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Consoleation: January 2013 NPD hardware preliminary discussion—Wii-Oops

Peter Skerritt's picture

New Super Mario Bros. U Screenshot

So… you probably heard the news already: Wii U sales for the month of January were less than 60,000 units. That's less than 12,000 units per week of the reporting period. That's also despite the Wii U being the first new video game console (non-handheld) since late 2006. This number should be addressed by Nintendo as "unacceptable" for the US market, which saw the Wii dominate the early and middle parts of this past console generation. Investors should be nervous that the US may not adopt the Wii U strongly enough before Sony and Microsoft present their new hardware, likely later this year. I know that I would be.

Having said that, let's keep some perspective here when discussing the Wii U in terms of mid-to-long term prospects.

First, and probably most importantly: It's far too early for Nintendo to take the Wii U out back and put it down. We're looking at three reporting periods. I know that the same attitude was taken with the Vita—which also strongly disappointed in January sales figures—but three months don't make or break a console. It's more than a stumble out of the gate; it's a blown engine on the first lap for Nintendo and it's up to Satoru Iwata and the rest of the pit crew within Nintendo to fix the problem and get back into the race. I think that things will get better down the line, but I can't say with confidence that it's going to be a huge improvement. Once we get into Q4 and we see new PlayStation and Xbox hardware, Nintendo could very well lose much of its retail advantages. On the flip side, perhaps consumers balk at pricing for these new consoles… or maybe the games library at launch for either or both isn't particularly deep. If that happens, and if Nintendo can convert promised software to reality, there's certainly a chance for Nintendo to move some decent numbers in Q4.

Second, there's a problem with too few games in the channel. Nintendo is working on this, but development is taking some time. Regardless of the reason for the delay in having these games ready sooner in the Wii U lifespan, it's reasonable to assume that we'll see more games in retail channels before the holidays and sales should hopefully ramp up a bit from Q2 on. Nintendo still has a problem with weak third-party support which puts them in a difficult situation. If these other publishers don't or can't come through with software, more pressure falls on Nintendo to close that gap and increase its quantity and production. I suspect that more third-party games will be coming, but it's possible that Wii U isn't a priority for publishers. Many of the biggest publishers are likely placing their bets on Microsoft and Sony, given recent sales performance. As long as Nintendo can handle the load and provide appealing games with some consistency, the Wii U will remain an option for at least some consumers.

Finally, if push comes to shove, a price drop has to be an option to spark sales, especially as we get closer to the other platform launches. Leveraging a price advantage over the competition may coax some fence-sitters to buy in, especially if the games library increases significantly later in the year. Nintendo most likely won't kill off the Wii U without at least trying the price cut option. I realize that Wii U is already selling at a loss, but combining a price drop with compelling games has worked for Nintendo before. That's not a guarantee that it works again, but I believe that it's at least possible that it will stimulate growth if it happens.

I see a lot of reaction to this story as a premature eulogy for the Wii U, and even for the console market at large. I believe that sales expectations must begin to be tempered for both. The Wii U most likely isn't going to be another runaway success like the Wii was, and several factors can be identified as reasons for continued contraction of the console market, as well. People bristle and get defensive about the rise of the mobile market, but it's getting harder and harder to explain mobile away as irrelevant and "not good enough." The truth is that mobile isn't "good enough" for a loud minority on the Internet. Many other consumers have embraced the mobile market as a cheaper way to play games and as a convergence point to do everything from talk on the phone to play games to watch movies. Mobile won't kill consoles. It might take some business away, but there will remain a market for console hardware and software sales for the foreseeable future. It's just going to be smaller.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Wii U  
Developer(s): Nintendo  
Articles: Editorials   Columns  
Topic(s): Game Design & Dev   Business  

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Wii U might be GameCube

Worst case scenario, the Wii U will become another GameCube for Nintendo, but where as GameCube's main market differentiation was a lunch box shape with handle, the second screen for the Wii U could be more of a functional difference maker as the DS has proven years ago.

And while the Activision's of the world may wait out for the PS4 and Durango, I think a majority of developers will find indie-style digital distribution much more attractive.

Still up to Nintendo

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Worst case scenario, the Wii U will become another GameCube for Nintendo, but where as GameCube's main market differentiation was a lunch box shape with handle, the second screen for the Wii U could be more of a functional difference maker as the DS has proven years ago.

And while the Activision's of the world may wait out for the PS4 and Durango, I think a majority of developers will find indie-style digital distribution much more attractive.

While I do see the latter part of your comment being the case, it comes down to Nintendo pushing for that. It's not just going to happen. These indie-style digital distribution models are in full effect on the mobile formats and with every generational advancement of tablets and smart phones, its easier and easier to overlook a Nintendo console as a home for those games.

Dale Weir wrote: While I do

Dale Weir wrote:

While I do see the latter part of your comment being the case, it comes down to Nintendo pushing for that. It's not just going to happen. These indie-style digital distribution models are in full effect on the mobile formats and with every generational advancement of tablets and smart phones, its easier and easier to overlook a Nintendo console as a home for those games.

That's why in my comment, I wasn't being specific about Nintendo necessarily having a lock on indie games. It's a wide open field, but recent changes in Nintendo eshop policies and licensing agreements indicate a strong change in the mindset of Nintendo. Of the 3 major consoles, Wii U with its tablet like interface seems most poised to provide a balance between the accessibility of mobile tablets and more deeper console experiences.

Nintendo

Chi, I wish I could be so optimistic about Nintendo, or at least with respect to the points you raised.

If the Wii U is another Gamecube, then Nintendo is seriously screwed. The Gamecube launched at $200 (iirc) in a good economy. Why would Nintendo launch the Wii U at $350 in a bad economy? Makes no sense. Personally I don't see the second screen as a functional difference maker, at least not enough to make up the cost of the system. I'll admit it has some potential, but I haven't seen anything to justify the cost.

Nintendo has shown itself to be completely inept when it comes to digital distribution. Their lack of an account system for the Virtual Console that is not linked to a piece of hardware is ass-backwards in this day and age. Why must I buy Super Mario Bros 3 YET AGAIN if I want to play it on the Wii U? I have already bought that game 6 times in my life. No more. I should be able to buy it once and play it on my Wii in my bedroom, Wii U in the living room, the Wii U gamepad while sitting on the john, and my DS or 3DS when I ride the bus... and on any future console Nintendo makes. Companies like Apple and Valve have already done account systems correctly. I don't have to buy Angry Birds again when I upgrade my iPhone, and I don't have to buy Portal again when I get a new laptop.

It all comes down to games, and I say this as a LONG TIME Nintendo fan who grew up with late Atari and NES: Nintendo is ruining their core franchises. 2D Mario used to be their bread and butter. It sells like hotcakes, and yet they are completely phoning it in with every new installment in the "New" series. Zelda used to be an arcade action rpg until Eiji Aonuma took over and it turned into a lame PC adventure game. And I don't even want to talk about Metroid Other M.

Odofakyodo wrote:If the

Odofakyodo wrote:

If the Wii U is another Gamecube, then Nintendo is seriously screwed. The Gamecube launched at $200 (iirc) in a good economy. Why would Nintendo launch the Wii U at $350 in a bad economy? Makes no sense. Personally I don't see the second screen as a functional difference maker, at least not enough to make up the cost of the system. I'll admit it has some potential, but I haven't seen anything to justify the cost.

When you factor in inflation, I think the price of what you're getting compared to the competition is justified. I don't know if Nintendo is already taking a hit on hardware sales, but Nintendo's philosophy of recycling/refreshing previous gen-tech usually works in their favor in the long run. Besides, even among Nintendo's harshest critics (which there are tons), few have complained about the price.

Odofakyodo wrote:

Nintendo has shown itself to be completely inept when it comes to digital distribution. Their lack of an account system for the Virtual Console that is not linked to a piece of hardware is ass-backwards in this day and age. Why must I buy Super Mario Bros 3 YET AGAIN if I want to play it on the Wii U? I have already bought that game 6 times in my life. No more. I should be able to buy it once and play it on my Wii in my bedroom, Wii U in the living room, the Wii U gamepad while sitting on the john, and my DS or 3DS when I ride the bus... and on any future console Nintendo makes. Companies like Apple and Valve have already done account systems correctly. I don't have to buy Angry Birds again when I upgrade my iPhone, and I don't have to buy Portal again when I get a new laptop.

You can transfer over all Virtual Console purchases made on the Wii to the Wii U and play on the Wii mode so wouldn't be purchasing SMB3 over again. And I don't know if you heard, but Nintendo will allow you to upgrade previous purchased VC games on the Wii to the Wii U HD/Gamepad versions for a buck a piece. That's a pretty good value when you consider iPad owners had to shell out on average 3x as much to play HD versions of Angry Birds etc.

I don't necessarily fault Nintendo for tying licenses to hardware to prevent piracy and its rarely a problem until you have to purchase new hardware, but I do agree that Nintendo could do better. They are WAY overcharging for Virtual Console stuff. Gameboy wares should be $.99 and SNES should be $1.99. That would encourage way more purchases and take the sting out of having to re-buy stuff if necessary.

Otherwise, for standard console games, the rules of mobile distribution don't really apply. People switch up phones every one or two years. Aside from console failures, they *should* last a good 10+ years.

Odofakyodo wrote:

It all comes down to games, and I say this as a LONG TIME Nintendo fan who grew up with late Atari and NES: Nintendo is ruining their core franchises. 2D Mario used to be their bread and butter. It sells like hotcakes, and yet they are completely phoning it in with every new installment in the "New" series. Zelda used to be an arcade action rpg until Eiji Aonuma took over and it turned into a lame PC adventure game. And I don't even want to talk about Metroid Other M.

Mario Galaxy is one of the best reviewed games of the current generation. And maybe its because I'm partly experiencing this through the eyes of my 7-year old son, but New SMB2 on 3DS and SMB Wii U both have a bit more spark in the series and both are a blast to play. Zelda's has its ups and downs, but even Skyward Sword has as many supporters as it has detractors.

Don't get me wrong. I think Nintendo lost too much focus for a generation trying to plug up holes of the waggle motion controls, but even then we see games like Kid Icarus and Fire Emblem that represent the best of what Nintendo can do when they go back to basics.

If Nintendo follows the 3DS model, which is seeing a huge resurgence, for the Wii U, I honestly don't care whether it dominates the market or not, but I think we'll see some pretty decent games.

Chi Kong Lui wrote: When

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

When you factor in inflation, I think the price of what you're getting compared to the competition is justified. I don't know if Nintendo is already taking a hit on hardware sales, but Nintendo's philosophy of recycling/refreshing previous gen-tech usually works in their favor in the long run. Besides, even among Nintendo's harshest critics (which there are tons), few have complained about the price.

It doesn't matter what the critics say - it comes down to sales, and in that respect I think most consumers agree that the hardware and associated content isn't worth the price. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, $200 in 2001 (when the Gamecube launched) is worth $260 now. I have seen estimates that the tablet controller is about $100 itself. That about makes up the difference between the current price and the inflation adjusted price of the Gamecube. I agree that recycling older hardware has usually worked out in their favor. I am personally all for it since it makes the devices cheaper. My point is that I do not see $100 value in the tablet controller. I would rather pay $250 or $200 for a Nintendo system without that. They have in no way convinced me that it is something I have to have or need to be spending money on. Most people buy hardware to access the content, not for the gadgetry, and there is a severe lack of content right now.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

You can transfer over all Virtual Console purchases made on the Wii to the Wii U and play on the Wii mode so wouldn't be purchasing SMB3 over again. And I don't know if you heard, but Nintendo will allow you to upgrade previous purchased VC games on the Wii to the Wii U HD/Gamepad versions for a buck a piece. That's a pretty good value when you consider iPad owners had to shell out on average 3x as much to play HD versions of Angry Birds etc.

I don't necessarily fault Nintendo for tying licenses to hardware to prevent piracy and its rarely a problem until you have to purchase new hardware, but I do agree that Nintendo could do better. They are WAY overcharging for Virtual Console stuff. Gameboy wares should be $.99 and SNES should be $1.99. That would encourage way more purchases and take the sting out of having to re-buy stuff if necessary.

Otherwise, for standard console games, the rules of mobile distribution don't really apply. People switch up phones every one or two years. Aside from console failures, they *should* last a good 10+ years.

I am aware that you can transfer your Wii VC games to the Wii U, but it is a convoluted (my view) and time consuming process (I've heard from reliable sources). Besides, the fact that I have to go through any process at all or pay any money at all is annoying.

I reject your premise that “the rules of mobile distribution don’t really apply” because it is not "mobile" distribution, it is "digital" distribution. The two examples I gave, iTunes and Steam, aren’t tied exclusively to mobile phones. I could buy a new pc at any time - two times in one year isn't out of the realm of possibility - and Apple doesn't make me purchase all of my iTunes music YET AGAIN for $1 a piece. I can listen to my music with my PC connected to my home speaker system, or in my car through my phone. It should not be attached to the hardware as Nintendo does it! I shouldn't have to LOSE my game library every time a new console comes out. I shouldn't have to manually go through the process of paying $1 for every game I want to keep. And I still can't play the game on my 3DS or on my Wii on a different TV. I would buy TONS of VC games if Nintendo only guaranteed that I could play them on any future system. As it is, I will buy none, and I won't buy a Wii U.

And I DO fault them for being worried about piracy of VC games because-like it or not-they have to compete with piracy. Right now, it is easier and cheaper to pirate NES and SNES games and play them on any PC than it is to do it the Nintendo sanctioned way. For honest customers, it's much more of a hassle and it encourages them to pirate as an alternative.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Mario Galaxy is one of the best reviewed games of the current generation. And maybe its because I'm partly experiencing this through the eyes of my 7-year old son, but New SMB2 on 3DS and SMB Wii U both have a bit more spark in the series and both are a blast to play. Zelda's has its ups and downs, but even Skyward Sword has as many supporters as it has detractors.

Don't get me wrong. I think Nintendo lost too much focus for a generation trying to plug up holes of the waggle motion controls, but even then we see games like Kid Icarus and Fire Emblem that represent the best of what Nintendo can do when they go back to basics.

It doesn’t matter what their Metacritic score is if they aren’t causing people to run out and buy consoles so they can play the games. The fact is that most consumers don’t even know what Metacritic is, but they know what 2D Mario is. It’s interesting that Mario Galaxy gets all the high quality production values like orchestral music but the NSMB series gets the B team treatment. The music is lame, and they recycle all the same worlds from SMB3 (desert, fire, ice, water). This was acceptable for the first couple of games, but they need to bring their A game now. Zelda could be so much better than it is – in short, Demon's/Dark Souls is kind of like what Zelda should be. I mean in terms of a skeleton for gameplay structure. It of course shouldn’t be as complicated and not as dark.

I think Mario and Zelda are in a bit of a content crisis. When they aren’t remaking older games outright (Mario 64 on the DS, Ocarina on 3DS, Wind Waker on Wii U), they recycle the same content, areas, and assets (forest, fire, ice, water) in trying to recapture the magic of previous games, and tack on gameplay mechanics that involve whatever new hardware dongle they’ve dreamed up. Nearly everyone agrees that this comes off as a gimmick – shoehorning waggle, 3D, or touch into established formulas. They already did this exact thing with NSMB U. They will do it with whatever new Zelda game comes out on the Wii U.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

If Nintendo follows the 3DS model, which is seeing a huge resurgence, for the Wii U, I honestly don't care whether it dominates the market or not, but I think we'll see some pretty decent games.

