Posts Tagged ‘Nintendo’

Why People Will Buy the Vita and 3DS

February 22, 2012

The Playstation Vita launched yesterday and already articles like this one are coming out:

“It almost feels like Sony designed a product for a world where smartphones and tablets don’t exist,” said Gartner Research Director Michael Gartenberg. “It costs more than most phones and the same as most gaming consoles. It is hard to say who is the market for this.”

Somebody go tell Gartner, the market is consumers who want to play the best AAA games out there, not bored housewives.   Somebody also tell them that an iPad costs $500-$900, an iPhone costs $300-500, and an iPod Touch costs about the same as a Vita and you still have a ton of people who fork out their money to replace one or more of these devices every year.  Contrast this with a  $170 3DS or $250 Vita that won’t have to be replaced for half a decade and suddenly the pricing is not that big a deal.

If the Vita doesn’t click with consumers, it would not be the first handheld device to disappoint.

Consumers shrugged off Nintendo’s last handheld, the 3DS, when it came out last March. Less than four months later, the company had to cut the price by $80 from $249.99 because of disappointing sales.

Over the holiday season, the 3DS became a success.  It is now the best selling console of all time in Japan and has outsold the DS in its first 12 months to market.  The writer must’ve been asleep for the last 6 months.

Here’s another one.

Sony tried this once before. People had serious doubts about the Playstation 4, a bulky, expensive piece of powerful hardware that powered through early lackluster sales and established itself as a viable and dominant home console.

The fact the guy thinks the Playstation 4 actually exists makes me scratch my head.  That he put a picture of the original PSP instead of the Vita makes me scratch it again.

 Even as Sony attempts to position the Vita as the only mobile gaming device worth having, the hardware seems self-conscious of its own relationship to modern handhelds. It looks like an Apple device, with its rounded edges and shiny black finish. And it’s loaded down with all manner of gizmos that the core gaming audience they’re aiming at usually spurns: tilt controls, front and rear cameras, not one but two touchscreens.

Piano black is not an Apple attribute.  The DS came in piano black.  So did the first PSP.  The one industrial design attribute that’s strictly Apple is a gorilla glass encasing.  But the Vita doesn’t use that.  It uses a plastic bezel.  So what is he talking about?  Who knows.

And there’s a difference between shunning the core gaming audience and supplementing a core gaming device with features to capture other markets.  I don’t feel like explaining it right now.

You don’t buy hardware just to marvel at hardware specs.  You buy it because serves a purpose.  The one that serves this purpose better than the others wins.   For gaming hardware, the purpose is to play games.  If both smartphones and dedicated devices lacked games worth playing, they would both fail at their purpose.  Thus the software becomes as definitive a factor as hardware specs, if not more, in everything from customer satisfaction to profitability.   Thus it makes more sense to scrutinize the gaming experience on these devices than to talk something as derivative as industrial design.  Which analysts and journalists are not doing.  The “in” thing to do nowadays is conflate $1 minigames with $50 console games.

Bottomline, for tablets/smartphones to make dedicated gaming devices obsolete, they have to have games that are as good as the ones on these devices.  But they don’t, due to reasons I talked about in a previous post.  Because of this and because mobile developers have no way/plans to remedy this, dedicated devices will continue to have a market and the 3DS and Vita will do quite well.

Other thoughts:

  • You know how you go to Fry’s and next to the AAA PC games they have a shelf full of cheap $5 games in cardboard sleeves?  App store games are the portable equivalent.  Budget software galore.
  • The rule on mobile is the minigame and Freemium pricing that degrades quality.  The rule on dedicated handhelds are AAA games with a price point that mandates quality.
  • The smartphone/tablet is a launching point for minigames.  Every single one of these minigames can be ported to the Vita without a loss in user experience.  Yet, on a Vita, these games are now second tier to exclusive AAA gameplay, just extra diversions on the side.
  • The opposite doesn’t work.  You can’t take a Vita game or 3DS game and port it to iOS without loss – both because of hardware limitations and because of pricing.
  • There’s conflation about the direction the gaming market is headed because of Apple and Android’s success as platforms and the influx of tablets.  Reality is, while the platforms and their accompanying hardware are successful, the app store business model sitting on these platforms is flawed.
  • The 3DS is a launching point for beloved Nintendo IP that can’t be found anywhere else.  Nintendo is a company that has proven it knows how to make games and is all about innovation.  Gamers will buy and have been buying the 3DS for these reasons.
  • The Vita is the closest thing on the market to having a AAA console experience in your hands.  It’s the device best suited to porting best selling AAA console IP such as FPS’s and sports games.  Gamers will buy a Vita for this reason.

