Nintendo and The Art of Flogging Consoles
Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata, owns a small cinema on the outskirts of Carlisle – it’s just off the A69. He doesn’t really; I’m just using a painful analogy to explain why I think the Wii U will fail.
Anyway, this cinema shows a strange mix of classic old cartoons and newly released DVD fodder. It used to be really popular, but attendances have dropped in recent times. So he needs to take action.
You might think he’d start by reviewing the films he shows – maybe that’s the problem? If they showed better films, more people might want to come. But no; this is a Nintendo cinema and they do things differently.
Instead, he gathers together a crack team of dungaree wearing creatives; he sets them the task of reinventing his cinema – to blow people’s minds. And after an afternoon of doodling, eating bananas and playing Lego; they come up with something a little bit special.
It’s essentially a fuck-off big hat.
It’s white; battery powered and features lots of clever bells and whistles which allow it to ‘talk’ to movies. So when you’re watching a film, your massive hat is going to start honking and burbling and rumbling.
It’s a revolution – it changes the way we watch movies. And for film directors, it unlocks an exciting new world of creative possibilities. Now they’ve got this powerful tool, they’d be daft not to use it.
So they start to create films which make the most of this buzzing, flashing, bleeping, burping, Internet enabled hat wonder. They re-release all of their old films with new hat functionality added.
Mr Iwata thinks this will save his cinema from going bust. He can keep showing the same dusty old line-up of movies he’s always shown, while making infinite money by selling his celebrity endorsed Nintendo movie hats – which come in a range of colours.
This all sounds daft – but it’s essentially what the Wii U is attempting to do for the struggling fortunes of Nintendo. And it’s what the original Wii has already done. It’s the ability to sell an average console using only the power of marketing and a gimmicky controller.
It’s what Nintendo does best these days. They used to make truly great games – now they make great ads, they devise fantastic marketing campaigns.
The Wii U is similar in power to an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 – the difference is that it comes with a tea tray sized controller – it’s bigger than the console itself. And like the Nintendo movie hat, it has all the bells and whistles you could want – including a touch screen.
It gives Nintendo something to market. It’s not just a controller, it’s a new concept in gaming. It’s bringing families together, it’s dazzling celebrities, it’s freeing games designers from the shackles of not having a giant tea tray sized controller. And it’s yours for only £250.
From a gaming point of view – it’s likely to do exactly the same as the Wii motion controller. It will encourage developers to make an avalanche of shit games as they struggle and strain to find ways of making use of these gimmicky new abilities. It’s creating a new range of games design problems – rather than solving anything.
And when the novelty of the tea tray controller wears off – you’re left with an average console and a range of overpriced and poorly made games. It’s the reason why the attics and cupboards of the land are already packed full of discarded Wii consoles.
That’s the problem for Nintendo. There’s only so long you can keep distracting people with gimmicks and hype. If you’re looking for creative and innovative gaming these days, you can find it on your tablet or smartphone; games won’t cost you £40, they’ll be free or cost a couple of quid.
Cinema goers aren’t interested in wearing big hats – they go to watch good movies. And it’s the same for gamers. If you fork out £250 for a console, you want to play good games – and that’s no longer the focus for Nintendo.