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|05-09-2014, 07:11 AM||#1|
Nintendo's 5 Ideas To Save The Company
Satoru Iwata has said it can't happen again. Speaking at a financial briefing on Wednesday, the day after Nintendo posted a third year of losses, the company's president took responsibility and promised change.
"Posting an operating loss for the fourth fiscal year running is unacceptable," he stated.
And then he set out his short-term vision on how to turn things around.
So what are Nintendo's plans to win back its once huge mainstream user-base?
Is there life in the beleaguered Wii U console yet?
Here are the five key concepts detailed this week.
'Mario Kart TV' and video sharing
The Mario Kart TV application running on a smartphone. Gamers will be able to view videos and compare rankings with their friends.
Nintendo has clearly looked at the content-sharing capabilities of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, which both allow gamers to easily upload gameplay videos, and has realized this is a vital modern feature.
Hence, the release of Mario Kart 8 this year will be accompanied by a web-based service, currently named "Mario Kart TV" which will allow gamers to upload videos of their best races to the internet, as well as watch hints and tips videos produced by Nintendo itself. The web TV service will be viewable on a range of platforms, including PCs and smartphones. Furthermore, if players sign in with their Nintendo Network IDs, they'll be able to view global rankings as well as quickly access videos and race times submitted by friends.
This is basically Nintendo catching up with where "live" console services are going, and it's likely the features will be rolled out to other major titles after Mario Kart 8.
Encourage digital and indie development
A chart showing the rise in digital sales on Nintendo platforms.
Nintendo platforms have featured online stores, or eShops, for several years, but these have been fiddly and complicated to use, and the choice of games limited. In the financial briefing on Wednesday, Iwata directly addressed this aspect, pointing out that digital sales on Nintendo consoles had tripled in the past two years, and that digital distribution was a source of growth for the company.
Again, this is Nintendo catching up with its rivals Sony and Microsoft, both of which provide comparatively robust online stores where gamers can purchase a huge range of mainstream titles as well as indie games. And its indie studios that the company is now courting. In March, the eShop got a new section dedicated to indie titles and later that month the company's digital gaming chief, Dan Adelman, gave a talk at GDC, eulogizing the Nintendo Web Framework, an accessible ecosystem for independent developers to create and distribute games for the Wii U.
Employing the low-cost games engine Unity, a popular choice with indies, the service provides tools and assistance for smaller studios much like Sony's PlayStation 4 development programme or Microsoft's ID@Xbox initiative.
With the larger western publishers such as Activision and Ubisoft treating Wii U development with extreme caution, bordering on indifference, highlighting the indie-friendliness of the Wii U is a sensible move. Nintendo has been slow in realising the growth of digital platforms like Steam and the smartphone App Stores, but it has surely noted the break-out success of indie titles such as Fez, DayZ and Minecraft or, of course, the brilliant World of Goo, which premiered on the Wii in 2008.
Mario meets Skylanders: NFC and the "toy to life" phenomenon
Nintendo is proposing a range of figurines that interact with games via an NFC reader.
A big problem with Wii U is that some of its interesting technical properties have been under-used in currently available games. One of these is the near field communication (NFC) capacity of the GamePad, which allows it to read data from a compatible object placed near or on the controller. We've seen this technology used to blisteringly successful effect in Activision's Skylanders series, which allows users to place action figures on a NFC "portal" so that they then appear in the game world on screen.
So far, only one major title, Pokemon Rumble U, employs a similar approach on the Wii U. However, on Wednesday, Iwata announced that from this autumn, Nintendo will be releasing NFC-compatible character figurines, which will be able to interact with a range of game titles. Furthermore, the figures will be able to read and store data, so players will be able to "train" and customize their figures.
More intriguingly, the company is looking into the cross-platform possibilities of its NFC games, announcing an NFC reader/writer for the Nintendo 3DS. The small circular infrared device will mean that data and gameplay elements can be shared between the 3DS and the Wii, via the collectible figurines.
Nintendo has always explored links between its home console and handheld devices, allowing the two to be connected and to exchange data. But the addition of Skylander-esque figures could make this even more appealing to merchandise-hungry fans. The "toys to life" sector is currently dominate by Skylanders and Disney Infinity, both of which are pumping the market with updates and new figures, so its arguable whether there's any growth left in the sector. But if there is, cute Mario, Zelda and Metroid figures are going to be the way to find it.
New consoles for emerging markets, new ideas for home
Speaking to Bloomberg on Wednesday, Iwata stated his surprising intention to develop new consoles for emerging markets. These will be entirely unique platforms rather than modified versions of the Wii U or 3DS. We want to make new things, with new thinking rather than a cheaper version of what we currently have, Iwata said. The product and price balance must be made from scratch.
The exact markets haven't been confirmed, but it's likely Nintendo is thinking of countries such as Brazil and India where there's a growing middle-class that is interested in games technology, but is not as experienced with previous consoles and conventions. This is not an entirely new concept for the company in 2003, it released the iQue Player, a games machine designed for and released exclusively in China. And again, it's about finding new ways to diversify its potential market without making the dramatic leap toward developing games for other platforms such as smartphones.
Meanwhile for its domestic market, Nintendo is also looking at using the NFC capabilities of its consoles as a payment system for online shopping. Japanese consumers are wary of giving out credit card information over the net, so instead they'll be able to use pre-paid e-money cards, tapping them on the GamePad to buy stuff. Iwata said this should be possible right after a hardware update in the summer.
The move into fitness and health
A chart "explaining" Nintendo's plans for some sort of health and fitness platform.
During a financial briefing in January, Iwata announced that Nintendo would be diversifying into personal health and fitness. The new "Quality of Life" business will involve some sort of combined hardware-software platform, and will not be based around games like Wii Fit, which was a huge hit on the Wii console, or technology like FitBit or Nike's Fuel Band.
Instead, Iwata said, the new sector, "will be characterized by a new area of what we like to call 'non-wearable' technology." So what is it? Well Nintendo's diagram doesn't really tell us much apart from the fact that its Quality of Life platform will make health care accessible and fun. Alongside Wii Fit and the Brain Training series of DS games, Nintendo has also dabbled in specialist health hardware in the past, including its Wii Vitality Sensor, which was revealed at E3 in 2009.
The device was designed to measure the player's pulse rate by clipping on to a finger, but it was canned because, according to Iwata, "it did not work as expected".
But we shouldn't be too cynical. Nintendo sees in its health concept a "blue ocean" of market potential, and let's face it, fitness applications and devices are an exploding sector right now. Almost a decade ago, everyone laughed at the concept of the Wii, which was technically far inferior to its rival consoles and came with a ridiculous wand that you had to waft around to make stuff happen on screen. It was totally ridiculous and utterly out of step with where mainstream games industry thought was going.
It sold 100m units.
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|05-09-2014, 04:57 PM||#2|
There are some good ideas. I hope they get gains again.
Problem is though, many kids play things like CoD instead of Nintendo games. Nintendo made so much in the beginning because they were basically revolutionary, and kids actually played games that weren't rated R/18.
|05-09-2014, 06:52 PM||#3|
Skylanders and Disney Infinity prove that kids don't play CoD endlessly. That unfortunate userbase will always remain and Nintendo doesn't want a part of that.
However they can make bank with their NFC plans if they do it right.
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