Why Apple won’t kill Nintendo

December 6, 2011

1. The App store’s business model is too fucked up to compete with Nintendo. Games are too cheap, and it’s not AAA game experience for a bargain cheap. It’s that’s all I’m willing to pay for this inferior gaming experience cheap. The games have little depth and owe it all to mobile’s budget price point. You get what you pay for.

Shitty games for sale!!!

Because of the lower pricing standard, it’s not profitable to make AAA games for core gamers AKA the demographic that’s been supporting the market for the past 20+ years. Instead it’s only profitable to make casual games or cheap IP ripoff games (Hi Gameloft) that capture submarkets – bored housewives with nothing to do, guys who have to sit on the A train while it goes through all of Manhattan, people who game on the toilet, and fanboys willing to buy any hardcore looking mobile game so they can pretend it’s the real deal.

In order to kill consoles/handheld, first and foremost mobile needs to have games that are better than the ones on consoles/handheld. They don’t, and when a game that costs more than a small pizza is considered too expensive, they’re not gonna be able to.

Why does my iPhone even have a GPU?

2. Mobile gaming is ridiculously commoditized – an increasing number of way too many games to pick from. So as the saturated market gets even more saturated, it becomes harder for developers to get their game noticed. In response, mobile’s already cheap pricepoint gets driven down even further and the gap in quality between mobile and dedicated grows even more.

At the beginning, iOS games ran $1-5. Then developers started migrating to Freemium. Analysts who confuse causation and correlation want you to believe devs are going to Freemium because it’s a superior business model. In reality, devs are jumping on Freemium because the iOS market is so saturated, you now have to give away your game to get someone to download it. Even worse, some companies are starting to wholesale their IP under a subscription model. iOS is going from being the dollar store of video games to the Costco of dollar stores video games.

3. Because of commoditization, marketing is impossible. When a AAA console/handheld game gets released, it’s a big deal. When an iOS game gets released, nobody gives a shit. Once in awhile you’ll have a game like N.O.V.A or Infinity Blade 2 that gets hyped up. Difference is, they’re hyped up because they got Apple to demo the game at WWDC to help sell the newest iPad. But if you’re a developer who’s not in bed with Apple, good luck with getting the word out on your game.

With Infinity Blade, I think the trick is to get Apple to promote your game on stage! [laughs] Oh, and in their commercials. We didn’t spend a penny on Infinity Blade marketing. We were thinking about it but never got round to it. It’s been a very profitable game for us.  – Mike Capps, Epic Games

The only marketing that really matters is getting your game on the top 10 chart in a market that’s so commoditized, it’s like playing the lottery. You’re basically hoping to hit what Malcolm Gladwell calls the tipping point. So are all the other tens of thousands of iOS game developers so it’s like one giant raffle from hell. And just like that, we can watch any innovative idea that could’ve challenged console/handheld gameplay get buried.

The online gaming industry is hotter than it has ever been thanks largely to Facebook and Apple’s (AAPL.O) iPhone, which are bringing video games to vast new audiences who have never been gamers before.

But lower barriers to entry for game developers mean competition is intense, and would-be market entrants should beware of being carried away by the success of a handful of games like Angry Birds, industry executives said this week. – Reuters

4. Apple isn’t vested in gaming. They’re not like Nintendo where they have to care about the quality of games on their platform. If the 3DS has proven anything, it’s that for a Nintendo device, the games have to be stellar for the hardware to sell. Meanwhile, if your iOS games suck, there are 50 other reasons for you to use your iDevice and give Apple your money. Which is why Apple can just kick back and whitelist every IP ripoff and minigame that gets submitted. Contrast this with Nintendo, who wouldn’t release Super Mario 3D Land early even though 3DS sales badly needed it, because they wanted it to be perfect. The quality gap widens even more.