The 3DS had a massive price cut soon after launch, and IIRC Nintendo was losing money on the system. You asked the question earlier, but all reports I've seen say that they are losing money on Wii U sales and hope to make up the difference in software sales. Nintendo has always made money on hardware sales until recently. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this, but it doesn't sound like a recipe for success.

I want GREAT games. I'm not coughing up $300 for access to "pretty decent games" (I realize you may be using that phrase loosely but it does not inspire confidence). I don't think Nintendo quite grasps the fact that their new systems are not only competing with competitors, but they are competing against disinterest (i.e. ME not buying their system at all and instead playing older games on older systems or on PC for much much cheaper; or ME not playing games at all and doing something else).

Odofakyodo wrote:It

Odofakyodo wrote:

It doesn't matter what the critics say - it comes down to sales, and in that respect I think most consumers agree that the hardware and associated content isn't worth the price. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, $200 in 2001 (when the Gamecube launched) is worth $260 now. I have seen estimates that the tablet controller is about $100 itself. That about makes up the difference between the current price and the inflation adjusted price of the Gamecube. I agree that recycling older hardware has usually worked out in their favor. I am personally all for it since it makes the devices cheaper. My point is that I do not see $100 value in the tablet controller. I would rather pay $250 or $200 for a Nintendo system without that. They have in no way convinced me that it is something I have to have or need to be spending money on. Most people buy hardware to access the content, not for the gadgetry, and there is a severe lack of content right now.

If the GameCube adjusted for inflation is $260, then we're getting the Gamepad for a mere $40 since the GameCube is comparable to basic 8GB Wii U edition. You originally stated that launching at $350 made no sense, but as you said, if Nintendo is losing money, the price of goods are what they are, but we agree that its not about the hardware. Its about the content and you can't justify any price point really if the content isn't there.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I am aware that you can transfer your Wii VC games to the Wii U, but it is a convoluted (my view) and time consuming process (I've heard from reliable sources). Besides, the fact that I have to go through any process at all or pay any money at all is annoying.

PS4 is giving strong indicators that there will be very little backwards compatibility and MS an unknown, but how likely do you think the same XBL games will be accessible on its next plaform? So in that regard Nintendo is hardly behind it competitors. But I know you're talking about your general digital life and I'll get to that below.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I reject your premise that “the rules of mobile distribution don’t really apply” because it is not "mobile" distribution, it is "digital" distribution. The two examples I gave, iTunes and Steam, aren’t tied exclusively to mobile phones. I could buy a new pc at any time - two times in one year isn't out of the realm of possibility - and Apple doesn't make me purchase all of my iTunes music YET AGAIN for $1 a piece. I can listen to my music with my PC connected to my home speaker system, or in my car through my phone. It should not be attached to the hardware as Nintendo does it! I shouldn't have to LOSE my game library every time a new console comes out. I shouldn't have to manually go through the process of paying $1 for every game I want to keep. And I still can't play the game on my 3DS or on my Wii on a different TV. I would buy TONS of VC games if Nintendo only guaranteed that I could play them on any future system. As it is, I will buy none, and I won't buy a Wii U.

I don't dispute that having the convenience of being to purchase once and download forever would be ideal, but when you dig deeper into the business models of consoles vs open platforms, it doesn't entirely make sense and isn't necessarily critical.

First, like I said, consoles are a completely different beast. Purchasing something that amounts to a 10-year plus license in today's technology terms isn't a bad proposition. I doubt you'd get as much mileage in a lot of other platforms which won't even exist in 10 years even if you could transfer them (excluding songs of course, but more of that later). Also expecting total cross-platform compatibility between platforms is unfair. Does your iPhone app run on your PC?

Secondly, while having unlimited download license is great for customers, its not so great for the long-term health of the platforms. Ask music publishers and artists if their thrilled that Apple is the one taking home all the bank from hardware sales while their left to divide up the pennies they get from a single life-time download.

And while Steam has moved mountains in making the PC a more viable and stable platform for games, its still the least healthy/profitable platform for developing and publishing games. You wouldn't even see half the PC games you do unless they were console ports. You ultimately pay more for console games, but that goes back to investing in the infrastructure which in turn leads to a more stable environment for games development.

Odofakyodo wrote:

It doesn’t matter what their Metacritic score is if they aren’t causing people to run out and buy consoles so they can play the games. The fact is that most consumers don’t even know what Metacritic is, but they know what 2D Mario is. It’s interesting that Mario Galaxy gets all the high quality production values like orchestral music but the NSMB series gets the B team treatment. The music is lame, and they recycle all the same worlds from SMB3 (desert, fire, ice, water). This was acceptable for the first couple of games, but they need to bring their A game now. Zelda could be so much better than it is – in short, Demon's/Dark Souls is kind of like what Zelda should be. I mean in terms of a skeleton for gameplay structure. It of course shouldn’t be as complicated and not as dark.

I never mentioned metacritic. My point was simply to indicate that the Mario Galaxy games proved that the Nintendo was still capable of producing a worthy sequel that you seem to want to ignore in portraying Nintendo as completely incompetent.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I think Mario and Zelda are in a bit of a content crisis. When they aren’t remaking older games outright (Mario 64 on the DS, Ocarina on 3DS, Wind Waker on Wii U), they recycle the same content, areas, and assets (forest, fire, ice, water) in trying to recapture the magic of previous games, and tack on gameplay mechanics that involve whatever new hardware dongle they’ve dreamed up. Nearly everyone agrees that this comes off as a gimmick – shoehorning waggle, 3D, or touch into established formulas. They already did this exact thing with NSMB U. They will do it with whatever new Zelda game comes out on the Wii U.

In previous generations, we more or less got one major sequel to Mario and Zelda for each platform. For the Wii, we got two Zeldas and two Mario Galaxies. While we can debate the success of these games, they were by no means terrible and unworthy of their namesake franchises. All the other Mario and Zelda games as far as I'm concerned is just gravy. That being said, I personally would have liked to have seen more innovation and original IPs along the lines of Pikmin and Animal Crossing from Nintendo, but you can't point to Mario and Zelda as proof that Nintendo is out of touch when those Wii games were widely considered to be really good.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I want GREAT games. I'm not coughing up $300 for access to "pretty decent games" (I realize you may be using that phrase loosely but it does not inspire confidence). I don't think Nintendo quite grasps the fact that their new systems are not only competing with competitors, but they are competing against disinterest (i.e. ME not buying their system at all and instead playing older games on older systems or on PC for much much cheaper; or ME not playing games at all and doing something else).

I always say it comes down to the games and people will pay whatever price if they want that game bad enough. We don't disagree there, but I think you're holding Nintendo to some unrealistic expectations about what it can and will produce. I mean if Mario Galaxy doesn't do it for you, then Nintendo is no longer for you, but that doesn't mean they are completely out of touch. They are just targeting a different kind of gamer like with their Pokemon games.

Chi Kong Lui wrote: If the

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

If the GameCube adjusted for inflation is $260, then we're getting the Gamepad for a mere $40 since the GameCube is comparable to basic 8GB Wii U edition. You originally stated that launching at $350 made no sense, but as you said, if Nintendo is losing money, the price of goods are what they are, but we agree that its not about the hardware. Its about the content and you can't justify any price point really if the content isn't there.

We agree that the $350 price point is just not cutting it for access to the current content (after all, Wii U sales are absolutely terrible right now). Now we can debate how much we are paying just for the controller (I would argue that the Gamecube is equivalent to at least the $350 price point since the it was the most powerful console of its generation), but the main point is that Nintendo could have shaved $100 off the price of its console by not attaching such an expensive controller to it. A controller that, in my view--and apparently to consumers at large--is not worth the extra cost.

Seriously, though, if you were Nintendo, why would you release a console that is more expensive than the Wii (by $50 - 100) in an economy that is much worse? By putting more advanced tech into their product and making it more expensive, they have moved upmarket to compete more directly with MS and Sony and abandoned more lower market consumers than they stand to gain. That just seems like a bad business move to me.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

PS4 is giving strong indicators that there will be very little backwards compatibility and MS an unknown, but how likely do you think the same XBL games will be accessible on its next plaform? So in that regard Nintendo is hardly behind it competitors. But I know you're talking about your general digital life and I'll get to that below.

These are good observations about the competitors. I can't really make solid statements about MS and Sony. Time will tell. I understand that you disagree, but I do believe that Nintendo is almost completely dropping the ball on this. I will also say that Nintendo is not only competing against MS and Sony, but it is also competing against disinterest. Most of the critics and commentators we find online are people who live and breathe gaming - they are going to buy one or more of the consoles regardless. But there is a huge segment of consumers out there who will simply not buy video games at all if all three companies fail to deliver.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I don't dispute that having the convenience of being to purchase once and download forever would be ideal, but when you dig deeper into the business models of consoles vs open platforms, it doesn't entirely make sense and isn't necessarily critical.

I guess I just disagree here. iTunes, Steam, Netflix... digital distribution is the wave of the future, and whoever gets this aspect correct will be successful. How many more virtual console games would I (or you) have purchased for $5 or $10 each if I would never have to purchase them again and I could play them on my TV or on my 3DS? I can name more than 20 games off the top of my head that I would have purchased already at those prices. How many more would you have purchased? How many more people out there are just like me (or maybe even you)?

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

First, like I said, consoles are a completely different beast. Purchasing something that amounts to a 10-year plus license in today's technology terms isn't a bad proposition. I doubt you'd get as much mileage in a lot of other platforms which won't even exist in 10 years even if you could transfer them (excluding songs of course, but more of that later). Also expecting total cross-platform compatibility between platforms is unfair. Does your iPhone app run on your PC?

What if my Wii U just breaks for some unknown reason, or the dog chews on it or my kid spills juice on it? Under the current Nintendo way, I'm SOL unless perhaps I go through an extremely painful process. I can't even fall back to my Wii.

Why does it have to be 10 years? What if I want to upgrade to the Wii U Too (tm) two years or five years after I bought my Wii U? Must I now keep two or three systems in my entertainment unit and connected to my TV? What if that is just too much trouble or I don't have the space? I want to play Mario Kart on my TV or on my 3DS on the go. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to do that and no reason why it's unfair for me to expect any of this.

This is one thing that really infuriates me about the Wii U: Nintendo spends tons of resources building a backend infrastructure for Miiverse and TVii and other nonsense that no one buys video game consoles for because Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Hulu, and GameFAQs already exist and are easily accessible on PC or smartphone. Instead, why don't they spend those resources actually building a general account system for their digital goods and make sure those digital goods work on all of their platforms. So to answer your question, no, my iPhone app does not run on my PC, but that's beside the point because Nintendo is in total control of all the hardware they put out. Putting an NES or SNES or Genesis emulator on modern console hardware is not that big of deal. It really isn't. It's not difficult and it's not expensive. But apparently mimicking superior social media products is a higher priority for Nintendo.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Secondly, while having unlimited download license is great for customers, its not so great for the long-term health of the platforms. Ask music publishers and artists if their thrilled that Apple is the one taking home all the bank from hardware sales while their left to divide up the pennies they get from a single life-time download.

But music publishers and artists have never made money on hardware sales anyway. I'm not entirely up on it, but last time I checked, musicians are still making music and iTunes was a thriving and healthy platform.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

And while Steam has moved mountains in making the PC a more viable and stable platform for games, its still the least healthy/profitable platform for developing and publishing games. You wouldn't even see half the PC games you do unless they were console ports. You ultimately pay more for console games, but that goes back to investing in the infrastructure which in turn leads to a more stable environment for games development.

I'm not saying you're wrong but what facts are you basing the judgement that Steam is the least healthy/profitable platform for developing and publishing games? That doesn't make much sense to me considering Windows is currently an open platform, PCs are generally the least constraining hardware in terms of memory and performance, PCs are easy to acquire to develop on, and Steam has very little in the way of certification requirements. Besides, how does any of that negate the fact that Steam would not be nearly as successful if the customer had to repurchase his/her games every time he got a new PC? And even if Steam what you are saying is true (it could be, I don't know), then that doesn't mean that Steam's fantastic digital distribution system actually causes unprofitability for developers. I need those dots connected.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I never mentioned metacritic. My point was simply to indicate that the Mario Galaxy games proved that the Nintendo was still capable of producing a worthy sequel that you seem to want to ignore in portraying Nintendo as completely incompetent.

In previous generations, we more or less got one major sequel to Mario and Zelda for each platform. For the Wii, we got two Zeldas and two Mario Galaxies. While we can debate the success of these games, they were by no means terrible and unworthy of their namesake franchises. All the other Mario and Zelda games as far as I'm concerned is just gravy. That being said, I personally would have liked to have seen more innovation and original IPs along the lines of Pikmin and Animal Crossing from Nintendo, but you can't point to Mario and Zelda as proof that Nintendo is out of touch when those Wii games were widely considered to be really good.

Let me explain myself. I like both Mario Galaxy games and think they are good games, but I consider them a step below SMB3 and Super Mario World. I love Zelda 1, 2, Link to the Past, and even Ocarina, but starting somewhere with Ocarina the series de-evolved into a lame PC adventure game. I could elaborate more here if you want, but my overall point is that despite how many fans of both series are out there, the series have failed to sell hardware to the level that Nintendo needs. These flagship titles that take an insane amount of resources and time to develop and should be moving 10, 20, or 30 million more units than they are. They should be killer apps that people run out to buy the consoles for. Those are the kinds of standards I've expected from Nintendo for decades.

I'm with you on the original IPs. But I honestly see it as part of the same problem within Nintendo - no matter the IP, they are having trouble generating new and interesting content, and tend to recycle their old stuff and the worlds aren't cohesive enough.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I always say it comes down to the games and people will pay whatever price if they want that game bad enough. We don't disagree there, but I think you're holding Nintendo to some unrealistic expectations about what it can and will produce. I mean if Mario Galaxy doesn't do it for you, then Nintendo is no longer for you, but that doesn't mean they are completely out of touch. They are just targeting a different kind of gamer like with their Pokemon games.

I grew up playing Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. Mario is still decently fun to me, but no longer the OMG MUST HAVE THIS game that it used to be. Zelda has fallen significantly from its former glory in my view, and after Other M is Metroid even salvageable? Maybe you're right. If Nintendo is no longer for me any more, then that is a sad state of affairs. I'm more like Peter where I see the industry in general moving away from the kinds of games I want to play and I see sales floundering. I can't help but connect the two and believe that many people out there are like me.

Odofakyodo wrote: We agree

Odofakyodo wrote:

We agree that the $350 price point is just not cutting it for access to the current content (after all, Wii U sales are absolutely terrible right now). Now we can debate how much we are paying just for the controller (I would argue that the Gamecube is equivalent to at least the $350 price point since the it was the most powerful console of its generation), but the main point is that Nintendo could have shaved $100 off the price of its console by not attaching such an expensive controller to it. A controller that, in my view--and apparently to consumers at large--is not worth the extra cost.

So if the games were there, you'd say the $300 price tag was justified, but since the games aren't, they should have junked the gamepad just to shave off $40? (Sorry, but I'm sticking with my numbers since the GameCube didn't have built-in memory of any kind and it didn't include a game either).

