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A reader offers his theory for why Nintendo has never been as popular in the UK as elsewhere, and why they probably never will be…
I read with interest GC’s report on the sales of Grand Theft Auto V and the fact that top four selling individual games in the UK are all by Nintendo. Equally interesting was the astonishment of some readers, which I shared. Not because I didn’t know these games had done well overall but because I was surprised they had done so in Britain.
The UK has always been Nintendo’s weakest major market, which is a problem for them because it’s also the world’s second biggest – after the US (Japan long ago slipped into third place, perhaps even fourth after Germany).
But the problem for Nintendo is that it’s almost impossible for them to catch up, because no matter how well they might do with individual consoles in the UK they can’t rely on that which has kept them going through thick and thin in the US and Japan: nostalgia.
Not only did the Mega Drive easily outsell the SNES (it took till the GameCube for Nintendo to even bother setting up a proper European HQ, so that’s no surprise) but the NES, the root of all Nintendo nostalgia, was an extremely minor format in Britain – that most people neither knew nor cared about at the time.
The reason for the NES’s unpopularity in the UK encompasses what until recently at least has been familiar problems for Nintendo: lateness, pricing, and poor marketing. The NES was released in Japan in 1983, in the USA in 1985, and in the UK in 1987.
In 1987 the Commodore 64 and Spectrum were winding down in the UK and the Amiga and Atari ST were the object of every gamer’s desire. When the NES was finally released in the UK it resembled far more the outdated C64 then the new fangled Amiga.
It was horribly expensive too, with games being over £40 compared to the £25 for Amiga or ST games or sub-£10 of most Speccy and C64 games. All this combined with the almost complete lack of any marketing whatsoever made it very easy to ignore.
With the NES falling well beneath the radar of most Britons, Nintendo had an even more difficult task with subsequent consoles. With no nostalgia to draw on and no anticipation for next generation sequels they’ve basically had to start from scratch with each new machine. Which would be a difficult marketing task for any company, let alone one as PR-challenged as Nintendo.
There is of course another reason why Nintendo titles and consoles have fared so disproportionally badly in the UK and that’s got to do with the nation’s peculiar taste in gaming. The UK has rarely favoured the same formats as the rest of the world.
As a nation we preferred the C64 and Spectrum to the Atari VCS and NES, the Mega Drive to the SNES and stuck with the Amiga and ST far longer than most. Apart from a unique taste in formats Briton also has, and I shall try to put this as delicately as possible, peculiar tastes in its actual games.
Fast, simple action are the bywords for the majority of British gamers, and preferably in a real-world setting with a minimum of abstraction. The latter of which, in particular, is the direct opposite of what Nintendo are most famed for providing.
While the Wii and DS showed that Nintendo can be a success in the UK that success had no foundation, and with the fumbled launch of the Wii U and 3DS all that success was washed away and forgotten almost instantly – at least in the minds of most casual gamers.
And until Nintendo invent a time machine to rectify things they’re always going to be on the back foot in Blighty.
By reader Ashton Marley
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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