Posted by: seanmalstrom | December 27, 2009

Email: The last bit of sanity

Hello there Sean,

You’re getting flooded with e-mails right now no doubt. And all of them begging you not to stop(or at least, I think you’re getting a lot of e-mails).
The gist of this mail is just that: don’t stop. Over the last few months, you’ve become the last bit of sanity on the complete internet. Someone who does not troll people who have a Wii. Someone who sees the expanded audience for who they really are. And finally, the man who guided me to Blue Ocean Strategy and soon The Innovator’s Dillemma.

Not because Nintendo did it with the DS or the Wii. Not because Miyamoto is a god who created Mario and Wii Fit. But because you explained in clear terms what it means to serve customers.

Reading through all of your blog posts and older articles has been very informing and has made me consider going into business myself. IN GAMING that is. I don’t have any experience whatsoever with developing games. But that doesn’t matter because it’s not the developer that matters now is it? It’s the consumer right? All I know is that the passion for gaming IS there. I know the passion for seeing people enjoy games IS there.
I know the passion is there to disrupt(and don’t you laugh!) Nintendo. Why not? If you look at how hard Nintendo tried in the SNES days with Sega, you see a lot of quality software. Yes, all of it in the Red Ocean. But all of those games where still very much polished to perfection. Imagine of someone disrupted Nintendo. How hard they would have to try to recapture that audience.

But anyway, please don’t stop. Even if Nintendo is part of the problem, is it really Nintendo that you’ve been blogging for? I thought you made it clear that you blogged for the expanded audience. I thought you blogged because you enjoyed telling people about disruption, Blue Ocean, what makes games SELL rather than get high scores in games magazine’s and websites.

There are just not enough writers like you. The only ones who come close are Jeremy Parish and Bob Chipman from the GameOverthinker but they never wrote about the business side of things. I wish to know more about the coöption of disruptions, more about the wheel of disruption. But not just by professor Clayton Christensen, but by you. I know you’ll hate me for saying this but the way you write just makes me laugh.

So please, don’t stop just yet. I can get you not buying anymore Wii games, I can even get that these new game cases essentially mean that Nintendo is giving up on disruption.(seeing as that Disruption is all about the lower markets BUT ALSO the consumer). I know it angers you but please, I can’t stand the idea of going back after all those years that you’ve written everything about Disruption and Blue Ocean.
It isn’t about the game cases in themselves. It is about how no one seems willing, of any game company including Nintendo, to fight for the consumer experience. We’re not gamers anymore. We are just revenue streams.
One of the things Nintendo did, very correctly, was to place DS cartridges in little cases as opposed to the cardboard of the GBA games. Imagine if these DS cases suddenly began having holes in them in order for less plastic to ‘save money’. Eventually, there is going to be a breaking point where you say, “This is so absurd. I’m not buying this anymore…” The point is going to be different for everyone. I’ve hit it.
Some people wonder how the packaging of a game can be an issue. This isn’t like the awful American packaging for a Wii controller or something else that shreds your hands. You throw that stuff away because you don’t need to store the controller. But the game disc needs to be stored.

In a perfect world, we would be getting nice Neo Geo type cases. But I do next expect a perfect world. But I do expect a functional world. Those green cases are not even functional. They are fine for those DVD movies in the bargain bin in Wal-Mart where you spend $5 on, but for a $50 game, you want it to last many years. It will not last many years in that type of case.

It is a broken case. Imagine buying Zelda Wii with a case like that. What is next? Paper envelopes as game cases?

And despite agreeing with the above, people wonder why someone like me could get angry over this. Let me refresh their memory. As stated above, Nintendo completely redid the handheld game packaging from the GBA to DS to better fit with new audiences. GBA packaging was cheaper, but they thought the move increased the experienced. I enjoy storing my DS cases up like a book where with the GBA you would only have a pile of cartridges.

Miyamoto made a big deal that Mario 5 came in a red case. The red case was to be the ‘special thing’ to mark the return of classic Mario to the home console after being gone 18 years. Now, I don’t believe for a minute that this was any great expense as children’s Wii games can also come in a case with a completely different color. But, just as recently as a few months ago, Nintendo said the case was important.

