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[Opinion] Nintendo Creates Big Worries and Big Comfort

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Brave.

That's the first word that comes to mind after having immersed myself in the Nintendo Wii conferences. This word fills me with feelings of both comfort and worry.

One of the hot topics to come out of the events of the past two days is the $250 price tag. I don't necessarily fault Nintendo, but color me surprised. I had expected something more in line with $230 (Wii Sports included coincidentally).

Here's how I think Nintendo should have ideally handled the Wii pricing. Begin with a plain, stripped-down $150 Wii console (no games, no controllers). The idea here is to have customers "build" their Wii around how they intend to use it. Here's a few examples of how someone could manufacture their most favored form of fun.

Retro Wii
$170 :: Wii console, Classic Controller
Non-Gamer Wii
$210 :: Wii console, Wii Remote and Nunchaku
Party Wii
$330 :: Wii console, Four Wii Remotes
Gangsta Wii
$210 :: Wii console, Wii Remote, Zapper Light-Gun
Hardcore Wii
$230 :: Wii console, Wii Remote and Nunchaku, Classic Controller

It would be about choice - the customer starts with the console and selects the extras from the shelf. This route would also help to remove the price barrier that is impeding this industry. Unfortunately, I think Nintendo failed to accomplish this with its $250 bundle price (and with the $60 required to buy each extra Wii remote/nunchaku combo). This is my number one worry.

Although, hardware is just one piece of the story. One of the most promising news bits is the revelation of the Wii Channels. These include the News Channel, Weather Channel, etc. It is the primary reason the word "brave" comes to mind. Nintendo is basically waging war with the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Yahoo with the type of software it intends to offer on Wii Channels. That's brave. Will Nintendo find success? I think it will depend upon how appealing and intuitive the applications are but also on the amount Nintendo charges for each Wii Channel. This is my second worry.

Then there is the Virtual Console to consider. I think $5 for an NES game is a bargain compared to the $20 asking price of NES remakes on Game Boy Advance. Still, I hope Nintendo will offer players a bonus for buying new games or peripherals. For example, for every new Wii game you purchase, you'll receive 500 Virtual Console points. It would go a long way to giving back to devoted fans who consistently pay full price for a game. Not that Nintendo necessarily owes us anything, but it would show the company cares. This is my third worry.

Finally, there are the games. Content is ultimately the potion that will give Wii its mojo. Fortunately, I don't think Nintendo has anything to worry about. Nintendo brought it in a big way. Impressed, sums up my feelings. Scuba diving, cooking, bowling -- it's all there. And that's just the beginning for new styles of play. Traditional games are also well represented. Zelda is irresistible. Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Mario Galaxy are also on the horizon. The Metroid Prime 3 delay is perhaps my only complaint. I hope this means Retro Studios will implement an online feature of some sort. Overall, I'm comforted by the content shown. And for Nintendo's sake, this is likely the one thing that will decide its fortunes in the next-gen arena.

Nintendo, if you're reading this, there's one final thing I'd like you to ponder. History has shown that the bigger a company grows and more fans it attracts, so too does the size of its anti-fanbase. A current example of this in the gaming industry is Sony with its high-priced, unnecessary-featured PlayStation 3. Another good example is Nintendo during the NES and SNES generation. Put simply, companies become arrogant and take their customers for granted. Customers can build a company up and tear it down just as quickly. When Nintendo becomes the leader of this industry again, what can be done to show your customers you appreciate them?

I believe you will dominate this coming generation of games. Have you learned from the past? This is my final worry. Please, don't let it go to your head.

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