According to a recent article that was published on MCV’s website last week (which cited original source VentureBeat), it was announced that Nintendo has been receiving considerable interest in comparison to Microsoft’s and Sony’s own videogame operations. However, whilst the article may have stated that “three times as many internet searches were made for Nintendo-related terms than were for either PlayStation or Xbox in the US through 2016”, on a worldwide scale however, this assertion seems to have been unfairly skewed and heavily biased in terms of how the facts have been reported – as proven by a cursory investigation via Google Trends.
As you can see by the data below, Nintendo has consistently been trailing behind both PlayStation and XBox in terms of average internet interest over the last 12 months. Not only that, but there is no evidence to suggest that “three times as many internet searches were made for Nintendo-related terms than were for either PlayStation or Xbox in the US through 2016” – especially when the data shows that “Xbox” accounts for the majority of internet searches in both the US and across the world (by a considerable margin).
Of course, whilst “XBox” did win in terms of internet searches, the above data however implies that “PlayStation” enjoys a similar level of interest in comparison to “Nintendo” – even though Sony recently announced that its PS4 has sold 50 million units worldwide since the console’s launch in November 2013. Of course, this might be due to the fact that “XBox” is easier to type into Google search engines in comparison to “PlayStation”. To account for this, and so as to include both Sony and Microsoft platforms, it’s worth determining as to which brand between PlayStation and XBox is more sought after, and which principle hardware machines consumers associate the brands with.
Given that Sony’s present videogame PlayStation brand is inherently tied to its Playstation 4 console (which is oftentimes referred to as “PS4” for short), whilst Microsoft’s present videogame XBox brand is inherently tied to its XBox One console, I did another search to discover as to which platform brand configurations consumers searched for the most. After all, if the PS4 has outsold XBox One at a ratio of 2:1, there must be some sort of correlation between sales figures and internet search results. What I discovered was that whilst the “XBox” outranks the “PlayStation” brand, the “PS4” outranks “XBox One” (thereby supporting the argument that the PS4 does indeed enjoy higher sales figures overall). At the same time however, it’s worth bearing in mind that because of the XBox One’s name positioning, people might often conflate “XBox One” with “XBox” as being one and the same, so this might account for why “XBox” charts higher than any PlayStation branded product.
Having determined as to which XBox and Playstation hardware brand product is being searched for the most, the same principle can be applied to Nintendo. In this context therefore, one must try to determine as to which Nintendo branded hardware product people are searching for the most using the smallest lettering configuration. Therefore, the following keyword variables were applied to Google Trends – “Nintendo”, “3DS”, “Nintendo Switch”, “Switch” (because Switch is easier to type into internet search engines as opposed to Nintendo Switch, and because people might not necessarily care about the manufacturer but want the product instead – even if the keyword is such a general term that can be applied to so many other product-lines, such as “Light Switch”), and “NES Mini” (a retro package that has taken many by surprise and has sold as many units in 30 days as the (effectively dead) Wii U has in six months). Taking into account that the Nintendo Switch and NES Mini are newer products, and that “Switch” (as a viable keyword) already existed before Nintendo announced it’s hybrid handheld on 20th October, what I discovered was that “Switch”, “Nintendo”, and “3DS” were the most highly sought after keywords, whilst “Nintendo Switch” and “NES Mini” have hardly been searched for in comparison.
Taking the most popular XBox and Playstation brand hardware keywords, and comparing them against the most popular Nintendo associated keywords, I found it interesting that both “XBox” and “PS4” leapfrog all Nintendo hardware related brand enquiries on an average basis throughout 2016. Indeed, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that “Nintendo” has been searched three times as much in comparison to the most popular XBox and PlayStation branded keywords during the course of 2016. In fact, one could argue that Nintendo is a considerably weaker brand name and keyword, even if one were to take into account the 3DS (a handheld that recently outsold lifetime sales of the PS2 in Japan), as well as the catch-all wildcard that is the “Switch” (whose overall trajectory hasn’t been severely affected even after Nintendo revealed its variation on the keyword in October 2016).
This data is also consistent with findings in the US, which again confirms the notion that Nintendo (and the marginally more successful wildcard that is the Switch) are both comparatively more weaker keywords in the US.
So if the above evidence shows Nintendo as enjoying considerably less interest than the PlayStation and XBox hardware brands, one really does wonder as to how MCV were able to come up with their (seemingly) erroneous conclusion. After all, the data clearly shows Nintendo as having significantly less internet mindshare in comparison to the competition – regardless of the media’s spin whereby comparisons might be made with the PS4 Pro, XBox One S, Scorpio, PS VR (as these are all sub-set devices and peripherals under the XBox and PlayStation brand hardware umbrella). The Switch however is a completely new platform and a separate entity within its own right. So if that is the case, what is acutely apparent is that nobody really cares about Nintendo and its hardware – least of all the great white hope that is the Nintendo Switch, a hardware gaming device that Nintendo fans would have people believe is the company’s attempt at recapturing former glories (ala like the world conquering NES and Wii) – even if mounting evidence suggests that people care about it even less than the failure that’s been the Wii U.
With Nintendo’s hardware failing to garner sizable internet mindshare, where does that leave its software? After all, if Nintendo properties have been getting the most internet searches, surely that must translate into the company generating more software sales than its competition.