Now, apparently, they don’t care. I do not like it when a company says one thing and does another.

I also remember Reggie Fils-Aime wishing to get rid of used games. This caused such a commotion that Iwata had to make a statement.

When I read Iwata’s “statement”, a lightbulb went off in my head. The ‘green cases’ could very well be embraced as an attack on used games. In other words, it is intentional for the game cases to fall apart. The consumer sees no deterioration in quality from used games, said Iwata. Making crap cases would be a quick way to create deterioration in used games.

The “Game Industry” despises Used Games more than anything. They believe, erroneously, that Used Games are taking away from New Game sales. The truth is that behind every Used Game sale is a dissatisfied customer as all gamers want to buy games they keep and play forever. “Industry” doesn’t know how to make such games. Used Games are the only protection a consumer has against hype and marketing the Industry bombards at the poor consumers.

As an anti-Industry flag waver, I probably should welcome crappy cases. They will result in less game sales which means faster death to the Industry. But as a consumer I do not like it at all.

This site may stay around but it won’t be advocating Nintendo as it once did. The only reason to advocate Nintendo was because they were actively disrupting the Industry and messing the system up. Everyone needs to be prepared for Nintendo to abandon this move and rejoin the industry. Earlier, I was unsure of which way Nintendo would go. They were at a fork in a road. The road to disruption is very chilly and lonely indeed. But it has the warmth of customers.

Nintendo believes they can get the industry praise they want and not lose their new customers. They will be proven to be very wrong. DS was successful because the DS is a monopoly. In America, only kids use the DS and the PSP wasn’t even trying to compete with children. The Expanded Audience and the Industry cannot be reconciled.

The Expanded Audience consists of two types of people: the former gamers and brand new gamers. The former gamers (such as myself) and the Industry cannot be brought together on a platform because former gamers left gaming precisely because of the Industry. The new gamers and the Industry cannot be brought together on a platform because the Industry creates too much stigma. Just try to invite grandma into playing the xbox 360.

Microsoft is learning that devices like Natal cannot coexist with the Industry gamers. The hardcore throw a tantrum about Natal “polluting” their pure and pristine console. But new gamers are put off by the stigma that is on the Xbox 360. Microsoft knows it has to do a total rebrand in order to become successful with the new gamers. But it would alienate their current customers. Oh, what a problem it all is.

I have some theories as to why Nintendo intends to abandon disrupting the industry but that is for another time. And there is much vanity involved in their decision.

As Nintendo abandons its disruption and treats the console as if it had a life cycle of the Gamecube or N64 or SNES and not for what it actually is, this site will become anti-Nintendo. It is because I am anti-Industry. I was very much opposed to Nintendo’s direction of the N64 and Gamecube. Their sales got smaller and smaller and it took them over a decade to realize they were on the wrong track.

I believe Nintendo has a 2006 mindset. They have not realized why the Wii was successful beyond their projections. Therefore, they have not internalized the reasoning of the Wii success into future products or future hardware. You could tell Nintendo hadn’t a clue why people were buying the Wii when they adopted the User Generated Content philosophy which created nothing but turd games. Remember, when this generation began Nintendo didn’t understand why Mario sold. They thought Galaxy would be doing Mario 5’s numbers. They did not understand why consumers were not buying their 3d Mario.To this day, they just say 2d Mario is “more accessible” which is not why people are buying it in the slightest.

Nintendo does not see that they have lost trust from many consumers in how they are not fulfilling the potential of the Wii. Wii never sold due to Wii Sports. Wii sold because Wii Sports promised a new experience of video games. Wii Sports was an appetizer from a new restaurant promising new dishes. Consumers are quite annoyed that this restaurant isn’t making any new dishes.

