Friday, September 16, 2005

Nintendo's Genre Innovation Strategy: Thoughts on the Revolution's new controller

I’m still jet lagged from my recent trip overseas, but I managed to stay awake for the new Nintendo controller announcement. I must say that I’m feeling like an excited Japanese school boy waiting in line for the latest Dragon Quest.

I’m not going to tackle whether or not this innovative device will be a market success for Nintendo. There will be so much riding on the 1st party titles, the 3rd party support and the actual technical implementation of the controller that any comments at this point are at best opinions and at worst propaganda.

What we can however discuss in some detail are the two central philosophies behind the Revolution controller and their market implications.
  • The increasingly hardcore nature of the game industry is causing a contraction of the industry.
  • New intuitive controller options will result in innovative game play that will bring new gamers into the fold.
Is Iwata-san spouting nonsense or is Nintendo actually onto something?

Genre maturity leads to market consolidation
In past articles I’ve discussed two key concepts. The first is genre addiction and the second is the genre life cycle. These both have major market implications for both individual game developers, but also for the market as a whole.

To briefly recap, genre addiction is the process by which:
  • Players become addicted to a specific set of game mechanics.
  • This group of players has a strong homogenous preference for this genre of games, creating a well defined, easily serviceable market segment.
  • Game developers who release games within a genre with a standardized set of play mechanics are most likely to capture the largest percentage of the pre-existing market.
  • Over time, the game mechanics defining the genre becomes rigidly defined, the tastes of the genre addicts become highly sophisticated and innovation within the genre is generally punished by the market place.
Genre life cycle is the concept that game genres go through distinct stages of market status as they mature:
  • Introduction: A new and addictive set of game mechanics are created.
  • Growth: The game mechanics are experimented with and genre addiction begins to spread.
  • Maturity: The game mechanics are standardized and genre addiction forms a strong market force. Product differentiation occurs primarily through higher layer design elements like plot, license, etc.
  • Decline: The market consolidates around the winners of the king-of-the-genre battles that occurred during the Maturity phase. New games genres begin stealing away the customer base. With less financial reward, less games are released.
  • Niche: A population of hardcore genre addicts provides both the development resources and audience for the continued development of games in the genre. Quality decreases.
What we see here is the consolidation of game designs over the life cycle of the genre. Early examples within a genre tend to have a wildly diverse spectrum of game mechanics that appeal to a broader spectrum of players. As the genre matures, the game mechanics become more standardized and the needs of the genre addicts more homogenized. As the market segment consolidates and standardizes, the majority of the players are well served. They get more polished games that have greater depth. Who could argue that a tightly polished game like Warcraft is a bad thing?

How maturity reduces the number of total game players
Goodbye people on the fringes: The people on the fringes, however, are left out. In the evolution of the RTS genre, there was an interesting offshoot in the form of the Ground Control games. These sported an interesting 3D perspective that was never truly adopted by the mainstream RTS producers. Most players within the identifiable RTS market segment did not enjoy these games and so it was not in the best interest of the game developers to include the innovative features in their designs.

However, some players enjoyed these titles quite a lot. As the mechanics for RTS games become highly standardized, these fringe players were alienated by games in the mature genre. A 2D Warcraft title just didn’t provide the same rewards that this fringe group was looking for.

Some of those gamers left gaming. It may take being alienated from several genres, but eventually a few decided that there were better activities to spend their time on. The market was simply not serving their needs. This shrinks the market.

Goodbye semi-hardcore: The mainstream group, however, fares only a little better. When you recycle the same standardized game mechanics, you put players at severe risk of burnout on a genre. There are only so many FPS many people can play before they don’t want to play them any more. This is less of a problem for the super hardcore players. However, it is a substantial problem for the less hardcore players.

As the less hardcore players burn out on the game mechanics of their favorite genres, they too are at risk of leaving the game market. The result is a steady erosion of the genre’s population.

What is left is a very peculiar group of highly purified hardcore players. They demand rigorous standardization of game mechanics and have highly refined criteria for judging the quality of their titles. With each generation of titles in the genre, they weed out a few more of the weaker players.

This is a completely self-supporting process with strong social forces at work. Players form communities around their hardcore nature. They happily eject those who do not fit the ideal player mold. They defend the validity of their lifestyle with a primitive tribal passion.

There is no internal force within a genre lifecycle that can break this cycle. Only external forces can do the trick. The question is, who would want to break this cycle and who wants to maintain it?

Who genre maturation is good for
Genre maturation is great for the very small minority of AAA developers that can serve the hardcore market. They release titles known as genre kings that are able to address the needs of a large percentage of an existing, well defined segment of genre addicts. Genre kings dominate a particular genre with impressive financial results. The amount of money genre kings such as Halo 2, Half Life, Warcraft, Grand Turismo and other rake in is an inspiration to both developers, gamers and publishers everywhere.

Hardcore genre addicts easily pay for themselves. On average they are willing to spend substantially more on games than the casual or the fringe gamer. When a genre becomes standardized, there is literally an explosion of revenue that comes from successfully tapping into a uniform set of needs. This scalability is a basic attribute of software and is a major mechanic behind hit making in the game industry.

As long as new genres are being created and money gained from better capturing homogenous segments genre addicts is high, the industry as a whole grows with a few fat king of the genre companies taking in the majority of the money.

Who consolidation is bad for
However, when the majority of money and effort is spent on capturing existing markets and not enough is spent on seeding new genres, the natural erosion of less hardcore players begins to decrease the overall market size.

It is easy to ignore this trend. Overall player numbers may decrease in certain genres, but remember that hardcore players spend more and flock to specific games in great numbers. So total revenues keep going up, and the revenues of hit titles keep going up. It seems silly to shout that the sky is falling when there are so many examples of over-the-top success. This is the current state of the American game market.

Only after the trend has been going on for some time does the erosion become too much to ignore. The substantial decreases in the overall revenue of the Japanese market place over the last five years provided a major warning signal. You could easily argue that similar erosion has occurred in the PC market.

People who are less likely to care:
  • Sony and Microsoft have built strong brands around servicing the hardcore players of existing genres. To say that the sky is falling shows a lack of faith in the hardcore market - that could be very damaging.
  • Major genre king developers like Blizzard, Valve, Epic and Square. Their bread is buttered. They own the mature genres and will milk them for many years to come.
People who are more likely to care
  • Companies that serve a diverse user bases: Oddly enough, both EA and Nintendo are in this group. They are broadly diversified such that major trends in industry directly affect their bottom line. Sony is in a bit of a pickle since they fit this definition as well. (Hence they’ll release the Eye Toy, but keep their main controller for the PS/3 as standard as humanly possible)
  • Companies that value brands over genres: People often look at Nintendo’s releases of a half dozen Mario games a year and assume that they are all clones. In fact, they are typically radically different games across a wide variety of genres. Nintendo gains their value from the Mario brand, not ownership of a specific genre. Brand-based companies rely on the creation of new genres since they can take that brand into the genre for a low risk profit opportunity.
Nintendo needs new genres
That last point about the strategies of brand-based publishers is an important one. Nintendo needs new genres to make money.

Nintendo makes the majority of their money by leveraging their brand recognition during the early to mid-stages of a genre’s life cycle. The power of the Mario character can establish a Nintendo game as an early genre king and help tap into a new market segment for great profit. However, as they get later into the life cycle, the standardization of the genre mechanics and the intense demands of the hardcore population reduces the power of the brand.

A few major games will dominate the mature genre and it is unlikely that Nintendo’s will be one of them. Nintendo’s fixation on new genres and their unwillingness to pander completely and utterly to the existing hardcore audiences has made their name mud with many of the most vocal elite in the game industry.

Product innovation leads to increased profitability
C’est la vie. You can’t have it all. Focusing on product innovation at the expense of commodity markets is a classic business strategy that is used successfully in non-game companies around the world. Companies like 3M are required as part of their strategic plan to have 30% of their revenue come from new products. They are constantly exiting markets when strong competition emerges and constantly competing with themselves by offering new products that outdate their existing products. Nintendo releases new genres where other companies release new products, but the basics are the same.

The non-business person looks at this strategy with horror. Nintendo invented the 3D platformer, yet they have no major product in that niche at the moment. Surely this is the most obvious sort of stupidity. However, consider the following portfolio management issues:
  • The likelihood of getting a genre king early on in a genre life cycle if you invented the genre is quite high. Competition is limited.
  • The cost of creating a genre king early in the genre life cycle is low. You can rely on things like simplified graphics and limited amounts of content. The neo-retro graphics of most Nintendo games has a lower cost of production than the realistic look of many of its competitors.
  • The cost of creating a genre king late in the genre life cycle is high. Customers demand realistic graphics, voiceovers, cut scenes, loads of extra content, etc.
  • The risk of having your game not becoming king of the genre goes up. The competition is simply greatly increased. Mario is a great game, but would it own the entire genre if it were forced to compete against Jax and Daxter, Sly Cooper, Prince of Persia and others?
What you find is that selling innovative products early on can be dramatically more profitable and less risky than selling commodity products. The early market might not be as large, but the money is much better. You see this over and over again. Nintendo sells less but makes more money. Sony and Microsoft sell more, but make less profit.

Consider this tidbit. The Xbox, which focuses on highly mature genres catering to hardcore gamers has production costs of $1.82 million a title. The Gamecube costs half as much at $822,000 a title. The real kicker is that the Nintendo DS only costs $338, 286 a title to develop for, even less than the Gameboy. Some of these costs have to do with the hardware and development kits, but for the most part they are derived from the scope of the projects. Being able to develop successful titles at 1/5th the cost of your competitors is a major boost to your bottom line.

Thus, Nintendo’s profitability and need to innovate go hand in hand. They need those new genres because the old ones quickly become too competitive and too expensive.

New controller features as a source of Innovation
The new controller is best seen in light of this larger corporate strategy.

One of the easiest ways of creating a new genre is to invent a new series of verbs (or risk mechanics as I called them in my Genre Life Cycle articles). One of the easiest ways of inventing new verbs is to create new input opportunities. Nintendo controls their hardware and they leverage this control to suit their particular business model.

And this is exactly what Nintendo has done historically. The original Dpad, the analog stick, the shoulder buttons, the C-stick, the DS touch pad, link capabilities, the tilt controller, the bongo drums…the list goes on and on.

Each time, they also bundle the controller innovation with a series of attempts at creating new dominant genres. Not all attempts are successful, but a few of them are highly successful. The 2D platformer, the 3D platformer, the Pokemon-style RPG, and the virtual pet game all come to mind as successes. By seeding a genre and by owning the key hardware platform that the new genre lives on, Nintendo achieves a position of financial stability and security that is unheard of in the game industry.

As a side note, folks who argue Nintendo should just make games for other platforms are completely missing the point. Nintendo needs to control their hardware platform in order to force innovation to occur in the control mechanisms. Other console manufacturers who rely on the hardcore audiences and standardized genres don’t see this need. They would happily standardize the console platform and make it into a commodity. Microsoft has historically made major comments about having one universal development platform.

The moment Nintendo loses control over their hardware, they lose a major competitive advantage in terms of creating new genres.

The new controller
The new controller is yet another logical step along a path that Nintendo has been pursuing for many years. We are likely to see some very obvious patterns repeated.
  • It allows for a wide variety of new verbs that are unique to Nintendo’s hardware platform
  • There will be a number of genre-seeding attempts that take advantage of the new verbs that are available. With luck and a lot of skill, one or more of these will become a major new genre. New genres bring in new gamers who are loyal to Nintendo.
  • Nintendo will leverage their powerful brand to encourage early adoption and dominance of this genre. I’ll make a bet that Mario, Pokemon or other major Nintendo brands will be a major element of their new genre attempts.
  • As the years pass and the genre becomes mature, hard core gamers will consolidate within it and begin demanding more polished experiences. Craftsman-oriented companies will wrest control of the genre away from Nintendo.
  • Nintendo will innovate once again in order to maintain higher profit margins.
Some predictions about the games
There are also some obvious predictions that we can make about the game designs based off the standard genre lifecycles.
  • Early titles will be essentially technology demos that showcase a specific core mechanic. There will be one or two major titles such as Mario 64 of yore that are highly evolved, but these will be few and far between due to the cost associated with evolving an entirely new genre over the span of a single game.
  • Most early titles will sell small numbers, but will end up being decently profitable due to their low cost. The example given of Brain Training on the DS, which was created in a mere 4 months comes to mind. Even though it isn’t selling what are typically considered ‘blockbuster’ numbers, it is an unqualified financial success. During this period a large number of new genre attempts will be successfully vetted.
  • Only after a year or so will 2nd generation ‘polished’ games start to emerge. The cream of the core game mechanics tested in the first generation will be layered with all the traditional trappings of a modern video game.
  • One or two ‘major new genres’ will emerge. These will be highly profitable and Nintendo will attempt to turn some of them into exclusive franchises. Mario Kart and Mario Party are good examples of this from previous generations.
So when games come out slowly and only appear to be technology demos, I wouldn’t worry too much. A ‘gimmicky game’ is really just another name for a new core game mechanic that hasn’t been polished. Donkey Kong is considered shallow and gimmicky by children playing it for the first time in this modern age. Yet it sported the same core game mechanics that eventually blossomed into an entire genre of highly polished 2D platformers.

In the past, Nintendo built these new genre attempts internally. They got to own the IP and enjoyed the resulting success that comes from being one of the few to understand the benefits of innovation. The result has been a focus on a small number of 1st party development efforts and a trickle of titles. Unfortunately for them there are other innovative people in the world. New genre successes such as GTA on other consoles provided substantial and painful competition.

