5 reasons Nintendo is not doomed

There’s been a lot of apocalyptic-sounding Nintendo doomsaying as of late around the net since the details of the 3DS launch were unleashed upon the world, resulting in angry fans venting online, plagues of locusts, gnashing of teeth, the opening of the seventh seal — the whole nine yards. The latest herald of Nintendo’s apparent self-inflicted Armageddon is MSNBC, which today detailed in an article grimly titled “5 Reasons Why Nintendo Is Doomed” how the big N have supposedly shot themselves in the foot with an overpriced 3D bullet. While I was as disappointed by the hefty $249 price tag as the next gal, I’m not about to bust out the “END OF THE WORLD” picket sign and start proclaiming the arrival of the anti-Mario. So I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest that we temper our rage momentarily as I respond to the author’s five points (in bold below) with some counterpoints of my own. Game over? Doubt it.
1. It’s too late
Too late? According to who, exactly? We’re not given any statistics or relevant examples from gaming history to justify this statement, so the author seems to imply with dire earnest that the PSP is on the verge of overtaking the DS and stomping all memories of the handheld into oblivion, just because. That’s remarkable, given that as of September 2010, the DS hardware (all versions) has sold 135.8 million units worldwide, compared to the PSP’s 51.6 million – nevermind the games themselves. Last I checked, this still qualifies as a classic sales beatdown. Sure, no good thing lasts forever, but it’s not supposed to. Nintendo is aware that the market is changing and that they can’t rest on their laurels; that’s why they continue to announce new consoles and handhelds. I find it increasingly disturbing how many armchair pundits out there are confusing the natural phasing out of an aging console with some sort of inevitable downward spiral and decline of Nintendo’s entire business. You mean to tell me the Wii and DS (which are still both resting comfortably in the top position of their respective console wars) weren’t going to be the #1 sellers every month for all eternity?! That there’s no such thing as a future-proof console? It’s the end times, everyone! Fire and brimstone! REPENT!

Any market analyst can tell you that timing can and will play a role in the initial success or failure of any game console offering, but is it really a make-or-break juncture that will determine whether the whole thing is a flop? Has there ever been a case in history where pundits and fans all collectively looked back and mused about how a failed console (such as the Dreamcast or Virtual Boy) would have performed infinitely better had it just been released a few months earlier? It’s pretty early to start playing taps when the 3DS hasn’t even launched yet. There are just too many more complex (and arguably more important) factors at play here that remain unknowns – launch software quality, manufacturer’s ability to keep up with demand, the potential success of Nintendo’s marketing campaign with hands-on 3DS stations, to name a few – to proclaim the 3DS a preemptive dud at this stage in the game.

2. No one cares about 3-D outside of the multiplex

Here, the author points out that 3D TVs have failed to catch on, and takes this to mean that any non-Avatar applications of 3D are doomed to failure. He has a point: maybe the American public isn’t ready to throw out their shiny HDTVs and break the bank for a bleeding edge 3D TV just yet. Luckily for Nintendo, the 3DS isn’t a 3D TV, and that’s why it has a shot. Maybe people aren’t interested in making 3D the centerpiece of their living room, but I fail to see how that translates into 3D being entirely unwelcome in the handheld realm. I don’t believe people don’t care about 3D. If there were a setting on my TV that would enable 3D, I’d turn it on right now. But the steep hardware prices and annoyance of wearing fragile, cumbersome glasses have kept 3D from becoming the latest “must have” fad the way a widescreen 1080p HDTV was a few years ago. If you can have a 3D experience in the palm of your hand for a fraction of the price of a new 3D television – and most importantly, without glasses – why not give it a chance? It’s just different and exciting enough that it could work. I imagine it’ll be many years until anything resembling a glasses-free TV experience goes mainstream, but the 3DS is a real product you’ll be able to get your hands on and put through its paces within a couple months.

3. Toddlers are out
Now the author is latching on to the much-touted “no one under 7 should play the 3DS” party line from Nintendo, stating that the 3DS could damage young children’s eyes. However, he completely fails to take note of the fact that this is more than likely little more than another case of an experienced company protecting itself from a highly litigious, blame-shifting society that sues fast food chains when they spill coffee into their own laps. Now it’s supposed to be a big scary health risk if a product has a health label? Every single video game I own has countless warnings in the manual, on the box, and in the system itself to stop me from somehow murdering myself in the course of their use. Here are just a few choice lines from one of my Wii game manuals: “Parents should watch their children play video games. Stop playing and consult a doctor if you or your child has any of the following symptoms: Convulsions, loss of awareness, eye or muscle twitching, involuntary movements, altered vision, disorientation”.  “Take a 10 to 15 minute break every hour, even if you don’t think you need it.” “If your hands, wrists, arms or eyes become tired or sore while playing or if you feel symptoms such as tingling, numbness, burning or stiffness, stop and rest for several hours before playing again.” “Playing video games can cause motion sickness in some players.” Wow. Convulsions! Altered vision! BURNING! These infernal video games are serious business and obviously pose a major health threat. Either that or it’s just Nintendo covering Mario’s portly plumber crack.