To show how behind Nintendo is, when motion plus was released, people expected Nintendo to have more motion controlled games ready or at least in the making. Nintendo had a very different idea. They decided to wait to see how people would respond to motion plus first. Since games take two years development time, this meant consumers would have to wait at least two years since motion plus was “received by the market” in order to truly take advantage of it. Any game prior to that would have motion plus ‘tacked on’ and not truly designed around the game.

How blind can a company be? Why else were people buying the Wii if not to experience motion controlled games? Of course, Motion Plus was going to be a huge success. And people demand more. But Nintendo is so far behind that they associate Wii’s success only to ‘accessibility’. People left gaming because games stopped exploring the medium of gaming and started imitating movies. The only way for games to compete with movies if for games to be game-like and cease being movie-like. This is why Wii Sports resonated. This is why consumers interpreted the Wii’s motion controls as to explore and carve out the medium of gaming in a new way. Nintendo does not see this at all.

I saw a recent interview with Reggie Fils-Aime. The people he was talking with were bringing up Atari. Reggie replied with talking about the Virtual Console. No! Reggie doesn’t get it! The reason why people are bringing up Atari and comparing it favorably to the Wii was because Atari, and the NES at a time, felt like a gaming movement. There was not a revolution in games. Rather, gaming was the revolution. It was gaming, all sorts of gaming, that was overthrowing other mediums of entertainment from movies, television, and toys.

Gaming was, and still is, the Unexplored Continent. When I see games mimic movies, I am reminded of the first televised news which consisted of news editors gathered around a table talking about the news. Televised news was mimicking radio news because no one understood how to use the medium correctly.

Since gaming is not mainstream, we can only conclude that gaming remains the Unexplored Continent.

Above: Gaming is the Unexplored Continent. It has not been mapped, charted, or even colonized. But one day, this New World will declare separation from Industries whose practices belong to another world.

Hell, Nintendo still doesn’t see games as in the content business. They just see it is nothing more than crafting some gameplay to make a skeleton and then tack on the content afterward. The result are games that make no coherent sense like Mario Galaxy whose game universe is just a potpourri of ‘stuff’ or Spirit Tracks which has a train in an oceanic world. They think they can BS their way through the content. But gamers notice it and feel cheated. It is like an author who cheats the audience by breaking the rules of the book’s universe just to make a character sequence.

One thing I wish to do is to talk more about the consumer experience of gaming, mythos, and how gaming should be a movement and not an industry. Dissolving the industry and returning gaming as a movement is the only way gaming will grow.

I do find quite hilarious is how much the Industry despises this website. They do not debate anything that is said here. Anything that is said here, the response is only “zOMG, he is a fanboy!” to “zOMG, he is insane!” I suspect some people are figuring out what I am doing.

And the Industry has good reason to fear. More than anything else, the Industry fears consumers turning on them as what occurred in the music industry and movie industry. I believe the anti-industry sentiment is already there among consumers. If this site is nothing more than fertilizer to help grow that budding plant, then I am happy to help. The sooner the Industry is broken up, the sooner gaming can grow again.

It is amazing how much impact this little website has had. Even people who profess to hate me and everything I say keep reading it. Look how obsessed this one guy is. He is literally jumping to make a thread about me on GAF!

Here I am, minding my own business, just posting articles and thoughts. I don’t go to other message forums to post them. I don’t post in comments on other sites. I just stay on my site. Yet, this website is driving some people literally insane. I love it!

I think a big part of it is a juvenile desire for groupthink. Weak minds fall prey to groupthink. The Industry has tried to exploit this with using peer pressure on game journalists to now even gamers (as with Xbox Live) to get everyone to “groupthink” a game is going to be big and must be bought immediately. These people just can’t stand someone, alone, not participating in the ‘groupthink’. But seriously, why do we need every game site to sound the same and speak the same things? Why must every game console be exactly alike? Why must every game be like one another?

Anyway, I plan to stick around but in a different nature. I’d rather stop this blog to make articles as blog writing breeds bad habits. But I do get a sort of perverse pleasure tweaking these Industry people off. I guess I would too be pissed when someone’s typical blog post would say more about the nature of gaming than a game journalist’s entire career.



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