Nintendo is a Heck of a Lot Smarter Than ‘Hardcore’ Gamers Would Like to Believe
How often do you read a post on Twitter, a gaming forum or in the comments of an article about Nintendo, where “hardcore” gamers deride Nintendo for making underpowered hardware that is more concerned with being accessible to a wide audience than pushing the technological envelope?
Here’s three I found in short order as I sat down to write this post:
“Nintendo jumped the gun with this console (WiiU)–the Wii was a success purely because it primarily catered to the casual gaming crowd.”
“The Wii was short-term miracle that won’t be repeated in the future. Nintendo doesn’t seem to have a long term strategy and is dangerously out of touch with gaming in general IMHO.”
“$299+ for a console with specs basically the same as (or worse than) cheaper competing models that are being replaced by something much better in a year? Seems like poor planning on Nintendo’s part.”
Does this sentiment sound familiar? It should, because we’ve been hearing it since shortly after the launch of the first Wii. Which, by the way, went on to sell 100 million units. We also heard it after the bumpy start of the 3DS, which has since gone on to sell 22 million units worldwide (in less than two years).
A lot of “hardcore” gamers seem to want the WiiU to fail, and many of those same gamers are the ones who scoff at the idea of mobile gaming, despite the enormous growth of games for iOS and Android devices over the past few years.
But ironically, it’s the “hardcore” gamers that are the short-sighted ones here. Because the fact of the matter is that the AAA, big-budget technological marvels that defined this gaming generation are going to be a smaller part of the next one. What “hardcore” gamers see as “casual” gaming will become the norm, and what they consider to be the mainstream now will become a niche market in the next generation.
And that’s why they’re all angry at Nintendo–because Nintendo isn’t railing against the move toward more accessible gaming experiences, they are embracing it. Nintendo gets it–more than Microsoft, and certainly more than Sony. And Nintendo has once again positioned themselves to be successful in the next console cycle. They have an HD-capable machine that can provide a spectrum of gaming experiences, from “casual” to “hardcore.” They have a stable of first-party franchises and characters that adult gamers grew up with and kids are immediately drawn to. And when it comes to their user interface and aesthetics, they would rather be charming than edgy, which results in a wider appeal.
Neilsen just did a survey in which they asked kids ages 6 to 12 what electronics and gaming devices were on their holiday wish lists this year. Of the top five, four of them belonged to Apple. The iPad topped the list at 48%. Number two? The WiiU.
This week, word came out that Microsoft was planning on releasing two versions of its next console. One version would be geared toward higher end, more technologically intensive gaming experiences, while the other version would be more of an entertainment hub, with the ability to download and play XBox Live Arcade titles and smaller games. Sounds like Microsoft is starting to get it, but I’m not sure that creating two versions of the next XBox is the right way to go. In any case, they’ve seen the writing on the wall that the “hardcore” market is shrinking, and they are beginning to adjust.
It was also revealed this week that while Nintendo is selling the WiiU at a small loss, as soon as a consumer buys one game for the console, it becomes profitable for Nintendo. Odds are that will not be the case with the next XBox (the high end version) or PlayStation.
So as “casual” games continue to become more popular, and console develoeprs continue to leave to develop for mobile platforms instead, “hardcore” gamers continue to yell that Nintendo doesn’t get it. In reality, Nintendo began to adjust their long-term strategy with the Wii, and that has continued with the 3DS and now the WiiU. Of the big three console manufacturers, Nintendo is poised to be the most successful in the future. If I was Sony and Microsoft right now, I’d be terrified, as they are developing new hardware for an audience that is getting smaller, and with publishers and developers who are afraid to take risks with big budget games.
The next year sure is going to be very interesting.
**If you’re wondering why I put the terms “casual” and “hardcore” in quotes for the entire post, it’s because they are nonsensical terms that are usually used by avid gamers to separate themselves from less avid gamers.