5. Mobile gaming is a bubble. If you believe everything I’m writing right now, you can see the hype that makes it a bubble. Analysts are jumping to conclusions about it killing off console makers even though the games suck. Analysts tout the specs of the latest iOS device even though the average iOS game looks like it can run in a browser. Features like Airplay Mirroring get hyped up as console killers even though nobody can name a game that takes advantage of it other than Real Racing. And much of mobile gaming’s success hedges on social gaming, which many people, mobile developers included, think is a bubble as well.

Innovation at its finest

When Zynga, a company who jacks code and game ideas, is getting investors to buy into their IPO, that’s funny. When Rovio, a one hit wonder that can’t do anything except reskin the same game 4 or 5 times and make bird toys, is drawing investors, that’s funny too. These companies have no return drivers for long-term growth. EA meanwhile is trying to position itself as the mobile leader by snatching up any mobile game developer with one hit to their name, degrading the value of its existing IP to by converting it to Freemium, and still remains mediocre. A trainwreck’s coming.

6. Whenever analysts cite data showing mobile taking over handheld marketshare, they cite Flurry. They usually show a bunch of Flurry pie graphs side by side and put a line in their article that says, “according to Flurry research” without even knowing who Flurry is. Flurry is a company that makes money by contracting its services to mobile developers and has a vested interest in the mobile app market’s success. All those pie graphs you see on every article proclaiming the death of Nintendo and Sony come off their blog, which if you’ve ever seen it, is essentially a long sales pitch to iOS/Android app developers to get them to sign up and pay for Flurry services. Which is why whenever Flurry talks about marketshare, they do funny stuff like use pie graph %’s instead of units sold, post revenue instead of profits, and leave out pertinent information like whether or not the market has expanded. Nice biased source.

According to our graphs, mobile is winning. Now give us your money

7. Control problems. Touch is good for things like physics games, diner dash type stuff, tower defense – basically a good chunk of casual game genres. It sucks for everything else. As much as the hype police would have you believe touch is the future of gaming and buttons are unneeded, iOS developers still put virtual buttons and analog sticks on the screen. If I had to guess why, it’s because there is no other alternative – buttons are superior.  The only difference is on mobile they take up half the screen real estate, there are fewer of them, and there’s no haptic feedback.

NBA 2K12 AKA Double Dribble for iPhone

8. A ton of pro-mobile arguments are predicated on some wierd logic suggesting console technology doesn’t grow.  They go something like this:

“Within the next few years, tablets will reach the power of current gaming consoles” – Infinity Blade 2 Developer

“It’s unquestionable that within a very short time, we’re going to have portable cell phones that are more powerful than the current-gen consoles.” – John Carmack, ID Software

So what?  My Windows Pocket PC was more powerful than my Sega Genesis.  My iPhone 4 is more powerful than a Playstation 2.  Mobile has always reached the power of console technology within a few years. In other news, the next generation console will reach the power of current high end desktops in a few years.  This has been the trend for the past couple decades.  Why are you stating the obvious and what does this have to do with mobile challenging the console market?  Nobody knows.

9. The whole mobile is gonna kill handheld/console argument came up when the current generation of flagship handhelds, the DS and the PSP, were toward the end of their life cycle, making mobile seem like more of a threat than it really is. The threat was hyped up by parties like Flurry trying to capitalize on the whole app surgence, Apple talking up iOS gaming as a dominant force in order to sell the latest iDevice, analysts who enjoy number crunching more than playing video games, and journalists who plagiarize each other because they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

The truth is that mobile is disruptive, but it’s not a game changer. The next couple years, when the next generation of consoles/handhelds takes off, will prove it.

Toast to all the gamers who intuitively understand that flinging a bird at a pig 500 times in a row won’t replace a good Mario game.