Nintendo has a bad habit of ignoring big threats until they become implacable foes. The latest goof? President Satoru Iwata attempted to allay investor’s fears about social media games like FarmVille. He didn’t do it by announcing a new Nintendo Facebook game or social networking service. Instead, he said this: “Nintendo has been developing social entertainment in the field of video games for a long time.”
Which is true. I spent hundreds of hours of my childhood huddled around a screen with three of my friends, blasting each other in GoldenEye or irreparably damaging our friendships over Mario Party. Nintendo games have always had a fairly strong social component.
But “social” today isn’t the same as “social” ten or fifteen years ago. Iwata continued, “When you hear the term ‘social network,’ it generally means a service taking advantage of social human relationships through a constantly connected network with smart phones and PCs. In contrast, Nintendo appreciates real human relationships among people.”
And that’s fantastic, but real humans appear to appreciate being able to integrate quality gaming into their social media. Now and, in the future, increasingly, they’re going to expect to be able to take those games with them wherever they go.
But Nintendo has always been dismissive about this sort of thing. As recently as April of 2010, Iwata blew off Apple as “not having an impact on Nintendo”. Six months later, Nintendo America President Reggie Fils-Aime admitted that Apple was more of a near-term threat than Microsoft.
If that trend continues, we can look forward to hearing Reggie admit that social media gaming represents a real threat by this time July.