I see this changing somewhat with the DS. We are starting to get some wacky ideas from smaller companies and Nintendo seems to be a bit more welcoming of others. Nintendo needs to pursue this path further by allowing new companies to join the experimentation stage.

Nintendo’s strategy of pursuing innovation benefits the entire industry. It brings in new audiences and creates new genres that provide innovative and exciting experiences. The radical new controller is a great example of this strategy in action.

Surprisingly, this also benefits Microsoft and it benefits Sony. As the years pass, the hard core publishers that serve mature genres will adopt previously innovative genres and commoditize them. Their profits will be less, but they’ll keep a lot of genre addicts very happy. Everybody wins when a game company successfully innovates.

I see both of these strategies as a necessary and expected part of a vibrant and growing industry. Industries need balance and Nintendo is a major force of much needed innovation that prevents industry erosion and decline.

On a slightly less analytic note, I for one can’t wait to play the new games on the Nintendo Revolution. With all the new game ideas that will be demonstrated, it is certainly a great time to be a game designer. A couple years down the road, I suspect that this will also be a great time to be a gamer. :-)

Take care


  1. Great post! Long though... And I thought my posts tended towards the verbose! :)

    I like the term 'genre king' and the genre life cycle. We have observed the same pattern, which I have discussed in terms of chreodes in the book and elsewhere. Your approach is more accessible. Is this terminology you have coined, or that you are propagating? I may start using it - but I'll need to know where it came from. :)

    A couple of minor points... the game mechanics don't necessarily need to be addictive to establish a new genre in the market (although it does depend upon how you wish to use that term). They just need to meet play needs in a previously untapped manner.

    I'm inclined to ignore growth and decline as transitional states. I'd therefore tend to see the situation as three phases: genre nucleation, market maturity and niche market - for the same reason we do not call the time between winter and spring 'warming', even though we could if we wanted to have more seasons. :)

    Also, you don't appear to include the possiblity of genre extinction. Not everything makes it to the comfortable retirement of the niche markets, after all. :)

  2. Another excellent essay. I feel enlightened! :-)

    One thing I would point out is that you often list Valve as one of the big genre-king companies who aren't particuarly bothered by, in this case, the innovation market. Where does Steam fit into that? It's all about freedom from the risk-averse in our industry, after all.

  3. This is a really great essay, you made me understand quite better nintendo's strategy and also made me understood one's innovation can be good for concurence. Nevers thought about those things that way.

  4. Excellent article Danc,

    Reassures me that the people at Nintendo aren't smoking anything and may even be strategising.

    One question though, what is the source of your tidbit?:

    "The Xbox, which focuses on highly mature genres catering to hardcore gamers has production costs of $1.82 million a title. The Gamecube costs half as much at $822,000 a title. The real kicker is that the Nintendo DS only costs $338, 286 a title to develop for, even less than the Gameboy."

    Nice to see you back safely from the Land of the Rising Sun.

    Colm Mac

  5. Very good only complaint is that the 3d type of viewpoint has kind have put off a different type of gamer, who's still happy playing StarCraft/AOE2..they're not interested in 3d at all. So it's the opposite of what you mentioned there.

    The weird thing about the Revolution, is that it's meant for new genres. That much is clear. But that it looks to have new features that could actually create new genre kings in EXISTING genres is absolutly insane. And in that it's in genre's that are not historically linked to Nintendo, at least in the conventional wisdom.

    FPS games. This is obvious. Will the gyro control be better than the dual-stick analog control for console shooters? All the early reviews are pointing to yes. Will Metroid Prime 3 be the killer first-gen application? Will it have on-line play? (The multiplayer in MP2 was basic but fun.) Will an online shooter appear to appeal to hardcore players. Will it take off.

    Will Nintendo have a Halo 2-killer? (ouch).

    Strategy games. THis isn't as much of a strech for Nintendo. They have Intelligent Designs after will we see Revolution Wars, in a RTS mode? Will Blizzard port WC3 or Starcraft? (Or hell. I'd like a version of D2 with updated graphics that I can play on my big screen..but off topic). This is serious. RTS games never really hit it on a console before. Would an easy to control RTS game with online competitive play?

    Another genre king in the making.

    Simulation:It certainly sounds like the controller would be great for racing/pilot sim games. An extension could be created with a full flight-layout, specifically designed for a particular game, allowing easy access to tons of functions.

    The two things that come to mind..first, mech games. You could have easy switch weapons via a toggle switch, and a custom created control to handle swivling. Why not?

    The second that comes to mind is Macross. I've been waiting forever for a GOOD Macross game, and the Revolution control could give it.

    So that's three established genres that Nintendo could very easily create brand new genre kings.

  6. chris: Stephen King, a fellow Mainer, once say that his writing was 'verbal diarrhea' and at times I certainly relate. At some point I'll have to get a real editor. :-)

    The terms "Genre king" and "genre life cycle" come about from several essays that I've written over the past couple of years

    - Evolutionary Design: This was the source of many of the concepts behind my current definition of genre. Unfortunately the same title as a rather popular essay by Chris Crawford that I didn't know about until after this was published.

    - Genre Addiction: This is where 'king of the genre' was used that I subsequently shortened to 'genre king'.

    - Genre Life Cycle: There are 4 short essays here where I explored the genre life cycle in more detail. Though honestly, I think the topic was so obscure and rambling that very few folks made it through all of them. :-) They also talk about genre death in more detail and clarify some of the wild assed statements made in the genre addiction article.

    Colm mac: I do need to report my sources a bit more clearly. That tidbit comes from the Japanese Computer Entertainment Suppliers Association. Here's a link to one report on it.

  7. So if I'm normally a sort of late adopter who does pretty much live on my genre king titles, I mean what am I going to play on this thing? They practically leave me no choice but to buy another system if I want to play stuff in traditional genres at that super high level of polish that I expect when i'm shelling out 50+ USD on my games.

  8. Vermouth: You'll notice Nintendo walking a line in their PR where they say 'games for everyone'

    The fact of the matter is that genre king titles remain very profitable for them if a company can get a lock on the genre. And for several genres, Nintendo has that lock.

    - Action RPG: Zelda
    - Multiplayer Casual Racing: Mario Kart
    - Creature trading RPG: Pokemon
    - Party games: Mario Party

    The games in these categories are nearly synonymous with the genre and it is unlikely that Nintendo will simply stop making them.

    So what you'll find is that Nintendo will likely continue to promote hardcore gaming within the genres that they dominate. This is still in keeping with an innovation strategy.

    If you like genres where they do not dominate, then yes you'll likely have to go to another platform or else put up with second tier titles such as Metroid Prime (as judged by the elite hardcore players of the world)

    It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to profitably be all things to all people in the business world. Every company makes a strategic choice on what customers they want to serve. Often that means 'firing' fringe customers that do not fit what is best for the company. Banks do it. Stores do it. Enterprise organizations do it. The benefit is employee focus, increased profits, and superior ability to provide value to your target market. It also takes a lot of balls to give up a paying customers.

    Typically firing a customer takes a very simple form "Hey, we appreciate you wanting to work with us, but we think it is in your best interest to go to our competitor X." So the worst customer happily trots along to competitor X and starts demanding bigger production values, additional sequels, etc. The competitor sells more, but they lose money doing it. Who is the winner here?

    Fun stuff.

  9. danc: Thank you. I grok fuller now.

    chinacow: /agree

  10. Great post. Lots of good thoughts here.

  11. Absolutely must-read essay. Thanks for such insightful opinion.

  12. Nice post!
    It is indeed a exciting time for gamers~!

  13. Excellent essay. I can't help but be excited by Nintendo innovating again with the DS and now the Revolution. Thinking outside the box is what Nintendo does best. That's why the Gamecube didn't fair as well as their previous consoles. For the most part Nintendo tried to keep up with Sony, and it ended up hurting them this generation.

    There were definitely a number of great first-party Nintendo games on the gamecube but not much else. However, I am certainly excited about seeing some of the new and old franchises from this generation on the DS and the Revolution in new genres.

    I also definitely think we will see a number of established genres re-invented on the revolution. The ideas behind this controller-console scheme are almost too innovative. I've always thought that Nintendo's biggest downfall is that they are too innovative. It just seems that Nintendo's obvious innovations are the ones that fail i.e. Virtual Boy or connectivity, but the ones people forget or don't even notice are the ones that truly make their mark such as the d-pad or analog stick. Nintendo has to do all the right things to truly create a revolution. I'm not real sure what these things are, but I know if anyone can breathe new life into the game industry, it's Nintendo.


  14. Actually, Nintendo seems to be just about ready to abandon hardcore gaming entirely. Miyamoto has said that this next Zelda game for GCN will be the last one of its type. Couple this with earlier statements to the effect that "there's no reason Zelda can't try other types of gameplay", and I suspect that the next generation of Zelda will bear even less resemblance to an action RPG than modern Zeldas.

    Metroid is in a similar situation. I strongly disagree with your assessment that Metroid Prime and its sequel were second-tier. In the market for exploration games (games whose primary gameplay mechanic is exploring), these two games are just as good as Myst IV. Yet Retro Studios (the developers of the series) have stated that Metroid Prime 3 will be the last Metroid Prime game! Once that game is released for the Revolution, there will apparently be no new games featuring Metroid's unique blend of exploration with action.

    Mario Party is certainly a genre king, and it'll certainly continue on the Revolution (I imagine they'll get even more money out of it by selling mini-game expansion packs over the internet), but it's certainly not a hardcore game. Mario Party 6 is by far the most played game in my house, but not by me- by my little sister and all her friends. This clearly fits into Nintendo's philosophy of appealing to new types of gamers, but, like most of what's coming out for the DS, it isn't the type of game which will appeal to hardcore gamers like me.

    This is all the more upsetting because there isn't anyone but Nintendo releasing games in these genres. The genre Zelda dominates (several types of gameplay separated by exploration- I call this a "metalude") has not been doing well lately. Beyond Good & Evil, Michel Ancel's game which completely redefined the genre to make it a good medium for storytelling and was a very promising start to a franchise, got lousy sales. Ditto for THQ's attempted franchise-starter Sphinx. So if Nintendo chooses to abandon the genre rather than expand it (It's still not clear what they have in mind), there will be no one filling this niche! And in the exploration genre, the two genre kings -Myst and Metroid- will both end after their next games. It's nice to see Nintendo expanding the market, but this leaves me with nowhere to turn for the games I love.

    Another issue worth considering is whether this new control scheme will make games necessarily less immersive. As Zelda: Four Swords Adventures proved, forcing the player to focus on the control instead of what it is he is controlling makes the entire game feel gimmicky. It was tolerable there since it was multiplayer (which pulls you out of the game regardless), but I'm afraid this motion sensor may do the same for single-player games.

    I love the concept of the expansion slot, because at least in theory it means that there is no reason for any developer to not have exactly the control scheme they need. But to be realistic, it'll almost never be used except for the bundled "nunchuck". Very few people will buy a separate attachment for only one or two games, and very few developers will bundle an attachment with their games. This reminds me of the "infinitely-expandable" Handspring Visor, which was brilliant in theory, yet in practice rarely met its potential. Also, Nintendo themselves (at least at first) will customize the games to the controls rather than the other way around so that they can prove their control scheme to the rest of the world.

  15. This article will help people to realize why the video game community, which entails the hardcore base, always seems so angry.

    I'd like to know how Danc feels when he sees something like this:, where made is another of those brilliant proclamations about a company's death.

    From what I gather, complacency is a two-way street.

  16. Wonderful article.

    There are hardcore genre lovers. But there are also hardcore brand lovers. Nintendo innovates with new Marios and Zeldas, but with only one or two of these games in any generation, my GameCube is (and possibly my Revolution will be) collecting dust much of the time in-between.

    Their role is necessary in the marketplace, but they essentially create new customers and hand many of them over to their competitors as they mature because they are no longer satisfied.

    It's quite frustrating when they ignore this and say they create products for everybody. Sure they do, but by creating products for everybody they are a master of none. It leaves many begging for more, and is the source of a lot of contention Nintendo is facing on the internet.

    They are just one company, and they can't do it alone. It would be wonderful if they could convince the genre masters to climb aboard as well.

  17. anonymous: I think I already did address comments like those on vgcats.

    "This is a completely self-supporting process with strong social forces at work. Players form communities around their hardcore nature. They happily eject those who do not fit the ideal player mold. They defend the validity of their lifestyle with a primitive tribal passion."

    Mind you, I'm not judging. I like diversity and the passion that come from the creation of highly bounded social groups. It makes life interesting.

    However, it is also worth noting that this is an essay about a business strategy, not an attempt to influence the inevitable cultural battle. Those who are interested in the business dynamics of the industry will get the most out of this essay's perspective and thought process.

    John: Your comments about Nintendo being a single company are spot on. This is where leveraging 3rd parties becomes so essential. In essence, they need to share their successful strategy with other developers as a method of capturing a bigger piece of the pie. The result is more games with less resources and more satisfied customers. I see some hints that they are going in this direction, but the proof is in the pudding.


  18. Alright, Danc, confess, do you access to some Nintendo insider? A good friend of mine works at Nintendo here in the states, and we were discussing this topic just today. Much of what you stated about the controller and the goal to get new players to join the fun of gaming was exactly what he said. He was explaining how no one can find the trigger, X Y B and A buttons unless they're "hardcore" gamers. I agreed with him 100%.

