The Marxist case for the Nintendo Switch


#1

Only a year ago, Nintendo was in the midst of a severe corporate crisis. Its flagship console, the Wii U, had been comprehensively wrecked by its competitors, Sony’s Playstation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Hemorrhaging money, the company was considering moving out of the hardware market altogether, and focusing on developing games for consoles and mobile devices.

But now, the tide has turned. As Navneet Alang writes, its new console, the Nintendo Switch, has been a breakout success. It has sold over 10 million units worldwide just in the last 10 months — becoming the fastest-selling console in U.S. history, and already beating the Wii U’s total sales in Japan.

It’s remarkable both as a come-from-behind victory, and also as a way a corporation succeeded by breaking out of what Marxists call the capitalist dialectic — that is, by ignoring the received wisdom of the market and the ideology of capitalism itself.

Thought this article’s argument would go over pretty well with a decent chunk of this forum…


#2

If Nintendo and the Switch is an example of what people want out of Marxism then we need to rethink what we want as “Disrupting the marketplace of ideas!” is hardly an anti capitalist idea or for that matter a new one


#3

I have a hard time accepting the premise that a publically traded multinational corp would follow Marxist strategies, the article itself lays out a good case for why Nintendo succeeded. It saw potential in the failure that is the Wii U, improved on it, and rebranded the damn thing. And it worked!

It kind of reminds about the (unconfirmed) rumor that Nintendo originally planned on releasing the Wii remote as an add-on to the Gamecube, but instead decided to make a new console to go with it in order to force adoption of the peripheral. That seemed to turn out ok.


#4

Yeah I’m not sure I vibe with “use Marxism to succeed within Capitalism.”


#5

shoutouts to making an article about marxist thought while a) never quoting anything marx actually wrote and b) quoting trotsky instead


#6

Who are these Marxists who only ever make vaguely defined strawman arguments to be summarily dismissed in some advertorial. Where do they live. Where is their great wisdom archived.

There must be a lot of them, because I keep hearing about them all my life!


#7

I generally enjoy The Week but this is weak (heh). Reads to me as a writer who likes his Switch trying to plug some scattered ideas he believes are marxist but reads much more like a Silicon Valley-esq disruption fantasy. However, I’d argue his last point about Iwata taking a pay cut instead of lower works as far as a marxist-capitalist ideal makes some sense.


#8

I’m not going to stoop to dismissing an article by its headline (it clearly caused a stir), but I think the framing isn’t ideal. That said, I do think some people’s takeaway leaves something to be desired. Not to be mean, but:

I don’t feel that this is the premise. Cooper is arguing that, by considering the situation with a Marxist analysis, we can better understand it. Cooper doesn’t intimate that Nintendo’s decision-makers are closet Marxists (at most, he argues that they have a different approach to business than major American companies), but is pushing for using Marxist reasoning to understand why, say, some decisions in the marketplace may make sense. I’m not sure this is something to sniff at.

I do feel that the article is a too scattered to back up its thesis. There isn’t enough substance, particularly in the principle it is trying to teach, to stretch it out beyond a 800-1,200-word article. With that said, I do think the closing paragraph has merit:

Of course, one should not go overboard with praise here. Nintendo is still just a business, after all. But it is worth noting that sometimes human reason, planning, and art for art’s sake can be successful business practices — not just sociopathic self-interest and worship of whatever happens in the market.


#9

I had to resist kind of shit-posting in response, but I find the premise of this article kind of ridiculous. How does a massive corporation’s success appear to be a Marxist? As said, Cooper is not implying Nintendo is full of Commies and every weekly memo is a printout page of Das Kapital (though, Mario does wear red…), just that the success disrupts part of capitalism.

But I consider this take to be extremely blind to other factors. I would argue, in fact, that it may be the reverse. Nintendo didn’t release this product in any way that would “subvert capitalism” or “capitalist dialectic”. They marketed the shit out of it. Further, Nintendo thrives on a cultivation of fan culture surrounding it. Nintendo has extremely high brand reliance (is that the term I’m looking for? I can’t remember). This in and of itself is kind of a disturbing product of capitalism. Don’t get me wrong, I like Mario and Zelda, and I don’t think Shigeru Miyamoto is cackling in his office, but when it comes down to Nintendo as a company? This is clearly using fan culture to move product.

Again, like @robowitch quoted, there could be a message about art in spite of the prospect of success, and we can see that all the time, and it’s wonderful to watch. Films like Get Out, and games like Getting Over It, which on a surface level seem like they’d be impossible to sell, have done really really well! I love seeing good art getting the love it deserves.

I don’t know; I’m not a Marxist scholar. I didn’t finish the Manifesto when I read it in high school. I’m new to all this stuff. But I think this argument is really backward. Capitalists aren’t subverting capitalism by utilizing capitalism in ways other capitalists didn’t think of. They’re just utilizing capitalism.