Nintendo Still Doesn’t Get It

For the The New York Times, Brian X. Chen writes:

Tablets are considered a threat to Nintendo because games can be downloaded for a few dollars, or even free. Nintendo’s strategy has been to make most of its money from sales of the games it produces exclusively for Nintendo devices. Therefore, it has refused to offer its games to makers of tablets and smartphones.

While Nintendo may have to do the latter, eventually, that’s only a symptom of the massive opportunity they missed.

Our household has owned a Nintendo Wii for several years. To me the most obvious missed opportunity for Nintendo the last several years has been its lack of desire in creating a vibrant application ecosystem. Nintendo could have easy copied the iPhone/iPad App Store or Google Play — they didn’t even have to come up with the idea on their own or take a flyer on an unproven concept. They are uniquely positioned to have matched these app stores, unlike many of the wanna-be app store operators out there that you can find on every device and every site that has any semblance of a “platform”.

If only Nintendo had made it easier for developers to create apps for their platform and made it easier for users (read: customers) to navigate the marketplace for trying, downloading, and purchasing third-party applications on their console (e.g. being able to do it all from a web interface on one’s PC or, if really ambitious, via an iPhone and Android app). Then they’d have a 30% commission gravy train derived from the value of their installed base, just like Apple and Google do on their platforms, for any apps purchased from their ecosystem.

We’re not talking small numbers here. Even if you are a game console aficionado, you can’t refute that the original Wii console has outsold both the other two leading consoles (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3). The fact that the Wii intentionally is marketed to and ends up appealing to a broader demographic should have been a catalyst for even greater success in the app space!

Doh, Nintendo. Investments in the new Wii U and in 3D and, now, lower end, variations? Fine, but let’s not continue to miss the forest for the trees. There is still time. A brief window of opportunity does remain, before Apple, Google, Samsung, and whoever else eat your lunch (or, at the very least, force you into doing things you don’t want to do like releasing your software onto other platforms in order to remain comfortably, albeit less so, profitable from your old standby “franchises” like Mario Bros et al.)