Nintendo woes

Thoughts that came to mind having read the following articles about the Gamecube:
GAME refusing to stock Modem and Broadband Adaptors
Dixons clearing out Gamecube

Question – Are Microsoft responsible for GAME’s attitude towards the Gamecube?

Microsoft do have a great deal to do with it, but I suspect not directly. They will give GAME and dixons the best terms they can, the best point of sale possible, and negotiate shelf space because they have the market share in overall terms (i.e. all software they supply as well as xbox hardware) to do that. Nintendo just doesn’t have the same leverage, cold hard fact.

Question – Are Nintendo to blame for GAME’s attitude towards the Gamecube?

Nintendo Europe’s attitude to their European user base is frankly shocking. Great games are being held back, like Animal Crossing. Nintendo should have had a AAA game out at Christmas. They released Mario in October, and then the next equivalent game, Metriod Prime, is out in a couple of weeks. Their timing is shocking. Christmas is all important, certainly from the point of view of the big electrical retailers. This is where nearly 50% of sales for a year are done. It is that skewed. If you have a must-have title in the shops timed to hit for that period, you can substantially increase your hardware and software sales if you get things right. Everyone in the industry knows it, so you can’t guarantee it will work. BUT IF YOU DON’T DO ANYTHING THEN IT DEFINITELY WON’T, AND YOU WILL MISS OUT. Both GAME and the Dixon’s Group complained of poor console sales over Christmas 2002.

Animal Crossing is a localisation problem, in that in order to be profitable, they feel that every game must be released in all of Europe. Now animal crossing is heavily text based, so lots of localisation costs for multiple languages. The thing they are missing out on is that, shit, just release it in English, sell plenty, be happy.

GAME are being thick about the Gamecube adaptors, claiming that they will not stock it until they have seen for definite that it works. This doesn’t stop them stocking the majority of PC games, which often are sold with a mulitude of bugs, which the developers fix at a later date. Also they are advertising Xbox live kits (more about that later). I think there is a battle of wills going on, I got the impression that GAME was angry with Nintendo over the lack of info and promotion from ninty on several counts. I actually mailed GAME about the gc broadband adaptor last week, to ask them what was going on, and they said then that their buying department had had no information from Nintendo about it at all. This was about 4 days before release. I actually believe them on this, so it does make you wonder what is going on.

Question – are Dixons being short sighted in ditching the Gamecube?

More importantly, do I care if it means I can get some cheap games and accessories? I can understand Dixons logic here, having been in their line of business at one time. Carrying large ranges of software for several diff platforms is expensive, you end up with a lot of unsold software knocking around. Dixons like to reduce wastage as much as possible, they are more of a pile em high sell em (relatively) cheap (but don’t forget your 5 year warranty) merchant than most people who sell consoles, so at the first signs of problems with a product line they are more likely to get the hell out than most. Its more a philosophical approach to stock than being dismissive of Nintendo, even if it does make my heart heavy.

Question – What positives can be taken from all this for fans of the Nintedo Gamecube?

Well for one, dixon’s and GAME’s market shares are falling at the moment, as mentioned earlier. But that market share was 45% in 2001, so it will have a long way to fall yet.

For another, Xbox Live has a few fatal flaws. There are fantastic reports about it, and by all accounts it is well put together. But:

  • Voice communications takes up shitloads of bandwidth, and with the broadband providers like NTL imposing download limits of max of a gig a day, it could cause problems getting it off the ground
  • You can’t use a USB modem with it. Almost all new installs of NTL and Telewest broadband use a USB modem, on the basis it is easier to install (which is just and right for PC’s). If you have a USB modem you will have to pass the connection through a PC. Which is pointless.
  • Word is that it is an arse to integrate into a game. I’ve heard tell that in some cases it could add an extra year to the development time of games. A whole year. In other words, no way in hell are all developers going to use Xbox live.

If online console gaming takes off with a must-have game, like say, Pokemon Online, it could turn the tables substantially. I personally think that this might be our last hope for GC. Pokemon Online. There is a GC pokemon game announced, with bugger all detail known about it so far (thank you Nintendo). It will sell amazingly no matter what (in Japan Pokemon Sapphire and Ruby have sold 4 million copies). No one knows for definite if it will be online, but that is the knowledgeable rumour, and it makes good sense. It could well be the equivalent of Pokemon Stadium for ruby and sapphire, but with online fights too. We’ll see.

But if its not, and if Nintendo don’t pull their finger out soon, it will go the way of the Dreamcast, much loved, well designed, let down by poor marketing and decision-making.