Green Switch Palace: Analysis – and Lamentations?

Interviewing the Nintendo Gal, Andrea Campton.

By Marc N. Kleinhenz. Posted 10/14/2011 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Green Switch Palace masthead GSP

Andrea Campton is the editor-in-chief of a lovely little website called Nintendo Gal. We “met” only recently, when she was invited to participate in one of the All-star Roundtables that I chair for GameXplain by that site’s EIC, Andre Segers (a former Nintendojo staff writer and a previous Airship Travelogues guest of honor). Her contributions were cogent, insightful, and, what’s more, lively, making her the perfect guest panelist to discuss Nintendo of America’s recent – ahem – stumblings in the headlines.

Oh, Nintendo. Whatever shall we do with you?

Let me throw some numbers at you. Nintendo’s sales goals and profit estimates have been consistently lowered as of late, and it’s actually performed worse than these revisions, reaching a 26-year low. Its stocks are down 50% year-to-date, making them nearly the same price as they were five years ago. Is it all doom and gloom from here on out?

We were discussing this same topic on our podcast recently. Personally, I feel it’s simply more of the same. Back in 2004, I remember reading similar rhetoric, mostly due to Sony’s entrance into the portable market. Nintendo went on to sell their product spectacularly, as history and charts have pointed out. It’s interesting to note that a few years previous to the Nintendo DS launch, there was a recession. Now, in the US at least, we’ve just come out of one, and I’ve noticed that sales started to slide with the economy for the entire industry. Of course, correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation, so I’ll simply say it’s a hunch.

One thing I am certain of, however, is what goes up must come down. The Wii was a surprise hit for Nintendo from my eyes, and with that came rises in stocks and more cash flow. Now that that bubble has busted, I think we’re simply seeing the effects of gravity, as it were. Once the dust settles, Nintendo will be right back to what they do best: innovating and printing money.

Satoru Iwata recently said that the company will never develop iOS games. Is this smart or a grave misstep?

For all the flack Mr. Iwata has been catching lately for the stock prices dipping and products not selling well, I don’t think he is given enough credit, at least from those who did and are investing in the company. This is the man who took the helm of HAL Laboratory, which was fading at the time, and turned it around and made it successful once more. When he took over for Hiroshi Yamauchi back in 2002, I think it can be said he did much the same for Nintendo.

With all this experience under his belt, I feel this decision is a smart one. Why? Two simple reasons. First of all, Nintendo is a hardware manufacturing company that also produces software for their own systems. If they decide to one day put their products on another platform they don’t control, it sends a signal out to consumers that they don’t need the latest hardware from Nintendo to play their game. Instead, they’ll just need a phone or another piece of hardware to dive in. Secondly, with all the inexpensive applications and games available for iOS and other platforms, I feel it would water down the Nintendo franchises. That’s not to say that Nintendo or whoever else they outsource their games to won’t make a great game on that platform. However, they’d need to be price competitive with the plethora of titles out there, and I just don’t see the need for them to do so. That also creates a problem with competing with themselves if their products are available on different platforms, to make no mention of the licensing fees involved with another company.

That’s an interesting response, considering just how expensive handheld titles are, whether it be $40 for 3DS games or $5 (or more!) for PSP Minis. Should Nintendo cut these prices across the board? (And do you think the Wii having cheaper games by at least $10 helped at all with its phenomenal success?)

I’ve always felt that the Nintendo 3DS games price point was a poor decision – at least, that’s what my wallet keeps whispering to me. Aside from the lack of truly compelling games up until this point, I feel that it has been a factor in the 3DS not lighting up retailers so far. Personally, trying to budget in that extra $5-$10 per handheld title makes me wary of what the game offers, especially in light of no demos being available for the system. Generally, though, Nintendo first-party games are worth it, on average. That being said, Nintendo obviously thinks their software can command those prices. I’m waiting until after the holiday season to see who was correct, whether it be my armchair quarterbacking or Nintendo. For handheld games, though, I think $30 is the sweet spot.

As for the Wii games price point, I’m not sure that that had too big a role. The mainstream consumer buys Nintendo products because the software has the experience they’re after. They broke the mold when they released Wii, so I saw it more as a trend to regular individuals who don’t necessarily game. They probably could have charged $60 per game and gotten away with it, at least for their own titles.

How excited are you about the exclusive ABBA game coming out for Wii this fall? =)

Not that I am totally offended by ABBA or anything, but I think Terrance Stamp put it best in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – no more fucking ABBA!”

Excluding Zelda and ABBA, then, what are you personally most looking forward to this holiday season?

Let’s see here – since I’ve played Kirby Mass Attack, it set off a craving for more Kirby games. So Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is up there. Another I’m strangely looking forward to is Go Vacation (Wii) from Namco Bandai. On the handheld side of things, definitely wanting to get my hands on Aliens: Infestation (DS) from Sega. The WayForward folks always seem to put so much love behind their games.

Marc N. Kleinhenz has covered gaming for over a dozen publications, including IGN, Gamasutra, and TotalPlayStation, where he was features editor. He also likes mittens.

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