Saturday, July 28, 2012

Food for thought: On Bing Gordon's statement.

Back off man, I'm a scientist.


So I read this article from Gamesindustry.biz a few days ago. It's mostly a speculative article embiggened (What?, It's a perfectly cromulent word) for the sake of hits. Prepare yourselves, kids. You're about to have your minds blown by this one.


Nintendo continues to be pressured on all sides - not only will Microsoft and Sony likely exert pricing pressure on Wii U this holiday, but the onslaught of smartphones and tablets and free-to-play has completely changed the gaming ecosystem, and specific Nintendo hardware may not be greatly desired in the future, notes entrepreneur Bing Gordon.
Speaking to GamesIndustry International in a wide-ranging interview on the state of the games business, the EA veteran commented, "I think Nintendo's already on track to become primarily a software company."
"I can imagine a day when Nintendo wonders - and maybe it's generational change - when Nintendo wonders if they ought to take some of their best games and make them apps."
Gordon does point out, however, that unlike Sega, Nintendo hasn't made any huge missteps and having Shigeru Miyamoto on your team always helps. "So far, when Miyamoto makes a perfect game, in his career he makes games worth $200 - it's worth buying a system for," Gordon said.
While it's about as likely as hell freezing over, Gordon commented that a Nintendo-Apple partnership would really be a force to be reckoned with. "Neither Apple or Nintendo - both those companies like control - is likely to want a partnership, but a partnership would be stunningly cool," he said.

Now for the sake of fairness, let's look at this commentary in context to the actual interview





Q: What do you think of the Wii U's chances this Christmas and beyond, especially facing tablets like the Nexus 7 for $199 that are pretty good game devices? Is that going to make it tough for the Wii U?

Bing Gordon: I think Nintendo's already on track to become primarily a software company. We saw that with Sega back in the day; Sega made some missteps and became primarily a software company. Nintendo hasn't really made missteps, Nintendo probably has better creative talent and better leadership now than Sega did. It's got the most robust business model, the best creative talent; Miyamoto's still the best in the business. Apple's most directly competitive with Nintendo. So far, when Miyamoto makes a perfect game, in his career he makes games worth $200 - it's worth buying a system for. I think the handheld is going to be under a lot of pressure. I can imagine a day when Nintendo wonders - and maybe it's generational change - when Nintendo wonders if they ought to take some of their best games and make them apps.

Q: That will be an interesting evolution to watch.

Bing Gordon: That will be stunning. Neither Apple or Nintendo - both those companies like control - is likely to want a partnership, but a partnership would be stunningly cool. I think if you're Nintendo, as long as Miyamoto's coming to work, you can sustain a proprietary platform. He's that good.


As other savvy bloggers have pointed out on the site, This is an unusually paradoxal statement. If Nintendo craves control, why would they attempt becoming a software company? Especially considering that would take away the control they so desire.

I was completely ready to dismiss this article for it's strange logic, but as luck would have it I came across something interesting while re-reading David Sheff's book, Game Over.  The real reason why these talking heads want Nintendo to fold as a hardware company is because of one simple thing.

fear.

It's the gamer's bible, man!


The funny part of this statement is that you'll find this right in the first chapter of the book, as plain as the nose on your faces. Here's the excerpt. With emphasis made by your's truly.


"The consumer-electronics industry watched as the Nintendo Entertainment System, in just five short years, was brought into more than a third of the households in the United States and Japan. Although twice as many homes had VCRs, the movie-playing machines were made by various companies, while one company alone made all of the Nintendo machines. Moreover, the VCR companies sold just the machines, not the videotapes that played on them. Nintendo, on the other hand, was making hefty profits from an ever-expanding list of games in addition to the machines to play them on. Consumer-electronics giants like Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial finally woke up to the fact that by the turn of the century, consumer- hardware companies would be archaic if  they had no involvement in software. In a game of catch-up Sony bought Columbia Pictures and Matsushita purchased MCA, the American movie-and-entertainment giant-attempts to wrest some participation in the entertainment software market. 


Nintendo had completely blindsided the American computer industry, too. The founders of the personal-computer revolution had predicted in the early eighties that computers would soon be commonplace in most homes, like toasters. Yet a decade after the personal computer was launched, only 24 million Americans homes had them- almost 10 million fewer had Nintendo systems. Worldwide, there were about an equal number of Nintendo systems and PCs, some 50 to 60 million. As with VCRs, the PCs were manufactured by dozens of companies; less than 10 percent were made by the number-one PC company, IBM. With the exception of a growing number of illegal pirate versions coming out of Hong Kong and Taiwan, just one company manufactured and sold all the Nintendo systems. just one company manufactured and sold all of the Nintendo systems. The huge Japanese computer company NEC and a video-arcade-game company, Sega, tried to compete with Nintendo, but in spite of investments  in the hundreds of millions of dollars, they shared less than 10 to 15 percent of the market through 1991. Companies such as Apple and IBM ooked over their shoulders and saw Nintendo on their heels. When Apple Computer president Michael Spindler was asked in March 1991 which computer company Apple feared most in the 1990s, he answered "Nintendo". 


