Nintendo gives up lead in gaming but could rise above
By COLEMAN HOPKINS
A trimmed down price, new games and a widespread marketing strategy were some of the changes. However, two weeks ago, Nintendo announced a 70 percent decrease in earnings per share expectations for the coming year.
To translate that into console sales, this decrease is from an expected nine million to just over two million. With the console race between Sony and Microsoft reaching its apex, many hard-core Nintendo fans are left wondering what went wrong.
While there is no single factor that contributed in their Lucifer-esque fall from grace, there are a few possible theories.
In the last five years, indie games, or games not produced by prominent, resource-rich companies, dominated the market. Of the three major consoles: Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony’s Playstation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii U, the last offers the least by far.
In fact, the surge of the Playstation 3 in the past year and a half is attributed directly to their wide library of indie games.
The biggest effect of these games is their ability to expand gaming demographics by providing something for everyone, which has in turn greatly increased overall sales.
If Nintendo adopted this same strategy of picking up small-time games and game ideas, then the company could effectively silence their critics, who see them as a niche console meant to appeal to only one or two age groups.
Moreover, indie developers are often capable of producing more games in a much shorter time than the traditional “big game” companies-think Sega or Capcom-, not being restrained by marketing needs or corporate hurdles.
In fact, these games thrived on Xbox’s Marketplace and on the Playstation Store.
However, this is an issue Nintendo can easily fix given time and small investments in those companies.
As Sony showed, leads are not erased over night, but a series of small strides can go a very long way in building momentum and in bridging economic gaps.
Another issue gamers have with the new console is the GamePad. Costing a whopping $100, it is the single most expensive controller on the market for any system. Now, for what the controller offers, that price can be seen as fair.
Unfortunately though, the GamePad does not actually serve a purpose; there is no game for which it is necessary, let alone contributory.
Essentially, it is an add-on that costs a third of the price of the console itself that does not enhance any experience of gaming.
This problem too can be fixed, but Nintendo will need to go back to the drawing board because such a large sum of money with no real reward is not easily overcome.
Changing demographics are not helping Nintendo’s situation either. In the past few years, the gamers who grew up with Nintendo and helped to propel the original Wii to its respective paramount market status are older now, and many are transitioning into adulthood.
The somewhat sarcastic and very depressing “I grew up with Nintendo, Nintendo didn’t grow up with me” cry, so often posted on their chatrooms, has some truth behind its melancholy lamentation.
In the past three years, Nintendo has grown extremely conscious of who their target audience is: families with younger kids.
This stance often ostracizes aging fans who are looking forward to slightly more mature games.
To make matters worse, the recent horror genre underwent a revival, a revival that is at its best on other consoles due to superior graphics and indie game accessibility.
Rather than confront this issue head on, Nintendo hasn’t embraced the problem as genuine, and consequently has not released the same games that are thriving on other systems, as well as accelerating their sales.
Nintendo can solve this problem if they simply accept it and choose to act.
Many fans would agree in saying that while the problem may be simple, that does not mean that Nintendo will address it, as history indicates with their lack of decisiveness when the GameCube faltered.
Nintendo messed up very early on with the Wii U. From the planning, which incorporated poor technology and an irrelevant console gimmick, it seems that the Wii U was doomed from the start. The marketing strategy (or lack thereof) also led to the downfall of the promising sequel to last generation’s big winner.
However, there was no problem more overarching or more negligent, as well as avoidable, than the issue of games.
The entire formula for the Wii’s success was in the Nunchuck, which had so many games made specifically to capitalize on the technology-you could hold a sword in one hand a shield in others, dual-wield pistols or throw a basketball-it felt like you were really involved in the game.
The GamePad doesn’t have any games made in that vein that make it useful or personal.
Overall, Nintendo squandered its lead in the console race through a handful of poor ideas. However, that won’t define them. While the Wii U is floundering, their 3DS, a handheld device, triumphed at every turn in the past year thanks to one of the strongest game libraries of any console today.
Nintendo is too smart and possesses many resources to turn the Wii U around, which I am hopeful and positive that they will in the future.
However, all of that starts with Nintendo, a company known for its defiance to generic gaming norms and its high gamble tendencies.
I am optimistic, as the past few days showed that Nintendo is more open to change, as seen through talks with LEGO and consideration of mergers with other successful game producers.
While failure is not immediate, neither is success; time will tell if they will right the trajectory of their company or if they will simply sit back and let time pass them by.