Oh, and clearly it doesn’t bear mentioning that the parental controls on the 3DS allow you to completely disable the 3D functionality if desired. Or that the majority of medical professionals and optometrists agree that playing the 3DS should not actually pose any significant health risk to children under the age of 7. Or that like it or not, plenty of parents don’t read game ratings, warning labels, or even know what they mean before buying new toys and games for their youngsters. But journalistic integrity probably isn’t too important to take into account before acting like you’re the Nostradamus of videogames.

4. The price is too high
Weighing in at $249, the 3DS is Nintendo’s most expensive handheld to date, to be sure. But what does he mean by “too high”? Too high to achieve DS-esque domination? Too high to be profitable at all? Too high to sell a single unit, thereby signaling the end of Nintendo’s participation in a market they practically invented? Let’s look at these worst case scenarios and assume they come true. Let’s pretend the 3DS is another GameCube – a profitable system that got last place in its generation and didn’t do much to help Nintendo’s brand. Did the GameCube spell the end of Nintendo? Clearly not. Hey, let’s take it further: imagine that the 3DS turns out to be Virtual Boy, the sequel: a complete flop that barely even gets off the ground before being laughed out of the room and quietly discontinued. Did even that experiment cause Nintendo to withdraw from the race and just give up the ghost? Not on your extra life. How about the competition? The PSP didn’t make anywhere near the dent in the market that the DS did, yet I don’t see Sony scrapping their plans for a PSP2. The Xbox was one of Microsoft’s most expensive investments in the future on record, making them not one red cent and, in fact, costing them a cool $4 billion just to get their foot in the door. Yet here they remain with the popular Xbox 360 and Xbox Live. It takes a lot to make a company just throw up the white flag and shuffle away in defeat, so you’ll have to forgive me if it sounds more than a little premature and sensational to go around trumpeting that in one fell swoop, coming off the heels of their most successful console and handheld generations in history, Nintendo has doomed themselves to go the way of Sega.

5. Apple owns Nintendo
The iOS devices have proved their worth over time as a viable presence in the handheld gaming realm (even if only by way of cheap, casual, bite-size gaming portions). But if you buy into Steve Jobs’ doublespeak about the iPod/iPhone being the most successful gaming handheld of all time, then you may not have taken the time to examine these claims and statistics spin-a-thon with a critical eye (hey, remember when Microsoft educated us about how the Kinect bundle was cheaper than a Wii? Hilarous!). Granted, the iOS platform is a force to be reckoned with, and should be taken seriously by Nintendo, Sony, and anyone else aiming for the lion’s share of the handheld gaming pie. But I just don’t see it as a direct competitor to the 3DS. The iPod and iPhone have been roaming in the wild for quite some time now, yet only the most diehard Apple fanboys would insist that they’ve actually managed to wrest away the crown from Nintendo. In any case, there’s no denying that the DS sales speak for themselves. The DS was not vanquished with the arrival of iOS gaming; to the contrary, it has thrived and steamrolled just about anything in its path. The 3DS is a different device but it carries quite the pedigree, and it’s aiming to capture a different demographic than the casual fans whose interest in gaming stops at a 99 cent (or just free) download to play Angry Birds at the bus stop for 3 minutes.

In short, I simply can’t agree that Nintendo isn’t raising the bar. In fact, I believe that introducing glasses-free 3D with the potential to create previously impossible gameplay experiences is the definition of raising the bar. It’ll take some time in the next few months before we get the answers to every last remaining question about the eShop, the launch titles, software transfer between systems, and every other facet of the 3DS, but we just can’t know for sure how important that universally despised $249 figure will be to Nintendo’s bottom line until March 27th comes. If MSNBC got one thing right, it’s in this statement: We can’t write Nintendo off entirely.

20 Responses to 5 reasons Nintendo is not doomed

  1. Warren says:

    Good article but I must point out one thing: “spill” coffe not spell. Just so you can correct it 🙂

  2. CZsWorld says:

    I’m really sick of the lack of Android love on this site.

  3. Chelsea says:

    Warren, thanks. Done and done.

    CZsWorld, what do you mean? If you were referring to the article, I was just responding to MSNBC’s points about Apple and iOS. I just got an Android phone (HTC Incredible) and love it. No Droid hate here.

  4. Sam says:

    How is Nintendo doomed when their systems are still the tops sellers of the year and Japan’s Amazon website broke down because of 3ds orders? and since when is MSNBC an authority on anything game related?

