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Nintendo “on track” to bow out of hardware, says EA veteran

Tuesday, 24th July 2012 07:39 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Industry legend Bing Gordon sees a very Sega-shaped future for Nintendo.

Speaking to GamesIndustry, the former chief creative office and all round EA executive powerhouse predicted a grim future for Nintendo despite its hardware successes in recent generations.

“I think Nintendo’s already on track to become primarily a software company,” Gordon said.

“We saw that with Sega back in the day; Sega made some missteps and became primarily a software company.”

Gordon said Nintendo “hasn’t really made missteps” and is better off than Sega was in terms of talent and leadership, but said it’s coming under pressure from external factors.

“Apple’s most directly competitive with Nintendo. So far, when [Nintendo designer Shigeru] Miyamoto makes a perfect game, in his career he makes games worth $200 – it’s worth buying a system for,” he said.

“I think the handheld is going to be under a lot of pressure. I can imagine a day when Nintendo wonders – and maybe it’s generational change – when Nintendo wonders if they ought to take some of their best games and make them apps.”

If Nintendo were to start pushing content to Apple devices, the result would be “stunning”, Gordon said.

“Neither Apple or Nintendo – both those companies like control – is likely to want a partnership, but a partnership would be stunningly cool,” he said.

“I think if you’re Nintendo, as long as Miyamoto’s coming to work, you can sustain a proprietary platform. He’s that good.”

Miyamoto is behind many of Nintendo’s top properties – Mario, Donkey Kong and Nintendogs, to name just a small selection – and is 59 years old. Rumours of his retirement send shareholders running.

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36 Comments

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  1. OlderGamer

    “I think Nintendo’s already on track to become primarily a software company,” Gordon said.

    I think they all are.

    I believe the dedicated hardware platforms are an outdated idea. Isn’t this software shift esentialy what will happen when games start coming from the cloud?

    It will be like Netflix. Facebook. And twitter. Avalible on everything. TVs, Tablets, Laptop/PC, and prolly even some streaming boxes that resemble something that looks like a console, but pretty much only streams media(like the OnLive mini console).

    I keep trying to tell people the current biz model is outdated. I doubt we will have consoles in 10 or 20 years time. Not like we think of them now anyways.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Gheritt White

    I must be weird. The prospect of the 3DS XL being Nintendo’s last handheld platform makes me want to buy one *more*, not less!

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Telepathic.Geometry

    Yeah, I think that Nintendo needs to create more new franchises, or create more obvious differences between franchise iterations, so that they at least feel fresh. I think Nintendo used to be really good at that, and the competition didn’t really have anything to challenge them, but lately the competition has actually surpassed Nintendo (and I love my Ninty), technologically and in terms of the number of new franchises. Also, the gaming market is absolutely brutal now.

    Maybe we will see them merge into Apple. Or become like a 2nd party for Apple or Sony or something…

    #3 2 years ago
  4. G1GAHURTZ

    I think the WiiU is going to make or break Nintendo as a home console hardware manufacturer. (But not handheld)

    If the casuals don’t go for it like they did with the Wii, I can’t see core gamers going for it.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Fin

    @4

    Yeah, if the Wii U flops, they’ll probably have one generation to get it right, else it’ll be like SEGA.
    Microsoft and Sony (esp now they own Gakai) I can see having a cloud future. Nintendo? Nope.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Sini

    Miyamoto aint worth a fuck when it comes to non casual games, he’s a has been. We’ll see if the new pikmin will break him.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Telepathic.Geometry

    @Sini: You take that back sir!

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Da Man

    Well put, #6.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Clupula

    I can very easily see Nintendo where Sega are now, except a lot more successful. While the hardcore will have no interest in their hardware, I can very easily see Mario on, say, PS4 and 720 sell quite well.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. dreamcastnews

    I can see Sony pulling out long before Nintendo, actually. If both Microsoft and Sony price their hardware above say, the price the PS3 was at launch, you’re going to have a tough sale in a market where ideas are being used up thick and fast to keep these machines alive.

    The PC could in theory, come out king here once more… Most innovative games come out on Steam these days anyway.

    Funny how some prick from EA feels he can pass judgment on a company who they fucked over in the 90′s over Dreamcast support thus playing a hand in the loss of ground against the PS2, and THEN make comments about a company that made a console that EA could keep shoving their half-baked and zero fun ‘casual’ sports titles on.