    I love the idea of having an actual swordfight rather than having to press button combinations to figure out how to fight the baddies. Heck, some of us actually might become good at swordfighting, if this were to take hold. Likewise, he stated that in Japan they have games in which you play like you're a dentist or a surgeon, and using these controllers, you test how steadily you can drill for fillings, or perform surgeries!?

    It's very innovative... imagine playing Mario ER, Oh No! Luigi swallowed the crescent wrench, can Princess Peach perform an emergency wrench-ectomy before Luigi turns into WaLuigi! ;)

    Or Pokemon Dentist... "Oh no, my Charizard has a toothache from eating too many Rare Candy. Can you help Nurse Joy fix his cavities before he gets tired and bites off her arm?

    Imagine being a spell weaver, and actually having to weave spells... hehe... (okay less useful skillset, but interesting nonetheless...)

    And you know, with the way lacroscopy surgeries work these days, almost all of them are controlled remotely via some kind of controller apparatus, this could allow for better control of such delicate surgical instruments.

    Or whatever...

    He was pretty jazzed about it. And he convinced me too. I think it's great. Nintendo is one of those few companies that plays to its own tune... let's hope it can deliver on what sounds like a very promising innovation...


  19. I don't mean to be a dick, but the saying is: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

    Okay, so I'm a dick.

  20. Very insightful indeed.

    We'll have to wait and see what happens 2-3 years from now.

  21. I am a 36 years old male, and work for two compannies.
    Net result: I do not have time to play games --- I mean, I do not have time to play the games as they exist today.
    I used to be a game freak in the past - until I was 27 or 28 years old.
    Now I just don't have time for being involved with a game.
    I like to look at new games, to see how cool they look, but that is all.
    I do not have skills or patience or the time to learn and play games as they exist today.

    But I definitely would buy a console if it allowed me to play simple no-brainner games.
    Things like: shoot the fly; or throw the ball.

    Some game that would fit in one single screen.
    That is my kind of game.
    The kind of game that I would have fun with.

    It would require no deep knowlege, no savigs/loads, no nothing.
    Just turn iot on, play, think about how great I am at playing that game and then shutting it down and go do my stuff.

    See, I am not alone. There are millions like me.
    And we have been forgotten. No companny has been creationg games for me and the rest of us.

    That is why I am so happy with Nintendo's new console.
    I think I will be "back in the games" now.
    So, I believe they have a winner.

    Rui Barbosa

  22. Insightful Dunc, really helping others grok the industry.

    I would like to see how you reply to these comments made in response to your article by a poster on slashdot:

    Look I'm not trying to start an argument, but the person you linked to has no real grasp of what he speaks about. Sure, it all sounds logical and thoughtful, but most is simply not true. I've worked in the industry and have a very initmate knowledge of the media/marketing/numbers side of the game.

    His attempt to claim that all of the onus is on the game players is very far off-base. Also, his talk about Nintendo and how they "create genres" in the early stages because it is the most profitable is so wildly untrue it stopped me dead. Nintendo may use a fairly (on the surface) basic look, but that is a sylistic artistic direction and is NOT "cheaper" than creating a game with ultra-realistic graphics. In fact, if you take the time to look, Nintendo tends to utilize EVERY hardware feature in every game as far as graphics are concerned. Also it is just plain false that to create the first in a genre is cheaper because it is simpler and has less content. Totally false. Innovation carries a much higher cost than simply following suit and making a few improvements.

    I'm sorry but this guys work gets passed over because it is not backed by any credibility or factual insight. It is just my opinion, but a genius he is not.

    made by rAiNsT0rm (877553)

    I am also not trying to start a fight.

    On a sidenote I would like to mention that Nintendo also tried to innovate with the Gamecube but instead within the genres themselves. Mario Sunshine and Luigi's Manshion were attempts at innovations within the 3d platformer genre (which i think is dead by the way - cannibalised by its subgenres). I consider Zelda: Wind Waker to be another example as well. If those examples are valid that further validates your paradigm.

    Off to read the rest of your articles on genres. Hope you reply to the criticsm

  23. Re: Rui Barbosa

    Well said! I am 29 and, resultant from a diabolical coupling of "reality obligations" and lack of interest due to incessant genre cannibalization, I just don't play games like I used to. I, too, am craving more of the pick-up-and-play, "throw the ball" type games, but with the benefit of cutting-edge technology and design. I look with fascination at what Valve is doing with Source physics, am compelled at the possibilities of deeper world-manipulation and interaction, and still find tremendous joy in the immersion opportunities of the virtual first-person perspective as well as dynamic, user-manipulated perspectives...

    ...but I feel like I've been waiting for some new benchmark that marries the possibilities of physics and control and perspective in ways that take us a million miles beyond shooting the same reptilian baddies with the same boring future-guns in the same urban post-apocalypse all over again. Or at least waiting on a new way to do that, something that will actually make me care enough to do it all over again.

    Well, maybe Nintendo has it. I can't adequately articulate how disappointed I was at E3 to see the near-total lack of design progression (beyond simple aesthetics) in the Sony and MS "next-gen" input devices. Although I imagine universal-standard advocates feel one step closer to ultimate triumph.

    Back on topic, thanks for a great article, danc. Much of this I have felt intuitively for a long time, especially the critical nature of Nintendo's control of proprietary, often-experimental hardware as absolutely vital to their existence, but have never really been able to codify my own thoughts with respect to where it all fits in the greater scheme of the industry. You did a fine job.


  24. Danc,

    On the hardcore gamers:

    It's going to be interesting to see how they respond to a FPS (an example of a mature genre almost entering decline) on the Revolution. Vgcats is one quick example of hardcore gamers rejecting the Revolution already. However if you look at reviews of the Metriod tech demo with the new controller, you will see that the evolution of the FPS can only take place on the Revolution.

    The PC hardcore crowd will be quickly attracted to such a FPS game since the control mechanincs are a short jump from a WASD and mouse. The PC FPS is more hardcore than the Halo hardcore crowd and, if the histroy of adoption is any guide, we could quickly find these hardcore naysayers rushing over to the Revolution.

    Nintendo appear to have this in mind as well. Iwata said many times that he isn't planning on leaving behind the current player base. If this works out, Microsoft and Sony would be screwed, because the hardcore they are fighting over will have migrated to the Revoultion.And they cannot quickly develop a similar controller because Nintendo's patents has this under lock and key . I am really lookng forward to the next three years.

  25. What a startlingly lucid essay. I'll be sure to pass this around. Domo arigatou gozaimasu~~

  26. Re: Slashdot
    *grin* Ah, the well informed folks over at Slashdot actually read the article?

    Polish costs a good chunk of cash. We've all seen this sort of comment lately: Bloomberg: Next gen development costs double "Japanese game makers such as Bandai and Square Enix Co. have been seeking partners to share costs to develop games with higher-definition images, faster speeds and online capability to match the new consoles."

    Of course, innovation has its own costs and risks. However, the cost of banging out a half dozen core game mechanics in the prototyping stage is dramatically less than having a team of Hollywood-level animators crunching on a set of cut scenes. The former can be a month of work by a small team and the latter can be many months of work by a much larger team.

    If inexpensive games like the DS Braining game highlighted in the Iwata keynote show us anything, a focus on market driven, innovative designs for underserved markets can be highly profitable. This product innovation strategy is well documented in other industries. There is strong evidence to suggest the same dynamics exists in the game industry.

    Goodness, look at all the posts. Many thanks to everyone who is stopping by. :-)

    take care,

  27. This has to be the most intelligent and well thought out essay I've ever read. So glad I came across it.

  28. Inaccurate and fanboyish.

    I mean all this talk about appealing to the casual gamer is fine but I don't want to be subjected to brain dead stupid games in the name of fucking innovation. And what about all this 'leveraging brand power' crap. He talks about how clever Nintendo is with the way they use thier brands and then turns around to snipe square, valve and blizzard(!!!) for sniping? Hypocritical much? I mean eye play and bungo drum are cool and all but they only hold my attention for so long. And talking about how Nintendo invented the 3D platformer is not only untrue but goes further to add Mario64 to his 'hardcore addiction' thing than anything. Many people don't know this (infact I just found out recently) but there was another 3D platformer that came out before Mario64 and from what I have read it was quality. Yet, it was extremely unpopular simply because it was in first person. Because it didn't conform to the 'Nintendized' definition of a platformer. And don't give me any crap about generic FPS because back then FPS were still a new genre and almost non-existent on consoles. Also, this 'innovation' that nintendo keeps harping on about seems to just another attempt to control the industry and the direction of games (just like the snes days with thier Nintendo seal of 'approval'. Sounds more like a lock and chain to me) and no matter how the author attempts to spin it this is a BAD thing. Believe it or not this nintendo insistence on 'brand power' is hurting the industry. Instead of allowing something fresh to blossom, they bog them down with the same characters, settings and stories over again and again and again. How is gaming supposed mature as a medium? How far do you think literature or film would have come if they only relied on the 'Iliad' or the 'Gone with the Wind'. Classics need to be respected not whored out. I want to see something like I have never seen before.*points at sig*. I want to go to another place outside of the Mushroom Kingdom. I am hyped about the new pad and all, but you guys need to seriously get a grip.

  29. I copied that from a message board board where I responded to this article. Ignore '*points at sig*'

  30. I copied that from a message board board where I responded to this article. Ignore '*points at sig*'

  31. Very very interesting.
    I stopped buying the latest, greatest thing after the N64 and PS1. Quite frankly, the games just stopped being fun for me as the controllers got to be so darn confusing (must be my old age and still thinking the original Atari joystick was fantastic :) ).
    This controller makes me excited to try the Revolution. It seems to me, that games will be fun again like the the 8-bit NES games were. If Nintendo's goal is to get back the "fringe" gamers, then based on my reaction, it's going to work.
    Games may seem gimmicky at first, but that's only because using the controller will take some time to get used to. Once it becomes second nature, the game, I believe, will actually be a lot more in-depth and engaging IF the controller works like Nintendo says it does.

  32. That article was incredible. It says things that I can't even articulate properly. Everything Danc says seems to be dead on. I don't know if all of it is exact, but it most defintely makes you think.

    Whether you're weary of Nintendo fanboys loyalism or not, you can't help but give Nintendo credit for at least TRYING to revolutionize the way we play games, and increase the actual growth of the industry. Which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for Sony and Microsoft. They seem content with the current state of the industry. Which may not be smartest way to be right now.

    Nintendo is literally changing the game, and this is only the beginning, whether us veteran gamers like it or not. After going over everything regarding the Rev controller, and the new focus of bringing in new gamers, it's clear now that Nintendo truly does make games for everyone.

    Of course,I haven't touched the controller yet(who has?), but everything else about it has led me to believe in Nintendo's vision. It may be rough here in the beginning, because as much as I hate to say it, America does NOT like change, and it as a whole is NOT open-minded in the least.

    Nintendo deserves our support for such a bold move.

    Remember, skepticism is only a prelude to acceptance.

  33. I'm very glad that "Anonymous slashdot quoter" brought up Nintendo's innovation within genre evolution, because I was about to mention that anyway. In its flagship series, Nintendo does not aim only to make what you call a "genre king". I think they see that challenge as below them. Anonymous brought up Super Mario Sunshine as an example, a game which didn't even try to be the new landmark platformer, but just threw new ideas into the mix. I think their reasoning is: "We've already made a very good platformer. To repeat it would be a waste of out time, since we can just resell the same game later on. So let's try something new!" In fact, to outdo the original would make the original obsolete, which means no sales for the original. This they do not want.

    Unfortunately, SMS was not their most successful effort in this regard, for various reasons which aren't relevant to this discussion. A better example would be what Nintendo is doing with Zelda. Majora's Mask did not try to outdo Ocarina of Time; instead, it did completely different things with the same mechanics. With its "multiple characters", three-day limit with precise timing, and a completely different model for dungeons and game progression, playing MM is a completely different experience than playing OoT. This way, they can easily convince a gamer to buy BOTH games, instead of just the sequel. I think you'll admit this is very clever from both a business perspective and an artistic perspective.

    The Wind Waker was a much more straightforward sequel, but still there was a tremendous amount of innovation within the framework of the genre. The exploration is done by sailing instead of walking, which leads to a completely different atmosphere for the entire game. The traditional three-part structure is played around with to make the game less predictable. It had a lot of platforming, a gameplay mechanic which was not in previous Zelda games. It had sections involving two player characters. And all this came alongside the natural evolution of the genre in interface and emphasis on the "outer layers" of the game design.

    The new game appears to follow this same philosophy. At first, it seemed like a redone OoT, but now that we are hearing more it is obviously a very different experience. So far, we have already seen that it will include an entirely new method of control in the form of the wolf, as well as an emphasis on the brand-new mechanic of interacting with animals.

    This innovation can also be seen in Metroid. While Metroid Prime 2 had a lot of natural evolution (updated scan visor, very useful new menu interface, improved spider ball, all of the abilities from the first game, etc.), it also is a completely different experience than its predecessor. It includes the new (at least for the series) mechanic of "dark world-light world", adds a new ammo system, and deals with very different types of world design than the first game.

    The same can even be seen in Wario Ware. Each new sequel revolves around a different type of control, be it rotation sensors or touch screen. So they don't make each other obsolete, and they don't get old.

    For a non-Nintendo example, I'd point to Myst IV: Revelation. While it does try to improve on its predecessors in countless areas, it also has innovation in its world design. Its worlds revolve around family life, technology, animal life and mysticism, in that order. The Myst series has never dealt with any of these before. The result is that the experience is completely different; therefore all previous Myst games are still worth buying, and the series does not stagnate.

