In the first part of The New Life of the Portable Game Console, we took a look at the problems facing the DS and PSP and examined the rise to power of the iPhone and iPod. Enough gloom, it’s time to look at the potential advantages that the two companies could take into the fight of the next generation of portable fun.
Countering the “i”nvincible Apple
Apple’s steam rolling juggernaut of the iPhone is bowling over the competition. There’s no denying the adverse effects the bite-sized apps and value meal games have had. The portability, form factor, and convenience have come to play larger roles than Nintendo and Sony could have possibly anticipated. What’s the lowly DS and PSP to do? There are multiple ways to combat Apple in the power struggle…
Gimmicks, gimmicks, gimmicks: The DS itself first sold on a gimmick that Apple, in turn, came and threw back in Nintendo’s face: The touch screen. In my opinion, this is the first true gimmick that sold a portable console. Now look, it’s five years later and the 3DS is basing their success around the consumer buying into the glasses-less 3D technology. It’s a great start, now they just need to keep building slowly on it. Never too much at once. Nintendo does not want to start introducing new features five times a year and wear off all novelty.
Twice a year, they need to roll out a new feature or peripheral at a low cost or as a pack in. It’s worked incredibly well for Pokemon with the Pokewalker and, on the Wii, with Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, and Wii Fit (but at a higher price point). The 3DS and NGP have an advantage here since we all know Apple will not break aesthetic and add anything onto the precious aesthetic form of an iPhone. Now they just need to implement it properly…
The Nostalgia Factor: Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, Pokemon, Samus… they are all tools that need to be welded more effectively to wage the war that Nintendo and Sony needs to recognize. Nintendo could have an amazing bag of tricks to use against Apple. People cherish their precious retro games. I hate to pull out the old remake trick, but in order to create more market penetration, these franchises must see “classic” releases in some sort of Virtual Console support or full retail releases. With the remake of Ocarina of Time coming, why not dig into the old bag of tricks and use Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Earthbound, Smash Bros., or River City Ransom. Everything great must be available.
A good example of this already exists on the PSN with the Playstation Classics. There are a lot of great games that are available and we are still waiting for many more like Tomba! and Mega Man Legends. There are still problems maintaining a constant flow of games, but I can understand some of the hold ups since there are licensing issues and region problems. But this is a major sticking point in the grand picture.
Develop Those Franchise Players: Nintendo has a vault full of franchises to bank on. They have even continued to create more and more in the face of the saturation of games that faced the DS. The classics like Mario still apply, but there are all new franchises like Professor Layton, Brain Age, and Rhythm Heaven. As for Sony, they have far fewer franchise characters to use, but there’s still Ratchet and Clank, Sly, Kratos, and Sackboy. Most of these franchises have seen portable releases coming with their respective problems. Their problem was not quality; the problem was execution.
The sales were not terrible for any of the titles but they certainly weren’t system movers and didn’t each sell multi-millions. Sony needs to develop more franchises, plain and simple. They need the new upcoming Uncharted to move systems. They need to show off to people that the PSP wasn’t a one trick pony. Sony’s commitment has to be better.
Play the Matching Game: The iPhone has an almost constant stream of “solid” releases for it that entice the hoards to pick up and try the games, regardless of innovation and overall user experience. I hate to say this but… Nintendo and Sony need to do this as well. They both need to create a more open experience for developers to seamlessly bring over their creations to the 3DS and NGP. I don’t like it but to make more market penetration for them they need to have a system that is much more convenient, and less intimidating for an average user. The DS was a fantastic machine in terms of bringing in new audiences; now they need to find a way to maintain and grow them.
My Toolbox Is Too Big!: Enough of these damn hardware iterations! There should be only room for two (maybe in a special case three) hardware iterations for any one single platform. The portable systems saw a literal plethora of release with the DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL, PSP-1000, PSP-2000, PSP-3000, and PSPgo. That’s TOO MUCH! How is the average mom supposed to recognize the difference between the 3DS and the DSi they just bought?
“It has 3D? So what? Didn’t we just buy a DS a year ago?”
That is what parents everywhere will be saying in under two months.
Better Games Period: The 3DS and NGP will be a better gaming experience. Period. There’s no argument to be made except that both companies need to pound this into the mindset of a consumer. Just making sure that the right franchises are promoted and made front and center in advertising will hammer this one home.
This is what I think will make a successful portable. Feel free to disagree, but before you protest too loud, there’s one more segment. It’s going to outline:
- What the iPhone has done right
- What Nintendo and Sony have done wrong
- What the future may hold for all three
But that’s all next time…