    I guarantee that Nintendo will be fine

  5. Greg in PA says:

    of course ninty will be fine as a company, they remained profitable through the gamecube years after all, but the emergence of the cell phone gaming in the states as well as a poor online model and premium launch price will cut into 3ds sales versus its precursor, also next week we will find out what sony has planned for their psp2 and nintendo may be duplicating the mistakes sony made with the original psp, ie high msrp and short battery life, it will be very interesting to see what sony has concocted which has cause me to reconsider my 3ds pre order

  6. matt says:

    3-5 hours is fine on the go remember 5 hours of straight gaming in full 3D is amazing and when ur at home it can play attached to AC adapter so who flipping cares

  7. Marcus says:

    I enjoyed the point about the Wii Manuel and suggestions on playtimes for that system as a whole. I’ve literally had 5-6 hour sessions and never experienced any sort of problems myself.

    That said, I’ve never actually experienced any media in 3D before and can’t be sure how I’ll receive it, but I look forward to giving it a try at least.

  8. ac says:

    the only point i agree with is ‘price is too high’, but not with the machine. $250 is a lot of worth for what they’re giving hardware wise. the games should be the same price is as the DS games this gen, not $50. and i’m not sure how much the downloadable games are, but if apple is turning out to be the juggernaut its projected to be, they should be like a $1 a piece to compete.

    too late…..well i don’t think its too late. but i what i think is that from the time they announced it to the time they launched was about 1 year. i do think that is a little too long. it gave competitors too much time to think of a counter plan. it’d be more beneficial if they announced and within a few months launched the system. plus, the wow factor isn’t there since the consumers have had a year to let it sink in, so there’s no surprise factor.

    no one care about 3D outside of the theatre….yeah its true at the moment but easily changed with 3DS. that’s why companies like nintendo innovate, to change and disrupt industries. thank god for nintendo.

    toddlers are out…..who cares. toddlers have the fisher price games and leapster. this isn’t a huge part of the market. its stupid. who buys a $250 gaming machine for their toddler, that may or may not have educational purposes? stupid. this is my view as a parent of toddlers. my kid has the leapster machine. i never thought kids under 6 should get too much game exposure anyway. this old adage that DS is for kids is ridiculous. i see more little kids and teens on the street playing with psp than DS.

    apple owns nintendo……uh yeah?! one thing i don’t understand is why everyone relates apple to nintendo. the rise of apple in the gaming space affects all, even sony and microsoft. obviously this statement is out of the ass, but why not say instead apple owns all? why nintendo only? yeah nintendo does casual games, but they have hardcore franchises that are the best in the industry (granted they are not the violent hardcore fps type). this statement doesn’t make much sense any way you look at it..

  9. raindog469 says:

    It’s not an MSNBC article, it’s a Motley Fool article that MSNBC carried via syndicate (like AP or Reuters articles). Motley Fool is an investment site, and their forte is companies and markets, not gaming culture.

    That said, even approaching it from a market perspective, they didn’t really have 5 points. 1 and 5 were essentially the same point, that Nintendo has competition now and took too long to respond to it. A year and a half from now, that competition will be coming more from Android (with or without Sony’s help) than Apple. 3 is a non-sequitur considering that Nintendo has had numerous “if you start having a seizure, stop playing” warnings on their devices for the last decade, and someone covering the gaming market should already know that Nintendo covers their collective ass. 4 is pretty funny combined with those two, since the cheapest iPod Touch you could get (new, not on ebay or whatever) was $229 on sale this holiday season. They’ve been cheaper in the past but this generation is actually more expensive… just like Nintendo’s.

    That leaves 2. It’s true, unlike motion control, you can easily observe other instances where 3D is in the market already and is being rejected. (I saw my second current-technology 3D movie a week and a half ago. It’ll be my last.) And that’s why I think the 3D thing is just a short-term sales pitch. It’s the thing you see in the store that makes you go, “Holy crap, here’s my credit card!” The console’s other built-in features that required additional purchases on previous consoles (or just weren’t possible), like augmented reality and tag mode, combined with games that have dozens of hours of playtime as opposed to a handful of hours of repetitive play, are what Nintendo is really betting on. They need 3rd party developers to understand their new features and make use of them; they can’t carry a console on their own, as they learned with the Gamecube.

    I’ll be getting an Android phone in three months, about a month after I get my 3DS. (Got a smartphone but it’s a Palm Pre. Doh!) I anticipate playing a lot of games on it, but I won’t be passing up the 3DS for it.

    Finally, one thing that I think is funny about the way gaming is going is that more and more companies are focusing on these cheap, short little games with a few minutes of gameplay that then just gets harder and harder, and you’re playing for a high score. Even Nintendo fell victim to that a few years ago with that Yoshi launch game that had about 5 minutes of gameplay for 30 bucks. And all these little guys realize they can compete in that market and pile on, start making little disposable games. Some of them are great, many of them are broken and not fun, even the ones based on well-known licenses. Just like in the US video game market in 1984.

