Reggie goes on offensive against game apps – espouses bullshit

On Friday Nintendo of America’s President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime came out with this gem.

As you may have guessed from the title, I think he’s talking shit. Why? I hear you ask. Well, lets break things down.

We’ll start by taking a look at this quote:

“I actually think that one of the biggest risks today in our industry are these inexpensive games that are candidly disposable from a consumer standpoint,”

So why, exactly are candidly disposable games a risk to the industry? Well, I can see why they might threaten developers of shovelware titles, which are basically candidly disposable games that are made at an inexpensive price, and yet sold at the same price as major titles. But the industry as a whole? Seriously?

In the interview Reggie goes on to say that part of the problem with these games is that they create an expectation that games should only cost about £2. Obviously this is a potential threat to companies who make and sell games for around £40.  But will many people seriously start to have that expectation? When someone sits and plays Dead Space 2, are they really going to be sitting there thinking “this is pretty rad and all, but if I can get Sonic 1 on my phone for £1.50, why was I a big enough fool to pay £40 for this?”

Thought not.

It’s pretty safe to say that for many years now there’s existed a cluster of gamers who are looking to buy games on the cheap. Apps are a new way of doing that, but we’ve been able to go and buy games for £4 from second hand shops for ages now, and yet the games industry is still standing. In fact, it’s growing. Cheap gaming has never been a threat, I don’t see why it will be now.

Not only are apps not a threat. There’s expert opinion that it could be a boost to the industry.

It’s also worth considering that Nintendo’s biggest competitor on the handheld market – Sony – seem to think the exact opposite about apps. They’ve even gone as far as to make app support a key part of their business strategy for their next handheld.

So what’s really motivating Reggie’s comments? Is it the fact that perhaps apps are a threat to Nintendo, rather than gaming as a whole? I certainly think so.

By the time the 3DS and the NGP are released succeed their respective forebears, there’ll be a situation where if you want to play games on the move, you have 3 options: the NGP, 3DS, and the smartphone you carry around everywhere. Spot the odd one out. Hint: it’s the 3DS.

The 3DS is the only handheld device that doesn’t have any kind of app support. Whether that’s intentional, or whether Nintendo have just failed to see an opportunity, I cannot say. But clearly it’s a problem for the company that they don’t have a means of dealing in these cheap, often disposable gaming experiences. And so people who want to just pay £2-4 for something a bit rubbish that helps kill time during lunch breaks and the like, they’re going to have to go to someone other than Nintendo.

Not only is Nintendo missing out on a slice of the pie with apps, but apps do represent a threat to a portion of its business. Remember what I said about shovelware earlier? Which consoles can you find more shovelware titles on than any other? Nintendo consoles.

As a quick example I went to gameplay.co.uk and typed in the word Barbie – which is basically the shovelware franchise. All but one of the titles was on a Nintendo console. Now the thing with shovelware is that it’s horrendous crap devoid of any kind of production values, and made at a relatively low cost. Kind of like a lot of apps out there. Except unlike a lot of apps out there, these games command a price of around £20-30. Why pay that if you can get your kids an app version of a similar franchise, and pay a fraction of the price?

Also, if you’re a developer of these crude titles, then there’s the temptation of putting them out in app form. This saves you having to find a publisher, who then has to pay lisencing fees, etc. And also ensures you a larger portion of the profits.

I am, of course, speculating here. But if wild speculation about the effect of apps on the games industry is good enough for Reggie, then I think I’m allowed to speculate a little about the future of shovelware in a post-iPhone world. Whether apps will damage Nintendo’s revenue stream from shovelware is something we’ll have to wait and see on. We’ll also have to wait and see if Nintendo lose business to people buying apps on other platforms (at very least even if they don’t lose any money, they’ve lost the opportunity to make way more money by not providing a platform for apps). One thing I can say for sure, is that apps are certainly not the biggest threat to the gaming industry. And now that I think about it, with the industry now so large, can anything really even threaten it?

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