Thursday, March 10, 2005

Nintendo Has Lost The Plot

I am honestly astounded by This interview with Reggie Fils-Aime (Nintendo US Marketing guy) over at 1UP because it is painfully obvious that Nintendo has failed to learn from their past mistakes.

As I see it Nintendo has lost third part support and is staying alive by producing a handful of good games every few years. Mario 64 was practically the only driving force for people to buy an N64 and even now with the DS, owner are starting to get fannie sores because Nintendo isn't releasing any good titles. Personally I haven't bought a DS yet because the grey case is ugly and there are more titles that I want on the PSP than the DS.

Typically Nintendo releases a few titles at launch then gamers have to wait for months before anything new is released and this was brought-up in the interview:
1UP: OK, they're coming, but do you feel like you might have missed an opportunity with that six-month window. Maybe if Mario Kart was here in January, could you have done it better?

RFA: I'll frame it this way: Would I love to be sitting here on a pile of 100 great DS games, and be metering them out, once per month? I'd love to do that, unfortunately that's not the way this business works. [Snip]
As first party vendors I would say it is their job to make sure there is a steady stream of good titles to keep owners happy, but Nintendo just doesn't have that kind of internal motivation or external support to make that happen.

The Most telling question was:
[Snip] But you could say that same thing about past-generation Nintendo systems: That you have the best software. But in the end, it comes down to a lot of brand-power, and your marketing and your image. Everyone could say GameCube has a TON of great games that you can't get anywhere else, and yet the PS2 still kicks its ass in terms of hardware sales, just because it's a cooler, slicker machine. It's a mainstream machine, people get it. It's out there, involved with the entertainment industry in various ways that the GameCube isn't. It's likely the PSP will achieve similar success, because it's a cool, slick machine. And you guys are obviously going for an older audience with the DS, what happens when Sony comes along with this movie-playing machine, this MP3-playing machine, and it outsells you guys, becomes the cool thing to own, and you come in second place in handhelds?

RFA: That's a lot of "ifs" in that question. [Snip]
Apart from that fact there isn't a single 'IF' in that statement, he responded saying that they will do clever marketing to grab as many sales as they can. He also talks about working with the Hip-hop community and the interviewer asks:
1UP: Can you do that with Mario Kart, and Princess Peach, and Yoshi?

RFA: I think you can definitely do it with Mario Kart. I think that you can definitely do it with Metroid Prime Hunters. I think you can do it with Advance Wars. Yoshi, Princess Peach, nuh uh. It's a different consumer. But quite frankly, we want that consumer just as much as we want the 21 year-old.
So he admits that Nintendo has lost the audience that they once held so strongly. Even I realise now that Nintendo isn't a company that gets me existed anymore. I just look at them now and hope they get better because I have a soft spot for them and they deserve better.

This next quote from Reggie is kind of interesting:
[Snip] because we're pushing the envelope on innovation, it is a tougher proposition for licensees to support our systems
Now if you checkout GameSpy's coverage of Microsoft's Presentation at GDC (Game Developer Conference), the guy doing the presentation J. Allard (XNA Chief Architect) says that Microsoft is avoiding the "Science Fair" that is normally associated with new console hardware. They have identified one of the console industries key flaws. Which is that when a new console is released, developers have to work with it for a few years before they get all they can out of the system. And Microsoft has hit the problem on the head with a big hammer by implementing standardised tools (XNA, more later).

The 1UP interviewer talks to Reggie about how developers only use all the console's power at the end of the products lifecycle and asks if Nintendo has any plans to help change that. Reggie responded with a simple, we are working on it answer. And Microsoft has XNA which will revolutionise console development with standard tools that allows developers to write games in managed code! (I will probably do a post later on the significance)

I liked this closing comment by the GameSpy writer on Microsoft’s strategy:
Since it's nearly a certainty that it [Microsoft] will lose the hardware horsepower race to Sony, it's wise for the company to emphasize features like personalization, customization, and ease of use. While jaw-dropping graphics will definitely draw a crowd, upping the accessibility of console gaming might help Microsoft reach new consumers.
Nintendo says they are on a different development path, but to what! Microsoft is trying to produce the best product they can for consumers and developers, so I don't know what Nintendo is trying to do or what direction they are taking, but the fact that Microsoft was at GDC and actually talking directly to developers clearly shows their commitment. Nintendo on the other hand is as tight lipped as usual.

Edit: Nintendo's president also Spoke At GDC, but he only talked about wi-fi and something about building on what they already had, which is good because of their strong existing franchises.