In Nintendo Land (the delusion, not the video game), Nintendo thinks we buy video games and game consoles for ‘surprise’ and newness. Is this true? What does the data of history tell us?
The data tells us that people buy consoles primarily to play OLD games. It is for games people have already tried out and feel safe with their quality. Without old games, there would be no console market.
This game established the home console market. Atari 2600 sales took off when Space Invaders came out. Space Invaders was an OLD game, not a new game. Everyone played it in the arcades. Why did they buy the Atari 2600? Because they wanted to OWN it. It was the same for the home version of PONG.
The reason why the game consoles existed all the way up to and through the 16-bit generation was to play arcade games at home. Consoles were the MEANS to game ownership. You can’t own the arcade game. But you can with the port on the game console. How many people bought a 16-bit console for the home version of Street Fighter 2? Tons. How many people bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game for the NES? Many. The sales show much interest in these arcade ports.
But according to Nintendo ideology, this should not happen. Arcade ports are not ‘new’. They are not ‘surprising’. Yet. they defined how the market worked for consoles.
And if people want ‘new’ and ‘surprising’, why are sequels and remakes so popular?
What is the value of a game console? In the 80s and early 90s (and even past then), the game console did become more than a box you buy to get to the game. The game console meant OWNERSHIP. You can’t own the arcade games. You had to pay to play. But with the game on the console, you only had to pay once and you could play the game as much as you wanted.
Even with the Wii sales, people bought it after playing the game somewhere else. Consumers buy game consoles when they are secure of the experience they will get… often comes from a game they’ve played (or sequel like Super Mario World).
The issue of ownership will dominate everything in the Eighth Generation. The trend of the Game Industry is for us to not own our games. Digital distribution is threatening to eliminate ownership altogether. And when this happens, it will eliminate the console. The entire reason why the console came into existence was to create ownership of games. The console has no value if I can’t own the game. Did the Neo-Geo’s original plan of only being rented work? No. Everyone wanted to buy it.
If game ownership is attacked, I fear consoles will retreat.