There seems to be a lot of confusion running around in regards to how Nintendo plans to tackle their future. This really shouldn’t be too big of a surprise given that, on the surface, Nintendo has been providing a bit of a mixed message lately. However, the overall message is still there, and if Nintendo can pull off all of its many ambitions, this should hopefully mean a rather bright future for the company.
The overall theme of last night’s investor briefing can summed up as advancing to the future through individuality. In layman’s terms, this means to make a lot of bold changes while still maintaining that idea of uniqueness. Like, Nintendo offers something no one else does. You could see this throughout Iwata’s plan.
There was some rather standard fair messaging – they are sticking to the hardware – software relationship, they are already working on their next hardware additions, the fact that the Wii U isn’t doing well, and that the 3DS is what they are relying on for short to medium term profit margins. Beyond that fluff, however, is Nintendo trying to pave a way in a brave new world.
For now, I am going to set aside the quality of life initiative (that deserves an entire conversation unto itself), and focus more squarely on what most of us care about: The future of Nintendo in the video game market.
Nintendo is Advancing in Their Own Way
It's been said many times that Nintendo does what they want to do, regardless of what others around them have done. Iwata has previously recognized his failure in understanding the changes occurring in foreign markets. While he surely doesn’t understand everything right now, he has made some rather big strides that, if they pan out, are going to pay some huge dividends.
Starting out, Nintendo isn’t going to just hop into the future by playing follow the leader. That has never been their style. They prefer to lead rather than follow. That doesn’t mean they won’t adapt to current trends, but they won’t always adapt in the same fashion by chasing markets already dominated by arguably better devices.
As an example, Iwata recognized that they need to unify their fan base under one fundamental account system, rather than simply identifying with hardware. This has been a standard since Xbox Live and the iOS market came to be. Nintendo recognizing and committing to this in the future is the recognition that Nintendo needs to adapt to current market trends. Admitting that such trends are actually a really good idea – maybe one they should have embraced sooner.
At the same time, their ideas behind using this account system are not 100% in line with current trends, but are certainly based on them. Consider the customer loyalty program, where folks who buy multiple digital games a year, or get their friends to buy them, are rewarded with gradually cheaper games. This allows Nintendo to reward customers who stay loyal, and it makes games more affordable, thus more likely that consumers will buy more games. This is all in addition to already current sales that run on eShop and 3rd party titles already rather frequently. This is really unlike any other major video game platform out there. Steam is probably the closest in relation, but what Steam does is more of fire sales, and rarely is it on the latest released games. Nintendo seems to be suggesting they will offer it on most games, new or old. It’s all about how many games you purchase.
Beyond that singular concept, you have the Wii U Quick Start Menu. It seems like such a simple change, but it is still unlike anything currently available on the market. It’s putting video games first – even before a home screen. It is more of a call back to old days where you booted up your system straight into a game, and it’s a nice option that others don’t offer. As I said, it is very simple, and very Nintendo.
Adding onto the little touches, they are going to try and tackle the global issue of selling video games in newer markets, and will be allowing 3rd parties to develop core Nintendo based IP. You could say that Hyrule Warriors may be one of those steps, but it could be something like Platinum developing Starfox, or another company heading up a Metroid game.
Using Smart Devices… In New Ways
The solution for Nintendo to enter the smart device market isn’t what investors called for, but as Iwata put it, chasing everyone else only has short term goals taken care of rather than looking at the wider scope. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get involved, but to do it the same way everyone else is wouldn’t be of benefit to them.
To that idea, they do plan to release some applications. They plan to possibly even have some games, but more importantly than that is the fact they are licensing their characters to be used outside of games. The idea is brand awareness. Mario may be a household name, but is he to the millions that use smart devices? It could be things as simple as a Zelda calculator, or as complex as a Nintendo themed finance program. The fact is, Nintendo is getting in the game and doing so by pushing their brand, rather than force feeding their back catalog onto those devices. Time will tell how this plays out.
Quality of Life and Beyond
Obviously, the biggest news, and the one that people seem to be most up in arms about, is Nintendo’s new third pillar – the quality of life experience based around health and fitness. If they can’t lockdown their current two pillars, how can they expand into an already crowded third pillar? Their idea, as they claim, as the ability to leapfrog current conventions, with some non-wearable device that you have on your person at all times – but what could that actually entail? How will it be able to involve Nintendo’s entertainment division?
There are a lot of questions, and right now Nintendo doesn’t have a lot of answers. They aren’t entirely ready to explain it all until they likely have a working device, whatever shape or designation that device is supposed to have. This quality of life experience is an admitted blue ocean move, so take that for what you will.
At the End, it is Nintendo being Nintendo
Some view that sort of remark as negative, but reality is that it was a bit hard to suggest Nintendo was open to massive change. Such as chasing Sony and Microsoft or trying to chase the mobile phone market. Reality is that Nintendo isn’t in the chasing business and while they will attempt to adapt to certain standards, they will do so in their own way, which they feel offers something another way doesn’t. To their credit, something like Miiverse has already proven to be much friendlier that other social networks, for better or worse.
Where Nintendo heads in the future is unknown. All I can say for certain is that the ride to their complete vision is going to be bumpy, but possibly worthwhile.