Nintendo’s Family-Friendly Focus will Backfire

Nov 6, 2013
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Nintendo’s Family-Friendly Focus will Backfire

Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata said during a call with investors last week that he’s comfortable with his company’s standing in the marketplace. He believes that Sony and Microsoft are competing for the high-end of the space, while Nintendo is going after casual gamers and families. And it’s in that niche, he says, that Nintendo will see the most growth.

I’ll freely admit that Iwata has been right more than he’s been wrong in the years. Even while the world was saying that Nintendo’s Wii would be a failure, it was the company’s top brass, like Iwata, that said it would be a success. And as history has proven, they were dead on.

But in this case, Iwata is wrong. The Wii U is not the Wii, and even with its recent price cut, sales aren’t growing to such a degree that anyone should expect massive growth in the coming months.

Mobile gaming has taught us something about the industry: casual gamers are fickle. Sure, they loved the Wii when that device launched and they’ve been playing handhelds for quite some time, but as soon as the iPhone, Android handsets, and the iPad came along, they jumped ship.

Now, they’re more likely to be gaming on their handsets than on anything else.

[aquote]When kids ask for something, they're not shouting "Wii!" like they once did[/aquote]

Even kids, seemingly the most important market segment for Nintendo, have moved on. Now, when kids ask their parents for something for the holidays, they’re not shouting “Wii!” like they once did; they’re asking for an iPod Touch or iPhone. Their tastes have changed because their culture has changed. And Nintendo fails to see that.

Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft appear to be in a good place. Granted, they won’t be able to attract families, but hardcore gamers have stayed that way; they’re not as fickle as their casual counterparts. Those who want a high-end gaming experience and something that will deliver dozens of hours of gameplay will find it on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4. Outside of certain titles on the Wii U, it’s increasingly hard to find that on Nintendo’s hardware.

So, I’m unsure what the future holds for Nintendo or the Wii U. Sure, Nintendo will be able to attract gamers in Japan and in other markets where it still has a loyal fanbase.

But in areas where Nintendo is looked at more a relic of the past than anything else, the company will have some trouble in the coming months and years.

So perhaps it’s time for Nintendo to change its ways. Yes, the company can continue to cater to families if it wants, but it needs to start showing the hardcore segment that it cares. That’s the group that’s most loyal and that’s the group that will ultimately drive traditional gaming in a new direction.

Get with the program, Nintendo. If you don’t, the future will only get harder.


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