Nintendo is a brand that has been synonymous with gaming since the earliest days of the hobby. Everyone has heard their parents or grandparents refer to whatever video game system was in the living room as a “Nintendo” and their mascots like Mario and Pikachu are some of the only characters across any medium to rival global phenoms like Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny in name recognition. As one of the most successful companies in the world, Nintendo has revolutionized gaming time and again on their way to being the juggernaut of intellectual property and innovation that we all know and love.
While there are a scattered few who didn’t grow up ever touching a piece of Nintendo hardware (shame), I would say a vast majority have at some point growing up played something from Nintendo, with most allowing Nintendo to be part of some of the earliest and fondest memories we have. Even for someone like me who started their gaming career with the N64 and Game Boy Pocket, nostalgia oozes from everything Nintendo has prepared over the course of their long and storied history. Regardless of the ups and downs that Nintendo has experienced, they’ve been an ever-present ally in a sea of failed startups, massive changes, and controversy.
Fast forward to 2021 and we are in a renaissance that few expected when the NX was revealed, with the Nintendo Switch leading the way in terms of console and software unit sales, while looking like they could overtake most of the highest-selling consoles of all time. Helped along by iterations in the Nintendo Switch Lite and the newly-announced Nintendo Switch (OLED Model), and we could see something truly magnificent happening before our very eyes. Giving up on fighting rivals Sony and Microsoft in terms of firepower out of their consoles, Nintendo focuses on creativity and unique experiences that are only ever seen elsewhere out of the indie space. Proving that how much RAM or how big of a GPU is in the system is irrelevant, the Nintendo Switch has fought their way back to dominance simply by embracing what most have forgotten is the core principle of playing video games—fun!
“Nintendo has always been the master of the first-party lineup.”
Nintendo has always been the master of the first-party lineup. While they aren’t always producing the open-world RPGs that Sony has perfected nor do they boast the studio lineup that Microsoft has purchased (even though Nintendo is making moves too), Nintendo has always offered quality experiences at a regular clip, even for their lesser-selling systems. Pair that with their incredible indie strategy and partnership efforts and no other console producer on the market comes close to the pace Nintendo has content. This year alone has seen the return of classic titles like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3D World, and Famicom Detective Club, as well as console exclusives like Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, Monster Hunter Rise, and Bravely Default II.
Stepping into Nintendo’s new first-party releases and seeing the likes of Mario Golf: Super Rush paired with the revived New Pokémon Snap and a new Metroid, Mario Party, Wario Ware, and Advance Wars coming to finish the year and you see that even in a down year following a pandemic, Nintendo is keeping its momentum up. Adding in creative ventures like Game Builder Garage or more highly-requested remakes like Pokémon Brilliant Diamond / Shining Pearl and this year (like most years of Nintendo releases) is a thing of beauty.
But wait, Nintendo’s console is too weak for AAA releases from their third-party partners, right? Wrong again—seeing releases like Life is Strange, Subnautica, and Apex Legends is impressive as hell, while their Cloud Edition efforts show what the future will really look like with titles like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy coming down the pipeline as well. While Microsoft’s cloud offerings are turning heads and getting major tech companies to invest, Nintendo is sitting back patiently for their “less-powerful” system to be just as used for cloud capabilities as your iPhone or Android smartphone. Genius.
Diversifying the portfolio is where Nintendo has been improving in recent years, with 2021 being quite an interesting year for the Big N. With the recent opening of the Super Nintendo World theme park in Japan (and an iteration coming in a few years to Orlando), their partnership with Dreamworks to start making Nintendo-themed movies and the Netflix TV show rumours, as well as the LEGO brand’s Mario-themed lineup which continues to sell like hotcakes, Nintendo is killing it in terms of all the ways you can buy into their products.
Finishing off with an E3 showing that saw Sony sit the bench and Microsoft do well, you saw Nintendo come out swinging with announcements for Tekken’s Kazuya coming to Super Smash Bros., Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot and Danganronpa joining the ever-growing list of third-party properties coming to the Switch, as well as the mind-blowing announcements of Metroid: Dread coming decades after it was originally rumoured and Fatal Frame getting a chance to return from the darkness (as well as several of the titles mentioned earlier being announced or shown for the first time) and you see that Nintendo isn’t messing around. And we haven’t even seen all of The Pokémon Company’s announcements for the year!
While Nintendo’s accomplishments in sales figures, innovative style and ambitious creations, and fast-paced output of high quality experiences is hardly able to be argued against, it’s the simple fact that Nintendo sets out to create fun and excitement for a fanbase that refuses to quit on them that makes them a shoe-in for CGM’s Brand of the Year. While others have done incredible things with their 2021, Nintendo continues to set the tone while leading the way through nearly everything they do—a true leader in the tech industry.