In an interview with Games Beat, Connie Dunaway, EVP Sales and Marketing at Nintendo of America, offered insight into Nintendo’s plans for 2010. They anticipate an up year, with a staggered lineup of new titles. And while she did reference the success of Wii, much more focus was placed on the DS line.
Remember the Nintendo DS, the one that arrived in the US in November of 2004? The one that inspired chuckles from the gamer community? It was supplanted by the DS Lite in June of 2006. Then the DS Lite got a round of steroids and the DSi was born in April of 2009. Now, on March 28, 2010, Nintendo will release the DSi XL.
If you think about it, Nintendo’s approach with the DS line is similar to the approach Apple took with its entrance into consumer electronics, from the iPod to the iPhone, to the iPad.
Apple comparison #1: Apple’s iPad might be thought of as a successor to the iPhone’s gaming capabilities — with a larger screen and a longer battery life. The DSi XL increases the screens on the DSi by 93%. Battery life has also improved. Yet Dunaway claims Nintendo was there first. “I think it’s a fresh idea to innovate based on a larger size,” she said.
Apple comparison #2: Apple often divides market segments by user, like good-better-best. Nintendo has the same idea, Dunaway said. “If they want to play only games, the ds fits. If they want access to cameras, photo editing, dsiware digital content, dsi is for them. and now the dsi xl gives them the choice of a larger size.”
Apple comparison #3: The iPad supports e-books through its iBook store. The DSi XL will also support e-books.
Is the Nintendo DSi XL in competition with Apple? Dunaway responds, “It is interesting that for all of the talk of competition from Apple last year, here in the U.S. we had our best year ever, selling 11.2 million [DSi] units. That has never been done by any game platform ever.”
What about free web games — the market that terrifies traditional publishers? Facebook has Farmville, and if you think it’s something to laugh off, consider that Zygna, the creator of Farmville, is privately valued at $2.61 billion.
Dunaway doesn’t see a big future for web games (and especially not free ones) on their platforms. There is “a great role for digital content,” she said, and referred to DSi game called Photo Dojo. Dunaway’s selling point for this title was happiness: “Every single person that comes across it smiles and laughs and wants to try.” Same thing for sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.
So does Nintendo think of Apple’s iPad or online gaming as serious competitors? From Dunaway’s comments, it doesn’t seem so. That may be short-sighted on Nintendo’s part. But remember that Nintendo is hands-down the most profitable company in the traditional game industry. In 2009, Nintendo not only produced but also published four of the five top-selling video games (nearly 16 million units in the US alone).
History tells us that Nintendo innovates when it wants to innovate, and that means it’ll innovate when there’s dough at stake. Why, for example, would a hardware developer continue to cling to the cartridge format for its consoles, years after every other console had moved to DVD format? Because all those publishers had to buy those physical cartridges from Nintendo; essentially, they were getting paid twice for every game sold.
Funny, that kind of business sounds like it could have come straight from Cupertino.
What do you think is in store for Nintendo in 2010? Anyone planning on buying the DSi XL?