Why Nintendo Won't Determine Gaming's Future

There's no question Nintendo has made a huge impact on the gaming industry. Over the last couple of decades, Nintendo has been a change agent in the gaming space, prompting companies to look to the future when developing games or hardware.Remember Super Mario 64? It was the first time that we saw Mario in all of his 3D glory and the first time, for sure, that we realized how fun 3D platforming could be. The Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super NES forced other companies to invent new ideas just to keep up. Even the Nintendo Wii, which was first to deliver fun motion-gaming, has set off a craze that might never be stopped.

But over the last couple of years, Nintendo has lost its way. The company that was once the most dominant player in the gaming space is now wondering if it can stay afloat in the console market as Wii sales slip and it has no answer to the Xbox 360's and PlayStation 3's successes.

Of course, some Nintendo fans might say that the Wii U might just be the company's answer. That device will come with some neat additions, like a touchscreen controller, and finally offer the HD graphics Nintendo has yet to offer. However, the latest reports suggest the Wii U's graphics power might not even be able to match the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Worst of all, both Microsoft and Sony plan to launch new consoles next year, making the Wii U all but obsolete.

For the first time, I'd argue, in decades, Nintendo is no longer the gaming company that will determine the future. From a hardware perspective, Nintendo isn't doing anything innovative enough to make Microsoft or Sony want to follow suit. And although its game franchises, like Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda, are still wildly popular, they, too, are becoming a bit outdated.

So, what company will lead the industry's charge? It's tough to say. In the U.S., it might be easier to point to Microsoft, since the company has been able to dominate the market and deliver all kinds of entertainment experiences byway of partnerships with content providers.

Elsewhere around the world, Sony seems to be doing a good job of attracting customers and growing its user base. Granted, the firm got off to a rough start with the PlayStation 3, but things have been running smoothly lately, making it possible that Sony could lead the next-generation charge.

But in the end, maybe there isn't a company that will actually prompt major change in the marketplace. Now that Nintendo has left a void, there might not be a company capable — or willing — to fill it.

At this point, the gaming industry might just be evolutionary.