With reports that Sony will debut the PS4 in three weeks and with a possible holiday release on the table, the next generation has begun. Soon, Microsoft will follow with their Xbox 360 follow-up and Nintendo will sit there, their latest system not even a year old, their gamble foolish from the start.
A few years ago, when the Wii pioneered motion gaming — making it a must have system for casual gamers, families, and a lot of people who had never before owned a console before — it seemed like they could do no wrong.
Back then, the mobile gaming market wasn’t dominated by smartphones and tablets. Back then, Sony and Microsoft got caught on their heels, fighting a war over half the available market.
Then, back then ended. Android and Apple seized the mobile market and Sony and Microsoft eventually lowered their prices, marketed their systems as home entertainment hubs that could do things that the Wii could not, and then they entered the motion gaming market as well, with the Move and the Kinect, robbing Nintendo of the one thing that made them unique.
What makes them unique now? Their lack of foresight, and their pending irrelevancy.
See, when Sony and Microsoft had Nintendo beat, the House of Mario doubled down and brought a new system to market, even as it’s peers were writing off this generation and preparing to move into the future.
Will that system, the Wii U, be able to stand in against competition that will surely have them beat in every facet of the game? All signs point to no.
Companies die. It’s a sad thing because it means jobs and legacies vanish, but Atari just filed for bankruptcy, and Sega abandoned the console game years ago, fully aware that smaller companies cannot compete in the console wars against companies like Sony and now Microsoft — a lesson that Nintendo is now learning more fully.
Why am I so confident that the end is near for Nintendo, the home of NES and Gameboy, one of the industries’ forefathers?
I’m confident because they’re already beginning to erode, even before the next Sony and Microsoft system hit the market. From a report on Forbes.com:
Nintendo cut sales forecasts for all of its hardware and software today, most notably the Wii U. The company slashed shipping estimates on the Wii U from 5.5 million to 4, and software estimates from 24 million to 16.
The article goes on to say that, despite a profitable holiday season quarter, that Nintendo still suffered an annual loss last year. Again, this is in the last days of disco for an ending generation, and Nintendo couldn’t even live up to their own expectations with it’s new, shiny product (with current gen performance capabilities) that they are now locked into.
What about the DS and the 3DS? According to TGDaily:
The company also cut forecasts for its other consoles. 3DS sales are now likely to be 15 million by March – 14 percent fewer than predicted – with DS sales down eight percent on their forecast at 2.3 million.
Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m eager to dance on Nintendo’s grave. I grew up with an NES in my living room and adored the N64, but the past is the past and Nintendo’s corporate overlords have demonstrated a lack of vision and painful ineptitude when it comes to reading their own marketplace.
Who is the Wii U for anyway? As I said, motion gaming is now available on every system, so they have no edge there. What about hardcore gamers? Turns out they require top-line graphics and strong third party developer support — things that the Wii U doesn’t provide. Home entertainment fans? The Wii U doesn’t have a Blu Ray player. Budget conscious shoppers? You can buy a 500 gig PS3, with the Blu Ray player for the same price as a base model Wii U with only 8 gigs, and that doesn’t even count the cost of an extra tablet controller.
Is Nintendo pondering a price cut to try and gain a foothold? No, their doubling down on their failures once again.
Like I said, I don’t want Nintendo to fail, but they’re handheld products are equaled by other multi-functional products that are viewed as essential by most consumers, something that renders their products in-essential. Furthermore, they released an overpriced, under-performing, awkward to use console that doesn’t meet the demands of the average consumer, a consumer whose expectations are set to rise when Sony and Microsoft announce their new products, products that I imagine will one day host Mario and other Nintendo properties as the company stumbles down the same ravine that Sega did.
It didn’t have to be like this. The future was plowing toward the station and instead of waiting, Nintendo jumped too early and fell right onto the tracks.
They could have strived for innovation, they could have aimed for a niche, any niche, but instead, they relied on the strength of brand loyalty and the assumption that Wii owners would rejoice over backwards compatible peripherals, and everyone else would wait for the system to offer a healthy library of games.
Sadly though, the market doesn’t wait, and now Nintendo’s window has closed and they are a cautionary tale.