    Bit the hand that feeds much, EA? Remember how many copies of Road Rash, Fifa and Madden the Sega Megadrive helped you sell eh?

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Cobra951

    “Some prick from EA”. Hah. Yes, that was my first thought. SeGa and Nintendo are two very different stories. I don’t like where Nintendo has been going since the Wii, but that’s because I’m old school (and old). That doesn’t mean they don’t have a market. Sure they do. Even if the Wii U flops (and it would, if everyone felt like me) they still have a strong handheld market, a market that is not at all the same thing as iOS. I’m effectively done with their hardware. But I doubt that big-N hardware is over and done with anytime soon.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. DSB

    I could see his point right up until the Apple thing.

    That’s just classic Electronic Arts psychosis.

    “We need to buy a million social studios now, we need to compete with Apple!”.

    Do you now? I don’t see any kind of threat.

    I think G1GA is right, though. Nintendo are doing reasonably well in spite of the slump in numbers when you compare them to the rest of the industry, but ultimately the Wii was also symptomatic of a company that really had no desire to keep up with the rest of the pack.

    If Nintendo don’t get serious about their services, online, and building a truly solid revenue stream, then I think they could well be better off just making games.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Khan979

    Personally I wouldn’t mind at all if they bowed out of the console market and started producing games on the xbox or Playstation….Think of what they could do with the additional power those future consoles would have and it would be one less console I would need to purchase :D

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Clupula

    I seriously doubt Sony and Microsoft are going to price their next gen systems at $600, after how much that killed the PS3′s debut.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. OlderGamer

    From MS, I am kind of expecting two different skus of 299usd and 499usd with a two year contract(which includes xblgold and maybe a MS point allowence) to offset the price of the system. I think the cell phone pricing plan makes a lot of sense.

    No idea from Sony.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Ireland Michael

    Blah blah blah streaming media blah blah blah.

    When are people going to get the hint that nobody actually gives a flying fuck about cloud gaming? Its a niche and always will be. People do not want to be DRMed into oblivion, contrary to popular belief.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Gheritt White

    Mike, I’m afraid what people want doesn’t matter. The idea of being able to reduce piracy to zero is too appealing to the Big Media content creators.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. YoungZer0

    @16: “But Diablo III has shown that DRM doesn’t matter at all, people will buy our games no matter what!”

    Yeah, thanks again Diablo III Players.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Ireland Michael

    @17 Companies will only screw them customers over so long as it doesn’t affect their bottom line. If something isn’t even wanted in the first place, it won’t matter.

    It doesn’t matter how much they push it, if the the internet infrastructure isn’t there to support it and the consumer doesn’t want it, cloud gaming won’t sell a console.

    Why the fuck would you want cloud gaming on a console anyway? Slow, laggy, block videos on a machine made to spec? Fuck that. NOBODY wants it.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Gheritt White

    You’re right, but you’re thinking of consoles in terms of hardware rather than as a service. The next gen is set to be the last traditional console gen. From +/- 2020, the console experience will be piped directly through to your TV as a subscription or pay-per-play experience (…or perhaps it will be another payment model, like F2P. I don’t know atm).

    By that point, the internet infrastructure *should* be able to support this functionality. The platform proprietors are well aware of issues like lag, artefacts etc, which is why the next gen still has optical media support.

    Tbh, I was hoping for a console gen that used solid-state media, but that’s still too expensive. I expect that by the time it’s cheap enough to be an effective solution, cloud based gaming will be a viable reality.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. OlderGamer

    “You’re right, but you’re thinking of consoles in terms of hardware rather than as a service.”

    Bingo.

    I think platform will be the buzz word, replacing console. Console is just a box, but platform will be a brand name. You might, for example, someday play a game on Live Gold, but you might ascess it on a laptop, or a tablet that miniHDMIs to your TV, or even on a smart TV itself.

    A console is just a box.

    And tbh, what do I care if my purchased game is digitaly stored or physicly stored or a combo of the two? I enjoy Steam now. I know DRM is often draconic, and I am not a fan either. But it is what it is.

    You can’t fight progress.

