Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Console Post of the Week: a Turn of Fortune

Some numbers.

November 2008 NPD
Wii: 2,040,000
Xbox 360+PS3: 1,214,000

November 2009 NPD
Wii: 1,260,000
Xbox 360+PS3: 1,529,500

November 2010 NPD
Wii: 1,270,000
Xbox 360+PS3: 1,900,000

November 2011 NPD
Wii: 800,000
Xbox 360+PS3: 2,600,000

At the peak of the Wii craze, Nintendo outsold the 360 and PS3 combined by an almost 2-1 ratio. Three years later, the ratio is now 3-1 in the opposite direction.

That doesn't mean that the Wii didn't "win" this generation. They have, and resoundingly, in both units sold and profits. The crater, though, has left a sour aftertaste.

With the Wii U launching sometime in 2012, what does Nintendo need to do to recapture the boundless enthusiasm that enveloped the Wii for much of its lifespan? The combination controller/tablet is interesting, but the U controller is "dumb", only capable of receiving content from the console. It's not a standalone device, and given the spectacular growth of tablets as content devices, it already seems a bit dated. Nintendo had a very, very interesting idea, but I also don't think they can take it to its logical conclusion.

Let's try to do that ourselves.

Consider a next-gen console with the standard capabilities (1080P output, etc.). Also consider that, like Nintendo, the console supports two types of controllers: a conventional gaming controller and a tablet.

Not a "tablet-like" controller. An actual tablet.

The Kindle Fire is selling for $199. Two years from now, that same tablet would sell (easily) for under $150. Why not include a real tablet with a console?

Think about it. Now the console's tablet becomes your primary media device, because it also has standard tablet functionality: Web surfing, standalone gaming, movie viewing. It works with your console, but it also works fine by itself. Plus it has access to exclusive gaming content that isn't available anywhere else.

Also think about this, and I know this is far into the future, but bear with me. Let's say you're playing a great game on your console, one that is absolutely consuming your time, and when you leave the house, you want nothing more than to keep playing it. What if your tablet could play a 2D version of that game, and your progress was synced with the console version? So you could continue playing on your tablet, and your progress would be synced with the console.

And it wouldn't have to be a 2D version--as powerful as tablets are getting, maybe it would just be a slightly "reduced" version in a graphical sense (I know, storage space would be an issue, at least today). Maybe it would be a series of mini-games or alternate quests that could contribute to your progress. It could be a sports game, and you could do all franchise simulation activities on the tablet, even if you weren't at home to play the individual games in a season.

I'm trying to think of the word for this, and all I can come up with is "continuation." No matter where you are, you should be able to progress in the game that you primary play on the console.

I would be happy to ditch my Samsung Galaxy tablet (which I'm quite fond of) if something like that was available.

Everyone likes to talk about convergence, and convergence devices. The 360 has turned into a media server, basically, in addition to its gaming capabilities. So why not extend that one step further, and turn the tablet controller into a media server/gaming platform as well?

I strongly feel that someone will do this in the future. Both Sony and Microsoft are already in the tablet market in some form, and this is a logical step that is in line with what they're already trying to do. Sony is actually the perfect company to do this, but they would charge $1200.

Rim shot.

The huge advantage of doing this is that it encourages consumers to single-source content. At home, your console provides all their content. When they're away from home, your tablet provides all their content.

That's the kind of brand loyalty that prints money.

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