Since about 2008 we have lived in a world where the prediction of the end of the console/handheld has become as common place as the prediction that Politician X is corrupt or Christmas is going to be on December 25th this year. Yet in this same period video gaming has become the largest media industry backed up by sales of both the Wii and DS rocketing. So with the rise of mobile gaming and explosion in casual gaming, where next for Nintendo? Change the business model? Stick with what works? Or maybe they should pack it in and go home?
You may have read our very own Kevin Knezevic’s article on the growth of the mobile gaming experience, especially Angry Birds, and the challenge it presents Nintendo. I think, however, Nintendo have a bigger problem than just than the casual market, with its focus on simple mechanisms creating a heroin-like addiction to success, they risk losing their core audiences– children and “real gamers” (overly large children).
Children are a fickle bunch with no loyalty to the past, mostly due to not being alive for it. So Nintendo’s decidedly 20th century approach to children’s gaming is going to come back and bite them very heavily in the behind. I am not denying for a second that Nintendo continue to create great franchises for kids– who would possibly deny that this generation of Pokémon is just as adorable in its pastel colour range as any of the preceding 58 generations of digital companions. The thing is, as times change we simply cannot rely on the fact that Peach looks like the stereotypical Princess because I just don’t believe children are going to see her dress in all its pink floaty beauty. Why would a parent buy a dedicated console so that a child can play a colourful but relatively simple Animal Crossing game when they can get the same experience for free online, from their tablet, from their phone, from their television etc etc etc. The answer is that they won’t; anecdotally, I can tell you that all the under tens I know are well on the way to being dedicated gamers but the chosen platform appears to be Mummy’s laptop and Daddy’s iPhone, not the expensive, unversatile 3DS.
So what about more serious gamers? You know, the ones between 14-30 years old who spend much of their time sat in the dark, alone. In other words, me. For the last 6 weeks I really haven’t touched my DS; I still haven’t bought a 3DS despite it finally getting some titles that would have been compelling regardless of how much they stick out from the screen and I haven’t played a console game since I poured sections of my life into Xenoblade Chronicles.
Oliver doesn’t actually have the Metallic Rose DS Lite, his regular pink DS Lite is just covered in a thick layer of dust!
“Oh! You’ve stopped gaming then?” I hear an entirely fictitious audience cry.
No. In fact, if anything I’ve been gaming more and increasingly in appropriate situations (You can’t take your DS out at a friend’s party or while a lecturer is boring 7 kinds of hell out of you, but phones exist in a black spot in modern society). I’ve been playing a selection of RTS, RPGs and FPS games all off my mobile phone, and you know what? It’s been awesome.
Graphically most of these are on par or better than the majority of DS titles and while the input mechanisms are usually simpler, the result of having just the one screen to play with, the gameplay that these producers are capable of is no less compelling or complex. Oh, and instead of shelling out £30 for a game and finding out that it is awful, you pay on average about £5 which makes you more likely to be adventurous and less likely to punch something when it turns out adventurous choices normally turn out to be shit ones.
And it’s not just me, mobile gaming is by the far the industry’s fastest growing sector and increasingly it isn’t just casual gaming solutions it presents, but rich and varied games that make you excited to be a passionate gamer.
But all is not lost for Nintendo! A great number of my friends have turned their android phones into a “best of” library of Nintendo ROMs; they are even willing to pay about £5 for the emulator. So what does this tell us? Nintendo and their partners are still creating stimulating content that people want to play and that if given an opportunity all but the most ardent of pirates will pay for content.
So children won’t know who you are and older people won’t care. Whatcha gonna do Nintendo? How about you start by releasing classic NES, SNES, GB and GBA titles on the Android and iOS marketplaces at a reasonable cost. How many people would pay £7 to play Mario Kart or Fire Emblem? I’m no researcher but I can tell you: babillions. In fact, why doesn’t Nintendo continue its trend of leading the industry by announcing their intention to develop original content for mobile platforms, recognising it as the future of gaming?
We all know why these things won’t happen soon. It would mean a a fundamental change in Nintendo’s business model and an acceptance that what they are doing now won’t work in the future and in a hostile and competitive business environment that could mean a short term loss of revenue.
But heed this warning, Nintendo folks! I’ve loved your content my entire life and will always buy it because you’ve distorted my brain and turned me into a automaton fanboy, but if you don’t embrace mobile gaming you’ll miss the opportunity to distort the thinking of a whole new generation. If you don’t even try, you may as well go home now.