    What i am concerned with most is price and selection, as well as ease of use. The last one is a kicker. Thus far games like Diablo III have only proven that bumps are common along the road. But speaking of Diablo III, bliz even just came out and said they are happy with their always on stance. I bet we see a lot more of it in the future.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Gheritt White

    Bang on! PSN and Xbox LIVE will compete in the same way cable networks or ISPs operate – *if* Google doesn’t get in on the act sharpish.

    IMHO, the big three from 2020 onwards are far more likely to be Apple, Google and Microsoft than Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. But that’s just pure speculation on my part. The rest is actually going to happen.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. OlderGamer

    You might be right Mr. White. I kind of wonder if Nintendo might sell down the road. Or ‘lest sign an exclusive long binding deal.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Gheritt White

    I’ve no idea, I’m afraid. I have very little insight as to the behind-the-scenes workings of Nintendo. The gamer in me would say that they’d be too proud to sell out or exit hardware gracefully… but that’s a jingoistic cultural stereotype of Japanese companies on my part.

    Maybe they’ll make a phone? It’s not inconceivable that they’d break away from pure interactive entertainment devices, as they started out as a playing card company before moving into toys (amongst other ventures). So I have absolutely no idea.

    They’re a bloody successful company who are really very good at being successful, so it’d be foolish to count them out entirely. However, they’ve continually demonstrated a failure to grasp the online sphere, and that could well spell their downfall.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. DSB

    I don’t understand why you think that Gheritt.

    If Apple and Google wanted to get in on games, then why aren’t they already?

    Google has literally billions in capital laying around and they’re spending it on pretty much everything except games. I think the last count was 43 billion dollars just laying around.

    Making the worlds hugest MMO wouldn’t even make a dent in that pot. They could buy THQ, Take Two and Activision and own GTA, Bioshock, Diablo, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Red Dead Redemption and Call of Duty for less than a quarter of that pot.

    I’m pretty sure Apple have some spending money laying around too.

    I just don’t think videogames are that attractive as a business. You need to spend a lot of time and energy building something like Halo, GTA or Call of Duty, and it really isn’t a spectacular return on investment.

    Honestly I think Google and Apple see games as a sideshow. They don’t mind catering to it, but they aren’t interested in spending billions on getting some slice of a market that for many isn’t working out at the moment.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. Gheritt White

    MS *and* PC have both shown this gen that you don’t actually need a stable of exclusive, first-party hits to be mega successful. As we move forwards into an age where consoles become more of an all-singing, all-dancing media hub – the universal box that sits above/underneath/next to your telly – other differentiating factors (quantity of content, for example) will become more predominant. Eventually, you won’t even need a box – it’ll just be your TV screen.

    I *could* be wrong about Apple – like I said, that was a guess on my part. That said, I’d be HUGELY surprised if they don’t offer an interactive entertainment solution as part of the Apple iTV – how comprehensive that is remains to be seen/speculated about.

    Neither nor Google or Apple see gaming as a sideshow. They just see consoles as a sideshow, which they are given that there’s only one more traditional console gen left to go before the concept of needing dedicated, specialised hardware to play AAA games becomes obsolete. This probably also explains why they haven’t entered the business already – they don’t want to invest in making a console that could potentially fail, damaging their brand equity in the process. Neither of them are in a hurry – they have plenty of money as it is – so they can afford to wait for the tech to evolve to where they need it to be so that there’s a sufficiently low enough barrier to entry to give them a guaranteed modicum of success (after all, outright failure would definitely negatively impact their share price).

    Take a look at https://turbulenz.com/ – that kind of tech could very easily power an Apple or Google AAA/console-quality experience once an internet infrastructure of sufficient power is in place. And that’s just a solution of which I’m aware, heaven knows what else is out there in terms of R&D! We all heard those Valve Steambox rumours, right?

    Google and Apple are all about ubiquitous platforms, as is Microsoft (it’s on this point that Sony falls down). Interactive entertainment is far too big and all-pervasive a business for a platform proprietor to simply ignore. So it follows that they *must* be thinking about it.

    However, note that I said “it follows”, thus highlighting that this is merely conjecture on my part.

    #26 2 years ago
  27. DSB

    But they haven’t actually invested in games though. They’ve negotiated a few choice exclusives, but that’s really it.

