Nintendo Confronts A Changed Video Game World

With the launch of the new Wii U console next week, Nintendo hopes to reassert itself in the gaming world.  Writing in the New York Times, Nick Wingfield pits the aged Mario and Link against the hordes of cheap, accessible mobile games. (In this analogy Angry Birds are goombas and skulltulas.)

After Nintendo “posted the first loss in its era as a video games company,” Wingfield outlines the business challenges facing Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

Games on mobile devices and Facebook are free or mere pennies.  The time investment for users is much lower for mobile games.  And the multi-screen dynamic that is increasingly more common in US households (TV + ipad + smart phone) squeezes consoles out of the equation.

(At one point Wingfield says that it can take “minutes” to boot up your Xbox and set up your Halo match as opposed to a few seconds to turn on your iphone’s field runners.  This is perhaps a very sad and oblique reference to our country’s pronounced ADHD.)

Citing industry analysts, Wingfield questions Nintendo’s decision to not develop games for android or iOS (imagine playing Mario on your iphone).

The piece is generally optimistic towards the Japanese brand, but it tries to frame the original Nintendo Wii as the company’s last great achievement.

While the onslaught of cheap, downloadable games is eating the console’s market share, Angry Birds will never replace Zelda (with games that are 99 cents, you get what you pay for).

The article helps explain key economic trends that are reshaping the industry.

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