Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nintendo's Best Bet: Kid Friendly E-Readers

Nintendo's DS with 3-D is a failure. Fears by parents (who buy the things, after all) over seizures and the like limited its sales. Another round of price cuts from $249 to $169, have failed to boost sales. Nintendo has always been the cheaper, affordable, and kid-friendly (no violent stuff for parents who buy the systems anyway) gaming system. That strategy, along with intensive in-house development and integration, has allowed Nintendo to survive when other systems dropped out, were absorbed, or destroyed by larger competitors (mostly Sony and Microsoft). Now of course cheap games on Iphones are really hurting both the Wii and 3DS. But Nintendo has a secret weapon, if only it unleashes it. Books!


E-books are becoming the dominant way in which Americans buy books. Its convenient, fast, and much, much cheaper. With library lending already here for e-pub (Nook and the like) and coming for the Kindle (mobi format), you don't even have to go to your Library. Just download the book from your computer. E-books are cheap, with many free versions of the classics, and other low-cost options of back catalog books. Nintendo has seriously missed an opportunity.

Currently Amazon is the dominant e-reader, but it has an appeal mostly to older, and female consumers. No surprise there, Women account for 80% of the fiction market. Look at the Kindle Ads on TV. They all feature (hot young) women. A kids oriented reader, cheap and good enough, would do well. Particularly if it played kid-friendly, non-violent games (parents are not too keen on shoot-em-up, beat the prostitute to death, games like Grand Theft Auto) and was ... cheap.

Right now, the Kindle with Special Offers is at $114. Of course it needs a cover, and a light for night-reading. But that's cheap. Nintendo could offer a DS, without 3-D (who cares, really) for around $120 with a larger screen, in color, aimed at combining kids reading with educational games. Chess, backgammon, Go, Chinese Checkers, Scrabble, and the like. Currently people are laboriously hacking "homebrew" solutions to read books on their Nintendo DS systems. That's ridiculous. Nintendo ought to offer a cartridge for them, sold off their own website and through retailers, to read e-books. While using their own advantage (in-house engineering staff) to combine cheap/easy gaming and e-books. Bonus if the system reads both e-pub and Kindle mobi format.

E-readers are all targeted at adult women, and that leaves boys and young girls out in the cold. There is a market gap, in which Nintendo can challenge the Ipad and Iphone. No one wants to read a novel on their phone, or much less have their kid reading Treasure Island on it while they need to make a call. A price point of say, $120 that includes games no parent could object to ("Chess makes your kids smarter") and a way of transferring e-books already purchased onto the system, is a no brainer. [Likely a usb-adapter to connect a cartridge to a computer, in a simple file transfer system.] Meanwhile take money put on the table by current Nintendo DS users who would go to the trouble of doing a "homebrew" system. Allow the current DS systems to become e-readers officially, with a Nintendo sanctioned and supported cartridge.

The 3-D bet has obviously failed. Time for Nintendo to do something else. Someone will make a kid-oriented E-reader. It might as well be them.

9 comments:

Jesus Christ Supercop said...

Phone games are no threat to dedicated gaming consoles, least of all home console like the Wii. The DS was extremely successful even though iPhones have been around for over four years now. The 3DS is failing because it's focused on 3D gaming and 3D output. The former isn't too popular on portable systems (Sony's PSP has half the sales of the DS), and nobody gives a shit about the latter. The Wii U will probably fail too.

Nintendo's problem is that they have lost the plot. The Wii and DS were enormously successful yet now Nintendo is going in the exact opposite direction, seemingly in an effort to reach bankruptcy as soon as possible. They have gone crazy.

I don't know if e-books would be successful on the DS. It's not exactly an ideal way to read for prolonged periods of time, and what child will read an e-book when he could be playing Super Mario instead?

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Anonymous said...

Nintendo suffers from the same problem that like everybody is suffering from, that is there are no good paying jobs for most people.

A lot of people would love the latest toys but simply can't buy them.

No middle, much smaller business. Its really that simple and when these companies go out of business, well I'll enjoy the schadenfreude.

Jesus Christ Supercop said...

As I said, the Wii and DS have sold extremely well. The Wii has also been cheaper than the competition. So people not being able to afford this stuff is not the problem.

Nintendo might conceivably go out of business one day, but for Sony and Microsoft gaming consoles are just one aspect of their enormous businesses.

Anonymous said...

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XYKRokgX00

Anonymous said...

"Nintendo might conceivably go out of business one day, but for Sony and Microsoft gaming consoles are just one aspect of their enormous businesses."

I don't think they'll go out of business. In a worst case scenario, I could see them getting out of the console business and focusing on developing games for other platforms, like Atari and Sega did.

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