I like the gamepad a lot and not only is it useful for downloading updates and making eshop purchases without having to switch channels, but it also adds functional non-gimmicky touch screen gameplay elements like what we see on the DS. And playing games on the gamepad while family members can watch TV is totally relevant in today's living rooms.

Besides do you honestly see Nintendo just coming out with a plain old console box? That's just not in their DNA.

The N64 had the 3D tech, but was held back by the expensive carts. GameCube was great for games, but didn't have a standout feature to attract the mainstream. The Wii was just too gimmicky with the motion controls. As it stands, the Wii U has the best balance between tech and having a gimmick that's actually functional.

Odofakyodo wrote:

Seriously, though, if you were Nintendo, why would you release a console that is more expensive than the Wii (by $50 - 100) in an economy that is much worse? By putting more advanced tech into their product and making it more expensive, they have moved upmarket to compete more directly with MS and Sony and abandoned more lower market consumers than they stand to gain. That just seems like a bad business move to me.

When you see MS and Sony come out with their next platforms, they will be significantly higher than the Wii U and by then, I'd expect to see a price drop from Nintendo to further emphasize the difference.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I guess I just disagree here. iTunes, Steam, Netflix... digital distribution is the wave of the future, and whoever gets this aspect correct will be successful. How many more virtual console games would I (or you) have purchased for $5 or $10 each if I would never have to purchase them again and I could play them on my TV or on my 3DS? I can name more than 20 games off the top of my head that I would have purchased already at those prices. How many more would you have purchased? How many more people out there are just like me (or maybe even you)?

I agree that there's missed opportunity here, but its not because people want perpetual rights to their purchases. Do you honestly believe people wouldn't buy the next iPad and/or iPhone if they had to repurchase their apps? The thought probably doesn't even cross the average consumers mind. The issue as I said before is just cost. Nintendo just needs to lower the price to be more competitive.

Odofakyodo wrote:

What if my Wii U just breaks for some unknown reason, or the dog chews on it or my kid spills juice on it? Under the current Nintendo way, I'm SOL unless perhaps I go through an extremely painful process. I can't even fall back to my Wii.

Why does it have to be 10 years? What if I want to upgrade to the Wii U Too (tm) two years or five years after I bought my Wii U? Must I now keep two or three systems in my entertainment unit and connected to my TV? What if that is just too much trouble or I don't have the space? I want to play Mario Kart on my TV or on my 3DS on the go. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to do that and no reason why it's unfair for me to expect any of this.

When I upgraded from original 3DS to the XL, I transferred all my digital purchases to the new system. The same would apply if you system failed and you had to send it in. Nintendo would do the transfer for you. Its not a perfect system and non-hardware accounts would be ideal, but its far from a deal breaker. Heck even RROD couldn't kill the 360 and you think the hassle of having to transfer content is deal breaker for folks?

What's interesting is the recent development team restructuring that happened at Nintendo so that the teams could work more closely on cross-platform projects and we're already seeing that come into play with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for 3DS and Wii U. So I'm not sure this will result in universal Virtual Console rights, but I think Nintendo is slowly getting it and perhaps we'll see more progress than you think.

Odofakyodo wrote:

This is one thing that really infuriates me about the Wii U: Nintendo spends tons of resources building a backend infrastructure for Miiverse and TVii and other nonsense that no one buys video game consoles for because Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Hulu, and GameFAQs already exist and are easily accessible on PC or smartphone. Instead, why don't they spend those resources actually building a general account system for their digital goods and make sure those digital goods work on all of their platforms. So to answer your question, no, my iPhone app does not run on my PC, but that's beside the point because Nintendo is in total control of all the hardware they put out. Putting an NES or SNES or Genesis emulator on modern console hardware is not that big of deal. It really isn't. It's not difficult and it's not expensive. But apparently mimicking superior social media products is a higher priority for Nintendo.

I don't think you're giving Nintendo enough credit here. We know publishers *HATE* used games because it deprives them of revenue. The fact that Nintendo is even allowing the transfer of purchases to the newer system, is in a lot of ways more consumer-friendly than the majority of the industry.

Odofakyodo wrote:

But music publishers and artists have never made money on hardware sales anyway. I'm not entirely up on it, but last time I checked, musicians are still making music and iTunes was a thriving and healthy platform.

The music industry has no one to blame, but themselves on dropping the digital distribution ball, but its always been a love-hate relationship between Apple and the recording industry. I think the music industry would argue that its a "healthy" platform for them.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I'm not saying you're wrong but what facts are you basing the judgement that Steam is the least healthy/profitable platform for developing and publishing games? That doesn't make much sense to me considering Windows is currently an open platform, PCs are generally the least constraining hardware in terms of memory and performance, PCs are easy to acquire to develop on, and Steam has very little in the way of certification requirements. Besides, how does any of that negate the fact that Steam would not be nearly as successful if the customer had to repurchase his/her games every time he got a new PC? And even if Steam what you are saying is true (it could be, I don't know), then that doesn't mean that Steam's fantastic digital distribution system actually causes unprofitability for developers. I need those dots connected.

I don't have research to back this up, but if PC games outsold console games, GameStop would be 98% PC games instead of vice versa. Open platforms with few standards drive up development costs and reduce adoption rates. Rampant piracy doesn't help either I'd imagine. When triple A titles go on sale on Steam for $4.99, how much money do you think publishers and developers are actually making? That's not a lot to go around when you consider rising development costs. PC gaming with its expensive upgrades are still very much a niche proposition. Steam has gone a long way in making it a more stable platform and providing a service, but doesn't change any of the previously mentioned barriers of entry.

I'll have to discuss your other points in another comment at another time. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion!

Wii U Gamepad

This is a real interesting discussion, thanks guys. Overall, I agree with Peter and Odofakyodo's viewpoints on the current situation of gaming, but I'd like to throw out some thoughts below about the Wii U:

There are two main reasons the Wii U gamepad is intended to differentiate itself from the other consoles. First, it allows you to play console games on the gamepad so that the main TV can be used for other things. You have to admit, Nintendo seemed so proud of this at the E3 reveal over a year ago. Remember "Hey, it's time to watch some baseball" -- *click*? It is funny that the PS4 has essentially co-opted this feature with Remote Play to the Vita. How many people were actually clamoring for this type of thing anyways? Enough to base an entire console around it? It's such a trivial thing that it seems quite possible in the past year and a half, after getting the idea from Nintendo, Sony decided to just tack it on to their next console along with everything else they were doing with the PS4. And not only did Sony straight up co-opt the feature, they did it better. Households that actually have a problem with people sharing the main TV most likely already have some sort of dedicated handheld gaming device anyways, so why not just let them transfer games directly to that? Given the choice, I'd rather transfer a game I'm currently playing to a dedicated handheld device than something that is merely a "gamepad".

The second way that the Wii U gamepad is supposed to be a system seller is that it allows for "asymmetric gameplay". This is another area -- along with digital distribution -- that Nintendo seems behind the times. I see what they are attempting to do with the whole "asymmetric" angle, but the problem is that there is already something in the world of gaming that allows for asymmetric experiences. Nintendo doesn't seem to be aware that there is this phenomenon that has been going for over a decade now with such things as Ultima Online and Battle.net that allows gamers from completely different locations to play together yet each see something different on their own full-sized TV screens. That phenomenon is called "networking". Nintendo insists on re-inventing things in its own way -- Mii-verse is another example (Odofakyodo is spot on about this.) Nintendo is trying to re-invent social networking, thinking it can do social networking better than such things as Facebook when it is five years behind -- re-inventing features for which nobody was asking and by which nobody is going to be influenced to a great degree to run out and make a purchase. Why can't Nintendo focus on improving its internet play instead of basing their new console on a feature that forces people to be in the same room in order to get the full "asymmetric" experience for which they are paying supposedly?

Lastly, the Wii U gamepad adds to the cost of the console. I know Chi says that it is worth $40, but I remember hearing or reading a rumor somewhere that it is going to be offered to purchase separately for $100. I don't know how much truth there is to that rumor, but for Pete's sake the thing has it's own touch screen, you know it has to be expensive! Personally I think it will cost closer to $100 than $40. If Nintendo ends up selling it for $100 then it's fair to say that you could split the difference and say that if they just used a "normal" controller -- That is, a controller with no expensive gimmicks in its design -- it would shave off about $70 off the price of the console. That's not insignificant.

The Wii U gamepad is extraneous and unnecessary. It makes the Wii U seem like some strange chimera of a mobile device and a console. What does it really offer? I just don't "get" the Wii U. I know I sound like a Nintendo hater, but I also grew up on the NES & SNES, which by the way were based not on any gimmicks but on an incredible library of games. I do own a Wii and I did own a Gamecude and N64, but with the declining level of quality games (or game quality?) and content over the past couple of generations, and the increasing focus on gimmicks, I don't feel like I've left Nintendo behind, I feel like Nintendo has left me.

Kid Icarus is our savior!

Odofakyodo wrote:

Let me explain myself. I like both Mario Galaxy games and think they are good games, but I consider them a step below SMB3 and Super Mario World. I love Zelda 1, 2, Link to the Past, and even Ocarina, but starting somewhere with Ocarina the series de-evolved into a lame PC adventure game. I could elaborate more here if you want, but my overall point is that despite how many fans of both series are out there, the series have failed to sell hardware to the level that Nintendo needs. These flagship titles that take an insane amount of resources and time to develop and should be moving 10, 20, or 30 million more units than they are. They should be killer apps that people run out to buy the consoles for. Those are the kinds of standards I've expected from Nintendo for decades.

Twilight Princess is the best-selling Zelda game of all-time at 8.1 million sold. Between the Wii and DS, Nintendo has dominated its competitors and has outsold all its own previous platforms including the NES and SNES. So you can't really use sales numbers to justify your point (nor do high sales indicate good quality), but as someone who grew up on this stuff and also feels like these games are no longer for me, I get where you are coming from.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I grew up playing Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. Mario is still decently fun to me, but no longer the OMG MUST HAVE THIS game that it used to be. Zelda has fallen significantly from its former glory in my view, and after Other M is Metroid even salvageable? Maybe you're right. If Nintendo is no longer for me any more, then that is a sad state of affairs. I'm more like Peter where I see the industry in general moving away from the kinds of games I want to play and I see sales floundering. I can't help but connect the two and believe that many people out there are like me.

Have you played Kid Icarus: Uprising? I think its brilliant in the way to combines past and present styles of gameplay into truly unique hybrid. I think that's really the first Nintendo game in long time that really spoke to me as an adult gamer that grew up on Nintendo, but expects them to evolve with me to some degree. That game really gives me hope now that Nintendo doesn't have to worry about fixing waggle, it can get back to business of perhaps updating their franchises proper.

Wiggly Squid wrote: How

Wiggly Squid wrote:

How many people were actually clamoring for this type of thing anyways? Enough to base an entire console around it? It's such a trivial thing that it seems quite possible in the past year and a half, after getting the idea from Nintendo, Sony decided to just tack it on to their next console along with everything else they were doing with the PS4.

The thing is while the gamepad is key selling feature, the console isn't entirely based on that one feature the way the Wii was almost solely tethered to waggle. Like the glasses-less 3D feature of the 3DS, you don't have to use it and it can still function perfectly fine as a more standard game console. Nintendo is already making a stronger push for its Pro Controller with the ZombieU bundle. That gives me hope that we'll see less gimmicks and better gameplay.

Wiggly Squid wrote:

And not only did Sony straight up co-opt the feature, they did it better. Households that actually have a problem with people sharing the main TV most likely already have some sort of dedicated handheld gaming device anyways, so why not just let them transfer games directly to that? Given the choice, I'd rather transfer a game I'm currently playing to a dedicated handheld device than something that is merely a "gamepad".

How many people do you think will actually shell out an additional $200+ for a Vita. Lord knows how much PS4 will launch for. As for transferring data, its already a major pain in the ass for me to sync my iPod shuffle for new music/playlists in the morning when I'm rushing out to work. Last thing I want to worry about is waiting for syncing content nor do I want to play the exact same kinds of games that I do at home when I'm on the bus.

Wiggly Squid wrote:

Nintendo doesn't seem to be aware that there is this phenomenon that has been going for over a decade now with such things as Ultima Online and Battle.net that allows gamers from completely different locations to play together yet each see something different on their own full-sized TV screens. That phenomenon is called "networking".

For the vast majority of families out there that want to couch-game together, networking doesn't really apply.

Wiggly Squid wrote:

Lastly, the Wii U gamepad adds to the cost of the console. I know Chi says that it is worth $40, but I remember hearing or reading a rumor somewhere that it is going to be offered to purchase separately for $100. I don't know how much truth there is to that rumor, but for Pete's sake the thing has it's own touch screen, you know it has to be expensive! Personally I think it will cost closer to $100 than $40. If Nintendo ends up selling it for $100 then it's fair to say that you could split the difference and say that if they just used a "normal" controller -- That is, a controller with no expensive gimmicks in its design -- it would shave off about $70 off the price of the console. That's not insignificant.

I didn't say that the Wii U Gamepad is worth $40 exactly. Odofakyodo suggested that the Wii U is way too expensive and that the gamepad unnecessarily drove up costs and that the Wii U should have launched at $200 similar to the GameCube. Once we factored in inflation and determined the GameCube would cost $260 today, I suggested that it was only costing us an additional $40 to get the Gamepad since the basic 8GB version of the Wii U is more comparable to the original GameCube that didn't include a game and/or storage space. How much cheaper would the Wii U be without the Gamepad? We'll never know exactly, but I think the debate isn't necessary since we aren't paying too much it with the current bundles.

If the Gamepad was sold separately, I suspect it would cost $100+ at retail.

Wiggly Squid wrote:

The Wii U gamepad is extraneous and unnecessary. It makes the Wii U seem like some strange chimera of a mobile device and a console. What does it really offer? I just don't "get" the Wii U. I know I sound like a Nintendo hater, but I also grew up on the NES & SNES, which by the way were based not on any gimmicks but on an incredible library of games. I do own a Wii and I did own a Gamecude and N64, but with the declining level of quality games (or game quality?) and content over the past couple of generations, and the increasing focus on gimmicks, I don't feel like I've left Nintendo behind, I feel like Nintendo has left me.

I hate to sound like a Nintendo sock-puppet, but it really is something that needs to be experienced before you decide its useless. I don't think its anything revolutionary and/or industry changing, but its certainly a nice feature to have and in addition to the uses that I already mentioned, I do think it will help actual gameplay in a functional sense.

Zelda Sales

It should be noted that Skyward Sword sales are pretty low (on par with Spirit tracks!) and show a incredible shinking of the Zelda audience. Twilight Princess being multiplatform and one of the few launch titles for the Wii, I don't think it's fair to use it as an indicator of Zelda fatigue. If you look at all other titles, it's downhill since Ocarina.

I still think the Wii U is awesome - playing ZombiU right now and loving the Gamepad.

Chi Kong Lui wrote: So if

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

So if the games were there, you'd say the $300 price tag was justified, but since the games aren't, they should have junked the gamepad just to shave off $40? (Sorry, but I'm sticking with my numbers since the GameCube didn't have built-in memory of any kind and it didn't include a game either).

