This could quite possibly be my last blog unless Nintendo has some new news in the next couple of days. The article I found this week is a good article to end on because it gives a preview of the upcoming console war. The article, http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2013/05/06/if-sony-and-microsoft-find-their-next-gen-roles-where-does-that-leave-nintendo/, talks about what each console plans on doing in the future. With the PS4 and the new Xbox coming out shortly, the Wii U team and the rest of Nintendo has a lot to worry about.
According to the author of the article, Sony seems to be planning a game-focused approach. It sounds stupid because of course all video game consoles are going to focus on games, but I believe they plan on having the “best” games. Their business level strategy is differentiation. They want to be the go-to console for games. Their approach isn’t cost leadership. I fact, out of the 3 consoles from the last generation, they were by far the most expensive. I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue that trend. They are definitely continuing to target hard-core gamers rather than casual ones.
Microsoft seems to be differentiating by making their new Xbox “a must-have living room…object, that everyone, gamer or not, will want”. It will not only play games, but stream channels and search the web among other unannounced features. They are targeting not only hard-core gamers, but many different people. This worries me, but at the same time it could be a great idea. It worries me because the Wii U used to target hard-core gamers, then moved into games that even older, less die-hard gamers would play. For example, Wii Fit was a popular workout game for some time that all could enjoy, but it seems that most casual gamers have moved on to free games on mobile devices. If Microsoft’s casual gamers catch onto their new system, is it a matter of time before they switch back to mobile games and apps again? I think not. Having new features on their consoles like cable channels has nothing to do with new styles of games that attract an older crowd, like Wii Fit. Casual gamers lost interest in Wii games. It will be harder for a casual gamer to lose interest in a game if the feature that is attracting them isn’t a game at all. Of course, Microsoft is banking on the fact that these features they are implementing into their new Xbox will attract people in the first place.
So, with these two consoles breaking apart and differentiating into their own niches, rather than mirror images of themselves, where does this leave Nintendo? First, the president wanted to point out what they were doing wrong so far. “Satoru Iwata believes they need to focus on the sorts of first party titles which draw people to Nintendo, and also acknowledges that the marketing for the Wii U has been abysmal”. The first party titles and other games that are the backbone for Nintendo simply have not been present so far. If they fix this, they are fixing a lot. I’ve talked about this topic in many previous posts. Their marketing has been horrible. Many people, including me, didn’t realize that the Wii U was a different console from the Wii until it was very close to release. Most people thought it was an add-on to the Wii because they still used the original Wii-mote in most commercials. Also, they were advertising many games that were already being offered for the other two game systems, rather than their own Nintendo-only titles. The Wii U looked pretty much identical to the Wii, so the confusion was even greater. Other than the tablet controller, and better graphics, there was no major difference between their old console and their new one. These two features were also very flawed. The tablet controller only works for the first player. The other players on the console have to use the same old Wii controllers. The better graphics got Nintendo caught up with PS3 and Xbox 360, but will soon be old news once the new graphics for the PS4 and Xbox Infinity are seen.
What Nintendo needs to do in preparation of the new console war is “to convince the public that it is indeed a next generation system”. This convincing is not only for the gamers themselves. 3rd party developers don’t want to bother with the Wii U because they have to modify their games and scale down the graphics to run it on the Wii U. They are essentially kicking Nintendo to the side because the console itself doesn’t have enough power or consumer base to make their time worth while. They know their games will sell much better on the other platforms. This is why Nintendo has to make its die-hard Nintendo fan games again. They need to make their Nintendo fans love them again rather than trying to get new people to love them. That will come in time. Making these Nintendo-only titles is the main ingredient to their strategy. Similar to Sony, Nintendo focuses on its games rather than the whole nine yards, like the new Xbox is attempting. This is fine as long as you can get your games to sell. Also, it just so happens that they are the cost leaders in this industry, although I’m certain that isn’t their main intention. Their console is the cheapest, but they are really focusing on game differentiation.
The author gives some advice for Nintendo on their future and its the same advice that I’ve been harping about throughout these blogs. “The only way forward for Nintendo is to create some truly astonishing games that make the Wii U a must buy. And a price cut wouldn’t hurt either”. If they cut their price, but more importantly make the Nintendo games that die-hard Nintendo fans know and love, I don’t think they will have a problem restoring their reputation. That is Nintendo’s future; doing what they’ve always done and make games like the ones that made them famous. Best of luck to Nintendo. Let’s hope they find a way back to their bread and butter.