Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Opinion - Nintendo live in their own bubble world

I am more and more convinced that Nintendo live in their own little bubble world, oblivious to what is going on outside in the minds of their targeted customers and the video-games industry. In a recent interview with CNN, Nintendo video-game designer legend Shigeru Miyamoto raised some points which only reinforces my conclusion that Nintendo are oblivious to the outside gaming world. 
Miyamoto and his hands

Point 1: "Make it possible for people to essentially play games even if something else was on the TV"

Repeatedly mentioned by Nintendo, but not a huge selling point. When I was a kid, I simply arranged my video-game time around that of my parents watching TV. Is it really that much of a problem that people can never play on their consoles because someone is always watching the TV? That also assumes households only have one TV. What makes this feature even more irrelevant is that Nintendo have their own handheld device, so anyone who has invested in Nintendo would still be able to play games when the TV is occupied. I am not saying this feature is useless, but over-rated? Definitely.

Point 2: "There is going to come a point where they feel like 'I can't do everything I want to do if I don't have a second screen'"

Miyamoto has a point here, and may be right. However again, this second screen is not completely unique. Microsoft are developing their SmartGlass product, which gives you a second screen on devices you already own, be that Smartphone, tablet or Windows 8 PC. Granted SmartGlass is currently next to nothing against the Wii U’s controller, but I would be surprised if SmartGlass won’t be much more fully integrated into the next generation Xbox; the upcoming announcement in May might shed some light on this however. Likewise there are expectations that the Vita will be more integrated with the Playstation 4. Now the Wii U’s second screen on the controller has some brilliant features which are far better than what the other consoles have. But as Miyamoto says, people are still warming up to the idea of using a second screen. The longer this takes, the longer competitors have to introduce their own second-screen features.

Point 3: "Something that offers a lot of practical use and practical purpose in the living room"

A practical use in the living room? Honestly I do not quite know what Miyamoto means by this. The Wii U doubles up as a footrest? The PlayStation 3 has Blueray, the Xbox 360 has Netflix. Consoles which go beyond gaming have existed for some time.

Point 4: "It's going to be very fun when Toad appears"

This ultimately is the reason Nintendo still exist. Not so much that Toad is making an appearance (sorry Toad), but their immensely strong portfolio of games and game characters which they continually re-release. Mario. Donkey Kong. Zelda. Pokemon. The list goes on.

Nintendo are entirely dependent on these games and characters. If the Wii U was released without their support, the Wii U would have been a completely flop. Miyamoto acknowledges that the above points (ability to watch TV and play games, a second screen, and a practical use in the living room) are features which for the meantime are not drawing in new customers needed for the Wii U to be a success. I largely suspect that the majority of people who bought the Wii U are people who are brand loyal and love the old game characters. It isn't a problem that Nintendo are bringing back and reinventing these games because they were so good in the first place. The problem is what makes Nintendo great is also what is keeping them in their bubble. 

Nintendo released the Wii U (which has similar specs to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3) out at a time where most gamers knew it wasn't long until the next generation consoles for Microsoft and Sony would be released. This decision seems so strange to me, because many people who cannot afford to buy all the consoles will want choice, and choosing means waiting until all options have presented themselves. This is why it feels like Nintendo are in their own bubble world. The only logical reason I can think of is that they wanted to create an incredibly strong and innovative product, so that when the new consoles are released it would seem obvious that Nintendo’s features are far superior. That however uses the huge assumption that the next Xbox and Playstation will have no new novel features, and simply be faster with better graphics. That seems... unlikely. Putting all their eggs into one basket with the controller with a second screen just does not cut it for me. It worked for the Wii, but the Wii was a affordable family console. The Wii U in contrast gives the impressions of wanting to take on Xbox and Playstation. For that, they need to wake up and put their innovation hat back on.

As always, keen to hear your opinion on Nintendo and the direction they are taking.

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