I like the gamepad a lot and not only is it useful for downloading updates and making eshop purchases without having to switch channels, but it also adds functional non-gimmicky touch screen gameplay elements like what we see on the DS. And playing games on the gamepad while family members can watch TV is totally relevant in today's living rooms.

The reason I mentioned the Gamecube's price was not to attempt to derive the cost of the Wii U gamepad. I brought it up was to convey these undeniable facts: 1) The Wii U is more expensive than the Gamecube and the Wii. 2) The economy is currently worse than it was a decade ago. Given these facts, my own judgement is that this is a questionable business decision.

As to the price of the gamepad itself, I just did a Google search for "Wii U Controller Price" and the top two links about that (aside from the Amazon Pro Controller page) list the cost of an individual Wii U gamepad as $145 and $172.

http://wiiudaily.com/2012/12/first-retailer-to-sell-the-wii-u-gamepad-individually/
http://kotaku.com/5942876/the-wii-us-controllers-are-really-expensive

The point is that the controller is really expensive and that they could have dropped the screen and at the same time dropped the price of the system by at least $100. This would have alleviated what I believe is a very real price concern for most consumers.

As far as the controller's usefulness goes, I'll concede that the touch screen controller is more functional than say, stereoscopic 3D. However, and you obviously disagree, Chi, but I think sales show that most people the extra functionality does not merit the extra cost (if the above links are accurate, then we're talking nearly HALF the price of the entire system!).

Now personally, I have played other couch-based "asymmetric" gameplay back when Nintendo called it "connectivity" using the Gamecube-GBA link. These games were Pac Man Vs, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, and Zelda: Four Swords. All of those games were fun but only one of them, Pac Man Vs, really needed the extra screen.

Based on this prior experience, I haven't seen compelling enough examples of why I should pony up for the gamepad. That doesn't mean they won't show up in the future, but I feel a bit burned by the Wii because Nintendo failed to deliver enough quality games. Like many people, my Wii has been gathering dust for years.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Besides do you honestly see Nintendo just coming out with a plain old console box? That's just not in their DNA.

http://iwataasks.nintendo.com/interviews/#/3ds/how-nintendo-3ds-made/4/0

In the above Iwata Asks episode, it is revealed that Hiroshi Yamauchi said "The hardware is just a box you buy only because you want to play games which run on the hardware." So yes, I do believe it is in their DNA somewhere. It was done with the NES and the SNES. And I am hoping against all indications that Nintendo will be like Darth Vader, turn from the dark side, and get back to making a cheap box with a controller that plays some kickass games.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

When you see MS and Sony come out with their next platforms, they will be significantly higher than the Wii U and by then, I'd expect to see a price drop from Nintendo to further emphasize the difference.

True. At that point we'll see what the price of the systems are and what the game libraries are like. I should note that the Wii was the only console since the SNES that I paid full price for. I will hold Sony and MS to the same standards as Nintendo. Apparently Jack Tretton didn't even flinch when it was suggested that the PS4 might cost $600, which I find incredibly amusing. Isn't that what the PS3 cost when it was launched? We all know how that turned out for Sony. I'm not as eager as Mr. Squid seems to be to pay over $800 to play PS4 games on a Vita.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I agree that there's missed opportunity here, but its not because people want perpetual rights to their purchases. Do you honestly believe people wouldn't buy the next iPad and/or iPhone if they had to repurchase their apps? The thought probably doesn't even cross the average consumers mind. The issue as I said before is just cost. Nintendo just needs to lower the price to be more competitive.

I mean this in a friendly way but... that's just crazy talk! :) Of course people want to own their games indefinitely! It's been the dominant business model for just about any product since the beginning of time. People don't think about it now because it's not an issue. If they had to repurchase their iPhone apps, I think a significant amount of people would switch to an Android phone, and even more people would just purchase far fewer apps.

Obviously this is anecdotal, but I've known more than one person who was pissed because he couldn't play his music that he purchased on CDs years ago on his iPod. It sounds ignorant, and I'm not saying that particular case is justified, but the point is that people view digital content as a tangible thing that they have in their possession and the natural expectation is to be able to keep it forever.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

When I upgraded from original 3DS to the XL, I transferred all my digital purchases to the new system. The same would apply if you system failed and you had to send it in. Nintendo would do the transfer for you. Its not a perfect system and non-hardware accounts would be ideal, but its far from a deal breaker. Heck even RROD couldn't kill the 360 and you think the hassle of having to transfer content is deal breaker for folks?

The RROD had a huge impact on MS's bottom line even if the console didn't die. I know some people who didn't replace their console and won't be an XBox customer for the foreseeable future, and I know some people who didn't buy an XBox or waited a long time to get one because of the RROD.

But regardless, the transfer thing is not a deal breaker, no. It's not as important an issue as simply being able to access my game library on any Nintendo console, but still annoying.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I don't think you're giving Nintendo enough credit here. We know publishers *HATE* used games because it deprives them of revenue. The fact that Nintendo is even allowing the transfer of purchases to the newer system, is in a lot of ways more consumer-friendly than the majority of the industry.

I'm not sure what used games has to do with this. I'm talking about my relationship as a customer to Nintendo and the digital goods Nintendo is selling. I'm not asking to be able to sell my games after buying them. I just want to build a library of games and feel secure that I will be able to access them on any Nintendo platform they ever create until the world ends or the company collapses. I don't think that's unreasonable.

I'm not operating from a standpoint of "I'm going to buy a game console this generation. It's just a matter of which one." I'm operating from the standpoint of "I may not actually buy a home console this generation because I don't think any of them are worth the money." So it doesn't matter if Nintendo is slightly better than MS and Sony if I think my money will be better spent on something other than Nintendo games.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I don't have research to back this up, but if PC games outsold console games, GameStop would be 98% PC games instead of vice versa. Open platforms with few standards drive up development costs and reduce adoption rates. Rampant piracy doesn't help either I'd imagine. When triple A titles go on sale on Steam for $4.99, how much money do you think publishers and developers are actually making? That's not a lot to go around when you consider rising development costs. PC gaming with its expensive upgrades are still very much a niche proposition. Steam has gone a long way in making it a more stable platform and providing a service, but doesn't change any of the previously mentioned barriers of entry.

I'm still not sure how open platforms make development inherently more expensive. I know for a fact that it is far easier and cheaper for me to make a game and put it on Steam than it is to put the same game on 3DS. And for piracy, it is just as easy--if not easier--to pirate NES, SNES, and Genesis games than it is to pirate the latest and greatest AAA title that comes to Steam. However, there are plenty of developers from indie to AAA, that are making money selling games on Steam. If they weren't, then they wouldn't do it! In any event, these are all arguments for choosing console gaming over PC gaming; they are NOT arguments against a company having an account system that is not tied to hardware.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Twilight Princess is the best-selling Zelda game of all-time at 8.1 million sold. Between the Wii and DS, Nintendo has dominated its competitors and has outsold all its own previous platforms including the NES and SNES. So you can't really use sales numbers to justify your point (nor do high sales indicate good quality), but as someone who grew up on this stuff and also feels like these games are no longer for me, I get where you are coming from.

All other things being equal, higher sales indicate better value for the money spent. That's what matters in the real world. We can't just look at sales numbers in a vacuum, though.

Let's compare Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (the so-called "black sheep" of the franchise) to Twilight Princess. Twilight Princess has the advantage of having 25% greater U.S. population. The median household income in the U.S. is also 10% greater for Twilight Princess than for Zelda II. Then you have to consider things like marketing budget, where Twilight Princess was hyped and marketed for a few years whereas Zelda 2 was released a mere year after the original. Then there were cartridge shortages which occurred in 1988. Of course Twilight Princess was also released on two different platforms. Then you have to consider that there is precious little competition on the Wii and Gamecube for fantasy-adventure-RPG games whereas there were many on the NES. Then consider the incredibly high development costs for modern Zelda games, the fact that Wind Waker is about equal with Zelda 2 in sales, and Skyward Sword probably isn't even going to beat it. If these games didn't have the Zelda IP and full weight of Nintendo behind them, how much would they really sell? Or would they simply be another Okami whose studio was shut down.

You say that you grew up on this stuff but that the games are no longer for you. But would you not agree that they *could* be? Is it that we've grown up and changed so much, or that the games have stopped evolving, staying fresh, and building interesting worlds? Was SMB3 "kiddie" or was original Zelda "kiddie"? I think they appealed to adults as well as kids.

Mario used to have a cohesive world where they expanded the universe with every installment. Now it's "OK here's the ice world again". Zelda used to be fresh with every new installment. Now it's "OK I wonder how they are going to do the Fire Temple this time." They're afraid to let players go off and really explore dangerous areas, lose, and do things out of order.

This is on reason players love Dark Souls so much. You're allowed to explore and fail and do things "out of order". On my first playthrough, I beat Great Grey Wolf Sif before I beat Anor Londo and even before the Moonlight Butterfly (somehow I missed the path next to the sealed door!). It sounds wacky to me now, but I swear that's what I did. The game respects you and doesn't hold your hand. Kind of like how Zelda used to be.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Have you played Kid Icarus: Uprising? I think its brilliant in the way to combines past and present styles of gameplay into truly unique hybrid. I think that's really the first Nintendo game in long time that really spoke to me as an adult gamer that grew up on Nintendo, but expects them to evolve with me to some degree. That game really gives me hope now that Nintendo doesn't have to worry about fixing waggle, it can get back to business of perhaps updating their franchises proper.

I started to play an Uprising demo at PAX a year or two ago I think, and I couldn't get past the bad dialogue and voice acting. It's too kiddie for me. Maybe I'll try borrowing it and check it out.

Odofakyodo wrote: The

Odofakyodo wrote:

The reason I mentioned the Gamecube's price was not to attempt to derive the cost of the Wii U gamepad. I brought it up was to convey these undeniable facts: 1) The Wii U is more expensive than the Gamecube and the Wii. 2) The economy is currently worse than it was a decade ago. Given these facts, my own judgement is that this is a questionable business decision.

I wasn't trying to determine the actual cost of the Gamepad either. I just don't think a $40 difference in the case the GameCube (considering what you get in return for the difference) and $15 dollar with the Wii (adjusted for inflation) is going to make a substantial difference with consumers regardless of the economy. We both agreed it was ultimately about the games library. You could make the case that Nintendo should have gone entirely in a different direction and/or not launched a console in this economy, but that's a different discussion.

Odofakyodo wrote:

In the above Iwata Asks episode, it is revealed that Hiroshi Yamauchi said "The hardware is just a box you buy only because you want to play games which run on the hardware." So yes, I do believe it is in their DNA somewhere. It was done with the NES and the SNES. And I am hoping against all indications that Nintendo will be like Darth Vader, turn from the dark side, and get back to making a cheap box with a controller that plays some kickass games.

Dude even Miyamoto and Iwata were laughing at the lack of context and gross simplification of Nintendo's business model and philosophy in the quote. Yes, they live off of the razor blade model, but at every iteration, Nintendo has always tried to innovate and/or create gimmicks to separate itself from its competitors. With the NES it was the R.O.B.. With the SNES it was the Mode 7 scaling. With the N64, it was the 3D anti-aliasing and batarang controller. GameCube was really the most generic platform they ever put out and in Nintendo's mind, sold the worst as a result.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I mean this in a friendly way but... that's just crazy talk! :) Of course people want to own their games indefinitely! It's been the dominant business model for just about any product since the beginning of time. People don't think about it now because it's not an issue. If they had to repurchase their iPhone apps, I think a significant amount of people would switch to an Android phone, and even more people would just purchase far fewer apps.

What people actually want and what they are willing to pay for aren't mutually exclusive. To illustrate my point, if we found out that you couldn't redownload software on iPhone and iPads, how much do you think sales would go down by? I'd venture to guess around 5 to 10%. So I agree that its a factor, but not to the extent that you believe its hurting Nintendo in a big way and clearly its something that Nintendo is willing to risk.

Odofakyodo wrote:

But regardless, the transfer thing is not a deal breaker, no. It's not as important an issue as simply being able to access my game library on any Nintendo console, but still annoying.

I'd be more inclined to agree when Nintendo platforms are actually designed to interact with each and that day may be coming. When that day comes, I'll take them to task if I don't think it works, but for now, I don't have such expectation.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I'm not sure what used games has to do with this. I'm talking about my relationship as a customer to Nintendo and the digital goods Nintendo is selling. I'm not asking to be able to sell my games after buying them. I just want to build a library of games and feel secure that I will be able to access them on any Nintendo platform they ever create until the world ends or the company collapses. I don't think that's unreasonable.

Don't read too much into the used game mention. I brought it up to merely point at the anti-consumer direction the industry is heading towards and that Nintendo is bucking that to some degree.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I'm still not sure how open platforms make development inherently more expensive. I know for a fact that it is far easier and cheaper for me to make a game and put it on Steam than it is to put the same game on 3DS. And for piracy, it is just as easy--if not easier--to pirate NES, SNES, and Genesis games than it is to pirate the latest and greatest AAA title that comes to Steam. However, there are plenty of developers from indie to AAA, that are making money selling games on Steam. If they weren't, then they wouldn't do it! In any event, these are all arguments for choosing console gaming over PC gaming; they are NOT arguments against a company having an account system that is not tied to hardware.

Yeah, we're getting a little derailed here. It isn't so much how much games cost to make, but how much games actually sell/profit from their respective platforms. You originally used Apple and Steam models to prove that Nintendo can thrive using similar models, but its comparing apples to oranges. We know Steam provides an excellent service, but that's not the same as saying its a healthy ecosystem for developers/publishers. Case in point, do you think you could make Uncharted 3 as a PC exclusive and expect to see the kind of returns you see on consoles. I don't fully understand how it all works either, but its plain to see from just observation that PC games don't sell as well as console games unless its an MMO.

Odofakyodo wrote:

Let's compare Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (the so-called "black sheep" of the franchise) to Twilight Princess. Twilight Princess has the advantage of having 25% greater U.S. population. The median household income in the U.S. is also 10% greater for Twilight Princess than for Zelda II. Then you have to consider things like marketing budget, where Twilight Princess was hyped and marketed for a few years whereas Zelda 2 was released a mere year after the original. Then there were cartridge shortages which occurred in 1988. Of course Twilight Princess was also released on two different platforms. Then you have to consider that there is precious little competition on the Wii and Gamecube for fantasy-adventure-RPG games whereas there were many on the NES. Then consider the incredibly high development costs for modern Zelda games, the fact that Wind Waker is about equal with Zelda 2 in sales, and Skyward Sword probably isn't even going to beat it. If these games didn't have the Zelda IP and full weight of Nintendo behind them, how much would they really sell? Or would they simply be another Okami whose studio was shut down.

Everything you said here may be the true, but ultimately it doesn't prove your point that Nintendo is out of touch and isn't reaching its audience when the numbers tell quite another dramatic story. As much as I would like Nintendo to refocus back on more core gameplay mechanics, I can't fault them for running the Wii-racehorse to the ground.

Odofakyodo wrote:

You say that you grew up on this stuff but that the games are no longer for you. But would you not agree that they *could* be? Is it that we've grown up and changed so much, or that the games have stopped evolving, staying fresh, and building interesting worlds? Was SMB3 "kiddie" or was original Zelda "kiddie"? I think they appealed to adults as well as kids.

