Over the last few months analysts and consumers alike have realized that Nintendo has a potentially serious problem. Sales are faltering and brand recognition is being overtaken by other companies, namely Sony, Microsoft and, to a lesser degree, brands available on more mobile devices than Nintendo’s proprietary mobile hardware. Our own Justin Jelinek reported on this earlier last week.
What could be causing this major dip in sales for Nintendo? Is it the global recession? Pricing? Availability? Partly, but the issue is bigger than that. Simply put, the issue is this: Nintendo lacks focus.
We’ve seen this time and again, where companies become so large in their clamor to reach as many consumers as possible that they lose their overall focus and begin to disintegrate. Let’s look at Microsoft as an example. Before Satya Nadella took over Microsoft, the company was rapidly losing consumer rapport for it’s almost Apple-like insistence that consumers were going to willingly accept Microsoft’s (often poor) decisions regarding the direction of their products and services.
As of late, Microsoft has been suffering from a sort of identity crisis as the last of Steve Ballmer’s old guard clashes with new CEO Satya Nadella’s fresh faces and good-natured, transformational agenda. The identity crisis is a welcome change, however, as Microsoft has begun backpedaling on awful decisions like the mandatory Kinect peripheral for the Xbox One. Microsoft is slowly becoming consumer friendly again but, more importantly, Microsoft is becoming focused on innovation again, which is what drove them to the top under the leadership of Bill Gates.
Nintendo is, and has almost always has been, consumer friendly on the surface. Their public image is still that of a family-friendly electronics company with an interest in producing gaming systems that allow its users to have fun. Underneath the smiling public image, however, is a company that has, until very recently, refused to embrace what are, at this point, no-brainer industry standards. What is unforunate is that it takes years of hammered sales for Nintendo to realize that they need to get with the program. High definition graphics, easy-to-use controllers, and a large selection of both 1st and 3rd party games on their systems should be right in line behind Nintendo’s mantra of “fun.”
Don’t get me wrong – I truly love Nintendo. I grew up on classic gaming systems like the Nintendo 64 and the Gameboy. My Gamecube was scratched and dented from so many trips to friends houses and hours spent playing Super Smash Brothers Melee. Because I love Nintendo, though, I’ve got to be hard on them and demand more from them as a life-long customer, and so should you.
So what can Nintendo do to fix its lack of focus? Here is my proposal:
First: Continue to embrace HD graphics. The Wii U is the first Nintendo console to support HDMI out of the box, though it’s too bad that the system has been more or less a flop since its launch. That being said, HD graphics don’t take away from the fun and will enhance a Nintendo experience in exciting ways, allowing game designers to initiate interesting new experiences with graphics that they haven’t been able to before. Although graphics aren’t everything, high resolution textures and models of beloved characters will never hurt the company.
Second: Create an inclusive gaming experience. The Wii U is spectacularly devoid of 3rd party titles, while the 3DS is swimming with them. Conversely, the 3DS has a small number of 1st party titles and the Wii U has more than one can count. Although the 3rd party titles seem to be keeping the 3DS high in the market, there’s no doubt that Nintendo should bring a lot of games to each console from both 1st and 3rd party publishers to give consumers a wider selection. This gives Nintendo a competitive edge over other console manufacturers by offering more choices.
Third: Think about creating additional mobile experiences. The 3DS and the 2DS are Nintendo’s bread and butter at the moment, but gamers have always preferred to be able to take their favorite games on the go. Although Nintendo may not be interested in going truly mobile by supporting Android, iOS, and other devices, they should be open to all of the revenue and customers even a small foray like publishing classic games in other markets would bring. It’s an untapped market. Is it a market Nintendo could make a dent in? Absolutely, but they’d have to go about it carefully and with an open mind.
Fourth: Don’t forget to create new intellectual properties. A lot of gamers, especially in my age bracket of 25-35, love to see remakes of their favorite games being released in HD on systems like the 3DS, like the upcoming Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire and Starfox 3DS. Reliving memories is great, but we also crave new experiences. Bravely Default is an excellent new IP that drives 3DS and 2DS sales.
Finally: Continue to innovate. Embracing some industry standards doesn’t mean that Nintendo has to give up on its dreams of delivering new and unique gaming experiences to the world. Indeed, that’s why I loved my Gameboy – no other company had delivered games to me on the go the way Nintendo did. The Wii was an amazingly fun idea that saw widespread adoption throughout the gaming industry because it offered an experience like no other. Part of continuing to innovate, though, is admitting when something went wrong, and moving on. With Nintendo planning new consoles this year for a 2015 or so release, now may be the time to learn from its mistakes with the Wii U.
I really do believe that Nintendo can bounce back from this stigma that it’s nearing the end of its life as a company. All it would take is some focus on what’s important. Perhaps Nintendo has other ideas of what’s important, but as a 25 year customer of Nintendo products, games, and experiences, these are the areas I’d like to see Nintendo focus on. With a lot of hard work, they can return to the company we all know and love and this will just be a necessary bump in the road to reinventing themselves.
Feature Image Courtesy of Digital Trends