Monday, May 09, 2011

Console Post Of the Week: Stuff and Nonsense

Much to my surprise, some of the worst analysis I've ever seen has emerged after Nintendo's announcement that they're introducing a new console in 2011.

Let's do a survey.

First on the roster:
“Don’t be surprised if Nintendo, this time around, creates a piece of hardware that is more compelling to the core gaming community, as well as the mainstream,” said Jesse Divnich, an analyst with EEDAR, a market research firm for the video game industry.

Um, okay. And how exactly did the disappointment of the "core gaming community" affect the Wii?

Crickets chirping.

There's problem with creating the high-end hardware that is "compelling" to the core gaming community: it costs too much. Nintendo made billions and billions of doors with innovation, last-gen graphics, and inexpensive hardware. They made money on every single console sold, right from day one. The Wii had the most successful first four years of any console in history, and the successor will be released next year.

Let's go the Sony route: allegedly super-powerful hardware, ungodly launch price, and still $299 four years later. I'm willing to bet that the NEXT Nintendo console will eventually cost less than the PS3. That's how badly the PS3 was positioned.

Or maybe, the Microsoft approach: release powerful hardware that is entirely unreliable for the first 24+ months of its lifespan. Seriously, how can you applaud in any way a 25%+ failure rate? How is that even possible?

Microsoft did a great job with online services in this generation. Their hardware was a disaster (it's excellent now, but how does anyone discount those catastrophic first two years?). Sony's done a crappy job with both, because hardware that's overpriced for the market by $200 at launch, and $299 four years later, is failure.

Next up, Michael Pachter:
“I think the only way for them to succeed is if the architecture is similar enough to the PS3 and 360 that makes it easy for developers to port games over,” Pachter said. “That way, you get all the third-party games. That’s what hurt the Wii.”

The only way to succeed? That hurt the Wii? How much god**** money does Nintendo have to make to be considered a success? Yes, that's what the new console desperately needs--Call of Duty.

Maybe Pachter's quote was lifted from a longer excerpt, but to say anything "hurt" the Wii is ridiculous. The Wii kicked everyone's ass to a degree that is almost incomprehensible. Anyone using the word "hurt" should put it in proper context, or use something else entirely, because that's the wrong word.

Maybe people haven't figured this out yet, but at this point in the evolution of the videogame market, just focusing on the hardcore is death. Hardcore is the gaming ghettto, and while there's a philosophical argument to be had about whether it should be that way, there's no argument that appealing to the hardcore is not necessary to succeed.

I totally agree that Nintendo should have done a better job attracting third-party developers to the system. Well, that's not quite correct--they did attract plenty of third-party development, but most of it wasn't very successful (and quite a bit of it wasn't good, either), and no one could understand why a third-party game succeeded or didn't succeed on the Wii. Development dropped off based on lack of success, not lack of interest.

What's happening here is that analysts never quite understood why the Wii was successful to begin with. None of them thought it would be, and they're still confounded. I'm sure you can find a Pachter quote from 2006--oh, and wait, I just did:
"We expect the dominant console at the end of the next cycle to be the Sony PlayStation 3," he explained, "primarily due to our assessment that Sony will win the high definition DVD format war."

It's not all bad news for Microsoft, though, with Pachter anticipating that Xbox 360 will "enjoy a first mover advantage for the next two years, capturing approximately 42% of U.S. and European combined next generation hardware unit sales through 2007."

Looking past 2007, however, the market seems likely to settle down to a more familiar pattern - "with Sony capturing around 45% of the total market, Microsoft capturing 35%, and Nintendo capturing 20%.

Pachter expected the Wii to capture 20% of this generation. Instead, it's captured roughly 45%. And his projections were roughly in line with other analysts. And I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I could find a quote about how the Wii needed to attract major franchises from third-party developers.

The Wii blew up the paradigm, and analysts still haven't recovered.

However, and I'll talk about this tomorrow, Nintendo is making a mistake with the 3DS, at least in their public statements. And I'll have a bit on Outageageddon as well.

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