I'm not one to overly speculate on what could have been. I prefer introspection and as I said, I can't fault for Nintendo for playing a winning hand even if it felt a bit like they tossed aside those that help make them what they are. From a historical perspective, I think history will prove that Nintendo got overly distracted with "waggle" as sort of a fool's gold.

Odofakyodo wrote:

Mario used to have a cohesive world where they expanded the universe with every installment. Now it's "OK here's the ice world again". Zelda used to be fresh with every new installment. Now it's "OK I wonder how they are going to do the Fire Temple this time." They're afraid to let players go off and really explore dangerous areas, lose, and do things out of order.

First, you could say this creative stagnation plagues the entire industry as a whole, but we hold Nintendo with such reverence that we some how think its their responsibility to light the way (and they did as far as capturing casual gamers).

Can you imagine if the Wii didn't exist? It would have looked like a blood bath where Apple ate the console's breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I started to play an Uprising demo at PAX a year or two ago I think, and I couldn't get past the bad dialogue and voice acting. It's too kiddie for me. Maybe I'll try borrowing it and check it out.

I'm not kidding when I say the voice-acting in Uprising may be the best I've experienced up to this point in video games. And it's largely a family affair, there is slightly darker and sexier tone for Nintendo.

Chi and Odofakyodo wrote:

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

How many people do you think will actually shell out an additional $200+ for a Vita. Lord knows how much PS4 will launch for. As for transferring data, its already a major pain in the ass for me to sync my iPod shuffle for new music/playlists in the morning when I'm rushing out to work. Last thing I want to worry about is waiting for syncing content nor do I want to play the exact same kinds of games that I do at home when I'm on the bus.

Odofakyodo wrote:

Apparently Jack Tretton didn't even flinch when it was suggested that the PS4 might cost $600, which I find incredibly amusing. Isn't that what the PS3 cost when it was launched? We all know how that turned out for Sony. I'm not as eager as Mr. Squid seems to be to pay over $800 to play PS4 games on a Vita.

The PS4 will be pricey. However, I am only using the PS4 as an example of how Nintendo should have handled the feature/function that the gamepad performs. Let's ignore Sony for a second. We know at this point Nintendo had at least two choices when dealing with this "share the TV" issue: The first option was to sync the WiiU console with the screen on a special gamepad. The second option was for Nintendo to sync the console with its current-gen dedicated handheld.

The price difference in the two options is the price of the WiiU Gamepad ($100+, $125?, $150? In my cursory internet search I'm getting prices at least $140) v. the price of the 3DS ($169). So in theory for a marginal price difference the customer could have had a device that synced with the console (in the event you had to "share the TV") plus all the benefits of having a dedicated handheld (with two screens, one of which is stereoscopic). How many customers would have liked to have that option? How many existing 3DS customers would have rather had that option? I know which option I'd pick, and all I'm saying is that Sony implemented the feature better by syncing the console with its current-gen handheld.

Also, just because your handheld can sync with your console doesn't mean you are limited to console only games. So you don't have to wait around before rushing out the door and you can still play exactly the "kinds of games" you would like to play "on the bus".

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Dude even Miyamoto and Iwata were laughing at the lack of context and gross simplification of Nintendo's business model and philosophy in the quote. Yes, they live off of the razor blade model, but at every iteration, Nintendo has always tried to innovate and/or create gimmicks to separate itself from its competitors. With the NES it was the R.O.B.. With the SNES it was the Mode 7 scaling. With the N64, it was the 3D anti-aliasing and batarang controller. GameCube was really the most generic platform they ever put out and in Nintendo's mind, sold the worst as a result.

I respectfully strongly disagree, Nintendo has not always tried to separate itself with a gimmick. Gimmicks were absolutely not why the original NES was a hit. The NES had virtually no competition from which to separate itself, and it was marketed as bringing the arcade experience to the home. The Legend of Zelda was marketed as an arcade-RPG (no mention of "puzzles"!). I have this poster on my wall at work; it is typical of the advertising at the time, showing how the system had tons of awesome games. Yes the poster shows R.O.B., but he is at the bottom, and the games are displayed prominently at the top with descriptions of each. I think the only mention of R.O.B. is in the description under Gyromite. As far as the ad is concerned R.O.B. is just some cool-looking robot (well, cool for the 80's).

The game library sold the NES, and the same can be said about the SNES. I don't remember any advertising from back then that used the "Mode 7" term, and I bet at least half the people who owned a SNES don't even know what "Mode 7" is. Here are ten SNES commercials. I do remember the "Super FX" chip and I don't think that is the same thing. No mention of Mode 7 in those commercials, not even in Super Mario Kart. Mode 7 is basically just "better graphics", and if better graphics are a gimmick then I guess every single console ever made is based on a gimmick.

I think the gimmick stuff started around the N64 era, but just for kicks let's compare the Mario commercials of yesterday and today:

"Super Mario World commercial" first YouTube hit.
This commerical talks about action, levels, characters, graphics, sounds, worlds, and challenges. It shows tons of gameplay full screen and it even shows a clip from the end of the game! Also the end of the ad shows SMW at the forefront of a very long line of games.

"New Super Mario Bros U commercial" first YouTube hit (I think this is the launch commercial.)
This ad is all about the gamepad. It opens with a comment about the gamepad and placing a block. There are so many quick cuts and shots that focus on the gamepad that I had to watch it three times before I really saw what was going on on screen. It talks about new powerups and new challenges, but it doesn't show anything! Instead it shows a quick closeup of a kid with gamepad in your face. The last thing in the commercial is a little boy getting kicked off the HDTV by his snotty big sister who wants to watch High School Musical or some other garbage. How lame! DVR that crap sis! Horrible marketing. It says, "Here buy our HD console so you can't play it on the HDTV TV."

There is a clear difference in advertising here. Past Nintendo focused on the content of the games, but present-day Nintendo's marketing is clearly on the gimmick (gamepad).

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

First, you could say this creative stagnation plagues the entire industry as a whole, but we hold Nintendo with such reverence that we some how think its their responsibility to light the way (and they did as far as capturing casual gamers).

I do agree with this wholeheartedly. It's not only Nintendo, but the entire industry suffering from content stagnation, and I mostly mean that in reference to game mechanics, but that's a whole other discussion I guess. It is frustrating that Nintendo clearly knows how to correct course but I don't think it's going to do it since the new console is based on a gimmick. I do think something changed between the SNES-N64 eras, perhaps when Yamauchi left, and it did hit on something with the Wii's early days. My prediction is that as long as Nintendo stays focused on the gimmicks the WiiU will continue to stumble. My understanding is that Nintendo is losing money on hardware sales. Nintendo, drop the gimmicks, let us purchase the WiiU without the gamepad (or any of that other MiiVerse nonsense), and shave $100+ off the price of the console or bundle in an extra game or two.

Ugh, well I was going to comment on "kiddie" games but I've ranted long enough :)

Wiggly Squid wrote:The

Wiggly Squid wrote:

The price difference in the two options is the price of the WiiU Gamepad ($100+, $125?, $150? In my cursory internet search I'm getting prices at least $140) v. the price of the 3DS ($169). So in theory for a marginal price difference the customer could have had a device that synced with the console (in the event you had to "share the TV") plus all the benefits of having a dedicated handheld (with two screens, one of which is stereoscopic). How many customers would have liked to have that option? How many existing 3DS customers would have rather had that option? I know which option I'd pick, and all I'm saying is that Sony implemented the feature better by syncing the console with its current-gen handheld.

Saying Sony has the better solution is bit pushing it when how many games right now are actually utilizing the feature? Based on the Vita commercials, I think the MLB game does, but outside of this and I think All-Stars, I can't think of another games that uses it. And moving forward, how many other developers are going to use it when its optional? Historically speaking, you can expect low adoption rates.

Second, this is why Nintendo is correct when saying you have to experience it first. There is a HUGE difference in what the Wii U gamepad does in technology and experience by instantly streaming video to the gamepad vs. sharing a save game file.

The 3DS is the equivalent of PS2 level tech and can no way replicate the level of graphics and processing that the Wii U does (which most agree is 360/PS3 1.5 level). So its not technologically feasible unless they do the Vita and look at how that's doing in the marketplace.

Wiggly Squid wrote:

I respectfully strongly disagree, Nintendo has not always tried to separate itself with a gimmick. Gimmicks were absolutely not why the original NES was a hit. The NES had virtually no competition from which to separate itself, and it was marketed as bringing the arcade experience to the home. The Legend of Zelda was marketed as an arcade-RPG (no mention of "puzzles"!). I have this poster on my wall at work; it is typical of the advertising at the time, showing how the system had tons of awesome games. Yes the poster shows R.O.B., but he is at the bottom, and the games are displayed prominently at the top with descriptions of each. I think the only mention of R.O.B. is in the description under Gyromite. As far as the ad is concerned R.O.B. is just some cool-looking robot (well, cool for the 80's).

Dude, I have to laugh because that poster communicates the exact opposite of what you said. It doesn't matter that ROB is at the bottom. He's the most visually dominant element in the poster and the fact that he's even there tells you that Nintendo was trying to make R.O.B. the face of the NES (despite the fact that only two games supported him).

You're also ignoring video game history. When I said "competitor", saying "marketplace" would have been more accurate. Yes, the NES didn't have a direct competitor at the time, but Nintendo had to launch the NES under the shadow of the Great Video Game Crash of 1983. So not only was the look of the console designed to feel more like advance consumer electronics, but the R.O.B. was presented at the face of the product again to distance itself from classic video games at the time.

Wiggly Squid wrote:

The game library sold the NES, and the same can be said about the SNES. I don't remember any advertising from back then that used the "Mode 7" term, and I bet at least half the people who owned a SNES don't even know what "Mode 7" is. Here are ten SNES commercials. I do remember the "Super FX" chip and I don't think that is the same thing. No mention of Mode 7 in those commercials, not even in Super Mario Kart. Mode 7 is basically just "better graphics", and if better graphics are a gimmick then I guess every single console ever made is based on a gimmick.

Thinking back, I don't recall seeing a single SNES related commercial on TV, but "Mode 7" was big deal for the hardcore gamers that drove the market back in the day when SNES vs Genesis wasn't just discussion fodder. It was religion. You had to choose a side, no if's and's or but's. I can even remember the day I convinced Dale in high school of the merits of the SNES over the Genesis. Mode 7 and the 256 color palette was an easy sell.

One other thing that can't be ignored. Most games featured Mode 7 prominently from Pilot Wings to Super Castlevania (even if the Mode 7 felt a bit shoe-horned in the latter case). Sound familiar? Waggle-choo!

Wiggly Squid wrote:

"New Super Mario Bros U commercial" first YouTube hit (I think this is the launch commercial.)
This ad is all about the gamepad. It opens with a comment about the gamepad and placing a block. There are so many quick cuts and shots that focus on the gamepad that I had to watch it three times before I really saw what was going on on screen. It talks about new powerups and new challenges, but it doesn't show anything! Instead it shows a quick closeup of a kid with gamepad in your face. The last thing in the commercial is a little boy getting kicked off the HDTV by his snotty big sister who wants to watch High School Musical or some other garbage. How lame! DVR that crap sis! Horrible marketing. It says, "Here buy our HD console so you can't play it on the HDTV TV."

There is a clear difference in advertising here. Past Nintendo focused on the content of the games, but present-day Nintendo's marketing is clearly on the gimmick (gamepad).

All I can say is that I've never seen that SMB WiiU commercial play on TV in my area and in fact the commercial that my son and I saw for resembled the one you linked for SMW. And I remember this clearly because immediately after seeing it, my son said to me "Daddy, can we buy that?"

Either way, all this means is the commercials hardly present an complete picture of how the consoles and games are marketed.

Wiggly Squid wrote:

I do agree with this wholeheartedly. It's not only Nintendo, but the entire industry suffering from content stagnation, and I mostly mean that in reference to game mechanics, but that's a whole other discussion I guess. It is frustrating that Nintendo clearly knows how to correct course but I don't think it's going to do it since the new console is based on a gimmick. I do think something changed between the SNES-N64 eras, perhaps when Yamauchi left, and it did hit on something with the Wii's early days. My prediction is that as long as Nintendo stays focused on the gimmicks the WiiU will continue to stumble. My understanding is that Nintendo is losing money on hardware sales. Nintendo, drop the gimmicks, let us purchase the WiiU without the gamepad (or any of that other MiiVerse nonsense), and shave $100+ off the price of the console or bundle in an extra game or two.

Between the system launches, you're also ignoring a whole slew of peripherals (everything from the Super Scope, Multitap, eCard Reader, rumble pak etc) along the way. Some worked and much more didn't, but that's Nintendo's legacy.

Believe it or not, the points that you and Odof raised about subtracting the Gamepad and launching at an absolute rock bottom price point has me intrigued, but given the price that they launched at (which was more or less the same price as the Wii) and how it would affect developer adoption rates for the GamePad, I think Nintendo had to do what it did.

What I do think is interesting is that perhaps later in the console cycle, if Nintendo really wanted to go after that budget-minded market, they could put out another SKU sans the GamePad at like $100. Being as how all the accessories are already a mess with the Wii legacy, I don't see why considering the gamepad another accessory makes it any better.

But as for now, if Nintendo wants to play in the "Next-gen" playground, it has to put itself in that price range or consumers will see it as something else entirely.

Wiggly Squid wrote:

Ugh, well I was going to comment on "kiddie" games but I've ranted long enough :)

I haven't done one of these mega discussions in awhile and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. So I'd love to hear it if you've got the time.

I'm also curious as to how you feel about the DS? The DS was also a gimmick, but a gimmick that worked and the rich library of games prove that. Given how the Wii U is based on the DS design, don't you think that gives the Wii U a good chance of finding similar success?

Chi Kong Lui wrote: Dude

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Dude even Miyamoto and Iwata were laughing at the lack of context and gross simplification of Nintendo's business model and philosophy in the quote. Yes, they live off of the razor blade model, but at every iteration, Nintendo has always tried to innovate and/or create gimmicks to separate itself from its competitors. With the NES it was the R.O.B.. With the SNES it was the Mode 7 scaling. With the N64, it was the 3D anti-aliasing and batarang controller. GameCube was really the most generic platform they ever put out and in Nintendo's mind, sold the worst as a result.

I agree with you about what Nintendo currently thinks, but I don't think Iwata and Miyamoto were correct in laughing at Yamauchi's statement. It is only after the success of the Wii that a kind of revisionist history began to take place inside Nintendo where they believe that "new and innovative!" hardware is what sets Nintendo apart and makes them successful. They think the Gamecube didn't sell because there was no hardware gimmick. In reality the Gamecube had hardware gimmicks: 1) "Connectivity" via the GBA link cable, and (2) believe it or not, it had 3D circuitry built in so that "If you fit it with a certain accessory, it could display 3D images" (http://iwataasks.nintendo.com/interviews/#/3ds/how-nintendo-3ds-made/0/2).

Nintendo believes that the Wii and DS sold due to innovative hardware. I think that the newness of motion controls is a factor, but that is only part of the story. The real reason the Wii sold is because it was arcade games at home and it was a toy just like the NES. Wii Sports is a very fun game and the tennis is just a modern version of Pong. Mario Kart Wii is arcade racing. 2D Mario (and to a lesser extent 3D Mario) obviously has strong arcade roots. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is an arcade style fighting game. Wii Fit is kind of its own beast but it seems to have arcade influences (I haven't played it, but in some ways it reminds me of the old Track and Field floor pad).

