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Nintendo is trapped. They find themselves in a combination of an ageing core fanbase, the children of that fanbase, and a relatively new, casual consumer-base brought on by the Wii. This volatile combination of distinctively different groups presents us with a company that has a unique image problem.
Ingredients to the Divide
The first ingredient to this problem is the such strong divide among Nintendo’s demographics. On one end of the spectrum we have the casual gamers. These are the consumers that flocked to the Wii in droves when it was first released due to the casual nature of the console. These people don’t really care about graphics or the story of a game. They care about playability. The questions these people will ask is: Is it fun? Are the games kid friendly? Is it easy to use?
All three of those questions are valid, and absolutely appropriate for the Wii. Nintendo hit a homerun with this system and the advertising campaign it came with. They dove into the “blue ocean” of untapped consumers, and came up with millions of new users for their device.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the loyalty fans. Those who have been with Nintendo since the beginning, and are now middle aged, often with children of their own. These are the people that want to see Nintendo to make games using their classic franchises. While there are some progressive ideas in this department (ala Pokemon Go!) most releases these days are either high definition remakes of popular games, or iterations of staple Nintendo franchises. Since fresh, new Intellectual properties from Nintendo are almost non-existent, this leaves Nintendo with a Catch 22.
If they do decide to eventually venture into new territory, they risk alienating their long-time fans that have their nostalgia goggles on. If they do not innovate in the software department however, they run the risk of relying too heavily on their merchandise and console sales. Based on numbers from this year, this would be a huge risk, not only to the Wii U Console and whatever content is released on it, but Nintendo as a whole. That isn’t even taking into account the confirmed rumors of their prototype NX Console, or the fact that sales for 3rd party games on the WiiU have historically been atrocious.
An Issue of Image
All of these ingredients come together create an issue with image. Their brand image isn’t the issue, as Nintendo’s brands are instantly recognized the minute anyone walks into their local Gamestop or plushy isle at Walmart. This issue is how older nintendo die hards view the company and its products. Looking at the steadily falling console sales, the mostly stagnating content, and pandering to casual gamers has left a bad taste in the mouths of those nostalgic fans; Most of whom buy specific content based on whatever franchise had them hooked in the first place. If none of those franchises can innovate, the nostalgia will not be enough, and Nintendo will either have to look for ways to bring their new customers back into the fold, or new innovative content for their existing consumer base.
Since the videogames industry is relatively new compared to other media and entertainment mediums, this is a new problem that they’re facing, and no tangible solution to escape from this cycle has been found yet. If they cannot decide who their demographics are, whether or not to make entirely new content, or how to build a competitive console, there are very few options left to them.
One thing is definitely for sure, if they can’t find a way out of this trap, console hardware might not be in their future. One only has to look at Sega’s failures in the 1990’s to know that all it takes is a couple of failed consoles to sink a company.