A Revolutionary Move Towards Isolation

Nintendo revealed the design of the controller that will accompany their upcoming game console and now, months after the system was first unveiled, we see what exactly is so "Revolution-ary" about it. The controller resembles a small television remote and is accompanied by sensors placed near the tv to pick up the exact position of the controller in three-dimensional space. Want to go left? Move your hand to the left. Want to steer a car to the right? Twist your wrist to the right. Got a baddie you want to shoot in the corner of the screen? Point the controller to the corner and press the big honking A Button beneath your thumb.

The message boards are awash in praise and cynicism right now. And the truth is, is that nobody but a few select journalists at the Tokyo Game Show have any idea how good this controller actually works. And even they only got to play it with tech-demos. It will be a year before the consumer (American ones at least) can weigh in with hands-on experience.

Right now, I'm not even concerned about the quality of the product and experience it will afford gamers. I've been saying for years that Nintendo has got to embrace its uniqueness and either go in a completely different direction or simply sever its ties with older gamers and aggressively pursue the youth market. My exact words were for it to "become the Fisher-Price of interactive entertainment". With this controller, Nintendo has clearly decided to step away from the mainstream console wars and while not necessarily giving the cold shoulder to adult gamers, it's clear they are marching to their own drum.

One of the most often heard comments in gaming forums these past few years was how nobody but those who only own a Nintendo Gamecube ever buy the Gamecube version of a multi-platform title. I have a Gamecube and own roughly two dozen games for it--most of them are first party titles. I have over 120 combined PS2 and Xbox titles--very few of them published by either Sony or Microsoft. With this controller, Nintendo is acknowledging this trend and giving all third-party developers the go-ahead to cease porting Xbox and Playstation titles to their system. From now on, if a publisher wants to sell a game to a Revolution owner, it's most likely going to be an original title made specifically for the Revolution's unique controls.

This is a very daring and bold move by Nintendo. Although they will all but guarantee extremely high penetration rates for every Revolution game they publish -- despite flogging their franchises nearly as bad as Capcom they don't release games all that often and as a result their fans can afford to buy everything that is released -- they will take huge losses in the realm of licensing fees. I predict this because I foresee very few companies spending much time and money developing titles for a system that is all but cetain to have a home in much fewer households than the other consoles on the market. Factor in development dollars being diverted to PSP and DS development, and the available slice of pie going to things other than Xbox 360 and PS3 gets even smaller.

This is Nintendo taking the road less travelled. It's going to get pretty bumpy, so please make sure you buckle up.

1 comment:

Mike said...

WORD. You summed it up perfectly. Nintendo is either carving a niche, or fading into obscurity.