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Dude, I have to laugh because that poster communicates the exact opposite of what you said. It doesn't matter that ROB is at the bottom. He's the most visually dominant element in the poster and the fact that he's even there tells you that Nintendo was trying to make R.O.B. the face of the NES (despite the fact that only two games supported him).

You're also ignoring video game history. When I said "competitor", saying "marketplace" would have been more accurate. Yes, the NES didn't have a direct competitor at the time, but Nintendo had to launch the NES under the shadow of the Great Video Game Crash of 1983. So not only was the look of the console designed to feel more like advance consumer electronics, but the R.O.B. was presented at the face of the product again to distance itself from classic video games at the time.

It's amazing how you have a very different interpretation of this history than I do. :) Yamauchi's statement shows that Nintendo did not always have an obsession with hardware innovation. I agree with Mr. Squid in that Nintendo was not trying to innovate hardware to separate itself from its competitors (or the marketplace) with the NES and SNES.

About R.O.B.: Early in the NES's life they packaged R.O.B. and the light gun with the system so they could market it as a toy in order to convince retailers to stock the product. Yes, because the retailers were fearful due to the market crash caused by Atari. But R.O.B. was not part of some overarching philosophy ingrained in Nintendo's DNA - it was just a marketing trick and Nintendo knew it. The NES was all about the game library and once the system had proven itself, R.O.B. was dropped hard. As you said, there were only two games that even used it!

That is completely different than present day Nintendo. Today, Nintendo doesn't think motion controls, stereoscopic 3D, and the Wii U gamepad are mere marketing tricks. They believe they are true innovations that set Nintendo apart. In contrast to R.O.B., which wasn't shoehorned in to all the games, Every. Single. Freakin'. Game. that Nintendo develops now MUST use the new hardware innovation whether it is appropriate or not.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Thinking back, I don't recall seeing a single SNES related commercial on TV, but "Mode 7" was big deal for the hardcore gamers that drove the market back in the day when SNES vs Genesis wasn't just discussion fodder. It was religion. You had to choose a side, no if's and's or but's. I can even remember the day I convinced Dale in high school of the merits of the SNES over the Genesis. Mode 7 and the 256 color palette was an easy sell.

One other thing that can't be ignored. Most games featured Mode 7 prominently from Pilot Wings to Super Castlevania (even if the Mode 7 felt a bit shoe-horned in the latter case). Sound familiar? Waggle-choo!

Mode 7 scaling isn't innovative - it's just "better graphics". It's about as innovative as adding color to the Game Boy screen and releasing it as the Game Boy Color! It's no surprise that many games used it because better graphics help most games. I agree with Mr. Squid that if Mode 7 was "innovative", then every console that has ever come out is innovative.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Between the system launches, you're also ignoring a whole slew of peripherals (everything from the Super Scope, Multitap, eCard Reader, rumble pak etc) along the way. Some worked and much more didn't, but that's Nintendo's legacy.

I think I can explain where our different perceptions are. I agree that Nintendo has always had a slew of peripherals and alternative input devices. The key difference is that for the NES and SNES, no one was compelled to buy any of them because the systems were focused on the game libraries and not any single input device. You've already pointed out how Nintendo has "lost focus" with the waggle-wackiness that got into the Wii. The colossal failure of the Virtual Boy is the ultimate example of how building a console devoted to a single hardware innovation is a recipe for disaster.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I'm also curious as to how you feel about the DS? The DS was also a gimmick, but a gimmick that worked and the rich library of games prove that. Given how the Wii U is based on the DS design, don't you think that gives the Wii U a good chance of finding similar success?

If we look at Nintendo's handheld line, we see that the Gameboy and the Gameboy Advance were not "innovative" and yet they were incredibly successful. With the DS, customers were forced to buy the second screen, but that didn't make the system much more expensive (at least, it was pretty darn close in price to the Game Boy, when adjusted for inflation). The touch screen didn't help it at all during its first year in terms of games and the sales showed that. They tried to sell the system by saying "Look! You can play Mario 64 with touch screen controls!" which to me is amazingly silly. The system didn't really take off until Mario Kart DS and NSMB were released. Both of those are arcade games that didn't use the touch screen. To be fair, there were some hugely successful games around the same time that used the touch screen like Nintendogs and Brain Age, but the new hardware was used judiciously and appropriately to make fun games. It wasn't shoehorned in to every single game.

I think you have to compare the Wii to the $350 version of the Wii U because the Wii came with Wii Sports in the box and the cheaper Wii U does not come with a game in the box. I don't think the Wii U is going to take off until the price comes down a bit and the system gets a quality game library.

I'm a bit more pessimistic than you with regard to the quality of the game library because of Nintendo's current formula of taking existing IP, recycling old content (if not outright remaking old games), and retrofitting the result with the latest hardware "innovation".

I also extremely dislike the non-gaming things like Miiverse and TVii. Are those just another Trojan Horse marketing ploy like R.O.B.? Maybe, but I'd rather Nintendo spend those resources elsewhere.

I was going to say some things about the core franchises but I'll have to continue that later.

Odofakyodo wrote:They

Odofakyodo wrote:

They think the Gamecube didn't sell because there was no hardware gimmick. In reality the Gamecube had hardware gimmicks: 1) "Connectivity" via the GBA link cable, and (2) believe it or not, it had 3D circuitry built in so that "If you fit it with a certain accessory, it could display 3D images" (http://iwataasks.nintendo.com/interviews/#/3ds/how-nintendo-3ds-made/0/2).

GBA "Connectivity" came much later in the cycle when the war was all, but lost. And saying it had 3D circuitry just proves my point that Nintendo has always been a company that prioritizes gimmicks to get its systems over with the masses.

Odofakyodo wrote:

Nintendo believes that the Wii and DS sold due to innovative hardware. I think that the newness of motion controls is a factor, but that is only part of the story. The real reason the Wii sold is because it was arcade games at home and it was a toy just like the NES. Wii Sports is a very fun game and the tennis is just a modern version of Pong. Mario Kart Wii is arcade racing. 2D Mario (and to a lesser extent 3D Mario) obviously has strong arcade roots. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is an arcade style fighting game. Wii Fit is kind of its own beast but it seems to have arcade influences (I haven't played it, but in some ways it reminds me of the old Track and Field floor pad).

You may be the only person in this planet who thinks the Wiimote/Motion Controls wasn't integral to the success of the Wii and Wii Sports. *mind-blown*

Odofakyodo wrote:

It's amazing how you have a very different interpretation of this history than I do. :) Yamauchi's statement shows that Nintendo did not always have an obsession with hardware innovation. I agree with Mr. Squid in that Nintendo was not trying to innovate hardware to separate itself from its competitors (or the marketplace) with the NES and SNES.

I can't believe how much stock you are putting into Iwata's recollection of a quote from Yamauchi. Yamauchi's "statement" says no more than describing their basic business model. It does not speak to design philosophy and/or what it takes to market and launch a console in the marketplace.

Innovation and market differentiation are key to the success of any product, not just Nintendo. To think that any company would would go to market with the model of "we've got a plain old box that's going to play great games" (especially in this day and age competing against sharks like MS and Sony) is absurd. Even the NES was remarkably better than any thing the market had seen at the time.

Odofakyodo wrote:

That is completely different than present day Nintendo. Today, Nintendo doesn't think motion controls, stereoscopic 3D, and the Wii U gamepad are mere marketing tricks. They believe they are true innovations that set Nintendo apart. In contrast to R.O.B., which wasn't shoehorned in to all the games, Every. Single. Freakin'. Game. that Nintendo develops now MUST use the new hardware innovation whether it is appropriate or not.

As I said, no two gimmicks are created equal and some were more successful than others and the long-term success of a console is reliant on the strength of its library. But that doesn't change that Nintendo (originally a card company) very much views itself much more of a toy/gaming company than a pure software one and those "gimmicks" are very much in its DNA that shows itself most when bringing a new product to market.

Odofakyodo wrote:

Mode 7 scaling isn't innovative - it's just "better graphics". It's about as innovative as adding color to the Game Boy screen and releasing it as the Game Boy Color! It's no surprise that many games used it because better graphics help most games. I agree with Mr. Squid that if Mode 7 was "innovative", then every console that has ever come out is innovative.

Marketing is often perception over reality (i.e. Blast Processing), but in the case of Mode 7, the innovation was very real and at a time when cutting-edge 3D could only be found on the PC.

Odofakyodo wrote:

If we look at Nintendo's handheld line, we see that the Gameboy and the Gameboy Advance were not "innovative" and yet they were incredibly successful.

You're playing console quality games on a tiny little handheld and that's not considered "innovative?" The Game Boy may the greatest "gimmick" of them all.

Odofakyodo wrote:

With the DS, customers were forced to buy the second screen, but that didn't make the system much more expensive (at least, it was pretty darn close in price to the Game Boy, when adjusted for inflation). The touch screen didn't help it at all during its first year in terms of games and the sales showed that. They tried to sell the system by saying "Look! You can play Mario 64 with touch screen controls!" which to me is amazingly silly. The system didn't really take off until Mario Kart DS and NSMB were released. Both of those are arcade games that didn't use the touch screen. To be fair, there were some hugely successful games around the same time that used the touch screen like Nintendogs and Brain Age, but the new hardware was used judiciously and appropriately to make fun games. It wasn't shoehorned in to every single game.

The case that you're making for the DS is exactly the same case I'm trying to make for the Wii U.

Chi Kong Lui wrote: GBA

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

GBA "Connectivity" came much later in the cycle when the war was all, but lost. And saying it had 3D circuitry just proves my point that Nintendo has always been a company that prioritizes gimmicks to get its systems over with the masses.

The problem with that thesis is what I've been trying to explain: Nintendo may have always had hardware differentiation but it did not always prioritize it over great games.

For the NES, Nintendo never intended R.O.B. to be a long term pillar of the system. They knew it was a marketing gimmick. Regardless of what the company's intent was, the ultimate success of the NES was due to the awesome games. The mass market saw it for where the value was: A simple box to play arcade games at home.

For the SNES, there's just no evidence that Mode 7 was Nintendo's priority, and you said yourself that it was only a big deal to the hardcore crowd. The only relationship that feature had to the console's success was its ability to enhance great games. The NES could already do racing and flying games - Mode 7 just made them better. That's improvement, not true innovation.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

You may be the only person in this planet who thinks the Wiimote/Motion Controls wasn't integral to the success of the Wii and Wii Sports. *mind-blown*

Ha ha ha! I did not mean to imply that motion controls were not integral to the Wii. However, I believe that Nintendo (and industry observers at large) have an incomplete picture of the Wii's success. Motion controls were integral, but only so far as they enabled fun games to be made. They were of course integral for Wii Sports (and a few other games like Wii Sports Resort, Wii Play, and Just Dance) which in turn contributed significantly to the success of the console during its early life.

Consider that the motion controls have remained constant--or gotten better--throughout the Wii's lifetime. Thus, if motion controls was all it took to "trick the dumb masses" (which is the myth the industry believes) into buying the console, then why did the console have all of its ups and downs and then completely fizzle out prior to even the announcement of the Wii U? It was because Nintendo failed to consistently provide great games.

The problem comes when after the success of Wii Sports, Nintendo developed this narrative that the road to success for their consoles only comes when they prioritize hardware. That view fails to see the bigger picture by recognizing the success of all of the games I mentioned before, chief among them Mario Kart Wii, NSMB Wii, and Smash Bros Brawl, none of which required motion controls (yes Mario Kart had the option to use them but they weren't required). All of them were integral to the long-term health of the Wii.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I can't believe how much stock you are putting into Iwata's recollection of a quote from Yamauchi. Yamauchi's "statement" says no more than describing their basic business model. It does not speak to design philosophy and/or what it takes to market and launch a console in the marketplace.

I put stock in it because it matches what I've seen of Nintendo's history. It wasn't just some vague recollection. It was a direct quote and Miyamoto corroborated it. Furthermore, the very next thing Iwata says is "it was a very easy-to-understand explanation of the business model at the time", which indicates that their business model has changed since then.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Innovation and market differentiation are key to the success of any product, not just Nintendo. To think that any company would would go to market with the model of "we've got a plain old box that's going to play great games" (especially in this day and age competing against sharks like MS and Sony) is absurd. Even the NES was remarkably better than any thing the market had seen at the time.

I think we need to differentiate between "innovation" and "improvement". With the NES, the system was indeed more powerful than Atari consoles. But that is an improvement to existing values and not fundamentally changing the way things had been done. The NES did have market differentiation but it wasn't R.O.B. It was a huge and awesome game library that included games that were not really possible or suited to the arcade or to the PC. The Legend of Zelda is the perfect example - the game mechanics were twitch action with a controller/joystick which didn't quite fit on the PC, but the world was too big and nonlinear to fit in an arcade.

You guys were fairly dismissive of "plain old box" Ouya in your latest podcast, but I find it to be a very interesting specimen. As Nintendo, MS, and Sony move and stay up market, there's the very real possibility of Ouya entrenching itself in the space that the big boys have vacated. Time will tell, but if the Ouya can snag a great game library and get a decent marketing push, it's something to keep an eye on.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

You're playing console quality games on a tiny little handheld and that's not considered "innovative?" The Game Boy may the greatest "gimmick" of them all.

Point taken. It still doesn't apply to the GBC or GBA, though.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

The case that you're making for the DS is exactly the same case I'm trying to make for the Wii U.

I can totally see that. I hope you're right. I concur that they view themselves as a toy/gaming company but I believe in the past they put the focus squarely on the game library and allowed developers/consumers to remain flexible with the hardware. That's where I think its DNA has changed and I've lost the faith. Well that, and they botched their core franchises, but that's another discussion.

Odofakyodo wrote: The

Odofakyodo wrote:

The problem with that thesis is what I've been trying to explain: Nintendo may have always had hardware differentiation but it did not always prioritize it over great games.

Despite how you've changed you message from earlier, this is statement I can accept, because I never said that Nintendo wasn't about games. But the idea that NES and SNES were meant to be non-descript pure game playing machines just doesn't follow the full history of Nintendo and its bit out of context (I'll explain this last part below).

Odofakyodo wrote:

Consider that the motion controls have remained constant--or gotten better--throughout the Wii's lifetime. Thus, if motion controls was all it took to "trick the dumb masses" (which is the myth the industry believes) into buying the console, then why did the console have all of its ups and downs and then completely fizzle out prior to even the announcement of the Wii U? It was because Nintendo failed to consistently provide great games.

We've always been more or less in agreement about the Wii. The difference between us here is how we perceive the outcome. You characterize it as a failure of sorts which is crazy when you consider how much it outsold its competitors by a large margin and how much impact it that on our culture. I think they made some shortsighted choices with the hardware, could have been more balanced and done better.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I put stock in it because it matches what I've seen of Nintendo's history. It wasn't just some vague recollection. It was a direct quote and Miyamoto corroborated it. Furthermore, the very next thing Iwata says is "it was a very easy-to-understand explanation of the business model at the time", which indicates that their business model has changed since then.