    The money for R&D is going into service apps, OS and social networking.

    I think it’s pretty far fetched to say that Microsoft is about ubiquitous platforms. I bought my second 360 because I needed a mediacenter, but it is really atrocious how far behind it is compared to something like a basic PC or mobile device.

    It doesn’t have anything close to level of design, functionality and flexibility that you get on an Android, iOS or PC. It’s just a clunky reminder of where those things were maybe 10 years ago.

    If that’s Microsofts idea of competing with those kinds of services, they’re going to land flat on their face. Getting reintroduced to the 360 makes me appreciate having something like Steam on the tower on the opposite end of the room. It just doesn’t compare.

    I think comparing Valves aspirations with those of Google and Apple is mixing apples and pears. Valve is probably the most succesful company in the games industry, Google and Apple merely include games as a part of their services.

    Of course, with games being part of their range of services, they will factor in to some extent, but I just don’t see any sign that they’re itching to get serious with games any time soon.

    They have every opportunity to corner the market right now. The publishers look like tired old dinosaurs, and they obviously aren’t very good at selling their games and services. Personally I think the fact that they aren’t making any moves towards entering the market is a clear indication that they don’t want it.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. Gheritt White

    You could well be right, but I doubt that Apple and Google aren’t interested in owning the interactive entertainment sector.

    As for MS, I’m not talking about the X360, but rather Durango, Windows 8 (which I personally think is shit btw, but then I hated Windows 95 too), SmartGlass etc etc. Comparing the X360 to modern PC, Android and iOS devices is a little unfair, given that the X360 came out in 2005 (!!!) and started life in R&D even earlier. It’s a clunky reminder of where those things were 10 years ago because that’s the era from which it comes! Microsoft are looking to address all those concerns *and* get a few steps ahead around about Xmas 2013.

    I mentioned Valve merely as an aside to demonstrate that there’s a lot going on that we don’t know about, some of which could be very exciting indeed. It’s in that area that I drew common ground between Apple and Valve.

    However mixing Apple/Google with the third-party publishers really *is* mixing apples and pears, IMHO. You need content for your platforms, but you don’t necessarily need to produce it yourself these days. I mean, just look at the iPad -m that’s a totally viable gaming platform with zero first-party gaming content.

    Anyway, I could be wrong, maybe Apple and Google really aren’t interested in potentially dominating the interactive entertainment business. However, I really doubt they’re that myopic when they’re potentially very well placed to do so.

    But, bear in mind we still have one more console gen left to go and things could look very different by the time we get to 2020. But that’s the era we’re already looking at – as far as the long-term planning divisions within the current first-parties are concerned, the next-gen has already launched (…well, in some regards at least. Yes for tech, def not for marketing/legal).

    #28 2 years ago
  29. DSB

    I’m sure the 360 is flattered by that defence, but really, using a Wii as a mediacenter is more convenient than using a 360, and at least to my mind that’s just batshit.

    I have Netflix up and running with a single press on the Wiimote.

    I don’t think there’s any rule saying that you can’t update the design of an OS to be more intuitive, and at least take a cue from those devices. Most of the stuff I need on the 360, whether it’s downloaded games or the media center app, is always hidden behind another fan or another selection. You enter a menu so you can enter another menu, sometimes followed by yet another, and finally select what you want.

    They should really be able to see that that’s just dumb.

    I totally see your point on Valve though. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time I was left gobsmacked by an announcement like that. You never really know.

    I think I’m just more comfortable thinking something like that would be preceded by lots of rumors, leaks and half truths, much like consoles themselves.

    I definitely think Apple and Google are interested in providing the best serivces they possibly can, and games are always going to be a part of that. It’s not that they don’t care, I just think there’s a limit to how much they want to be involved.

    They certainly could launch a streaming service or something like that, but I don’t see them making games and consoles in the traditional sense. It’s too much bother, on too small a project, when they actually have the power to make entire frameworks that make more money without ever having to make the content themselves.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. Gheritt White

    “They certainly could launch a streaming service or something like that, but I don’t see them making games and consoles in the traditional sense. It’s too much bother, on too small a project, when they actually have the power to make entire frameworks that make more money without ever having to make the content themselves.”

    i *completely* agree, however the key word there is “traditional”. As we move into a cloud based future, the shape of the interactive entertainment industry is anything but. Otherwise your assessment seems pretty gosh-darn accurate to me.

