Not long ago, this situation would have been inconceivable. Nintendo's president and CEO since 2002, Iwata turned the drifting company around with the explosive success of the DS and Wii consoles, innovating in touch and motion control, exploring new markets, and outstripping the sales of his megacorp rivals at Microsoft and Sony.
But now Nintendo is facing a situation even worse than it did in the early 2000s. 3DS is underperforming, Wii U is a flop, the company is predicting its third annual loss in a row and its stock has slumped. Commentators are calling for Iwata's head, pointing to Nintendo's quixotic strategies, tattered third-party relationships and ineffective marketing.
But perhaps -- to think the unthinkable -- there is another famous figurehead at Nintendo who is holding the company back; a man regarded for decades as its most valuable asset. I'm talking about the legendary game designer, the creator of Mario, and general manager of the famed EAD development teams: Shigeru Miyamoto. Lately, he hasn't been doing his job so well.
Much of the rhetoric surrounding Nintendo makes the mistake of treating the Kyoto outfit as a platform company, like Sony and Microsoft. It is, of course, but that's only a by-product of Nintendo's true calling. Nintendo is a games company. It has absolutely no vested interest in the console business beyond selling video games -- primarily its own video games. It is, really, a developer-publisher, an autonomous premium games label, like Blizzard or Rockstar. It happens to make its own consoles as part of its development process -- because, on both a business and a philosophical level, I don't think Nintendo believes you can separate hardware and software...
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