The computer industry understood why Nintendo had a jump on them: Nintendo had predicated its entire strategy on the control of both hardware and software. In 1991, Apple and IBM announced an alliance to take on Microsoft, the software giant. In 1992, IBM also announced an alliance with Time Warner. Like the consumer-electronics companies, the computer-hardware giants realized that to remain competitive, they needed access to and control of software. The software edge would become particularly important in the loming battle for shares in the next technological revolution-multimedia  and networking. That industry, which combines computer power with home-entertainment systems integrating television, video recorders, CD sound systems, and the telephone was judged by the Los Angeles Times to be worth a mind-boggling $3.5 trillion annually by the next century.  The question was which company would become the Maytag of home computers in the potentially mammoth industry.


Did Nintendo have the foresight and wherewithal-and sheer termerity-to be that ambitious? Evidence that it did was hidden in the belly of the NES unit. On the bottom of the innocuous, gray game-playing machine was a panel. When it was removed, a computer cable connector was revealed. A two-way doorway to the main processor, this port allowed the Nintendo system to work as a terminal that could be connected to a modem, a keyboard, or auxiliary storage devices. The Nintendo system was rolled into living rooms by children who welcomed (and worshiped) it as a game, while inside it lurked the potential to be transformed into the integral component of the largest electronic network in the country. With a phone line plugged into it, the Nintendo system could be used to shop, call up movie reviews, buy pork bellies, do research, make airline reservations, and order a pizza. The machine's greater possibilities were first tapped in Japan when Nintendo announced the Family Computer Communications Network System. A similar network planned for the United States had the potential to dwarf the Prodigy network (a joint venture of IBM and Sears Roebuck), the mose-used network in the country, which has only 1.3 million subscribers by January 1992 . "

And to think that this was going in in the mid to late 80's and early 90's.  Apple's president going so far to say that Nintendo is a threat to them as a computer company. Sony and Mitsushita buying up entertainment companies in order to remain relevant in the changing tide.The most interesting tidbit is Nintendo actually utilizing modem technology when years later Iwata stated that gamers don't want online games (Of course the Wii U and 3DS are both online capable, but after Nintendo has safeguarded it heavily against any outside threats like Flash games, and rightfully so ). Nintendo has control of both it's content  (Games) and a distribution method to experience said content, so why on earth would they want to give up either of those to please some vocal industry heads?  Of course as I said before, and as it's stated in the excerpt, With them out of the way it means that the other companies who aren't as successful can thrive, while Nintendo loses everything they've worked for and the tight controls that kept their IP pure. Other possible scenarios that would come of this could be; One Mario game every year, tons of franchise spin offs , one more watered down than the other, None of the brilliant ideas executed, because the teams would be so strained to deliver gameplay like other popular games from other development houses. While this is only speculation, and there are benefits that could be applied in this situation, if it ain't broke, why fix it?

There is something else I would like to state, about the psychology of these pro third party transition well wishers; They can be likened to gossip hounds and tabloid reporters. There is a certain desire for some people to see others fail in order to feel good about themselves. Once the person  (or company in this case) fails to accomplish said task they throw out their "I was right" statements, and go out of their way to state why it was impossible in the first place. The reason for that has to do with certain  individuals (especially on the internet) having an overwhelming need to be right - Damn, the facts, and damn use of logic and reasoning.

 Nintendo has come under great scrutiny for the past seven years, and despite objections from the vocal internet minority, they've triumphed many times. While this is clearly a good thing for the company, it's not so much a good thing for the competition, so here's where we see the use of FUD (Fear Uncertainty, Doubt) and other tactics geared to psyche out Nintendo's brass, and fool the gaming community into regurgitating their mantras. "Nintendo is bleeding money, and the only way for them to break even is to bow out of console production." "Once _________ comes out , it will overshadow anything Nintendo currently has on the market, and they'll go third party by next generation". Clearly, we should be reading between the lines to see what's really being said. "We're terrified that Nintendo is working on something that's going to take more market share away from us, by luring in markets we can't even tap, ourselves". And that's only how it seems from Sony and Microsoft's point of view. And what of Apple , you may be asking? Are they still afraid of the big N? Personally, they would be fools not to be. Nintendo is a dangerous competitor. They play the game fifty steps ahead of the competition, and you never know what they're thinking until it's too late. Of course, after that the other companies are just playing catch up (Kinect and Move, anyone? ). 

I don't know the future, and I don't get paid for being an armchair analyst (as much as I would like to be, hint hint wink wink Wedbush), but for a company that has proved successful for a little over a century, I think Nintendo will be just fine in the years to come. But what do I know, I'm just a lowly blogger.


Game On! 

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