    As for your critique of the X360 – well, it’s horses for courses, innit. Some like it, some don’t. However, make no mistake that MS want to own your living room just as much as they already own the business office desktop space. Will they succeed? Fuck knows, but they’re much better placed than Sony thanks to their greater investment in and familiarity with the software space.

    I hasten to add that doesn’t mean that they’re nicer than Sony, that they make better products or that they will definitely win, it just means they’re better placed is all.

    Oh god, I’ve opened myself up to the platform fanboys now haven’t I? Well if any of those fucks want to join in what has been a perfectly pleasant conversation only to ruin it, consider me out.

    #30 2 years ago
  31. DSB

    To that extent we totally agree. I don’t think there’s any way to avoid consoles morphing into much broader entertainment centres. The single-purpose console is a dead man walking.

    It just doesn’t make sense anymore to have a big box laying around that only does one thing.

    Console choice is ultimately hourses for courses – PS3 and 360 are both perfectly functional machines, with a few minor pros and cons – but I do think it’s a pretty good measure of any interface to count the hoops it makes you jump through. On a Wii you have everything right there on the front page. On a 360 you’re fucking through fans and menus and then even more menus.

    And then the common ground is that all of their download services are terrible. I just don’t understand why consoles don’t feel the need to keep up with everybody else.

    I don’t think you’ll ever escape the console fanboys though. I think they’ve gotten a lot more entertaining since I’ve started viewing them as religious people, since that’s basically what they are.

    Just guys standing on the side of the road with loud signs saying “GOD HATES XBOTS!” or “GOD HATES SONY FANBOYS!”

    I think that puts them in with the right crowd :P

    #31 2 years ago
  32. Gheritt White

    Heh, I just hate people who think God’s on their side ;)

    And yes, the current X360 dash is *dreadful*! I much preferred the NXE to this Metro garbage. But, like you say, it’s all personal preference and I’m sure somebody out there (…anyone? … Bueller?) absolutely adores it.

    God help them ;)

    #32 2 years ago
  33. absolutezero

    I just thought I would pop in and mention that I adore thing that are dedicated to one specific purpose. Its why I love my Zippo.

    I enjoy owning things, actual things I can touch and smell and handle. I adore the ritual of unboxing, changing discs, artwork. I own a tonne of artbooks for just that reason.

    I love books I don’t want talking books on legs with a built in torch or glow in the dark text in case I want to read in the dark.

    Im sure as hell going to miss mods aswell.

    To me its like Magic the Gathering being completely replaced by the digital version. The games of Games Workshop being Blood Bowl style game versions with no more models being produced. Board games boiled down to iwhatever versions because they are cheaper to produce and more profit inclined. All books are now kindle versions. Theres nothing in your house apart from a pile of tablets and a couple of controllers.

    I can’t wait. :(

    Actually saying that the large pile of vinyl sitting to my left gives me a little hope that this dead medium might well live on in some sort of indie, self funded zombie being.

    #33 2 years ago
  34. DSB

    Do you have one of those old analogue phones with the rotary dial too? :P

    #34 2 years ago
  35. ManuOtaku

    I dont think this will be the case, especially if nintendo brings consoles that are very different in comparision with what is available in the market, and also bring to the table new ways of playing games, and i think the other consoles should also need to go this way, i mean having great graphics, but also inserting new ways to gaming, that will keep them long time in this industry.

    I dont think cloud gaming will replace in boxed consoles for what i did mentioned above, and because we dont know yet the techs that are going to be available in the future to keep them in consoles the box, for example holographics, a console that is a box that doesnt need a tv that can project the image ( ala star wars chess game), and/or any new tech we dont know about yet,but that can make consoles in box feasable to the eyes of the consumer, therefore theres a lot of possibilities to keep consoles in a box, cloud services will have is share of the market, like ios, etc, but i think consoles as in box devices will have always a technical egde that will make them stay for long times, at least that is what i hope for, the more choices we have the better, but with consoles in box too in the market, so everybody wins.

    #35 2 years ago
  36. absolutezero

    Oh man I wish I had one of those old phones! I wonder how much they cost actually…

    #36 2 years ago