    I would suggest that stagnation only occurs when there is no innovation within the genre. If each FPS wants nothing more than to outdo the last best FPS, the public will get very bored very quickly. Regardless of what you may say about genre addiction, people can only take so much of exactly the same thing. If there is sufficient innovation, and a reasonable amount of interest from the gamers, a genre should stay healthy indefinitely.

  34. It's quite interesting to note, in the context of this post, that the reimagining of the Resident Evil franchise in Resident Evil 4 happened on a Nintendo console, the GameCube. After proving to be a success, it is now being ported to the PS2 and the sequel seems to be confirmed for the two conventional next-gen systems.

  35. Thank you danc for your brilliant and well written essay. A lot of the comments made very good points as well IMO.
    It got me started on thinking about Nintendo and their strategy. I would like to make a few points that come to my mind (please excuse my bad english):
    1) I see a problem with the brand policy that you described. I can understand their emphasis on continuity, a Mario game is almost guaranteed to be very polished. The faith in refinement in a game is important for a developer who wishes to introduce a new concept, if you are a RTS fan you know you will enjoy your next updated, but standarized product, but with a new genre it is not the case. The need to control the quality of a game by other publishers follows similar reasoning. Still I think that continuity in a brand (f. e. Mario) can be problematic, because perception does change with cultural development. Of course certain 'cute' features will always strike a chord in very young audiences (and across cultural borders), but for audiences from puberty on I believe you have to go along the times. This would rather ask for a flexible subbrand than a new character. I believe Nintendo needs this, Rare was once close to be a candidate.

    2) The new controller has IMO a great potential. It is very important to include this kind of innovation in the default system, because only this way developers will utilize it. Sony and Microsoft could follow, but if the controller does not penetrate the market quick, it will stay a niche product because developing for this will mean reducing your potential customer base.
    I am intrigued not only by the simplicity of the controller, but also by the inclusion of the whole body of the gamer in the gaming process. This could give the term 'immersion' a radical new meaning. The thought that a top FPS player would have to go to the gym to keep his edge over others is appealing to me. He could employ techniques that are not to be acquired by reading a FAQ (I fear that it will take cheating on a new level also).
    There is a whole spectrum of control mechanisms that are reliant on body control and one that depend on the kind of dexterity that is required for current controllers to be explored. Of course quality of the controller is absolutely crucial for this.
    Even if the revolution won't be successful, I am confident that the new controller offers a lookout in the future of gaming.
    Thanks for the great read,

  36. "Anonymous slashdot poster" here. I'm sure you can't wait for this post to go back into obscurity hehe.

    To extend your Nintendo innovation theory it would appear we have a new form of addiction. 'Pure' Nintendo fanboys cannot said to be genre addicts for they keep following Nintendo as it leaves old genres behind. To be sure there is a hardcore element there, but the focus is different.

    Wind Waker is a good example of where the genre addict and the nintendo fanboy diverge. When the first pictures of the cell shading design came out the hardcore genre addicts of the action adventure bashed pretty quickly for "deviating from teh standard Zelda". On the other hand, the hardcore element of the Nintendo fanboyism embraced it completely.

    Abstracting further - Nintendo fanboys are looking for new drugs. Most Nintendo fanboys were reared on the Nes and have been experiencing new genres along with Nintendo as they moved along from 2D to 3D, etc.

    So I think some new terminology might be in order: Nintendo fanboy = Innovation addict. Concur?

  37. Nice Article.

    On a pessimistic sidenote: I suddenly imagined Manhunt on Revolution.

    That's right; To perform gruesome kill, use motion sensor and wack virtual opponent as hard as you can. Blood everywhere. So real graphics. Someone dies. Look what he plays

    All it would take is one stupid developer and an even more stupid media outlet, and gaming could potentilaly be facing the big one.

  38. Razak:

    I didn't mean to give 'Nintendo fanboy' any negative connotations. I was trying to discerning if there was another classification of an addict as opposed to the lone 'genre addict' class that Danc has spelled out.

    Genre addict: One who is addicted to the game mechanics of a particular genre. Because the first dose is better than the next, keeps looking for more and more 'potent' forms of the genre.

    'Nintendo fanboy' (don't think innovation addict is all that): One who is addicted to getting high in general. Because the first dose is better than the next, he keeps look for new types of the drug and will generally try anything that the drug lord (Nintendo) offers him.

    Sorry if this sounds offensive to you Razak but I am just using the terminology propagated by Danc (and he doesn't mean to insult game players)

    -Slashdot Anon

  39. Wonderful and enlightning. You could write a book on Nintendo if you wanted to.

  40. I miss sega too! :(

  41. It's a great piece. What we're still waiting for is for Nintendo (or other) to develop a simple-to-use kit for bedroom coders with a little knowledge to play with the hardware. There's something exciting behind the curtain, but seeing it adds to, rather than destroys the magic; when do we get to try out the wizard's controls?

  42. I'll be damned if this isn't the best article on modern gaming I've ever read. Thanks to you for writing it and Penny Arcade for linking it.

    -Matt, Athens, GA

  43. This was a really great read, it really brought together and solidified a lot of things I have been observing about the gaming industry, as well as give me another perspective on some trends.

    Great post, I definitely will be checking into your blog in the future.

  44. I think that your explanation and conclusions about the game industry are invalid and based more on theory than reality.

    There is a much simpler explanation for trends in the game industry, and that is simply related to cost and profit.

    Each new game that comes out is expected to be better than the games that came before it. Better in this context can mean improvements in graphics, story, sound, gameplay, etc. Unfortunatly, to make a game better generally means that the game costs more money to make. If the game costs more to make, then it needs to sell more copies, which means it needs to appeal to a wider market.

    Close combat RTS's lost out because to make a better close combat RTS simply isn't profitable. It would be too expensive for the expected returns.

  45. Very well reasoned and insightful. It paints a brighter future for the passtime I love so much.

    Though it has it's own unique set of dynamics, I can't help but wonder how this innovation/commodification model applies to the movie industry.

  46. Excellent, excellent read. So many are bashing the Nintendo controller, some even declaring the system doomed, without ever having tried it. Some hardly even know what it does, but since it isn't a two-handed boomerang, it surely must fail.

    There is one thing to consider, and this makes me all fuzzy inside: any publicity is good publicity. Everyone naysaying the controller is still going to try it themselves, even if the intent is so they can rush to the internet and go "I played it and it is crap!"

    However, the idea that all the early games will be tech demos worries me. The initial launch titles will, in my opinion, decide the fate of the Revolution. If great games come out, and the controller feels like it has a purpose beyond being freakishly different than Microsoft's and Sony's, then all will be well in Nintendoland.

    On a side note, people proclaiming Nintendo doom confuse me: the Gamecube is widely considered a failure, yet made a profit, while the Xbox, which lost 4 billion dollars, is considered successful. Do any really think the Revolution will sell worse than the Gamecube? Nothing seperated the Gamecube from competitors besides first party games. Now it has Mario AND a revolutionary controller. So why such negative expectations?

    David Dalglish

  47. A well written and unusually balanced article!

    I can't wait for whatever 'Revolution' becomes, either! Games are starting to feel very repetitive.

    I agree that whether or not Nintendo makes it a big success, it will change gaming.

  48. It is very refreshing to see an opinion that isn't a knee jerk reaction either for or against the future sucess of Nintendo. Nicely done.

  49. As a previous poster mentioned, there are bound to be "shallow", simple games for the non-gamer. Nintendo claims that they will not stop creating epics, however.

    Here's the bottom line: If the ratio of simple-to-epic games slants any more towards the simple games than it does already on GameCube, then I'm cashing out next generation and getting a PS3 or 360. My GameCube has collected enough dust as it is in between the epics I want to play. Now there is nothing in the pipeline until Zelda, so right there is a dead 8 months at least. 8 months! And that's not even counting the months that have gone by since I bought my last game.

    As I mentioned earlier, making games for everybody makes them a master of none. One or two Marios or Zeldas every 5 years is not enough. I'm not saying they should release a dozen Zeldas per generation, but I do know that I am not satisfied either. They need to get better and more varied 3rd parties involved. If Valve or Id were on board, I'd be more convinced. But Nintendo is so arrogant that developers have to come to them and earn a license.

    I don't want another generation of Gamecube, but now with gyroscopes.

  50. To long, didn't read.

  51. Good article!

  52. One thing I don't see fitting into this analysis is the Dreamcast. The Dreamcast, while housing a few big titles from old genres (fighting games and sports games being the obvious example), was also filled with new genres, many of which were seen as the best games on the system. Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Chu Chu Rocket, Shenmue, Seaman, Virtua Tennis (a hit tennis game!? Who'da' thunk it?), Phantasy Star Online...

    Even towards the end, with titles like Ooga Booga and Floigan Bros., the Dreamcast was still experimenting with new things.

    So what happened? What killed the Dreamcast?

    Public perception. The public saw the Dreamcast as a casualty in the console war long before it happened, and as a result, so it was. Consumers decided to "wait for the PS2", developers predicted a shrinking userbase and jumped ship, and support for the Dreamcast shrivelled, all because of public perception.

    And we all know that public perception is one of the biggest enemies Nintendo has been fighting ever since they released the Virtual Boy and announced the N64 would be a cartridge-based system. Innovation is all well and good, but if that innovation comes at the expense of credibility, Nintendo risks going down the same path as Sega.

  53. At first i was appalled at the design of the new controller, but then i watched the video, and read this article. I can't remember the last time i've had my opinion changed that quickly. I do worry about a huge influx of mindless little toybox games, but there is also great potential for the kind of games that, in the back of my imagination somewhere, i have always wanted. The segment of guy swinging the controller around like a sword in the preview made my spine tingly in a way i haven't felt since i first heard fully orchestrated final fantasy music.

    Great article man, keep up the good work.

  54. Maybe if you have to swing your arms to use the Revolution controller, being in shape will actually be a competitive advantage and gamers will get in shape!

  55. Impressive. I've never seen your blog before, but this instantly made me respect you.

    That's all.

  56. I remember when I was about 12 years old, I was sick that day and couldn't go to school. Videogames being my primary hobby, (actually, that's a lie, my ONLY hobby) I sat at home and played Super Mario Kart all day. My mom stayed home to take care of me, and at one point she said she wanted to play. So, I explained the controls to her, told her what to do and............ complete bewilderment. It was like watching a teacher try to work a VCR.

    My mother is NOT and idiot, but something simple to me(like a d-pad) was atrociously complex to her. Even something as simple(by todays standards) as an snes controller was an enigma. Todays controllers may cause a catatonic state.

    I will try to keep this rant in a buisness persective, and avoid the culture war pitfall(AMD v. Intel, Pc V. Mac, Sony v. everyone). Nintendos new controller is a sound buisness idea, whether it is profitable or not. Most buisness ventures into uncharted territory are not profitable, but the idea is that with enough capital, you keep trying until you score big. Apple's ipod could have very easily failed, an mp3 player with a price tag of $400, when there is one sitting on the shelf, with the same amount of memory, for $100 less? An Mp3 file download site where you have to pay for music? Most of us would have bet easy money on these ventures failing. Nintendo is trying something new, something that hasn't been attempted in a long time. They are trying to attract new customers into the videogame market. Sony and Microsofts new systems are unlikely to do that.(I'm speaking in terms of huge demographics, not and additional 1 to 2 million over each respective companies prior system) The original post had a brief mention about the videogame market in Japan. Look at the numbers for christ sake! Except for Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, the only thing selling is cell phone games! Are gamers in America really so different from gamers in Japan, other than the types of games we like? Without innovation, and the new customers that come with it, it is possible that the videogame industy could fold.(not saying it will, I have been hearing that argument for 15 years now). Nintendo is trying to attract new customers, old people, girls who don't already play videogames, people who look down on videogames. Nintendo is going after people like my mom, and everyone like her, and I for one applaude them for their attempt, sink or swim.

  57. Hello! A very interesting article. Like many I was EXTREMELY skeptical of Revolution's contoller concept.

    However, I found your article convincing becuase I actually work for 3M, in R&D. 3M really is an extremely innovative company, and it is drilled into us from day one that the way that 3M makes money is with NEW IDEAS from the scientists who work here. We don't spend much time trying to improve on old ideas, or at least those improvements must be hugely better than the preceeding version or in a protected area. Instead, 3M handsomely rewards its employees for filing patents that lead to new innovations. This can be challenging at times: if a project is seen as being "in a rut" it will often be completely thrown out by management and you will be told to move on to something else or put on a new team. It can also be a great place to work becuase things are always dynamic and interesting. No one is just hacking away trying to get that extra 1% better performance - instead we start from scratch, or nearly, always trying for 200% better!

    Anyway, with my own company in mind I can easily start to grasp the seemingly bizzare moves by Nintendo. Thanks for your analysis.

  58. I dont like the impression you give that Nintendo is simply a one trick pony show that continually moves on to whatever new genre they invent next. You imply that Nintendo relies on wowing the audience with the uniqueness they've created, and that they can't compete as genre king once it matures. This is absolutely false. Do you believe Ocarina of Time was a low budget flash in the pan? The hype over twilight princess is enough to knock jak and daxter/prince of persia/etc.. to the sidelines. Isn't the fact that Super Smash Melee is played at gaming tournaments indicative of Nintendo's ability to deliver in a genre thats existed for a very long time?

    Where you see Nintendos "need" to innovate I see their "want" to innovate.

  59. I'm one of those 28 something, disenchanted gamers as well. Only a handful of console games have captured my lasting attention in the last couple of years. Katamari, Burnout 3, and Beyond Good & Evil.