With Super Mario Run being downloaded 50m times by IOS users (as a free app), despite the game having been out for only a week, many argue that Nintendo possesses some of the most commercially viable franchises in gaming history. And with Mario being the best selling videogames series of all time (528.522 million), it’s interesting to note that Sony and Microsoft don’t come anywhere near in terms of their own videogame software successes – with Gran Turismo (76.8 million) and Halo (65 million) being the nearest best-selling franchise equivalents.
However, it can be argued that the reason as to why Mario has sold so many more units is because Nintendo has been in the videogames industry a lot longer than either Sony or Microsoft. Indeed, Mario was originally released in 1981 whilst Gran Turismo and Halo didn’t get released until 1997 and 2001 respectively. So whilst Mario has the enviable advantage of roughly having a 15 year head-start and 35 year legacy, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s still a franchise that has failed to find significant sales success in recent times whilst operating as a Nintendo platform exclusive. At the same time, and not including Pokemon (because Nintendo doesn’t entirely own the franchise), none of Nintendo’s gaming properties happen to be in the Top 10 best selling videogames of 2016 – with Fire Emblem Fates being the highest selling Nintendo owned title that still only manages to come in at a pitiful 35th place. In comparison however, the highest selling Sony owned exclusive is Uncharted 4 which comes in at number 2, whilst the highest selling Microsoft owned exclusive is Gears of War 4 which comes in as being the 27th highest selling videogame of 2016.
With this in mind, it’s interesting how both Uncharted 4 and Gears of War 4 have enjoyed comparatively more sales success on their respective platforms, even if the PS4 and XBox One hardware install bases pale in comparison to Nintendo’s own 3DS handheld. What’s also interesting is that again we are seeing a recurring pattern whereby Nintendo’s best selling videogame for 2016 doesn’t get more internet searches than Sony’s or Microsoft’s own top selling titles. Indeed, the Sony owned Uncharted 4 gets significantly more internet searches than Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Fates game – across the US and across all worldwide territories (apart from Mexico where Gears of War 4 dominates) – and again this is reflected by the 2016 best selling sales chart.
In light of all the above evidence, one finds it hard to believe that “three times as many internet searches were made for Nintendo-related terms than were for either PlayStation or Xbox in the US through 2016” as there is clearly scant evidence to corroborate MCV’s assertion. In fact, the lack of supporting evidence not only undermines MCV (and by extension the media industry) but also provides tangible proof as to how biased it’s been in its reporting. In short, one could argue that the manner in which Nintendo internet search-related “facts” have been reported is tantamount to the media “lying” and misleading the public.
In a similar scenario as to how the media acted during the US Elections, whereby it constantly sought to misrepresent and misreport opinion polls as self-fulfilling “facts” that weren’t at all automatic, the gaming media’s collusion and extreme bias is clearly evident by how it has reported upon internet searches relating to Nintendo. And whilst the “opinion polls” have certainly helped establish the fallacy that Nintendo enjoys the largest mindshare out of all the Big 3, there is little evidence to suggest that these claims aren’t anything but myths. Indeed, not only does Nintendo constantly have the lowest internet search results out of all the Big 3, but it also vastly trails behind PlayStation and XBox in terms of internet mindshare. At the same time, and with mounting evidence suggesting that there exists a direct correlation between active internet searches and present-day sales figures, the Kyoto-based giant finds itself in the unenviable position of enjoying the least amount of sales across the totality of its entire software and hardware product range. With this in mind, the situation is likely to be exacerbated even further as the Switch’s release draws near, as Nintendo fans and the media become ever more desperate in upholding an optimistic facade that clearly seeks to perpetuate the false belief that the Switch is anything but a desperate attempt by the company that is hoping to maintain some semblance of relevancy in an industry that has long since left it behind in terms of game design principles as well as hardware technical prowess.
In proclaiming the age-old argument that Nintendo is the savior of gaming, its fans and the media continue to bury their heads in the sand whilst stubbornly insisting upon the notion that the company still has much to offer. But much like how the US Election played itself out, they’ll discover that their feelings have no place in the realm of facts. For whilst they’ll continue to misrepresent and misconstrue the truth in a desperate attempt to drum up support for a product that the market has clearly shown an enormous degree of apathy towards, it’ll be Nintendo’s own presentation that ultimately seals the fate on how its hybrid Switch machine is received. And so it is that at the tail-end of 2016, Nintendo finds itself in the precarious situation of trying to justify its future business strategy to a market that ultimately doesn’t care enough about what it has up its sleeve. In light of this, its 12th January briefing can’t come soon enough. But even with that being said, many believe that the announcement will only seek to confirm their already pre-existing beliefs and views, with the Switch destined to suffer the same fate as the Wii U. Of course, it’s too early to say as to whether the Switch will be a success, but cursory internet search results suggest that even if the company manages to present the best gaming product on the planet (much like how Sega attempted to right previous wrongs with its own ill-fated Dreamcast), it’ll all be simply too little too late. Because right now, and if internet search results are any indication of gauging consumer interest and demand, then it must be abundantly obvious that nobody actually cares about Nintendo!
Update: Both MCV and VentureBeat (as well as their writers) have been made aware of this article, and are yet to comment.