What started out as a bit of turbulence may be escalating into a full-blown nose dive!
As of late, trying to follow Nintendo is kind of like trying to follow one those laser pointers that keeps zipping around on your wall. One second it’s over here, the next it’s over there. It seems that every week I hear some bit of news coming from Nintendo that makes me scratch my head. If you’ve followed my work, you know I’ve been critical of not just their decision to bring a half-baked console to the market in the Wii U, but their subsequent lack of a strong direction in the after math (having revealed in March that sales for the struggling system would be abysmal compared to early projections).
Now the latest coming from the Nintendo camp has me doing a Scooby-Doo sized double take.
I was shocked to hear that Satoru Iwata (current President of Nintendo and repeated media whipping boy) has an initiative planned that will see them bring NEW hardware to what he calls “emerging markets” by 2015. Obviously the #1 locale will no doubt be China, with their ban on gaming consoles recently being lifted in 2014. Iwata, however, was quick to point out that they’ll be unable to support it on the same level as what Microsoft has planned for September. He states this new region has a “…lot of potential, but I don't think the lifting of the ban has solved all of the difficulties in entering it. We need to study it more… It would be difficult to enter those markets if we didn't create something new... For the mass market you need to provide something that most of the middle class can afford.”
While I’m all for exploring untapped revenue to gin up profits in new areas, prepare yourself for the bat-shit crazy part of this story.
Nintendo says they’re not planning to sell the 3DS or the Wii U, but rather develop EVEN MORE new hardware! Yeah, you heard me. It looks as if the planned console will be a dumbed-down version which they hope will appeal to non-gamers (in what Iwata calls a “low-income” bracket). With all the problems they’ve had juggling the current iteration of the Wii (which caused them to post a near half billion dollar loss for 2013), and 3DS sales also showing a decline, why Nintendo considers this a smart move is beyond me. I was literally flabbergasted by the news at first. My initial thought was, “what...the hell…are you thinking? Have you finally just said f*ck it and commited to a full-on kamikaze mission?”
However, while we’re still unsure of exactly what Nintendo has up their sleeves, I find my befuddlement starting to give way to a slight hint of optimism. I’ve always said the company needs to cut their losses and transition into a different facet of gaming outside of home console manufacturing (which might be a closed door to them at this point). Could this be the first inklings of that? For their sake, I seriously hope so. They can’t afford another Wii U debacle.
Iwata would follow this with some very questionable views on the smartphone market, stating that Mario and the iPhone will not likely being joining forces anytime soon. After admitting to Bloomberg that the currently on-fire mobile movement is “probably more competitive” than that of the home systems, he blames the limitations of smartphones and tablets themselves as the reason why the pairing is not in the cards. “Our games such as Mario and Zelda are designed for our game machines so if we transfer them into smartphones as they are, customers won't be satisfied. If customers aren't satisfied with the experience, it will decrease the value of our content.” He said.
In that regard, I’m willing to give him a pass. I can understand that it’s a bit too early for Nintendo to start whoring out their number one franchises to third parties (as they don’t want to come across like that guy in the back alley who offers to sell you his air conditioner and VCR for $2.50). However, if I were him, I wouldn’t be so quick to take options off the table. He’s already publically fallen on his sword in the press, calling last year’s losses “unacceptable” and stating he feels “deeply responsible for the poor performance.” My hope for the company was that they’d somehow regroup with a renewed focus on a singular goal (like the next evolution of their handheld device). With that, we would see a Nintendo reemerge as a viable, strong entity. But with them still investing time and money in pushing the faltering Wii U (not to mention potentially spreading themselves even thinner by developing hardware for unproven regions) their future seems a bit of a question mark to me.
I’m wondering if it’s time we staged a gaming intervention at Satoru Iwata's home soon. Will you join me?