    I'm weary of the current state of games. So when I was informed of Nintendo's new radical controller/idea's I was immediately intrigued. After seeing the write up at 1UP I actually allowed myself to get excited! A change in gaming is coming whether some like it or not. I'll be playing.

  60. To the one who says there's no good 'epic' games until Zelda, you are the reason great 'epic' games like Geist go unsold on the Gamecube. I hate seeing great games like that (and Eternal Darkness and Beyond Good and Evil) just slip through the cracks because people are too narrow-minded to try a new franchise because it isn't "OMG the new RE or MGS or Zelda or Final Fantasy".

  61. I have always felt the same way about Nintendo, they are very creative and know how to make a fun game that is still simple enough that anyone can get into. I too wrote up my thoughts and beliefs on Nintendo and their Revolution on my site at and said the same basic type of thing just in slightly less words. I did however learn lots of things from your post and want to congradulate on a excelent post and thank you for the insight.

  62. Very insightful article Danc. Thanks for the great read. Keep up the good work.

  63. I must agree with my Lord and Master Tycho in saying "That is probably the most interesting article I've ever read." Amen.

  64. CaspianX -

    I think what will probably save the Rev from the same fate as the Dreamcast is that the Revolution, from the get-go, announces itself as setting itself apart from the current system wars. The DC, while it did have several innovative games, wasn't different enough on the surface to grab anyone's attention.

    Danc -

    Interesting comparison to 3M. So Sony and Microsoft would be, what, Schick and Gillette, I guess. The Playstation 3 - now with 5 BLADES!!!

  65. nice. I'm kind of rethinking my decision to pass on nintendo's next-gen offering. we'll see.

  66. Logical sounding or not, Adding a few refrences might lend more credibility to your points. Working on some game no one's ever heard of for a company no one's ever heard of doesn't really give you "industry insider" credentials. Alternatly you might should toss in some "I think"'s or "In my opinion"'s

  67. Each new game that comes out is expected to be better than the games that came before it.

    I wouldn't be so sure about that. It's an oversimplification, and it ignores a critical factor - a game may be good, but is it new? Too much improvement eventually leads to nothing but rehashes - marginal improvements for exorbitant cost. It's much cheaper to make a game that's better than the games that came before it, if it does something that's never been done before.

    A game can be "new" or it can be "improved." The current state of gaming is such that improvement is beginning to wear thin. Novelty, therefore, is the most viable option. What happens when novelty starts to wear thin? Improvement becomes viable again.

  68. So where do one-shot games fit into this? katamari is the first one that comes to mind, but there are other games like Black&White that have created a new 'genre' but they're the only games using it. I think they were great games, but why didn't they spawn a host of clones or specialized versions?

  69. Got to evaluate the big factor consisting of the people afraid of change. Which i think is the number one factor why so called hardcore gamers will avoid this new system (*).
    Also note though that even though that attitude will be more frequent among that certain group, the amount of people elsewhere avoiding change is probably the largest customer group lost by nintendo for this next gen.

    * I see no argument except the poetic in this "creators of many, masters of none" preaching, I'd say that nintendo has a fair share of genre-kings. Thats not admitted by everyone though, cause of the nintendo brand, being very accessible, accessibility being the opposite of what a part of the hardcore gamers desire.

    Here, theres some need to differentiate the meanings of hardcore gamer. especially by the previous poster talking about mario party as not being hardcore, which imho is diverting from the definition of the term as used in the article.

  70. Hey, I just read your article, and I have to say, very well written and well crafted. You made a lot of good points and it is definitely something I will recommend my gamer friends read.

    One bone of contention, is that you make it sound as though Nintendo is incapable, or unwilling to craft a polished game experience. While you establish well that Nintendo's business model is one of innovation, it is worth noting the polished commodity games they do produce. Zelda comes to mind. Twilight Princess is not expected to be terribly innovative in any way, but it will likely be one of the best adventure experiences on any console. While a vast majority of Nintendo's development does seem to be based on innovating for profit, you make it sound as though they duck out as soon as the competition catches up, which I don't think is entirely fair. Although Nintendo is known for being nuts (read: innovative) they are also known for creating amazing games consistently. Although, another point worth making, it is true that they do not go for extra money items, like ulta-realistic graphics (usually), voice acting, and licenses. Their polish is almost always in the form of highly refined gameplay, which is probably cheaper then the other things one might do to polish.

    Sorry, I am rambling. Great article!

  71. Firstly, I apologize to DanC for taking up so much of your comments space, but I can't help myself- there are so many interesting points here! Anyhow-

    "I dont like the impression you give that Nintendo is simply a one trick pony show that continually moves on to whatever new genre they invent next...."

    Super Smash Bros. Melee is a genre king, yes, but only of a subgenre which consists more or less entirely of Super Smash Bros. and Super Smash Bros. Melee. There is no denying that the series is unique among fighters. You have a point about the lack of innovation in this particular iteration, but it's not hard to make a lot of money off a genre king in a genre which no one else has seriously attempted. A better case in point would be Mario Party- very little innovation, but huge profits due to lack of competition.

    Nintendo has not proven that they can make a genre king as competitors try to outdo them. I'm sure they could, mind you, but DanC has a point when he says it's a cheaper proposition for them to move on to new territory.

    As for Zelda, the games are much more innovative than you seem to remember. Much of what makes Ocarina of Time so great (and my personal favorite, incidentally) is its willingness to break formula even as it creates it. Much of the game is downright experimental! Look at the "Inside Jabu Jabu's Belly" dungeon for instance- the entire dungeon revolves around an object (the boomerang) you only get halfway through? Or look at the final dungeon, completely distorting the original intent of the various dungeons? The controls were completely unique at the time- who would have thought of the Z-lock, or the automatic jumping, etc.? The game is never content with following formula- it is constantly trying to give the player unique experiences unlike those in previous games, not replicate earlier successes. You portray the game as some blockbuster relying on its big budget, but this is not the case. In truth, the game uses clever world design and cinematography to give you a vivid impression of something even when they haven't bothered to spend time and money on it. Observe how the layout of Kokiri Forest is designed to give the impression of openness and freedom, when in fact it is very small and confining. Or how the camera movement on entering Hyrule Field implies a landscape too vast to imagine, when you should be able to see all the way to the other side if not for the hilly terrain. I could go on, but you get the point. The game relies on innovation, and not natural evolution, to provide the player with a meaningful experience.

    In the following Zelda game, Nintendo abandoned everything they had invented for OoT and made a completely different experience. Need I say more?

  72. An incredibly lucid article. I'll have to catch up with the comments later. You've earned a new bookmark.

  73. In response to the general consensus that Twilight Princess will not be innovative:

    At first, they were just playing up the graphics and the fact that it stars an older Link. But the more info they give, the less the assumption that they are only going for polish seems true. Playing as a wolf, with completely different movement? Interacting with animals? A constant companion? Blurring the lines between the three gameplay mechanics? Sounds very innovative to me.

  74. Wow, it's like you extracted my initial perception of Nintendo's strategy, made it perfectly clear and then handed my improved thoughts back to me. Thanks!

  75. An interesting post. To the supporters, don't be surprised if the first games aren't super fantastic. To the naysayers, don't be surprised if the word on the street is a lot of talk about Nintendo. Hell, the controller has caused easily as much talk and hype as the xbox "3shitty" core system announcement.

    I await Nintendo's newest console with curiousity more than anything. If I hate it, it's just some money I would've spent elsewhere and doesn't matter much. If I love it, then it was well spent money indeed.

  76. First I would like to compliment the above essay. In reference to your naysayers you come off as inteligent and well thought out while the rebuttle came off as slightly childish and "I know more than you," and nobody likes a know-it-all.

    Sounding smart is good enough for me.

    Anyway, I didn't have time to read every reply to the essay (I'm on lunch) but I just wanted to point out a few things in case nobody else did.

    With this new controller and it's "Gyroscopic jiggawhatsits", an old video arcade game comes to mind that I played just once for 5 dollers.

    You stand in this platform with rails around you and then strap on this helmet with a TV inside it on your head and they stick a gun in your hand. You move your head and the screen moves, you move the gun and a curser on the screen moves.

    They had this for a while for some consoles and it died away into nothing. I can't help but fear this would happen with Nintendo's new controler. I didn't necessarily like the "virtual" game but I'm hopeful for this thing 'cause it'd be totally awesome to hew someone's head from their body by flinging the remote to the side like a broadsword.

    What about a Half-Life 2ish implications where you can grab something nearby (say, a trashcan or a vodka bottle) and beat someone to death in GTA fashion?

    The implications for this thing are enormous but hte pitfalls are just as if not larger.

    For some reason I can only think of violent examples (what would Jack Thompson Say?!) but wouldn't it be nice when exploring someplace without any weapons and just gently shove someone off a balcony with the remote?

    Mario Tennis would rock with a remote racket.

    I know I'm rambling now but it's just so exciting. If Nintendo pulls this off they'll have Sony and Microsoft and a huge amount of developers clamboring over themselves trying to get liscencing on the remote or trying to invent their own.

    The thought of Solid Snake sneaking up behind someone, grabbing their chin and snapping their neck with a twist and jerk of the remote sends a tingle down my spine.

    Here's hopin' Nintendo.

  77. Great article. I was thinking to myself after seeing the new Rev controller that Nintendo seems to be turning into more of the console world version of Apple. They aren't trying to out muscle the big leaguers (Mico$oft, $ony), they are trying to out innovate em.

  78. one point seems to be missing from these comments: some of us LIKE the existing games. As serious gamer the revolution doesnt look like it could provide enough to keep me going- sure, they might come up with some amazing new thing that will be fun for a while... but will I still want to play this game in 3 weeks time? or 3 months? the revolution will be a breath of fresh air for casual gamers or those who can afford to get multiple consoles, but for those of us trying to pass the time it doesnt measure up. The ps3 or 360 can be relied on to provide a solid experience, if not terribly new, and for a serious gamer surely that is what matters.

  79. Grim: your point is made, and you didn't have to read four paragraphs in to catch it. You're a genre addict, and that's fine. It's a natural part of the industry and certainly a driving force. So is innovation. Nintendo drives for a different market than yourself. Oh well. Move on if they don't want you.

    I paid a crazy amount of money for bongos and DK:Jungle Beat. It was a short game and I could have got a better "value," in terms of hours played, from a PS2 RPG, however, there isn't another game out there that offers such a play mechanic at home. For me, that's worth it, but I hold no grudge against friends who think I look crazy playing. And really, Nintendo isn't the only company that does this. It's simply the one of three that keeps game mechanic innovation as a core strategy. Sony might pick away with EyeToy and Microsoft with Live and Steel Batalion, but neither ever really gets that "new" feel from games. On the flip side, no one really expects Nintendo to "win the console wars" with this controller and strategy, but that isn't the point. Unit sales isn't the only measurement of success.

  80. Very insightful. I'm actually looking forward to the new style of controller. I expect they'll do some cool things with it, and I can always get the latest PlayStation (or whatever) if I'm looking for something more conventional.

    (And, as you point out, this sort of change is nothing new. The N64 controller was nothing like the SNES controller, and the GameCube controller included some pretty significant design changes as well.

  81. Trully a great article, and great comments as well

    I just wanted to point a fact that everyone is missing when they analyse Nintendo's strategy for Revo, that being a confirmed expantion that would transform the pointer (as some people call it) into a STANDARD TYPE controller (with motion sensors still active) and i don't mean the nuchukus

    I belive, from my gamer point of view, Nintendo will follow two paths at the same time:
    1)It will innovate in the form of new genres and inproved genres with new control mechanics
    2)It will continue to suport regular style of play, probably with slight control diferences

    All this while exploiting the lower price tag of the console and the lower cost to develop a game

    The two paths i mention are the same ones being used on the DS, with inovative games like Nintendogs or Electroplancton, and less inovative games like Advance Wars: Dual Strike and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

    *Please excuse my bad english*

  82. I have to say, insightful commentary on the controller. Although we may never know for certain, I think you read more into the decision than Nintendo put in.

    I have a question, since you seem to be ontop of this: Why is Nintendo not making games in "token oldschool" style for those of us who remember what it was like and miss it dearly? It's nice that they're making this new controller to bring in new people, but how can you expect to keep an audience if you only focus on new people without giving the current "in crowd" anything new to keep them in?

    Sure, we're getting a downloadable retro-game library, that's nice, but it's not NEW. If I want new challenges in a genre I'm familiar with, I have to go to Sony or Microsoft. That bothers me, since I learned these skills on a Nintendo system, why is it to use them I have to go to someone else?

    Why can't the big N find the perfect yin-yang of old and new?

    "I'm sorry, but our gaming balance is in another controller peripheral" just doesn't cut it.

  83. I think it is safe to say that Nintendo already accomplished one thing: I have not come across anything next-gen related that has sparked such great discussions on forums. This thread is another example. After reading the tiring remarks about cell processors and GPU's and which console would enable better shading etc. now gamers think about how the new controllers could be implemented for existing concepts and they think about gaming ideas. Nintendo has definately struck a chord in a lot of gamers.

  84. Well, that sums up the situation quite nicely. What you had to say is relevant and well thought-out, not to mention easy to understand. On a slightly less serious note, it also made me go all warm and fuzzy about the Revolution. I'll be watching the Revolution's lineup of innovative titles (featuring Mario, Link and Pikachu most likely) very closely.

    I'll probably still end up buying a PS3 or XBox 360 as well for mainstream treatment, though.

