In 2006 when the Wii was launched, the ‘serious talk’ on the Gaming Message Forums was tech talk. Each console’s innards were dissected, the flops were analyzed, compared, and all of that. Any ‘business talk’ only came in responses to sales reports and maybe looking at the sales reports in a financial statement. When Nintendo executives talked ‘disruption’ and ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’, it flew over everyone’s heads. It was because people were conditioned to think only in the context of CONSOLE WAR!!!1!!! which meant looking at sales (the metric to determine the winners and losers of the CONSOLE WAR!!!1!!!) and the hardware components (the perceived engine of the players in the CONSOLE WAR!!!1!!!).
Business strategy was not comprehended because the hardcore saw themselves as the Only Consumers. Now that they realize there are many different consumers out there, and many consumers who are currently non-consumers but can become gamers with the right game, business strategy is now seen as important. Unfortunately, it is still incomprehensible so our hardcore friends can only use black and white contexts such as ‘CASUALS VERSUS HARDCORE’. Six years ago, they believed there was only one type of gamer. Now, they believe there are two. At least it is some form of improvement.
Today, I hear much about people trying to break down the ‘business strategies’ of the companies. And, which is a scary turn of events, every gamer is now acting as a consultant to the game company. It seems like every message forum post or review acts like the game company is reading their text and listening to their advice. Perhaps it would be more constructive to act as gamers and allow the game company to observe gamer behavior. The reason why this change is bad is because gamers who have a grievance are organizing and trying to declare themselves the voice of the ‘community’ (oh, that word!).
Let me give an example. If the Internet was as prevalent as it is today back in the early 1990s, Super Mario World would have been slammed by gamers upset of the lack of the raccoon tail. And Super Mario Brothers 3 would have been slammed by gamers upset by the lack of choosing different characters as was done in Super Mario Brothers 2. In the old days, if we didn’t like a video game we would just make our own (this is how Sid Meir became a game developer). Today, people organize around a grievance and keep repeating it ad naseum until the game company ‘obeys’. If you don’t like a game, don’t buy it. The lack of sales says more than anything ever written on the Internet.
However, it is the general ‘game business analyst’ behavior I wish to address. Instead of a game journalist giving us a preview about a game, they feel they must include a business analysis of the game as well. Reviewers and commentators no longer review or comment, they give us a business analysis of the product.
Business analysis truly revolves around ONE THING: the ability to see the future. What do you think is the true job of the executives at these game companies? Or any business? Their job is to see the future. Iwata’s job is to not just read ‘business analysis’, he must make a DECISION about the FUTURE. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs could both ‘see the future’ which was the main reason behind their success. Many other decision makers then could not see the future. “Personal computers becoming popular? NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!” Goodbye, IBM. Hello Apple and Microsoft.
If you wish to help out the decision makers at these game companies, tell them what the future will be. This will force you to put yourself on a limb. You could be very wrong. Since the typical Internet writer is more interested in looking superior to everyone else, they will rarely risk being wrong.
So how did I do it? I kept in mind that if I am wrong, the worse that happens is people making fun of me. But I’ve experienced that enough growing up. But when someone like Iwata is wrong, they lose billions of dollars as well as their reputation and career. This is child’s play compared to the real thing.
What is the future of gaming? Don’t just say it. Declare it! Sound it out in such a way that if you are wrong, people will make fun of you. If you are scared of this, you will never make it in the real world. Word your statements that if you are wrong, rereading what you said makes you sound like an idiot. But if you are right, rereading what you said makes you sound like a genius. Note how there is no in-between. You are going to come out of this as a genius or an idiot. If you aren’t saying anything to make you sound like either after the fact, then you aren’t being bold enough.
When I think of these business runners like Iwata, I remember that if he succeeds he will be considered a genius. If he fails, he will be considered an idiot. There is no in-between. Or as Yamauchi said, “We either rise to heaven or sink to hell.”