Dude, I'm going to say this for the last time, describing the core business model isn't the same as a mission statement and/or business philosophy. The "lost in translation" quote corroborates very little in grand scheme of things.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I think we need to differentiate between "innovation" and "improvement". With the NES, the system was indeed more powerful than Atari consoles. But that is an improvement to existing values and not fundamentally changing the way things had been done. The NES did have market differentiation but it wasn't R.O.B. It was a huge and awesome game library that included games that were not really possible or suited to the arcade or to the PC. The Legend of Zelda is the perfect example - the game mechanics were twitch action with a controller/joystick which didn't quite fit on the PC, but the world was too big and nonlinear to fit in an arcade.

This is just semantics. For Nintendo, "innovation" means bringing something new/fresh to the market (not necessarily an improvement as the Wii proved).

Odofakyodo wrote:

You guys were fairly dismissive of "plain old box" Ouya in your latest podcast, but I find it to be a very interesting specimen. As Nintendo, MS, and Sony move and stay up market, there's the very real possibility of Ouya entrenching itself in the space that the big boys have vacated. Time will tell, but if the Ouya can snag a great game library and get a decent marketing push, it's something to keep an eye on.

Thanks for bringing up Ouya because it highlights another point that I haven't been able to be clear about. When the NES and SNES launched, you could make the case that video games were still very much a niche novelty thing in of themselves. The only real competitor was Sega so in essence the "gimmicks" while they were still there, weren't as prominent and/or vital.

Today, not only are there two competitors, but these competitors are massive conglomerate global businesses with endless cash and reach. Nintendo is still a relatively small Japanese company.

So its hard not to surmise that if the Wii was just another gaming box, it would have fell by the wayside just like the GameCube which had a fabulous library of games.

Odofakyodo wrote:

I can totally see that. I hope you're right. I concur that they view themselves as a toy/gaming company but I believe in the past they put the focus squarely on the game library and allowed developers/consumers to remain flexible with the hardware. That's where I think its DNA has changed and I've lost the faith. Well that, and they botched their core franchises, but that's another discussion.

Speaking of game library, you could also make a strong case that as third-party developers deserted Nintendo platforms, so too did their fortunes. So was Nintendo really about "the games" or were they really riding the backs of their third-party developers?

Game Over

I’m not sure how I’ve changed my message. It’s simple: When Nintendo comes out with a cheap box and supports it with a library of great games, they succeed. This is true whether or not they rely on gimmicks or true innovations. When they focus on hardware or non-gaming software they fail.

It's important to distinguish between the words we're talking about because "innovation" and "gimmick" are not the same thing. I am in total agreement that "innovation" is bringing something new to the market. But innovations have real value. That is different from a gimmick, which is a trick just to get people's attention. A gimmick can be a new idea but generally has little or no value. The word "gimmick" has a negative connotation whereas "innovation" is a positive term. No company ever uses a gimmick as their long term business strategy. They never say "Our products are gimmicky". They say "Our products are innovative."

The reason I bring this up is that it seems that Nintendo thought of ROB as a gimmick. They knew it had little value and wouldn't be a long-term proposition. If they thought otherwise, then they would have made more than two games for it and not have dropped it after one year. Other than getting a foot in the door in the US market, I don’t see ROB being a central pillar of Nintendo’s vision. Besides, ROB wasn’t even released until 2 years after the Famicom was first launched in Japan.

Speaking of the Famicom, allow me to post excerpts from the book Game Over by David Sheff, who did numerous extensive interviews with the people actually involved at Nintendo such as Miyamoto and Howard Lincoln. I’d be willing to bet you’ve read this book Chi. It’s been about 9 years since I read it so I had to go back and do some digging.

Here is Yamauchi’s overall vision for the Famicom:

David Sheff, in Game Over, wrote:

In the short term, Yamauchi saw a system that could be the basis for a profoundly expanded company if kids loved it enough and if they wanted more and more games to play on it and if Nintendo was the only maker of all of those games.

Concerning the Famicom hardware:

David Sheff, in Game Over, wrote:

As development of the new video-game system continued, the engineers brought some of their questions to Yamauchi. What had to be included in the game console? Since the system was actually a small computer, it could have all the extras that computers could have. Should there be a disk drive which could read and write information? Should it have a keyboard? Should it have a data port, through which information could be sent and received to the system? The system could have a model that would hook up, via telephone lines, to other game players or a central Nintendo terminal. It could have large amounts of memory that would accommodate more complicated programs.

Yamauchi instructed Uemura [the lead hardware engineer] to leave off the frills. No keyboard—it might scare off customers. No modem or disk drive.

The system would have minimal memory, since memory was so expensive, but it would have more than its competitors’. … games for a new Nintendo machine could be far more complex than the most powerful Atari games; a Nintendo cartridge could contain thirty-two times more computer code than an Atari cartridge.

Regarding Famicom software:

David Sheff, in Game Over, wrote:

The system was selling for more than Yamauchi had planned (about $100), but it was still less than half the price of the competition. In May, he addressed the Shoshin-kai Group, a wholesalers' group. He Conceded that his new video-game player was priced so low that wholesalers wouldn't make much profit on it. "But," he said, "I guarantee that it will sell a lot because of the great games." He implored them to back the machine in spite of the low margin. "Forgo the big profits on hardware," he said, "because it is really just a tool to sell software. That is where we shall make our money." At the meeting, Yamauchi announced the name of his new system. Here, he said, was Japan's first Family Computer. He dubbed it, for short, the Famicom.

Yamauchi’s Famicom’s were selling as fast as Nintendo built them. The success brought with it an unexpected, although not unwelcome, problem. A video-game system, like any other computer, could be elegant and powerful, yet it was only as useful as the software it showcased. The Famicom could have been as powerful as a mainframe computer, but no one would have noticed if the games were ordinary. Now the problem was that there were not enough good games.

Yamauchi had wisely anticipated the importance of software and prepared for it. One of the instructions he had issued to Uemura was that the Famicom must “be appreciated by software engineers.” It had to be easy to program and able to do the kinds of things that game designers dreamed of doing. Any company, given the time, could copy the Famicom hardware. They key to staying ahead was software. By the time a competitor came out with a game that was as good as a successful Nintendo game, Nintendo had to be releasing a game that left the others in the dust.

I’m intentionally leaving out some aspects about Nintendo’s long-term strategy (i.e. after the success of the NES) which I will get to below. The point is that these passages indicate that the Famicom/NES was a “plain” computer box that Nintendo released and intended to make money on it by selling lots of superior games. There is nothing about using hardware innovation or gimmicks to make the system succeed. There are also multiple indications that Yamauchi was concerned about cost and retail price.

Now about Nintendo’s long-term strategy:

David Sheff, in Game Over, wrote:

As Yamauchi learned about the technology—knowledge gained from late-night talks with Uemura and other engineers—he realized that the machine under development could do far more than just play games. “He had no concept that he was building a computer, but he nonetheless had his first glimpse of the incredible potential of a home-computer system disguised as a toy,” says Uemura.

Yamauchi was looking far down the road when he cautiously answered the engineers’ questions. Although he eliminated anything that would add too much cost, he built in future expansion that went far beyond video games.

In the Japanese edition of The Japan That Can Say No, the book’s coauthor (with Shintaro Ishihara), Sony’s found and chairman, Akio Morita, slaps American corporate wrists for short-sightedness. “We Japanese plan and develop our business strategies ten years ahead of time,” he wrote. When he asked American businessmen if U.S. companies plan so much as a week ahead of time, he was told, “No, ten minutes.” Nowhere is the repercussion of that difference more obvious than in the game system Hiroshi Yamauchi created. It anticipated a future that would not be revealed for a decade but which had potential to propel Nintendo into the forefront of electronics and entertainment companies.

Yamauchi cut out all extraneous devices to save money, but he told engineers to include, for a trivial added cost, circuitry and a connector that could send or receive an unmodified signal to the central processor. The connector could pave the way for expansion—the addition of anything from a modem to a keyboard. It was why the machine would later be called Yamauchi’s Trojan Horse: It slipped into living rooms with nothing but a pair of controllers, innocently toylike, yet it included the capability to do far more than play games. Nintendo boasted about it much later. “In the initial stages of [the system’s] development, we foresaw these possibilities,” reads a 1989 corporate report. “As such, we built a data communications function into the system and provided it with a connection terminal for an adaptor.”

Yamauchi had loftier expectations for another new venture, launched in 1988. It would, he believed, reposition NCL. Nintendo would no longer be a toy company; it would grow to be a communications corporation, among the ranks of Japan’s largest company, Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (NTT).

The plan hinged on something called the Family Computer Communications Network System. At its center was the Famicom and another hundred-dollar piece of equipment that connected to it, the Communications Adapter (a modem), which allowed the Famicom to hook up to a telephone line.

The Family Computer Communications Network System, according to an NCL corporate report, would “link Nintendo households to create a communications network that provides users with new forms of recreation, and a new mean of accessing information.” In a speech to his employees, Hiroshi Yamauchi expounded on this vision. “From now on, our purpose is not only to develop new exciting entertainment software but to provide information that can be efficiently used in each household.”

Sheff writes that Yamauchi approved a multimillion dollar budget for this venture, but it didn’t work out and there weren’t many customers.

David Sheff, in Game Over, wrote:

The low number disappointed Yamauchi, but he never admitted that he had made a mistake. “It is,” he said in 1991, “just a matter of time.” … “When the people are ready for it,” Yamauchi continued, “we have the Network in place.”

We see here that Yamauchi wanted to first capture the living room with gaming and then years down the road expand Nintendo’s electronics products. He wanted to turn the NES into a PC and run non-gaming internet services. But even as early as 1988 the company’s move in a non-gaming direction failed.

You made a distinction between business model and mission statement but the two are related. The business model is a means to an end and the mission statement is that end. The business model is more important than a company’s business philosophy because it is the practical application of the phiIosophy and it is what determines success or failure. When it comes right down to it Nintendo’s Corporate Mission and Philosophy is too generic to provide meaningful insight. It could apply to just about any company in any industry. Customers don’t care about that stuff - they want results.

Nintendo’s long-term strategy mentioned above underscores what I’ve hinted at before in that the company prioritizing innovation and gimmicks is a shift in business model -- and it’s intentional! I am fearful that the the Wii U is a significant step along some decades long path to turn their console into a PC. There are a lot of non-gaming features and services in the console that copy PC functionality. If I want to have a PC connected my TV then I’ll just buy the real thing! I just want to play games on my console.

And just to be clear, I do not think the Wii should have dumped motion controls. I think motion controls are an innovation and not a gimmick. The problem comes when they get shoe-horned into games where they don’t need to be. Then it comes off as a gimmick. Wii Sports was successful because it was original IP and the game mechanics were developed completely around motion controls, and it was fun! I certainly don’t think the Wii as a whole was a failure -- far from it -- but there’s no denying that they failed to consistently provide the kind of freshness and depth of content that we’ve enjoyed from them in the distant past. It’s the first time I didn’t buy the Metroid or Zelda game (I mean Skyward Sword).

As far as the Gamecube is concerned, we’re opening up a whole other can of worms but I don’t think it had a fabulous library of games. The system did have some of all-time favorite games like Metroid Prime and RE4 but those couldn’t make up for some glaring shortcomings (Metroid has always been for advanced players and survival horror is somewhat of a niche genre). Obviously we’re getting far into the subjective realm but I’ll make these points:

- No 2D Mario (a highly polished but nevertheless phoned-in 2D Mario is the only thing giving the Wii U its meager heartbeat).

-No accessible, pick up and play sports games. They did have some Mario sports games late in the life but this just supports the idea that Nintendo is struggling to come up with new ideas any more and just tosses their popular IPs around thinking it will make games sell. Honestly every Nintendo system should launch with a 2D Mario and accessible pick up and play sports games, and note how the N64 also didn’t have either.

-Star Fox Adventures - Speaking of tossing IPs where they don’t belong.

- Worst 3D Mario - Hey everyone, come clean up dirt and watch as we reuse the same levels over and over and over again.

- Worst home console Zelda (outside of Skyward Sword which I haven’t played) - Extremely watered down overworld (yuk yuk) in terms of enemy density, childish art style, Triforce scavenger hunt padding, lack of light/dark world dichotomy. I should note that when I saw the E3 2011 Wii U Zelda video I had flashbacks of the bait-and-switch crap Nintendo pulled from Spaceworld 2000.

- Unnecessary two-character gimmick in Mario Kart that made the game less accessible.

- Lack of quality RPGs.

- Luigi’s Mansion - A tech demo (possibly even created with the intent to show off the hidden Gamecube 3D tech!) made into a short game.

Odofakyodo wrote: It's

Odofakyodo wrote:

It's important to distinguish between the words we're talking about because "innovation" and "gimmick" are not the same thing. I am in total agreement that "innovation" is bringing something new to the market. But innovations have real value. That is different from a gimmick, which is a trick just to get people's attention. A gimmick can be a new idea but generally has little or no value. The word "gimmick" has a negative connotation whereas "innovation" is a positive term. No company ever uses a gimmick as their long term business strategy. They never say "Our products are gimmicky". They say "Our products are innovative."

For the purposes of this discussion, I've been using "innovation" and "gimmick" liberally and inter-changeably because in the case Nintendo, there's a huge YMMV depending on how you look at it. As with the case of ROB, I don't dispute it was clearly a gimmick, but at the same time, GameSpy called it one of the "smartest moves in gaming history." One of my main points with Nintendo is that its almost impossible to separate the innovation from the gimmicks since its so ingrained in their history.

Odofakyodo wrote:

We see here that Yamauchi wanted to first capture the living room with gaming and then years down the road expand Nintendo’s electronics products. He wanted to turn the NES into a PC and run non-gaming internet services. But even as early as 1988 the company’s move in a non-gaming direction failed.

So doesn't your research here make my point that even at the NES stage, Nintendo was already looking beyond the generic game machine model?

Odofakyodo wrote:

Nintendo’s long-term strategy mentioned above underscores what I’ve hinted at before in that the company prioritizing innovation and gimmicks is a shift in business model -- and it’s intentional! I am fearful that the the Wii U is a significant step along some decades long path to turn their console into a PC. There are a lot of non-gaming features and services in the console that copy PC functionality. If I want to have a PC connected my TV then I’ll just buy the real thing! I just want to play games on my console.

Despite how little we actually disagree on a lot of micro points, you always lose me on the macro topics because you take stuff way out of context. The long-term strategy being referenced in Sheff's book was only meant for the NES. The direction of the Wii U isn't a continuing shift in Nintendo's strategy, when as your own research proves, they've been trying to do since 1988. The direction of the Wii U is a market reaction to the realities of consumers in how they function in the living room and with social media.

Odofakyodo wrote:

And just to be clear, I do not think the Wii should have dumped motion controls. I think motion controls are an innovation and not a gimmick. The problem comes when they get shoe-horned into games where they don’t need to be. Then it comes off as a gimmick. Wii Sports was successful because it was original IP and the game mechanics were developed completely around motion controls, and it was fun! I certainly don’t think the Wii as a whole was a failure -- far from it -- but there’s no denying that they failed to consistently provide the kind of freshness and depth of content that we’ve enjoyed from them in the distant past. It’s the first time I didn’t buy the Metroid or Zelda game (I mean Skyward Sword).