    Thanks again for this insightful, eloquent little piece!

  85. "Positive yet skeptical" is the overall vibe I take away from reading feeback about the controller--a pretty big step up from the norm.

    Remember when Nintendo announced the DS? Was I dreaming or did the very announcement incite the largest wave of anger and hatred in the history of the Internet? "What was the crime?" I pondered.

    I've over time learned to ignore this trend.

    Though, I am a little disturbed by the notion that any change in controller design will "alienate third parties," which, really, paints developers (like our friend Danc) as nonconforming idiots who hate new challenges and have very limited imaginations. I think we should give them a little more credit than that.

  86. Excellent, thought provoking article. This is my first visit to the site, but I think I may become a regular reader.

    You perfectly summed up my current feeling toward PC gaming. With some exceptions most new games seem to fall into FPS, RTS or MMO categories, each new iteration building on it's predecessors and refining ideas until the gameplay and strategies become so nuanced that they are virtually impenetrable to newcomers.

    I applaud Nintendo for trying to innovate, but I worry that games for the Revolution will struggle to be more than simple 'toys' (wave the wand, swing the sword, conduct the orchesra, etc.).

    I'm sure Nintendo will produce a couple of masterpieces (they always do), but after the Gamecube, I don't want to buy another console where the 4 or 5 games that make me want buy the machine turn out to be the only 4 or 5 games I ever buy for the machine.

  87. For those who are worried about the launch games being "shallow", remember that the original Smash Brothers was originaly produced as a simple low-budget title by Nintendo. We all know how it went.

    Easy to learn, hard to master. Nintendo have always been best at taking simple things and turning them into great gameplay idea. Mario Kart, Tennis, Nintendogs and even Fire Emblem come to mind.

    I'm not worried. Just cant wait.

  88. You know, I'm so surrounded by XBox and Playstation lovers that my views of Nintendo have been somewhat tainted over the years. Reading an article like this, however, puts them in a whole new light. Comparing their innovations, to what are now standards on both competing systems as well as major arcade games like Silent Scope and DDR, makes me look forward more and more to the remote-control style controller.

  89. This is exactly why I never purchase a console in its infancy - I enjoy games that have been polished a bit, where the so called gimicks have been ironed out to legitimate gameplay mechanics. It is a natural part of any platform's lifestyle, and the few games that are killer launch titles are still available, and often at friends house shortly after platform launch for me to try out and evaluate before I decide.

    As a gamer who has limited time and income, I cannot afford to jump blindly onto each bandwagon when they come along with a new gimick, but rather sit back and watch the fireworks of each newcomer, and enjoy their hard work reflected in the polish that takes their innovations and incorporates them into rich, compelling games that stand on their own legs.

    It's like a movie - the best special effects are the ones you never notice. Gameplay "gimicks" are like that - if it feels like a gimick, it puts me off, but once it has been polished and refined to a certain point, it just begins to make sense. It feels like a natural extension of an existing genre, or a genre that has been there all along, but never discovered until now.

    Here's just hoping that the revolution fares better than the VirtualBoy. :)

  90. I think you're missing another problem with hard-core genres: something I call "grognard capture."

    Because a game for an established genre must satisfy the hardcore fans of that genre first, games become increasingly complex and hard to master over time. E.g., anyone could play Doom--modern FPS games -demand- mastery of outlook. Warcraft was easy to pick up and learn--Age of Empires II a whole lot harder for a newbie. As new features and complexity get ladelled on in order to serve the demands of the hardcore, you ultimately get a genre of games that no one but the hardcore CAN play.

    As for the controller--I disagree that this amounts to real innovation. New game genres are created when people figure out a series of connected mechanics that produce compelling gameplay. They don't get created when you throw in a camera or a motion detector.

    Mind you, I like the controller, and I expect there will be some interesting uses. But if you want is new game genres, you need to think in terms of the software, not the hardware. Hardware is just an enabler.

    Now, Nintendogs--that's interesting :)

  91. A wonderful, insightful article. Thank you!

    So Nintendo harvests the low-hanging fruit by planting new trees.

  92. Wow that was a spectacular post. I I am always trying to explain to my friend why Nintendo is still around when others like Sega have dropped to just games. But this explains it so much better than I ever could have. I've got to show this around.

  93. Greg -

    Thats the point OF the new hardware. New genres are created when creative use of the new hardware is put to use.

    The Hardware certainly is the enabler. And when it enables new things, new genres emerge.

    Surely you're not saying you doubt Nintendo's ability to fully realize the potential of its own product.

  94. The controller is an evolution beyond the mouse.

    SpaceOrb be shamed. I want one of THESE to control my PC.

    Up, Down, Left, Right... my current mouse now feels obsolete. Even the once mighty SpaceOrb seems primitive.

    Microsoft has slowly evolved the XBOX into a platform for online FPS games. This new Nintendo controller makes PC users jealous with the ability to aim and shoot in any direction and the XBOX community? Be shamed.

    FPS on consoles becomes a major experience starting with the release of this hardware and Metroid Prime 3.

  95. Re Jeremy:

    "that I'm devoted to buying is Xbox360....and backward compatibility"

    Limited backward compatibility. And you also (so far) are REQUIRED to have the HD attachment. Basically, keep your xbox handy.

    I have all three systems now, and of them all I prefer my Gamecube (love the wavebird). My order of preference would be xbox next (for graphics and the HD) then the PS2.

    If both the xbox2/ps3 costs $500+ then I it will be a good while before I end up with both of them again.

    I still fondly remember getting the NES uber pack (still have R.O.B. on my desk) after being drawn in by those wacky Zelda commercials!

    The only one I will definitely get is the Rev.

  96. Hello Danc, linked from Penny-Arcade here as I'm guessing many many people who've posted comments were.

    An insightful article, however the price-points you listed as development costs are fairly inaccurate for Japan (as they were gleaned from an unscientific poll) and completely inaccurate for American developers (of which there are more these days.)

    None the less, that entire paragraph seems only anecdotally related to the rest of your post, which does clearly extrapolate Nintendo's ongoing strategy.

    I'm curious as to how you think these strategies effect two of the largest video game markets, children's games, and licensed games?

    Obviously these games fall under neither hardcore nor casual gamer markets, but specifically fans of licenses + games, and small children.

    It's important to note that the major hardware developers (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft) don't keep these markets in mind nearly as much as independent developers and large 3rd party companies (such as Activision and EA).

    One of Activision's best selling batch of games in 2005 were based around the Madagascar license, for example. How do you think licensed and children's titles will fit in with this particular turn of Nintendo evolution?

  97. I am a girl, and a gamer. I'm not sure how hardcore I would be considered, but I play a game in some form almost every day. Some weeks I only play about 7 hours, other weeks I'll devote all my spare time to games.

    Outside of RPGs (And Katamari, but that's its own fluke) I have to say that I often feel that Nintendo is the only console company that really cares about me.

    I look at Windwaker, and it looks like fun! It looks like something I can pick up and explore and figure out. Same thing for pikmin, or donkey konga, or even ::gasp:: Mario Sunshine. I get bored easily and I want life and light and new things in my games.

    I love my GBA and it rarely leaves my purse. I actually consider it to be the ultimate video gaming machine of our era. If my dream came true it would have ports of all the SNES classics on it. I have two PCs, a GC and a PS2, but I still marvel at the design of my cheap little SP.

    I've been feeling alienated from the "gaming community" of late. I play almost every genre except for FPS, but because that one genre holds no appeal for me I'm not seen as a "real" gamer.

    It also annoys me when people say "the gaming community hates this" or "the gaming community rejects that" when referencing the predominant threads on popular sites and message boards. I would say that 90% of the gamers I know would never post on those boards, or read most of those sites, because they're... well sort of mean, and often rude, and the boards are... occasionally a little lacking in the grammar and decorum. Why subject yourself to that? I know that my friends aren't likely the average gamers, but they're still out there. Maybe call them the "internet gaming community," but there's a lot of people who game but who aren't involved there.

    Another subset of gamers who don't often have their say on the net is children. Kids love the gamecube, and there isn't very much you have to worry about. Cut out RE and eternal darkness and I wouldn't think twice about giving anything in my Cube collection to an 8 year old. My little brother did just that... he gave a gamecube with mariokart and pikmin to my little cousins (both girls, 9 and 12 respectively), and they adore it! Parents have this sort of difficult minefield in games, because so much is obviously for adults nowadays. One thing you can count on Mario for is not to have inappropriate sex or violence, which is very important. Same thing for Kirby, and lord knows I love my Kirby. I can't think of any sony or MS series that make fun games that parents can instinctively trust.

    Anyway, sorry to rant here. I really liked the article, this is the level of analysis I wish I saw more often.

    Who knows, maybe my the Revolution will get my mom to play some game other than Tetris. If it does that then it's really got something there.

  98. Excellent article. Anything that contains actual content (in your case, analysis and contextualization) is news worth reading, as opposed to the flood of Revolution articles released in the past two weeks. Thanks.

  99. Regarding your boycott on Sony titles - why is this? I'm curious why you would limit yourself from such a major market player, as one who seems to be so involved in the gaming industry and community.

  100. I would like a game that encourages me to move around the room... get some exercise. Perhaps Jog in place... while doing something cool like catching Pokemon, or whatever...

    Oh wait... you can't make a request like the above with Xbox.


  101. This is a really interesting article-

    *glances at About Me*



    -17 yr. old gamer

    PS - I think the Revolution's controller is truly amazing, but I'm hoping its image won't be cheapened by a plethora of add-ons. And I'm hoping the Revolution will hit the market at $200, but that's probably a pipe dream. Just my thoughts on the topic.

    Now for $198.98 more...

  102. A very thoughtful and well written point, I hope inovation pays off for Nintendo in this case as it has done so in the past.

  103. You know when you feel something or have an opinion but have trouble explaining it to others? This article is the explanation I've been trying to describe to people.

    Bravo Danc!

  104. I still think the main consideration here, which is fundamental to gaming, is why we enjoy games.

    There are a plethora of reasons, but they all naturally stem from the fact that we don't understand them. When you come to understand a game, as many have with genres like adventure games, shooting galleries, etc., then you tend to spend less money on them. Sure you might play them from time to time but never with the ferocity that you did as a novice gamer.

    The simple fact is, the lack of vision for new genres or even expansion of old ones may be the deciding factor for those who are teetering on the edge of being gamers. If they play two, of the seeming millions of, cut-n-paste FPSs in a row, they may lose interest quickly.

    For old skool gamers like I, Nintendo's Revolution is the only real choice for the new generation of gaming. PS3 and XBOX 360 have 0, nil, nothing, nada, zippo to offer me. Better (?) graphics on the exact game concept is NOT interesting.

    I have better things to do with my time and money.

  105. Anonymous who posted at 2:01pm had a valid point about a largely ignored niche market - females. I'm also a female gamer and believe that all platforms have kind of left us behind.

    I think they all could use some innovation to catch this market. I doubt I was the only one to really enjoy primal, shadowhearts, and kotor.

    I really enjoyed the essay (linked to it from penny arcade) and believe you dealt with the issue with a level of complexity I rarely see on the internet in terms of articles and reviews. Kudos!!! Great job. :-)

  106. In response to rankenphile:
    I also boycott sony in general. As a gamer, I'm disappointed that they could put deadlines and figures above quality and reasonable demand for a complete unit.
    On the article, I found it thorough and somewhat biased toward nintendo, but I attribute the positive attitude toward the anticipation for the new product.
    The market for games, and the moving on to new genres hasn't been explained with an understandable clarity, so allow me to further my conjecture on the subject:
    Innovation costs money. This is a fact, and not worth debating. While this becomes cheaper after the initial breakthrough, it still wields a hefty cost. Now that the new genre has been breached, the third parties and companies that didn't innovate can get to this point with considerably less cost. Then, they pour their resources into polishing a game to exorbitant levels, beyond a 10-person development team can pursur in 6 months; the work becomes epic in stature. Exausted from innovation, the breakthrough company can't compete with the already astronomical level of production costs. This, moving to a new genre is considerably cheaper than sitting around and using limited resources to master something already dominated by followers who usurped the technology and created an empire.

    Simple economics enters into the equation. When innovating, there really is no competition.

  107. I just wanted to comment that the article is very well-written and insightful (if not a bit too heavily loaded, causing me to have to run each sentence through a scanner several times before I understand all that is implied)

    2 Thumbs up :)

    However, I wanted to point out an extremely important fact that was neglected, and that Nintendo has admitted to recently at a game-show (I think it was the GDC in San Francisco; I don't remember). Nintendo lost the last console battle, sorely, and they admitted that they cannot rely on flashy demos and anymore, and stated that they seriously need to go more mainstream in order to compete. They will forever be a minority among consoles if they continue to be innovative, and since nobody is fixated on innovative titles that they don't understand, they'll go to the OTHER consoles, more and more, until nothing is left for Nintendo.

    The average console gamer (from what I've seen) already says that the GameCube SUCKED in the last few years, because there was nothing to play, and those same GameCube owners have told me that they are going to forget Nintendo this time. And they have good reason to: the new consoles will come out FIRST, so Nintendo will come out last, AND be the minority.

    Nintendo may make some money by being innovative, but they are dying, and nobody's going to buy this new console. For any person who has all 3 consoles, you KNOW how rarely you've touched your Cube in the last 3 years.

    So my point is that Nintendo has neglected the hardcore gamers to sch a degree that they will most likely lose the next console battle as well, putting them in a tight spot, which I think will be their downfall.

