m.

    What ever happened to the article about how "sexy" the 360 Slim was?
  • Octoboy - July 21, 2010 8:19 p.m.

    The sad thing is: Nintendo is very successful with its "casual only" console.
  • TheWebSwinger - July 21, 2010 8 p.m.

    Now do the reverse: 6 game industry mistakes that no-one learned from...and paid off. i.e. Virtual Boy 3D vs 3DS 3D reCAPTCHA: rodeos exists I know they do...

Showing 1-20 of 50 comments

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