Thursday, 30 January 2014

Nintendo’s Investor’s Conference

  The fallout from today’s announcements is for the most part fully expected, as I’m sure Mr. Iwata feels like he’s just returned from a root canal.  Nintendo’s stock slumped today, reflecting how they didn’t much care for what Mr. Iwata had to say.

1.      Nintendo is not going to completely change its business plan to support smart phones, though a dedicated team is set aside for supporting the core business through smart phone services.  It is unclear what this team is or will be doing; indeed Mr. Iwata was careful to point out that he wasn’t going to instruct them not to make games using Nintendo’s characters for smart phones.  But then what does “support” mean?  Most online are betting on advergames, or perhaps companion apps supporting purchasable games.  Maybe … maybe Iwata is playing a trick on his investors, and this team supporting Nintendo’s core business on smart phones is actually the team working on Miiverse … wait, that wouldn’t be a trick, would it?  Whatever the case, Nintendo is Nintendo, and dammit, President Iwata will make that horse go no matter how much flogging it takes!  I approve!

2.      Sure to stick in the craw of some investors is the recommitment to WiiU … even if the 3DS is the business that will take the lead in the near future.  President Iwata is surely trying to make his actions both determined, and pragmatic at the same time.  The WiiU will continue to ship, Nintendo will redouble its efforts to communicate the value of the Gamepad to a public surely wishing it would just go away (full disclosure: it is my opinion that the Gamepad is crazy fun … even if I identify better with the Wiimote right now!).  Nintendo will fight for the 3DS lead, too, though surely that too will slip as we are now moving into the back half of its life cycle.  The release calendar was reconfirmed, and all of the old favorites are still there, including Yoshi’s New Island (3DS), Yarn Yoshi (WiiU), Monolithsoft’s X (WiiU), the erstwhile never heard from again Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem (WiiU) is still there, and so many more.  There aren’t many surprises on this list, but there may be room for fun games like NES Remix or more on the eShop, as Chibi-Robo (3DS) is distinctly absent.  Here’s the list:

3.      Also in games development, Nintendo may be “tacking” its course a little.  The WiiU and 3DS development may be getting closer, but there is no immediate push to make the games fully cross-compatible at this time.  DS games may soon be coming to the WiiU virtual console (more on that below).  President Iwata made it clear that he will soon be pushing for more software that genuinely demonstrates the value of the Gamepad, including its so far underutilized NFC function.

4.      Bringing the DS titles to the virtual console on WiiU has me genuinely interested.  Hear me out: While Personal Trainer: Cooking is not on the list of games, it is exactly the sort that one can see used by families living in apartments with no trouble.  It teachs cooking, and you hook it up to a TV and take it around the house.  Find a way to clean “Cookbook stick” from the Gamepad and it would be a shoe in for a budget cooking instructor.  Why stop there, as the WiiU can help home families with a (totally fictional) Personal Trainer: Home Repair title which I just made up.  The DS and DSi has an enormous catalogue of these games to explore, and while it is certainly easy enough for core gamers like you and me to find the games used and play them anyway, Nintendo is clearly still trying to appeal to casuals and make it easier for them to find such content on the WiiU.  That said, the DS played host to an enormous number of classic games that I missed, including just about all of the Advance Wars games, and I sure wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them again!

5.      Investors also heard a lot of Nintendo’s history changing jobs, and the confident claim by Mr. Iwata that the new direction for Nintendo can lead into “quality of life.”  This push into health and wellness is … okay this needs a full break down.

Nintendo’s “Quality of Life”

  President Iwata has been transparently evasive about what he meant by this, so much so that I don’t think it will satisfy many investors with hard questions about why they should reinvest in the company.  Nevertheless it appears to be set as a new business to research, one of Nintendo’s strengths earned after many years growing in that direction with Wii Fit and Brain Age.  Some on the Internet speculate that it may be a new “third pillar” of the company.

  I don’t think that it would be bad; there is money in the health care industry!  And no one said that this represents the end of Nintendo as a game (toy) manufacturer, but … it is hard to think of it any other way.  Certainly I planned to make Nintendo games a big part of my retirement, but could Nintendo in ten years be all about Wii Sports: Bowling grannies?

  I reign in everything that I say carefully; nothing is confirmed one way or another, and the idea could well die here if investors can put up a big enough fuss.  But it reminds us that Nintendo wasn’t always our favorite gaming company, and the very definition of gaming itself is changing.  Nintendo seems worse off with each passing year, and struggling to reclaim its dominant position from the old days when they had no real competition.  The Wii console represented a chance for Nintendo to break down the barriers in the gaming population and reach a new audience; can Nintendo see a new audience to reach within that gaming population?  If they can’t find one, will they leave?

  Truly, life is change, hard and bitter!  But it hasn’t happened yet … !

  It reminds us to cherish every memory … oh sorry, just rambling about … something.