    The only way I think Nintendo could have survived this console generation is if they had released the Revolution three months ago, with a wave of super-hot, widely publicized titles.

    It's going to be the Cube all over again, with the same games, and this time it's going to happen at a time when everyone already has their PS3 and Xbox, so nobody will care about Mario anymore.

    That's what I think, and Nintendo's very difficult position in the console war, since they have so few titles in their lineup, is the one crucial thing that was neglected in this article, and I think it's a darn important one.

  108. I don't believe that Nintendo will become another sega because even though the gamecube wasn't all that great and sony and microsoft owned the console market, nintendo made money anyway. I think that a fierce war will emerge between sony and microsoft and one will make a mistake. Then either sony or microsoft will drop out of the console business. But no matter what the outcome would be nintendo would simply sit on the sidelines and laugh. And as the article said nintendo is the one who creates new styles of gaming, then these styles are copied in various ways. So if nintendo dies so does the rest of the gaming market.

    I'm not sure how well the Revolution will sell. The average gamer doesn't want innovation, they want something that's "cool." And it seems that "cool" is X-Box 360. But most hardcore gamers are nintendo fans. Every other gamer will say halo 2 is the best game ever. Next halo 3 will be the best game ever. The average gamer population is taken over by the halo effect.

    Another large part of the gaming population consist of semi-hardcore PS2 gamers. Many of these gamers will not be willing to spend 400+ dollars on a console. So part of this population might come to buy a Revolution, unless the controller messes up gameplay badly, which it might.

    In the end, it seems to me that the nintendo market will be like the pc market. The pc market will never die, but it probably won't flourish ever again.

    I don't know how the next gen of consoles will play out, but it seems it might play out similar to the handheld market. The DS has worse graphics than the PSP, but the innovation of the DS(and cheaper pricetag) comes through for nintendo.

    Don't get all mad at my views because they are solely my opinion, but I would like to hear what you think.

  109. Found your site through PA, wow. What insight.. really thought this through well. Oh yeah, and i used to play Tyrian on an old Acer computer years back, the demo version was preloaded onto it and i absolutely couldn't get enough. Soooo... big fan! :D

  110. Very insightful. I actually printed this article off so I can physically hand it to a couple "anti-nintendo" friends.

    Until the mind-blowing RE4 came out a few months back, I was really starting to lose faith in gaming. I hate how all new games being released get pigeon-holed into a specific category of FPS, RPG, MMO, RTS etc. The games I want to play are the ones that don't fit into one specific genre. I absolutely refuse to play another FPS. I have played a million of them. This article does a great job of explaining the mechanics/psycology of what makes me feel this way.

    Danc, keep writing these thought-provoking articles, thanks for the great read.

  111. Danc,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to write down such a cogent industry analysis.

    I think your paradigms fit the software industry at large just as well as the game industry. Imagine trying to create a new "Photoshop" at this point. Heck, Adobe tried to create a new "Quark" and got killed for not having the exact same obscure keyboard shortcuts!

    Also, I loved your quote on firing customers. It is indeed a hard thing to do, and it is indeed a very, very smart practice. I've reluctantly let a few go in my time, and the surprising part is they are actually pretty happy to get an honest answer from a company. "I'm sorry, the features you're suggesting are neat but they aren't where we want to take our application, and we only have so much time to program. However, there's another application out there that might suit you better..."

    Thank you, again.

    -Wil Shipley
    Chief Monster, Delicious Monster Software

  112. ain't it funny that every person in japan has a PS2 though?

    the PS2 has become an accessory synonomous with a VCR. its a "must have" home electronics device. can nintendo ever get that kind of saturation? anywhere?

    could MS in america?

    i doubt it.

    but i'm getting a revolution.

  113. Har har har, "most hardcore gamers are nintendo fans" and "all others will tell you Halo 2 is the best game". . .
    (I dislike Nintendo, own a GC, X-box, PS2, Genesis, Atari 2600,Game gear, Gameboy original, colour and advance, and 3 PC's and will assert that the best game of all time is a toss-up betweeb Hero's Quest and X-COM Apocolypse).
    Sorry, just had to laugh at that one.

    Er, back on the topic, a very interesting article altogether. As for all the predictions everyone's doing, we're all in the hurry up and wait period and we'll find out soon enough. One prediction of my own though, if the system bomb (the controller is unweildly, or 3rd part developers don't want to touch it, or too many former fans remember the horror of the GC) Nintendo will drop. They'll sink or swim with this one, they can't survive two bad consoles in a row. Look at Sega for historical precedence.

  114. Great post, nice understanding of the industry.
    I too look forwards to the new controller and new genre's.
    Xbox cert Jan

  115. Anonymous at 11:41:

    They CAN survive two consoles in a row. In your insight you forget that not everyone loses multibillion dollars on a "failed" console. MS lost billions. Nintendo made mass profits. Which console failed??

  116. First of all, thanks for analyzing Nintendo's actions on a business level. After all, the primary corporate objective of Nintendo is to ultimately make a profit - the exact same objective that Microsoft and Sony have.

    Second of all, this part's a bit long-winded. You have fair warning.

    To all the people who say Nintendo is going to fail as a company, I'd like to point out that they don't need to dominate the industry to make a profit. Specialized services and high-quality products are always in demand to the consumers who want them, even if they're only a fraction of the total industry. Nintendo, while it has a negative reputation among many hardcore gamers, is favored by its fans because of the quality of its hardware and its games. Even under a worst-case scenario, where Nintendo completely isolates every third party in existance and fails to sell this product to a single new customer, it has an established customer base. Regardless of whether the Revolution is a "success" compared to the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, it will undoubtedly be profitable. Nintendo will only leave the market once it has lost its touch for creating in-depth and innovative games, something which doesn't seem likely in the near future.

    Nintendo has little to lose and everything to gain with the Revolution. They've only posted one nonprofitable quarter (that I'm aware of). Their games have constantly created innovation (Pikmin, Wario Ware, Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, and Ocarina of Time are all excellent examples), and their fans are used to this innovation. They now have the chance to expand the audience to the average gamer - the type who plays cell phone games or internet games. This is an audience in the tens of millions, and the industry could double or triple in size if this is a success. Besides, just because games become simpler to control does not mean that games have to be mindless. Take Pikmin, a game in which you controlled different types of plantlike creatures to recover the pieces to your missing spaceship. You would have the point-and-click simplicity of a mouse, easily able to select a group of Pikmin and send them to build a bridge, tear down a tree, or carry a spaceship part back to your ship. All of these controls are dependant on the environment - simply selecting an object in the game causes the correct action to be taken, much like Ocarina of Time used a single context-sensitive "Action" button to simplify controls. The control scheme would be simple - just point and click - and the game itself isn't terribly long (about ten hours to complete); however, anyone who's played Pikmin can tell you that there's a great deal of depth to the game.

    This is what I think Nintendo's talking about when they say that they want to expand the gaming audience. They're not trying to create a bunch of simple tech demos. For people who want a quick little game, they can find what they want online or on a cell phone. Instead, they're trying to creating games with enormous depth but simple controls. You're probably not going to buy Whack-A-Fly for twenty bucks. However, you could easily buy Mario Tennis Revolution for that price. Same simplicity, but much greater depth. Just because a game isn't eighty hours long doesn't mean it's not "epic" in its depth. Super Smash Bros. Melee isn't necessarily a long game, but the level of depth is incredible. The same goes for Mario Power Tennis: just when I thought I had mastered the controls, I started paying attention to the various differences in your hit if you hit with a forehand or backhand swing. Now, imagine Mario Tennis with all of the subtleties translated into the wand. You wouldn't even need buttons to play the game - topspin, slice, and ball placement would all be handled with the wand. You'd use the control pad to run around, but the days of pressing a button to hit the ball would be over. You couldn't make a better control scheme for a tennis game than that without going onto the court and playing for real.

    So, to wrap up this entirely too long post, Nintendo has nothing to fear with its new controller. The system is practically guaranteed to make a profit, regardless of how it is received in the public eye. Nintendo's reputation hasn't changed much in the past few years; the people who bought Gamecubes and still play them have no reason not to buy the Revolution. Instead, they have the possibility to regain their leading role in the industry and put Sony and Microsoft to shame. If the Revolution 's controller proves its worth, millions of new gamers will come to Nintendo. The entire industry market will have a massive popuation burst, and Nintendo will have the largest customer base of all. There isn't a third-party developer around that would pass up the opportunity to make games for a market larger than the total market for console games today. All Nintendo needs to do in order to regain its leadership role in the industry is to successfully sell its product to the everyday consumer. In the end, that's something that "traditional" gamers like myself can only speculate about.

    Regardless of whether the Revolution is a mad success or an abysmal flop, I'm still buying it. Can't wait to see what they come up with for the next Smash Brothers game.

  117. Maybe this is just ignorance on my part, however I find it odd that no one, at least in the last few posts, has mentioned anything about the DS in the conversation of whether Nintendo is in trouble or not. I have no idea how much of Nintendo's business is divided between their consoles, and their handheld systems, however I still feel that Nintendo is the dominating force in the handheld market, and will have a presence there for a long time, regardless of whether or not their consoles fail.

    Beyond that I think that it will be hard for the revolution to fail, as Nintendo still has some appeal to hardcore gamers (such as myself). They have strong brands that will help support their console, and their handheld systems. Even though there is little else that Nintendo has to offer me, Zelda and Pokemon are two very successful brands that I will still support. I feel that as long as Nintendo continues to do a good job on games in their strong brands, and their handheld market, all of their innovation can back fire (as hard as it is to believe that this could happen), and they still would be doing ok.

  118. I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees the potential for truly innovative gameplay from the Revolution. Also, I heard there was a gameplay test group that played a couple of levels of Metroid Prime re-made for the Revolution and said it worked great, even better than PC mouse aiming. I agree with you, a great time for gaming is definitely just a year or two down the road.

  119. It makes my heart feel accepted when others feel in similar ways about something like this. I also have to thank Danc for writing such a well thought out article which gave me a feeling of increased understanding of the game industry as a whole. Thank you.

  120. I just had to say this is the best article about the current vg industry I've ever seen.


  121. just wanted to thank danc for this great article and everybody else for the comments! :)

    very well thought about and written. i too think the next years will be great for gamers, there need to be more innovations, (nearly) everything is just the same at the moment.

    nintendo sure will live long, there are millions out there who dont like the "today standard games". the new controller is a revolution in itself, great games i can imagine...

  122. The smartest and most tolerant posts & article u can find in the web for this topic. Cheers everyone!

    I was amazed about the skepticism of the new controller in the gamers community; and found myself thinking of the actual loss of market percentage they will suffer. But there are some topics in here that makes me reconsider.

    One thing is true, the old gamers community has been left out of the game entirely. It’s not about playing Atari games anymore, it’s about playing simple games but with far more graphics and statistics.

    On the other hand, the female gamers are also quite left behind with the development of games. Nintendogs is an exception amongst the games, because the number of female gamers almost reaches 50%. This actually looks like a real human population. But making games like this for attracting women is misguided; is just a stereotype to think that if u make more puppy or social oriented games, u will satisfy this market. More R&D is need it.

    The revolution controller is an excellent innovation, because brings the gamer into the game. This can develop the gameplay of the future. And it’s simplicity tries to acquire the market of non gamers that have wanted to play, but got scared of the controller.

    One thing is important, don’t forget that an add – on, it’s expected for play games in a traditional way (details in IGN; I do think this controller + shell should be bought with the console, to make it less expensive and look for a bigger market. I’m not fan of buying add ons.

    Great stuff Danc!

    Ps- Nintendo has been great in innovation, but they have done some cheap shots as well. And before anyone think in Virtual Boy, think Mario 2 for the foreign Japan market (details here:

  123. Amazing. Simply amazing. I have been a fan of Nintendo's innovative track record for a number of years, but I have never really thought about why they did it, financially or otherwise. Any gamer worth his salt should read this, if only to make him think about what kind of games he plays.

  124. Why isn't anyone talking about the serious social/cultural shifts that need to take place in order for Nintendo's plan to (broaden their market) succeed? Does it necessarily follow that if you make a controller look like a remote, enable more intuitive controls, and make games that are easy to pick up and play, that the 30+ demographic will actually start playing video games? And as for porting "casual" mobile phone gamers to the Revolution - if you plop a 20-something girl that plays "Snake" on her cell phone while on her way to work on the subway in front of a Revolution, she's taking off. Quick. You are instantly taking the "casual" away from the "casual gamer".

  125. Apologies in advance, just gotta get this offa my chest. :o

    I've always been one for simple gaming. While I've always been tempted by the complex RPGs that only PS seems to offer nowadays, as I grow up and have a busier life, I want to turn more and more to the simple yet addictive, lighthearted escapism that Nintendo is best at offering. Something I can not only become engrossed in, but put down when I have to. Stuff with insane levels of replay value, WITHOUT relying on 'net play because sometimes I just don't want to deal with others.

    People who say Nintendo is unsuccessful compared to giants like Microsoft and Sony are forgetting that Nintendo is in an entirely different league from them. Nintendo is still catering to the "original" gamers, from the pixely days. I don't see them slipping. They are still just as strong as they were years ago, just dwarfed by the megaconsoles that have grown up around them. They have a much smaller percentage of the gaming industry, but its an industry that has EXPLODED with growth. What used to be a hobby for geeks and kids is now a pastime for any male and even a good population of females. Gaming is not what it used to be as a whole, it has become much more diverse, a diversion for almost anyone nowadays. So Nintendo has its niche, and I'm sure it will do just fine, as long as they don't try to compete. And a suspected mid/late '06 release date is truly indicative of not comepeting. Nintendo probably saw Dreamcast's flop and took that into account. I think that strategy will help, since people will have gotten over the purchases of their Sony and Microsoft products by then.

