Nintendo’s bogus points in their "big plan"

Over at the videogame site, Dignews, where I work as a videogame reviewer, they’ve posted a story about a Nintendo bigwig, revealing their master plan for the next generation of gaming. Well, the text of Nintendo’s “plan” was interesting, but there’s some overblown rhetoric in it. Of course, this isn’t uncommon. It happens whenever Sony or Microsoft speak, too. But here’s the thing. He used the analogy of Coke vs. Pepsi, and I guess he may be right that Pepsi’s number one overall. I’ll take his word on that, though I know on a product-to-product basis, Coke itself outsells Pepsi itself.

But his analogy was, Pepsi is number one because they diversified into snack foods, bottled water, sports drinks, etc. (Coke’s done this, too, by the way, and at the same time.)

Even if Pepsi is beating Coke overall, that hasn’t changed the fact that Coke is beating Pepsi when it comes to the core product. To eke out any type of victory, Pepsi had to count all their other products and acqusitions. And let’s be honest here, Coke and Pepsi have been battling it out for a LOT longer than just the 1980s to today, which his speech tends to portray. That’s misleading. Coke and Pepsi have both been around for nearly 100 years. Heck, Coke did “disruptive” things by that yardstick, way back in the 70s when Coke helped get Pizza Hut off the ground, making it a “Coke-exclusive” pizza chain. It’s been a long tug-o-war and hasn’t always been about just softdrinks for a LOT longer than just the 1980s to today.

Okay, but getting off the Coke/Pepsi analogy, which is problematic anyway…

I appreciate how well the Nintendo DS is selling, but I have to be honest about something here… I’m not sure it’s burning up the charts so much that it’s leaving the PSP in the dust. Does anyone have numbers on PSP to show that?

Here’s the deal: I’ve had my DS for about 15 months now, and I still only have 4-5 games for it that I like. My list is Nintendogs, Phoenix Wright, Trauma Center and I guess I like True Swing Golf, too. I thought I was gonna like the new Lunar Dragon Song, but I didn’t. So, hate to say it, but to be honest, personally and speaking only for myself… I use my DS more as a travel alarm clock than as a gaming device. A lot of this has to do with the type of games I enjoy. I love RPGs and there’s still not that many on DS. About the only DS game I don’t have that I know I might enjoy is Resident Evil Deadly Silence.

By point of comparison, the PSP has been out for a lot less time, not even a year yet, or maybe coming up to a year soon, though I’ve only owned one for about eight months, personally… and yet I have close to a dozen games on it I love playing, and even own a few PSP movies. (Family Guy stuff, since it has all the same extras as the DVD equivilents.) My list for PSP includes Hot Shots Golf Open Tee, Untold Legends, The Hustle Detroit Streets, Generation of Chaos, Legend of Heroes, Lord the the Rings Tactics, Lumines, Madden 06, Metal Gear Acid, MLB 06 The Show, WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2006, and X-Men Legends II. Sure, some of these are also available on PS2. But I have the portable versions instead. So even though Nintendo’s DS is more expiermental, I’m getting a LOT more gameplay and use out of my PSP. Personally speaking. And PSP isn’t near as bulky, has a better, higher-res screen and though it has flaws and hazards, well… put it this way… it’s easier to fit into a slacks pocket and take it with you; with the bulky DS, that just isn’t possible.

I’ll admit the touch screen of the DS is a new idea. And when you have games that REALLY take advantage of it, it’s a totally unique experience. I mean, you couldn’t do Trauma Center on ANY other platform. It’s the best time I’ve had on DS, even moreso than Nintendogs. But sometimes even games I like aren’t flawless. Take True Swing Golf for example: the touch-screen input is awesome. But the game’s graphics are markedly low-res compared to Hot Shots Golf Open Tee for PSP. And True Swing Golf pretty much coasts on the novelty input device alone; the game’s golfers are fairly bland and the courses lack personality, compared to HSGOT. Even Tiger Woods PGA is better in those respects. So even though I love the input device for True Swing Golf, I have less fun playing with it, because the golfers and the courses are too bland.

And let’s be honest about this, too: It’s not like all DS software takes advantage of the touch screen, the voice recognition, the WiFi network. It would be awesome if they all did, but the big rip on DS was that, until 9 months in, when Nintendogs and Trauma Center came along, most DS software were straight ports from GBA and didn’t take advantage of ANYTHING on DS. That’s changing, which is good, but that’s how it was for most of the first year.

And let’s be honest about even this: Simply because it has a touch-screen, does that make it a “disruptive” product? It’s STILL a handheld gaming system, it’s STILL lower-res than PSP and it’s still pretty darn BULKY for a handheld gaming device.

So does the Pepsi analogy hold up? I don’t think so. The analogy is that Pepsi disrupted the cola war by selling a lot of stuff that wasn’t cola, like bottled water and snack food. All Nintendo has done, really, is reinvent the cola with NDS. A truly “disruptive” thing would be to sell a product that has nothing to do with gaming directly.

A better example of disruption is APPLE. Steve Jobs finally conceeded that the MAC was never going to overtake Windows PCs or laptops. So instead of just re-fighting that war over and over, he led the company into a whole new niche… the iPod, with iTunes. It’s not a PC or a Mac. It uses Mac technology but is PC compatible. And all it is, is the best way to buy songs legally and play them portably. Napster and others may have been there first, but Apple did it best. Apple’s back to being a winning comany because of iPod, not because of their desktop computers. That’s real disruption.

But redesigning the GameBoy with a new input device, or launching the Revolution with a remote-control-style controller? They’re fresh ideas, sure… but it’s still reinventing cola, not real disruption.

If Nintendo wanted to claim disruption, they’d be the ones selling Nintendo iPods, instead of DS… (Not iPods specifically, but some similar type of product that’s a real off-shoot of gaming, not just differently-designed gaming devices.)

So, for me, the speech attempted to be clever, but was way off-point.

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