It seems like every week there is a new video game company getting bought or sold for an extortionate amount of money, which is frustrating because it distracts me from my precious My Dress-Up Darling time. As someone who gives the impression that I am a video game journalist at times, I’m forced to either cover or comment on these acquisitions on an increasingly frequent basis, but I really want to talk about a talking point some people have latched on to and need to put to rest.
Since Microsoft bought Activision Blizzard for more money than God could ever need and Sony bought Bungie for… also more money than God could ever need, people have been looking at Nintendo and wondering if they are looking to make a move toward buying up the studios around them and turning themselves into the kind of sprawling corporate entity that its main competitors in the console business are.
This strategy looks viable if you don’t examine it for more than a few seconds. After all, companies like Microsoft and Sony wouldn’t purchase these publishers if it didn’t make smart business sense, right?
Why Nintendo doesn’t need to buy anyone
The fact of the matter is that this proposal has some pretty obvious flaws. As confirmed in Nintendo’s recent Q&A with their investors, they don’t have any immediate plans to acquire any of the developers that make games for the Switch because it simply isn’t necessary at the moment. The Switch is selling well, which makes people want to make games for it. Why would Nintendo spend its valuable money to increase its overhead and the complexity of its operation simply to not change anything?
When Microsoft bought Activision Blizzard, it was with the intention to bring massively popular titles like Call of Duty onto their console exclusively once current multiplatform agreements with Sony ran their course. However, Nintendo already owns the most famous and popular video game characters on the planet. Most people can’t name a single character from the Call of Duty franchise, but I can show 1000 random people a picture of Mario, and 999 would know exactly who he is. Nintendo doesn’t need to buy anyone to keep their signature games on their consoles because they already own them and every game they ever appeared in.
It is also worth remembering that when Microsoft and Sony make these purchases, they are doing so as part of the massive conglomerates that they are. Video games are a piece of what they do but nowhere near the whole pie. Nintendo, however, is a video game company and that is all that they do. In fact, they are the largest completely independent video game developer in the world by a wide margin. They would have to massively change their corporate structure and philosophy in order to purchase the smaller companies around them.
Now, all of this is subject to change — particularly if Sony or Microsoft start looking to purchase developers like Capcom, Sega, or Square Enix. That could make for a change in how Nintendo approaches this new era of video game history, but I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.
Gaming is best when there are a lot of different companies making their own weird little games and we get lots of new and exciting stuff to try. I don’t need Sony telling Square Enix how to make a Final Fantasy game or Microsoft making the weird localisation of the Ace Attorney series the only version we have out there. The best thing for everyone is to keep gaming weird.
Nintendo is a weird company and prone to strange whims, like the Virtual Boy, but I hope that they are allowed to stay as a video game company for as long as possible. If they start purchasing developers just to keep up with their console competitors, they run the risk of losing the thing that has made them so special.
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