    I'm happy to hear that Nintendo is deviating and exploring, jeebus, people are just too nervous about change. I read a really good column about how the film industry and mainstream consoles are too afraid to innovate and are just spewing out the same old stuff because its tried, and true, and not a risk, since the incresing hype for graphics and special effects have become absurdly expensive. How much more realistic can you get anyways without a TRUE revolution at this point, a step in a different direction? Sure, televisions are going high-definition, but even that can only go so far.

    Anyhow, the controller makes me uneasy, yes, because Nintendo will surely follow its old and tired routine of draining your wallet with accesories after you buy the deceptively cheap console...but if the games turn out to be worth it its not a loss. And I obviously have faith in Nintendo. So here's hoping. ;) Becuase if there isn't something fresh enough soon, gaming as we know it is gonna kill itself off from inbreeding the same old crap.

  126. good article.

    It's a combantion of Nintendo's innovation, the rumored prices and the fact that old games will be aviable that makes me the most geeked out of the new consoles.

    It very smart of nintendo to stay a head of the pact but I do see where some of the nay sayers have a point about the GC not having a lot of games. But I think that was do to something a bit out of the big N's hands and that was a getting 3rd party publishers to make more games for the system.

    If the revolution can over come that problem (and nintendo keeps on doing what they do in the innovation field) then I can see the revolution being the system that brings Nintendo back into the forfront in gamers minds.

  127. WoW. I think that you have hit the nail on the head and will open many people’s eyes. Congrats on a perfectly written article.

  128. What a great article. It makes so much sense now when Nintendo's president says "the day nintendo doesn't make a console is the day we are out of the industry".

  129. a few completely disjointed thoughts:

    1. danc-please clarify: when you say "mature games " are your referring to genre maturity or M rated games or both?

    2. I think I'm less pessimistic about genre life cycle. you seem to imply that the niche stage is equivalent to the grave. I'd like to think that as long as given genres are economically viable, devs will continually refine them, combine them, try new things.

    3. this gen has probably been the weakest for nintendo in terms of inventing new genres, much less creating hit genres. there's nintendogs for the ds, of course, and more to come, like elektroplankton, but the gamecube has been sadly lacking in new genres. I sure can't name any new genre games on the gamecube. the mario and zelda games of this gen are subtle refinements of what came before. metroid prime and pikmin are part of genres they didnt create. it's because, as I see it, there is a gen of raw innovation followed by elegant refinement in nintendo's consoles. from the NES to SNES and from N64 to GC. its time to start the next innovation cycle, and ninty has done it twice, with their new console and the handheld DS.

    4. the upcoming legend of zelda from all accounts, is meant for the hardcore zelda action rpg fan. ninty can "pander" to the HC just as well as anyone.

    5. Xbox 360 jump starting the next-gen is incredibly short-sighted. this gen's consoles, including the xbox, still have much to offer devs, gamers, etc. they will risk alienating the casuals just to profit (or not) from the hardcore, "HD generation". this will possibly make this gen the shortest life-cycle of consoles, about 4 years.

    6. the big question is whether casual/lapsed/non-gamers will be willing to spend $400 or so for a console and a small library of games, when most other pick-up-and-play style casual games are much less expensive. the jakks pacific arcade games go for about $25.

    7. another key to any game company's success with the casuals is FIXING THE FREAKIN' CAMERA CONTROLS ALREADY!!! even the AAA titles have cameras that need constant manipulation, something you didnt have to contend with in 2-D.

    8. finally to the naysayers: the power glove was a third party device from mattel. the creator of the virtual boy, gunpei yokoi, was swiftly fired from nintendo and died in 1997. I'm sick of the constant comparisons; those were a long time ago. it would be like tweaking on sony for the failure of betamax or the minidisc.

  130. My brother and I are casual gamers, and long time Nintendo fans, even though I have to admit, playing Halo is wicked.

    We just found out about the new controller and at first I was totally underwhelmed. I hated it, in fact. So I started looking into it. I was all, "Could that be thr real controller? Give me a break!"

    Well, I completely sold!

    We just spent the past two hours dreaming up uses for the new controller(s). That's right, imagine a game using more than one.

    Some kind of new Punch Out where you are actually shadow boxing, or lightsaber fight on a big screen?

    O my God, it just keeps getting better!

    What about using the controller as the flight stick for a plane, or when you run out of bullets being able to pummel someone with your rifle?

    Surgery? Amazing!

    Developers must be having wet dreams every night because of this.

    ps. If you like art, check out my's actually my brother's site, but it's pretty cool.

  131. RE: Anonymous at 4:51 pm.

    "Nintendo may make some money by being innovative, but they are dying, and nobody's going to buy this new console. For any person who has all 3 consoles, you KNOW how rarely you've touched your Cube in the last 3 years." - Anonymous

    (Excuse the long post, but I really felt like I have made an extremely important point here)

    I think you fail to see what the real deal is here. Nintendo created the video game industry and are the driving force behind redefining games and creating new experiences - something Microsoft and Sony have never done.

    From their beginnings approx. 25 years ago, Nintendo have constantly innovated the industry; THEIR industry. I mean let's face the facts. Microsoft and Sony have many other departments which can make them their millions. Microsoft has hold of (or more like monopoly) of the computer world, and Sony has their home theatre/mp3/other electronic device departments. Nintendo only has the video game industry in which to make its money. Therefore, if the video game industry becomes stagnant and dies, so does Nintendo.

    Although this is a harsh reality for the company, they are very aware of this threat and do all that they can to make sure the gaming public does not become bored. THIS is where Nintendo excels and innovates which in turn becomes standard concepts among videogame consoles. If you look at Nintendo's history, you can see this in action. NES was a marvel in its time, a brand new experience. SNES followed, providing enhanced gameplay and graphics, and although very different, it was still much the same as its predecessor. Nintendo needed a change as competition became inevitable (Sony's Playstation). They then released the Nintendo 64 which gave the first full 3D experience on any console to date. This was a significant stepping stone as it provided a fresh new approach to gaming and kept the gamers intrigued. Then, history repeats itself with the Gamecube, where it is very different from the N64 but still very much the same. And now, Nintendo are set to release another significant stepping stone in the industry's evolution - the Nintendo Revolution.

    I'm not sure if everyone can see my point in the last paragraph so I will spell it out for you. The whole industry runs on the gameplay experience. Graphics, sounds, storyline, etc are all second to gameplay. Simply by looking at Nintendo's history, you can see that a certain gameplay mechanic can only last through 2 consoles before it starts to wear thin and gamers become bored - NES and SNES as group 1, and N64 and GCN as group 2. With Revolution on the way, it is the first contender in group 3. Between each group, there has been a significant change in the gameplay experience which is both innovative and enhances the experience between player and game. Chances are the successor to Revolution will have a different, yet very much the same gameplay mechanic as Revolution has. The successor to Revolution's successor however, will yet again start group 4, and thus sport a new era in gameplay with a totally new gameplay mechanic. This kind of innovative vision is essential for Nintendo in order for them to survive - they MUST keep us intrigued or else they will dwindle off and die.

    I have great respect for Nintendo's ability to do this, as they have always succeeded at doing it. The biggest problem for Nintendo, or at least for them in the past, is getting the credit for it. Both Sony and Microsoft stepped into this industry and stole much of what Nintendo had invented. Examples include the D-pad, rumble pak, trigger button (Z on N64), 4 player capability, 3D platformers, device slots on the controller (N64), L and R buttons, the analogue stick, and the list goes on. Neither Microsoft or Sony have ever really redefined their own console system and its games - they have simply stolen the ideas from the one who was there before them - Nintendo. What makes things even more bizaar, is that Nintendo innovates and reinvents the very innovative products they produced in the past - a fact with noticing.

    It pains me to see that both the Xbox 360 and PS3 sport relatively the same style controllers as they have in the past. This is a major mistake they constantly never fix. There is no such thing as the 'perfect controller' and it should be bloody obvious that when games step up a notch, so too should the level of player input into the game. Nintendo are the only company who have completely changed their controller with every console they produce in order to maximise player input for that particular system. The Revolution controller is bound to be successful in my opinion, simply because Nintendo have 25 years worth of controller design and production experience - something the competitors dont have. They KNOW how to make great games that work the way they were intended to. As I have stated throughout the entire article: gameplay is the most important factor in the gaming experience, and Nintendo seem to be the only company in the current market who is making the effort to constantly challenge the very meaning of the term.

    In conclusion, the Revolution is set to be a hit in my opinion. Microsoft and Sony are heading down the same road that has been travelled for the last decade, not that that is a bad thing, but to be quite frank I am bored of it all. FPS after FPS... they are all the same. I leave you with a quote of my thoughts...

    "Nintendo's controversial innovative designs in the past have always become standard game mechanics in the future. If Nintendo dies, the entire videogame industry will be going down with it." - Mr. Wonder

  132. To Anonymous at 6:17,

    The genre life cycle does not encourage innovation. It encourages only refinement of design. For instance play any two games of the same genre, and name the differences between the two. How many of them are noticable? Now play a game in a different Genre. The differences are very noticable; this is the difference that innovation makes. I'm not saying that all new games will be this polished, most definately not. But with time, these new genres will hopfully floursh.

    This brings me to the difference between innovation and genre following. At worst the difference between Genre following and innovating is the difference between a slow and painful death, and a quick and explosive death. At best, the difference is proffiting of a dwindeling fanbase, and getting a new fanbase that no one believed would become fans. Both are difficult paths, but I believe this is the only time that Nintendo can hope to innovate.

    I agree that the Gamecube is the Nintendo's worst Generation for innovation; but with the Revolution, Nintendois forcing innovation.

    If Nintendo were to continue to directly compete with MS and Sony, they would most assuredly die off. Currently the Hardcore gamer's opinion of Nintendo is that it is a kiddy company that cannot compete with the rest of the pack. Nintendo knows this, and they agree: thus the Revolution controller. Nintendo's philosophy of innovate or die is literal. If Nintendo is not succesful, they will die; after the revolution, there will be no way to reverse people's opinions of nintendo and no way to reverse their falure.

  133. I think it has to do with more than what is saiid here. You overlook the large following that Nintendo has. I know thos who will follow Nintendo wherever it goes, if is in a positive direction or a negative.

    The fact of the matter is Nintendo cannot die.

  134. This a very high level strategy, but it can be dangerous when it infects the actual process of games design: A good game is frequently the result of someone making the game they want to play. Genre addiction in itself as a business strategy without this feature produces turgid games, a better model of genre development is the idea of playing someone else's game then making the game you wish it was, or exploring the areas that you feel they did not take advantage of. This will expand the market also, but not necessarily the "community". Equally, innovation can allow cheap games, expanding the market does not mean moving into stupid land! Those people who like your new genre are not just unwashed game-phobes who must be given the minimum game possible or they'll freak. Instead, they are people who find to their surprise that at last someone has made the sort of game they feel like playing! Now development of the themes they enjoy may not be high scores and collectables, in fact they almost definitely won't be, but they will still appreciate that development. Give them a game without depth and they will not play it for long. The better games companies act more like artists, although the genre brushes they use might change. There is another kind of hardcore from the addict, it is the game player who is almost a game designer, they will appreciate good games of any genre, and if you stop providing them, then you will have new competition!

  135. I like the Wii Remote over the Classic Controller and Gamcube Controller.

    I am old fashioned though. I was amazed when you could play games at When you still could. The Wii Revolution is amazing. I can't wait for some of the titles. Especially Star Fox.

  136. Hi,

    I am simply amazed by how oour predictions became true.
    You must have a very clear sight or super power ;-) !
    I'm glad Nintendo was capable of reviving the interest in games and prove that there a lot of room for innovation and improvement.
    There is too much of the same crap, and far less titles than we used to have 10 years ago.


    Richard Lopes

  137. If I were you, I would have been unbearably smug when Guitar Hero took off a few months after you posted this.

  138. hah, well predicted ... just to point out how far reaching the "revolution" has truly been, I was watching my kids (5 and 8) and their cousin (7) play earlier. They took my daughter's hello kitty digital camera (3.2 megapixels, it was pretty cheap), which has an SD card in it. They put it in the Wii and were looking at their pictures that they take and turning them into puzzles. The fact that the wii is contributing to creative behavior above and beyond playing the wii games is amazing to me.

  139. As cool as the Wii was, we know now that it didnt quite turn out to be the runaway success that Nintendo had hoped. Though it was innovative and influential, the wiimote really ended up serving as a springboard for more refined motion control which followed it.

    As a long time fan of Nindendo (having owned every Nintendo system since SNES and the original gameboy) I do feel a sense of loyaly to them, but I'm not just some rabid fanboy. My primary gaming platform has been a PC since the late 90s. I've gone from hating utterly the original playstation to owning a PS2 and now PS3.
    Even so, I dont want to see Nintendo go the way of Sega. With the next generation of systems just over the horizon, it looks like Nintendo has only one last chance to make it or break it in the home console race.

    With more big franchise games being released, their 3DS is starting to build speed, although it does not yet seem to have hit it's stride. I'm sure that Nintendo fans like myself are eager to witness their entry into the coming console war, but there is indeed a bit of trepidation mixed with the eagerness. No doubt there will be new and exciting wonders to behold, but will the next console battle be Nintendo's Waterloo?