Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Playing with (Tablet) Power!!

(I wrote this shortly after E3 2012, and although I'm less enthusiastic about this idea today, I still think this is a strategy that Nintendo should have - and still could - consider.)

For the last few years, there's been no end to the talk about Nintendo floundering position in the handheld gaming space. Smartphones and apps stores have been gobbling up the market for casual portable games - a market that Nintendo helped create with the DS - and now we're left to wonder how they can reclaim their dominance. "Build a phone!" some have cried. "Put games in the app stores!" others say. But I've realized in the last couple months that they are both wrong, and so was Nintendo when they released the 3DS.

They should have made a tablet!

You may think I'm crazy, but hear me out. Nintendo knows how to make incredible, touch-only games, and they've been doing so years on the DS. The Legend of Zelda games "Phantom Hourglass" and "Spirit Tracks" are not only great video games, but neither requires a physical button to play. I'm sure they could just as easily adapt games like Mario, Metroid, and Pokemon in a similar manner, so the lack of physical controls is a non-issue.

But why a tablet? Simple: parents are looking for a cheap tablet for their kids to play on. I've had several coworkers in the last year ask me about tablets, and their reason is always their kids. They don't want to give up their phone or personal iPad, and the 3DS just isn't what kids today want. They want something that can play Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, and all the other casual games that are so popular these days. More often than not, I recommend something like the Kindle Fire or the Nook, but imagine if Nintendo had a tablet in the same vein. They could OWN this market.

It may be too late to capitalize on this opening, but then again, who knows. The Nintendo brand is still strong with consumers, and if they move quickly (released in time for Holiday 2013?) there just might be a chance to reclaim the portable gaming throne.

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