As far as the Gamecube is concerned, we’re opening up a whole other can of worms but I don’t think it had a fabulous library of games. The system did have some of all-time favorite games like Metroid Prime and RE4 but those couldn’t make up for some glaring shortcomings (Metroid has always been for advanced players and survival horror is somewhat of a niche genre). Obviously we’re getting far into the subjective realm but I’ll make these points:

So again, what you're saying here makes some sense on the surface, but taken in a larger context, two big points don't fit into your narrative. 1) The Wii is Nintendo greatest selling home console of all-time and almost makes up the combined total of the NES and SNES. 2) Why did the GameCube fail when it was clearly a console focused on games? Without any hardware distractions, why didn't Nintendo simply flop at its own games?

My biggest problem with what you've been saying is that a return to its original business model is unrealistic due to present day market realities (as I outlined in my previous response) and ignores what role third-parties played in Nintendo's early success.

Miyamoto Quotes

Some interesting quotes from Miyamoto in NY Times interview:

Miyamoto wrote:

Entertainment is an unpredictable industry. Entertainment is this thing that moves around from place to place. You have a theme park like Disneyland, and that’s a form of entertainment. And at the same time you have small, downloadable software for your smartphone that you can play, and that’s entertainment. Nintendo’s stance, over all, is that we don’t know where entertainment will take us next.

We look at it in terms of what kinds of experiences do families want in the living room in front of the TV? Because we don’t think that families are going to go away, and we don’t think that TVs are going to go away.

The last couple of years in Japan we’ve seen a huge increase in the adoption of smartphones, to the point where in Japan people are saying, “Maybe I don’t need a console, or I don’t need a portable gaming device.” But this past holiday in Japan we released a game called Animal Crossing: New Leaf that’s coming to the United States this year. And in Japan it has really been a big hit. And what we’re seeing is that the people playing it primarily are adult women. And adult women also happens to be the same group of people that has been rapidly adopting cellphones over the last couple of years.

As long as we’re able to provide an entertainment experience that people want to play, they’re more than happy to purchase another device to carry around with them alongside their smartphone.

Miyamoto wrote:

There are sort of two kinds of people. There are the people who say, “Oh, we can repeat that success.” And there are the people who say, “We’re never going to see anything as successful as that again.” What I always say is: “We can make the rules ourselves. Nobody has done it before. We can make it up as we go along.” And that to me is a lot more fun.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Sorry it's been a while since I was able to post. Real life and stuff. You know how these mega discussions go when everyone responds point for point :P

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Saying Sony has the better solution is bit pushing it when how many games right now are actually utilizing the feature? Based on the Vita commercials, I think the MLB game does, but outside of this and I think All-Stars, I can't think of another games that uses it. And moving forward, how many other developers are going to use it when its optional? Historically speaking, you can expect low adoption rates.

You're talking as if the feature isn't that important and that was one of my points to begin with when I called it "trivial". You can expect low adoption rates because the market was not asking for this type of thing and developers do not want to be forced to use a specific piece of quirky hardware or a specific oddball feature. I was reminded of our discussion here due to reading this well researched article on Not Enough Shaders. The article makes a lot of points with which I agree, but the thing I'd like to single out is that 84 percent of U.S. households own more than one television. That statistic alone makes the whole "Off-TV" gameplay angle look absurd. I mean heck, in the early 90's the kids in my family had a separate TV where we played our NES in our own room without bothering anyone else in the house, and this was twenty years ago! From a market standpoint, this just isn't a problem.

I suppose there is a possibility that Sony could require the syncing feature to be included by developers just like they do the stupid trophies, which, like the gamepad, developers also don't want to use and for which consumers weren't asking either. I'm not sure that Nintendo will technically require gamepad compatibility for every game but you can be certain that every single first party game will have, at minimum, some gimmick shoehorned into it that requires the gamepad. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Pikmin (for both of the Pikmin fans)… everything.

I suppose you are trying to differentiate between the PS4 version of the feature and the way the Wii U implements it via streaming. The two features are very similar in that they perform the same job in getting the game off the big TV. Although the Wii U may be faster via streaming the consumer market was not prioritizing this at all so therefore it is not an important enough item upon which to base an entire console. Yes you said the Wii U is not entirely tethered to the gamepad, but so far, in the year and a half since Wii U's unveiling, that is all the marketing has been about. From first party games like Nintendoland to ports like Arkham City Armored Edition, the top reasons touted as why you should play those games on the Wii U are the features that the gamepad allows. Why else would you buy all these two year old ports that are being advertised for the Wii U when they've been out for years on other systems?

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Second, this is why Nintendo is correct when saying you have to experience it first. There is a HUGE difference in what the Wii U gamepad does in technology and experience by instantly streaming video to the gamepad vs. sharing a save game file.

To be honest I am not that familiar with the specifics of the differences in technology, as far as how long it takes a Vita to sync, versus the instant streaming of the gamepad. I have experienced neither, so I have no first hand knowledge of one versus the other. That being said, the point I have been trying to make is that the gamepad is a huge turnoff to people who just want "a plain old box" like you and Odofakyodo have been discussing. The job of the game console is to let people play games on their big TV. The job the Wii U performs is to let people notuse the big TV, which is the job of a handheld device. If not using the big TV is such a big deal for a consumer family, then they likely already have a handheld device anyways. For everybody else, the reaction to the gamepad is, "Who cares?" That was exactly my reaction as I watched the E3 footage when the Wii U was unveiled ("Time for baseball" - *click*). "Why are they marketing their console around not using the main TV?" Is it a nifty feature? Sure, but I didn't spend my hard earned money on an HDTV to not use it.

When I think of the Wii U, I think of the gamepad. If their core franchises weren't steadily declining in quality for the last several generations, I might think otherwise. Therefore, I will not be buying a Wii U any time soon, unless the price comes down by over $100 to offset the cost of the gamepad which I did not even want anyways. And this is coming from a Wii and former Gamecube, N64, and diehard NES and SNES owner. Nostalgia can only carry Nintendo so far. They have been propped up on the nostalgia of childhood NES gamers like me for far too long.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Dude, I have to laugh because that poster communicates the exact opposite of what you said. It doesn't matter that ROB is at the bottom. He's the most visually dominant element in the poster and the fact that he's even there tells you that Nintendo was trying to make R.O.B. the face of the NES (despite the fact that only two games supported him).

Heh. Well at you least you can tell I was trying to be genuine by using an example that I have seen in my own life. I could have easily cherry-picked some ad that didn't have R.O.B. My fault for using an imperfect example.

It's amazing how two people can look at something and interpret it so differently. I took a look at the poster at work and now that I see it that the digital reproduction in the link again, I see the digital photo makes R.O.B. appear a lot brighter than in the real poster. In reality he's much dimmer compared to the rest of the poster. Blah blah I'm sure nobody wants to get bogged down in or read a graphic design analysis of a single poster, but I will say that if R.O.B. was supposed to be the main attraction, wouldn't he be displayed prominently at the top? He's not. The first line on the poster contains the flagship games Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Zeldas 1 and 2, and Kid Icarus, followed by about 30 other games, with R.O.B. at the bottom, and actually the robot is never mentioned by name, even under Gyromite. No poster like that, showcasing that many games, would ever be made by modern Nintendo for the Wii U.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

You're also ignoring video game history. When I said "competitor", saying "marketplace" would have been more accurate. Yes, the NES didn't have a direct competitor at the time, but Nintendo had to launch the NES under the shadow of the Great Video Game Crash of 1983. So not only was the look of the console designed to feel more like advance consumer electronics, but the R.O.B. was presented at the face of the product again to distance itself from classic video games at the time.

The article you cite actually supports my point. It explains that R.O.B. was marketed to retailers and not to the end consumer. Nintendo's intention with R.O.B. and the light gun was to get the console on shelves due to the video game stigma of the Atari crash. The article gives the impression that Nintendo knew that those peripherals were not for the end consumer:

"The commercials touting the R.O.B and the light gun as "The Toy of The Future" didn't fool any kid under fifteen for a second. They knew what they were seeing -- this was a video game! Consumers weren't tired of video games, they were tired of bad video games...

…The second year, the company dropped R.O.B., and just sold the gray box on its own."

The article says that consumers were tired of "bad" games. Games make or break the game system, not the hardware gimmick. One year later, Nintendo dropped R.O.B. like the hot smelly turd that they knew he was, and they just sold the plain old "grey box". If the company is smart, they will do the same with the Wii U gamepad. However, this is modern Nintendo we are talking about, and you can rest assured that the gamepad will be shoved into at least every flagship game if not as many games as possible. That simply did not happen with R.O.B.

If R.O.B. was the console gimmick in present times, he would be plastered across the face of every print ad, you would see him in every shot of every TV commercial, and Miyamoto wouldn't stop talking about him. Nothing close to that type of marketing ever happened back then with R.O.B. R.O.B. may have helped get the grey boxes on the shelves initially but he wasn't what catapulted the NES into being a phenomenon. Kids didn't go over to their friends houses to play Gyromite -- I remember one of my only friends who owned it said the game was "stupid" -- kids went to their friends houses and then came home and begged their parents for a NES because of games like Super Mario Bros., Zelda, and Metroid. I'm surprised someone who experienced the NES era would actually think otherwise.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Thinking back, I don't recall seeing a single SNES related commercial on TV, but "Mode 7" was big deal for the hardcore gamers that drove the market back in the day when SNES vs Genesis wasn't just discussion fodder. It was religion. You had to choose a side, no if's and's or but's. I can even remember the day I convinced Dale in high school of the merits of the SNES over the Genesis. Mode 7 and the 256 color palette was an easy sell.
One other thing that can't be ignored. Most games featured Mode 7 prominently from Pilot Wings to Super Castlevania (even if the Mode 7 felt a bit shoe-horned in the latter case). Sound familiar? Waggle-choo!

Lol @ "Waggle-choo!" I could have done without shoehorned waggle-choo in Donkey Kong Country Returns.

I'd like to know why you think the "hardcore" gamers drove the market back then because I don't think that is a fair statement. First, games back then were way more accessible to "casual" gamers when compared to the control schemes and control devices of today (Wiimote + Wii Sports notwithstanding). Those games were way more like arcade games and didn't force in insufferable, un-skippable dialogue and cut scenes trying to mimic bad movies and anime. That is, those games were way more like what handheld games seem to be like today, hence the success of the Nintendo's handheld lines with the exception of the 3DS, which (surprise!) is based on a gimmick as well. Also, weren't the NES and SNES the highest selling Nintendo consoles besides the Wii? I don't think it is possible for that to have happened due to "hardcore" gamers and not a mass market of "casuals" or what i like to think of as just average people/kids.

I'm sure Pilotwings was all about Mode 7. Unless I just completely misunderstand Mode 7, I don't think Super Castlevania 4 and many other games "prominently" featured it. I can think of a couple of parts where it was used in SC4, like when you kill the rock golem boss, but other than that I don't think SC4 shoved it in your face. Honestly I never heard the term until after the SNES era had come and gone. From my experience, average kids weren't going to their friends saying "Check out this Mode 7". Most people just knew the SNES had "better graphics" which, again, is hardly a gimmick.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

All I can say is that I've never seen that SMB WiiU commercial play on TV in my area and in fact the commercial that my son and I saw for resembled the one you linked for SMW. And I remember this clearly because immediately after seeing it, my son said to me "Daddy, can we buy that?"
Either way, all this means is the commercials hardly present an complete picture of how the consoles and games are marketed.

I don't have much to say to this except that it seems we live in completely separate worlds when it comes to our personal experiences regarding the marketing of the Wii U (and the NES and SNES). Literally almost everything I see Nintendo put out about the Wii U is "gamepad gamepad gamepad GAMEPAAAAAD". Do you have a link to this NSMB WiiU commercial of which you speak (I'm genuinely curious)? Are you not watching the same E3 presentations and Nintendo Direct as I am?

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Between the system launches, you're also ignoring a whole slew of peripherals (everything from the Super Scope, Multitap, eCard Reader, rumble pak etc) along the way. Some worked and much more didn't, but that's Nintendo's legacy.

This stuff wasn't shoehorned into every game like the waggle was and like the gamepad surely will be. Old school nintendo peripherals were mostly optional or limited to certain games.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Believe it or not, the points that you and Odof raised about subtracting the Gamepad and launching at an absolute rock bottom price point has me intrigued, but given the price that they launched at (which was more or less the same price as the Wii) and how it would affect developer adoption rates for the GamePad, I think Nintendo had to do what it did.
What I do think is interesting is that perhaps later in the console cycle, if Nintendo really wanted to go after that budget-minded market, they could put out another SKU sans the GamePad at like $100. Being as how all the accessories are already a mess with the Wii legacy, I don't see why considering the gamepad another accessory makes it any better.

But as for now, if Nintendo wants to play in the "Next-gen" playground, it has to put itself in that price range or consumers will see it as something else entirely.

But why is it even important for developers to adopt the gamepad? If it was just another peripheral, like the multitap, the NES Advantage, or the Power Glove, it wouldn't be so important that developers have to utilize it.. Those older peripherals were not forced on developers. Saying that Nintendo had to include the gamepad with the console in order to drive developer adoption rates is kind of the gamepad is kind of circular thinking. If the thing wasn't included by default in the first place and the marketing strategy of the console as a whole didn't revolve around the gamepad, it wouldn't be necessary for any developers to adopt it.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I'm also curious as to how you feel about the DS? The DS was also a gimmick, but a gimmick that worked and the rich library of games prove that. Given how the Wii U is based on the DS design, don't you think that gives the Wii U a good chance of finding similar success?

I don't own any handhelds because I simply don't spend enough idle time away from home where I need something to do, like riding a bus to work or something. My understanding of the DS is that it provided a rich game library (as you said) but the people to whom I've talked and reviews that I've read all give me the impression that the parts or features of games that shoehorned in the touch screen gimmick were annoying. I don't think the touch screen sold the DS rather than the library of relatively accessible games that were fun to play, many of which were just ports or remakes of old NES and SNES games. For myself I never had the inclination to purchase a Nintendo handheld device to replay a lot of games that I've played already and that I can play on a bigger screen. So personally it has just been a matter of where to spend my limited money and time, but I have nothing against the DS I've heard it is a fine system. Maybe I should buy one because I might just get that old school experience back. I'd like to try some of the handheld Castlevanias or something.

Also I'd like to mention that I have desperately tried to find good arcadey games for my Android phone. I have played quite a bit but I have come to the conclusion that the touch screen is just not made for good, tactile arcade action, so I've stopped trying to game on my phone. It's fine for slow paced puzzle games, or point and clicky adventure games, or turn based strategy, but for twitch arcade action the touch screen as a control scheme is garbage. So therefore, again, am skeptical people were buying the DS for the touch screen.

Which makes me think even more about what Odofakyodo said about a revisionist history inside Nintendo and I am inclined to agree. It seems that they really don't know what they are doing. They base many systems on gimmicks. When some systems sell, and some do not, they assume those outcomes are because of the gimmick, when in fact it is more or less whether or not the system has a rich game library, in quality as well as quantity. You say that the DS had a "gimmick that worked and the rich game library proves that". This implies that the rich game library was a result of the gimmick, but I do not believe the rich game library was a result of the gimmick in this case. I believe that the sales were the result of the rich game library, and the gimmick in this case was neither her nor there. At the least, the gimmicky touch screen was not enough of a hindrance to limit the sales of the DS, whereas with the Wii U gamepad it is a different story.

I won't rant on "kiddie" games right now because I don't have the time, but maybe in a bit.

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