How Blue Is This Ocean?

Nintendo’s “blue ocean” is being polluted even faster than BP can pollute the Gulf.

By James Stank. Posted 06/25/2010 11:52 Comment on this     ShareThis

Blue Ocean

How blue is the ocean? Right now, not very blue at all. You’ve all heard of the “blue ocean” strategy, in which a company creates demand in an uncontested area. That’s what Nintendo did with Wii and DS: they catered towards casual gamers, and the strategy worked extremely well. Casual gamers began to pick up and play video games more than they ever had before. At that time, the metaphorical ocean was crystal clear. But just as BP’s oil pollutes the Gulf, Sony and Microsoft’s new motion control solutions are polluting Nintendo’s ocean.

When Nintendo launched Wii back in 2006, almost everything the company did was brand new. No one had ever seen a game like Wii Sports before, where the player could actually get physically involved in the game. Every game in the “Wii X” series went on to sell millions upon millions of copies because the ocean was blue. If Nintendo wanted to, it could have made Wii Sports 5 and so on, but eventually the games would have stopped selling, because the market would have become oversaturated with so many titles that were similar to each other, and casual gamers wouldn’t have a reason to buy more.

Now, in 2010, Nintendo’s ocean isn’t very blue at all. There’s very little that hasn’t already been done. Nintendo has bravely mapped this new territory as much as it can and has come out a winner. Some third parties have rushed in to make trashy games and capitalize on Nintendo’s blue ocean success. With each and every poorly-conceived and developed casual game that third parties release, Nintendo’s ocean becomes more polluted. No longer are these experiences brand new. Casual gamers already had a reason to get a Wii with Nintendo’s superior software, and third parties aren’t giving them any reason to purchase theirs. Consumers have done Wii Sports and Wii Play.

However, this isn’t the only pollution arriving. Microsoft and Sony are both on the motion control bandwagon now, with their own devices launching later this year. What software is being prepared for the launch of the competition’s new control solutions? Wii Sports knockoffs. Microsoft and Sony are counting on their own Wii Sports to grab casual players away from Nintendo, and to entice those who haven’t picked up a controller before to pick up one now. But there is a major problem with this strategy. Nintendo has been there and done that, as have casual gamers. What the competition is offering now isn’t novel anymore. Yet slowly, the Kinect- and Move-enabled games will continue to darken Nintendo’s ocean. The competition assumes Nintendo has now done all it can, and they are situating their new devices as the next step for casual gamers.

Right now, those casual gamers who own a Wii have no reason to get a PS3 or 360. They already have a system that does motion control. At this point, Sony and Microsoft are trying to compete with Nintendo for the casual audience, and Nintendo knows what to do. With competition focusing on casual gamers, Nintendo is refocusing on the hardcore. Satoru Iwata said that he felt the DS was geared too much towards the expanded audience, so enter the 3DS: a system built for the hardcore crowd. That is where Nintendo will be creating its next new ocean, as the current one is already full of debris.

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