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Game Over For Nintendo? Not If Mario And Zelda Fans Keep Playing

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Some analysts say that Nintendo's days are numbered. Holiday sales of its new console, the Wii U, have been lackluster compared to Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4.

But since Nintendo still offers some of the most popular game franchises, the love of Zelda and Mario may keep the company going for a long time.

In preparation for this story, I put out a call to talk to die-hard Nintendo fans. I was inundated with responses. Among them, Brian White, 30, grew up playing the Zelda games.

Now he's got a daughter. "We named her Zelda," he says.

White says as a dad he's happy Nintendo games aren't filled with violence.

"It's something I can play and have my daughter sit in front of the TV and not be ashamed of and wonder how corrupt she's gonna be," he says.

Zelda is a series of fantasy adventure games where the main character, Link, has to save Princess Zelda and the world. The soundtrack is so beloved that it's been performed as a four movement symphony.

Manny Contreras, 25, has seen the symphony performed twice. He says the music reminds him of great experiences he's had playing Zelda. "It's great music just in general. Even if you're not a fan, if you listen to it, you're probably surprised by just how good it is."

Love of these long-time franchises is the main reason that game analyst P.J. McNealy thinks that predictions of Nintendo's demise are overblown.

"If you look at video game sales over the last 20 to 25 even 30 years and look at the top 10 games that have sold, Nintendo's probably owned five, six, seven, eight of those games on those lists," McNealy says.

Among them: Super Mario Brothers, Zelda and Wii Sports. McNealy thinks the problem for Nintendo's Wii U is that there haven't been enough updates to its beloved franchises made specifically for it. But he imagines that once new game franchises are out it will help sales.

"Even though the Wii U hasn't been selling as well as Nintendo certainly has hoped, no one is sitting there calling it un-fun," McNealy says.

The Wii U is different from the original Wii console because it has a sort of tablet accessory called a GamePad. Kelly Bohm bought the Wii U as soon as it came out, and she's been a little disappointed. "There's not enough games to play on it," Bohm says. "It's like, you want to play more with the console because it's a cool concept, having the touch pad."

But this past fall Nintendo came out with Super Mario 3D World specifically for the Wii U. Mario's a plumber who goes on a lot of adventures.

"This one's a lot better," Bohm says. "A lot of the levels in the Mario game require you to use the touch pad. You have to press buttons to unlock things or open pathways and stuff like that."

Later this year, Nintendo is releasing even more updates of popular franchises for the Wii U — Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart and Donkey Kong.

But a lot of analysts say Nintendo is getting more competition from new titles created for mobile devices and PCs. Meanwhile, the hardcore gamers will buy the Xbox and the PlayStation for the power and better graphics.

Yet the love of Nintendo's franchises does run deep with fans like Bohm. She plans on buying every update and hopes to share the experience someday with her kids. "It's happy memories from your own childhood, and you always want to pass on stuff that you did as a kid to your own kids," she says.

And Nintendo is betting its future on many people feeling that way.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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