What Christians Can Learn from Nintendo

The market research group, NPD, estimated that consumers spent $30.4 billion on games and accessories in 2016. Certain video game franchises are worth several billion on their own, like Call of Duty, which was thought to be worth over $10 billion back in 2014.

To understand how amazing it is that the video game industry is worth this kind of money, we need to flashback to 1983. It seemed at that time that video games were destined to die off and be remembered as a short fad in history.

It was the video game company Atari that mostly deserved the blame for this. It seemed that they would publish any game that came their way, whether it was quality or not. Because of that, people stopped trusting the gaming industry. They didn’t know what to buy. The market was oversaturated and there was maybe one good game to every several dozen bad ones. On top of that, the guy in charge of the company wasn’t a gamer so he couldn’t tell the difference—he just released every game he could.

Eventually, a glimmer of hope shined through for gamers when a video game based on the hit movie, E.T., was announced. People expected the game to carry the same quality as the movie, so everyone went out and bought a copy for Christmas that year.

But unfortunately the game was a monumental bust. Most games at the time were developed over the course of 5-6 months (which already shows the lack of quality put into them), but it was requested that E.T. be finished and ready to go in 5 weeks. The designers had just a few days to turn a huge movie success into a brilliant video game.

They failed—hard. Fans were already wary about video games, but this was the final straw. E.T. was regarded by many to be the worst game of all time. People everywhere were returning it, trying to get their money back.

Not too long after Atari’s collapse, Nintendo considered bringing their Japanese-based games to America, in attempts to restore people’s hopes in video games. Aware of America’s distrust of video games, they worked hard to present people with quality over quantity. They even set up rules to prevent their console from being oversaturated with games. Publishers would only be allowed to put out so many games a year on their system.

If you had an NES, you may remember the golden badge on their games that said, “Seal of Quality.” This was an intentional move on Nintendo’s part to assure people that their games were indeed worth the purchase. Hit after hit was released for Nintendo’s console, with Super Mario Bros 3 being considered the best game ever made at the time. The world must have agreed given the 18 million copies that were sold worldwide.

Even in today’s generation you can tell that Nintendo still often aims for quality over quantity. Whereas other consoles today have constant updates and patches to fix glitches in their games, Nintendo seems to rarely have any, implying that their games were tested vigorously enough that the finished product you bought at the store didn’t need much more work (if any at all). You could rest assured that your purchase was of quality.

Nintendo has changed a lot over the years, but quality has remained one of the usual staples of their main franchises. This has been evidenced in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one of the launch titles of the new Nintendo Switch console. After Metacritic tallied up 108 critics’ reviews on the game, it came out to a 97%, making it the 12th best reviewed video game of all time. What’s number one on that list? Another Nintendo game in The Legend of Zelda series, named Ocarina of Time, which landed a whopping 99% score.

This illustrates well the importance of quality and not just quantity. Our impatience causes us to pump out believers just like Atari pumped out video games. Our impatience causes us to skip discipling them, turning them into people who take on the adjective “Christian,” but not the lifestyle “Christian,” and then we release them to the world for others to experience.

If we want to disciple people, it’s going to take time and patience. If we want the world to see Jesus in us, we’re going to have to invest in one another for years or decades or even a lifetime.

I don’t expect perfection out of the church. We’re all in different places, and I am far from having the quality Christian life that I wish I had. But the point I am trying to make is that as a whole, the church needs to start making quality disciples. Pumping out newborn Christians non-stop without feeding and discipling them is hurting both them and our witness. We must be patient and invest in new believers so that they might grow.

We want a church that is willing to look at all the glitches and all the brokenness and take time to fix it. We want something that isn’t trying to upgrade itself at an overwhelming rate. We want something that works. And that requires patience and time to be invested. But it’s worth it.

I understand that as Christians we want to reach as many people with the gospel of Jesus as we can, so I’m doing a little bit of embellishment here in order to make a point, but I think Nintendo shows us just how important quality is in restoring people’s faith in us.


This is an adapted excerpt from my book, A Taste of Jesus. I have a lot more to say in this particular segment in the book.

Photo Credit: Hello I’m Nik

For more info see:

Snead, Jeremy, director. Video Games: The Movie. Mediajuice Studios, 2014.

Penn, Zak, director. Atari: Game Over. Fuel Entertainment USA, 2014.

Jarratt, Steve, and Damien McFerran. The Unofficial NES/Famicom: A Visual Compendium. Bitmap Books, 2016. p. 14.

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