Results for category "Video Games"

Remember when Nintendo was relevant?

Matt Riggleman 5 Comments

Recently,Nintendo has been in the news, first, for their latest foray into the gaming arena, the Wii U .. and 2nd because they posted their first loss. I want to be excited. I grew up with Nintendo. I feel like I knew who  Mario was before I could walk. I’ve been playing video games since I was 3, and I played Nintendo first. Now at 29, (sigh…) I want to get excited about the new P.U…I mean..Wii U…but I can’t…and though I’m quick to say it’s because I’m getting older..I just don’t think that’s what it is.

As a marketer, I look for ways to spin things in a way that presents them in a unique fashion, to the audience I’m trying to impress. Nintendo was the master of this. Beginning in 1985, they offered the first video game system to truly become ubiquitous. There were literally 1000s of titles (Check this out..and they don’t even claim to have the entire list). Every kid that was born in the 80s has at least one original theory on how to get their NES to play. Personally I preferred hitting the cartridge on the floor a few times, then hitting the reset button 3 times. Mario, and Link to an extent became cultural icons. Then came the Gameboy and SNES..further spreading Nintendo’s brand and carving (the first) niche into portable gaming. Nintendo then reached a point where their brand was so strong, people like me bought their latest systems just because they were available. But what did they do that was so special?

Nintendo understood before anyone else the value of gameplay and game mechanics 

Nintendo got this. Immediately. And it worked for a very long time. They knew that if they could reward you…and this is the key part…quickly….and meaningfully..you would enjoy the game and continue to play it. More importantly, this worked for EVERYONE…not just hardcore gamers. Think about it. It felt great to jump the flag pole in Mario 1…and you got to do that in EVERY level. Everything action created a reaction and a reward – the sound that was produced when you crushed a goomba…the sound when you grabbed a fire flower…and that just made you strive for more. Actually beating the game was just icing on the cake. Now, compare this to Sonic the Hedgehog..which represented the first challenge to Nintendo’s dominance. You collected rings..freed small animals, and spun a sign at the end of each board. The small rewards just aren’t there. It’s just not the same…and Sega eventually sold to Nintendo.

Each action was its own reward..and like rats..we continued to hit the feeder button.

Eventually the Xbox and Playstation came along to challenge Nintendo’s dominance. The Xbox has traditionally been niche marketed to the more advanced gamer. Their games require a greater amount of control, feature greater graphics, a higher price tag, and a general perception that they’re just a little too involved for the casual gamer. The Playstation was a great system but suffers the same fault…they just weathered it for awhile because they attracted a lot of great games because it was so cheap to produce a CD rather than a cartridge. Both great systems, but they never (and won’t ever) mobilize the world.

Nintendo launched the original Wii in 2006 and they sold a buttload. The unique motion controller gave the casual gamer a new, original way to play games..and living rooms around the world welcomed a Wii console. Moms became energized to get them..they were popping up in old folks homes..and this was unique even for Nintendo. They had truly created a system that EVERYONE could enjoy..and this  was the pinnacle of over 20 years of work.

But then something happened.

Like cheap Chinese knockoffs, companies began to understand that it wasn’t about the graphics..or content…it was only about the reward..and…to a lesser extent…the ability to rub that reward in your friends’ faces. And, as Nintendo understood, this combo works for EVERYONE, not just already established gamers. Just check out this story on the now-famous cow-clicker game on Facebook.

This theivery of Nintendo’s “secret sauce”… coincidentally coincided with the Wi-fi boom and the launch of those little Gameboy killers – Smartphones.

Companies like Apple & Facebook began to make it simple for game designers to crank out quick, low cost games that could be distributed fast & cheaply to a growing market of smartphone (and now tablet) owners & social networks.

To add insult to injury..all of those kids that grew up with the “hit the feeder button” mentality that Nintendo bred into us..were now old enough to buy these devices..and we are because the quick reward mentality is bred into us.