    That’s what none of the video game analysts care to acknowledge. There’s actually a glut of disposable games right now, and even though they’re much cheaper and consumers have arguably better ways of figuring out which ones are decent, at some point the market for that is going to collapse under its own weight again. Who came out with a console in 1985 featuring short-term gimmicks followed by deeper gameplay and saved the US gaming market, again?

  10. Caleb says:

    Well written! While I’m not a fan of the price of the 3DS, it’s no reason to write the system off entirely. There’s really no way to know for sure how the system will do until it starts selling in March. I think it’s really got something going for it and had caught the interest of many gamers. Hopefully it can live up to expectations as people demo it. I know I’m anxious to try it out.

  11. frstOne says:

    That article is really a piece of garbage.

    By the way, there is something that calls my attention everytime someone compares game prices in nintendo handhelds and iOS devices: everybody seems to forget that DSi already has a library of dowloadable games in the price range of 2-8 dollars. It can’t compete with Apple’s App Store in terms of quantity, but I always appreciate quality over quantity.

  12. EdEN says:

    Great article. Now, to be fair the one you’re commenting on came from MSNBC so we knew from the start it could either be a biased or uninformed opinion piece.

  13. KEITH says:

    I disagree with the price. While I would like it to be cheaper, $249 was less than I was expecting it was to be($300). And considering a 3D camera(Fuji) is around $500, what we’re getting with the 3DS a camera, 3Dmovie player, 3D game player its really not a bad deal.

  14. Matthew Case says:

    Nintendo is doomed, bla, bla, bla, bla…. ect. WHATEVER!!!!!!! I am so sick and tired of the media, Michael Pachter, MSNBC, etc, against Nintendo for some reason now. Mark my words, Nintendo will rock our world and prove everyone wrong with the 3DS.. 3Ds is going to be so awesome!! It may be slow at first, but it will be awesome. I can’t wait!!

  15. BKDane says:

    People forget when the PSP Go came out it was $250 as well. And that system sucked! And when the PSP first came out it was $249.99 and that system was a fail.
    I personally thought that the 3DS was gonna be at least $300 when it comes out by all the features that it included. $249.99 is a steal basically.

  16. XCWarrior says:

    Good article. A bit on the long side, but a solid read nonetheless. Very good counter points. I’ll keep my 5 reasons why Nintendo isn’t doomed very simple:

    1) Mario – the competition has no equivalent.

    2) Name recognition – Stupid parents will here child ask for a DS, eventually only 3DS will be available, they will spend whatever it takes to shut the kids up so they don’t actually have to parent them.

    3) Games – I’ve played games on phones. You have to be kidding me. You can’t get a true, worthwhile experience out of your PHONE.

    4) The PSP2. When that’s the best real competition Nintendo has, they are far from doomed.

    5) Price is fine. The price isn’t too high because millions are going to buy it day 1 or as soon as they can. Those of who will wait (myself included) are going to buy one eventually, once the price is right. It’s not like the PS3 where they priced themselves out of the console war race and waited to long to fix it. There is no 360 or Wii equivalent to take on the 3DS, so it will be #1 regardless.

    10 to 1 says in March, DS will still be #1 selling console, 3DS #2, and Wii will be #3 or #4 with 360. PS3 will be a distant third and PSP will not even be a blip on the radar.

  17. 647 says:

    APPLE SUX! END OF COMMENT!

  18. InvisibleMan says:

    I think the problem here is that everyone is boxing the 3DS in the “handheld” category… That category needs to be re-defined.

    The 3DS packs far more technology than the Wii, for starters. So, the $249.99 price tag is right on target: you get sharp iTouch-like graphics, glasses-free 3D, 3 cameras, and dual screens (one of them touch/stylus, which is far superior than the touch/finger touch screens for gaming, by the way!). Make no mistake, people will buy the 3DS as an alternative to the Wii and other consoles, not as an alternative to their cell phones!

    Also, as I pointed out before, the gaming audience for the iTouch/iPhone/Android does not buy these devices for gaming, they just play games in them because they happen to be there. When consumers think of buying a device for gaming, they will have the 3DS at the top or near the top of their lists.

  19. Arjen says:

    I do appreciate that people who still understand the way things work write up a few articles. The sad thing is, though, that none of those “Nintendo is doomed” preachers will listen to reason. You can tell from the start they’re stupid and uninformed, and they’re not going to change that no matter what you tell them.

    Great article though.

  20. Fernando says:

    Arjen, you should remember that reason has its limits. What if a hurricane destroys Nintendo’s properties?

Leave a Reply