March 6th, 2006, 18:55 Posted By: wraggster
If the fabled 'next gen' isn't as crucial as Microsoft and Sony would have us believe, then it seems Nintendo's reputation for originality and strong niche appeal could be the keys to the Revolution's success. We need to get away from 'next-gen' just being about hardware, says Koch's Lunn. \'Next-gen' should be about interaction. Nintendo is proving that with the DS it's possible to attract new users through more interaction, and the growth of online play is showing interaction with other people can make games more compelling. 'Next gen' is the social growth of gaming, he adds.
My feeling is that Nintendo need not, and will not, worry too much about joining the 'next-gen' debate, offers Chris Lee, ex-VP of Criterion Software, now commercial director of FreeStyle Games. Consumers have always looked to Nintendo for something a little different, in terms of hardware and software. The prospect of Mario, Zelda, Pikmin and Animal Crossing making an appearance on any system gives it immediate appeal - the challenge now is exploding this niche into a more mass market audience.
Perhaps the Revolution's most distinctive USP is its controller, a one-handed wireless wand more akin to a TV remote than a traditional game pad. Sony's SingStar, EyeToy and Buzz titles have proven that a basic controller can help attract an audience that wouldn't normally pick up a game pad. With a simplified controller that everyone can understand, you can open up the gaming audience to people that are afraid of the modern complex controller, says Relentless' Eades. I don't know whether the Revolution controller offers up a simpler interface or whether it adds complexity. I hope it is simpler. We learnt with Sony and Buzz that by offering a controller that needs no instructions you can get a load more people to play your game.
Undoubtedly the controller is novel, and should work brilliantly for certain games types, offers Frontier's Braben. But there will be some resistance, particularly with established styles of games, for which new mechanisms will need to be found. There is also a potential downside - assuming it is a huge success, it could be a pyrrhic victory; I am not convinced that others - third or first parties - can't offer similar styles of controller for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, eroding the Revolution's advantage.
Marketing a new console is always a momentous task, and it seems that Nintendo has a bigger job than its rivals. In its hopes of reclaiming turf lost in the last console spat, it's relying on innovation to propel the Revolution into the arms of a new audience. It has to sell old games and new controls to a mainstream consumer perhaps unfamiliar with the subject. It has to entice software manufacturers to construct games differently than they already do for rival hardware. And perhaps most awkwardly of all, it has to convince the retail community to stock a machine where a huge portion of content won't be available on store shelves.
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