Why the Wii U Will Be the First Nintendo System since Virtual Boy to Flop

Because it’s going to target a niche market with features that don’t matter or already exist and are too advanced for the casual owner. Just take a look at the features –

1080P – It’s totally cool if your TV has it..but the masses don’t care. Facebook & Smartphones have proven this. And, Nintendo agreed, until now (no system has gone over 720P res).

TouchScreen Controller – I already have an Ipad2 and touchscreen is awesome..but how does this spell unique gaming experience?

You Can Write on it – Nice, but why would my Mom buy this?

Different information on the controller than the TV – Again, sounds kinda cool, but it’s a little too much going on for the casual gamer.

It doesn’t appear to be tied to social networks – Maybe it is and I haven’t seen it yet..but EVERYBODY wants to share EVERYTHING now. A lot of the preview videos discuss how this  system will offer a “new unique” experience. Yeah..pretty sure people like to share those these days.

Where does Nintendo go from here?

License their content to smartphones, streaming services etc. en masse – For the masses, it’s no longer about the medium..it’s about the message (Thank you Marshall Mccluhen). They want their games wherever they are first and foremost..even if that means sacrificing graphics. Plus, all of we Nintendo fanboys are older now…we’d love to play our favorite games on the devices we already have (can I get a Bubble Bobble app?!)..not just on the newer Nintendo consoles. Quit forcing us to illegally download emulators..charge us a small price for  our favorites..optimized for phones and tablets. Set me up a Netflix-like feed to a low-cost box that lets me access EVERYTHING from EVERY prior console…and I will subscribe. And those in my generation will subscribe too.  Anybody remember Sega Channel? Let’s get on this Nintendo! I pose this question – would you pay $10 a month to stream any Nintendo or super Nintendo game on your Ipad or WiiU? Yup…I think I would.

Socialize EVERYTHING – This is where everything is going. Nintendo needs to provide the tools for game players to A. Play their entire catalog easily from anywhere..and B. Share these experiences with friends. It is no longer about the console system..it is about the games..and nobody has EVER done games better than Nintendo. When’s the last time you’ve seen a game update, other than a Facebook app…on your wall? I would have told the world when I beat Mike Tyson…..[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hu69QEHhvNo]

Suck the price out so much, that even casual gamers may try – They did a great job doing this with the Wii in comparison to the options available at the time. Unfortunately, now it’s tougher. How do you compete with smartphone apps..or even smartphones for that matter. The simple fact that people NEED a phone..puts it ahead of a game system even without price concerns. And this economic recession isn’t going anywhere…

Nintendo’s been around a long time so there’s no reason to panic just yet. But the storm clouds are gathering – don’t let this be their flagpole moment.

Until next time  –

MR


Video Gaming: The System

Matt Riggleman 0 Comments

It’s cold out. When it’s cold out, I start playing video games a bit more. As many of those who know me freely observe, I’m a recluse a lot of the time, and no more is this reclusiveness more prevalent but in the cold.

So, this year so far, in the absence of warm weather, any regular Frisbee, Softball, an active Fantasy league, non-busy “let’s go to a bar and get a beer” friends or anything else that really demands my attention after work during the week, I’ve started playing “Rainbow 6 Vegas” for the Xbox 360. For those that don’t know their video games, Rainbow 6 is kind of a swat-team-like take on the traditional 1st person shooter. Though not as readily discussed as they absolutely phenomal Call of Duty 4, Rainbow 6 provides a more realistic AI, and (with the exception of COD4 on Xbox Live) a way more enjoyable “Terrorist Hunt” multi-player option that takes advantage of these intelligent computer dudes. I played the multi-player first, so I naturally figured I’d like the single player campaign too. Well, that was a yes and a no.

As I’ve written before in previous debunked blogs here, I’ve come to believe that the fascination with video games lies with the fact that it’s a way of achieving quick victories and reward. People love the ability to feel vindicated quickly: I mean, if you think about it, normally these possibilities don’t exist all that frequently.  However Rainbow 6 added an important extra facet to this theory for me.

Now I’m an expert at games. Seriously, this isn’t a boast. Malcolm Gladwell in his new book “Outliers” points out that the magic number of hours to be an expert at something (Including the Beatles, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs..etc. etc..) appears to be 10,000 hours of practice. Well, I started at age 3 (A shame I can’t parlay into something more than witty blog entries..doh!) but this one got to me.

The damn game didn’t play be the rules!

For those at all familiar with video games and even computers in general, they’re all based around predictable algorithms: sooner or later good gamers will figure out the pattern and effectively “game the system” if you will. This is why good gamers are always able to run under Koopa’s legs in Mario 1. This is why in James Bond 64, you can clear out an entire room of guys by getting them to run out the door when you fire an unsilenced weapon. To take it from a movie standpoint, Morpheus states that the Agents can never be as good as The One because they’re based in a world that has RULES. Morpheus also patented the behind the back arm fold, which in itself was absolutely amazing.

But Rainbow 6 was beyond that, and it was truly maddening. I found myself yelling and cursing circa: 1996 Matt Horn. The game continued to cheat me by firing through walls, planting extra quiet grenades, and literally beaming in bad guys out of no where. The bad guys never appeared at the same place twice, and the kinds of actions that would’ve emptied a room in James Bond 64, just made the bad guys in the other room curse at you (literally).  Now I am all for progressive games that figure out how to get around earlier games’ falicies, but this one took it too far for me. I chalked it up to bad programming rather than intuitive, in part because if this WAS so real, why didn’t games like COD4 employ such an intelligent engine?

Regardless of the reasoning, I learned another plausible reason why people continue to play games endlessly: Simple predictability. Where the common perception is that we guys run out and pick up the latest copy of Halo or Madden to enjoy an all-new gaming experience, we still rely on the same predicable algorithm running in the background that we’ll eventually be able to “game.”

Which brings up obvious question: what happens when games are too good to be gamed?

It’s coming. Computer technology grows in leaps and bounds monthly. But will complex AI games really be as popular?  Based on my recent experience, I’d say certainly not. The recent resurgence of old classics and back-to-basics games that companies like Nintendo stake their fortunes on, makes me think I’m on to something too.

Needless to say I’ll never play Rainbow 6 one-player again…

In other news,

Happy Birthday to my buddy Nate Fish who’s the first of us to 26. Thanks for introducing me to the would-be-my-mom’s-favorite-bar The Jukebox too buddy..haha It was cool to see some friends I haven’t seen in awhile too.

My other friend Rachael recently started her blog here: Rachael’s Blog….check it out and post some feedback. According to her, it’s basically going to be about simple introspection, but, like me, she tends to get pretty detailed about the simple stuff, so it’ll probably be a good read.

Got sucked into a Rocky Marathon this past weekend..again. The Rockys with the exception of Rocky 5 and Rocky 3 if there’s ANYTHING else on TV, are high on the list of Movie’s You Can’t Not Watch. Which made me wonder: why does Rocky get INSANELY beat up in the first couple, but seemingly stronger fighters Clubber and Drago don’t appear to really damage him all that much? I mean, sure he’s in the hospital with brain damage at the beginning of 5, but he still has enough sense and energy at the end of 4 to give the whole “If I Can Change, and U Can Change..” speech. Also, by far my favorite character in any of these movies is Apollo’s-turned-Rocky’s trainer Duke. No one shows even a tenth as much emotion as this guy does, particularly in Rocky 4. I mean, even with the death of Apollo and impossible Rocky/Drago match on the table, I STILL think this guy throws out too much emotion, and that’s why he’s the man. It’s single-handedly the greatest emotional display to ever exist in a movie without murder involved. Anyway, I digress. Thanks to Bill Simmons, once again for sharing this great scene-by-scene remake of the “No Easy Way Out” montage in Rocky 4. Hilarious.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw-hy4ds3nI]

Until next time,

MR