Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 4, 2011

The Anti-Console

If I had to sum up the reasons why the 3DS is not a ‘winning handheld’ in one sublime phrase, it would be due to the 3DS being an ‘anti-handheld’. The 3DS is not designed to be the best handheld console with high cost, short battery life, focus on Hollywood movie trailers (WTF?), and elements that do not matter to the handheld experience such as 3d output or Spotpass (which is passive, not active to the experience).

If the 3DS was designed to be the best handheld console, it would be cheaper, have better battery life, remove elements that do not add to the handheld experience (3d output), and so on. Handheld history shows this is the way. The Gameboy won over competing handheld consoles because the Gameboy focused on being a better handheld experience, not on being a better ‘console’ experience (e.g. having color screen even though it destroys the battery life).

From Nikkei, which has proven to be a reliable source of news concerning Nintendo hardware, we hear that the controller for Project Cliche (which is what Project Cafe is) will have a camera, a color screen, and a touch screen.

Is this a winning strategy? What would be a winning strategy for a home console?

Home consoles win by doing things only a home console can do. If this is true, then Project Cliche would be an anti-console. It is adopting handheld elements which would make it a poor home console. I am referring to the screen on the controller and the streaming.

There is market data to suggest this will be the outcome. The reason why the PSP and other non-Nintendo handhelds failed was because they were anti-handhelds. They were handhelds that tried to have home console elements instead of focus on handheld elements.

We haven’t seen a home console try to mimic elements of the handheld console before. But if we did, it is probable that the market reaction would be similar to the handheld console trying to adopt home console elements. It would be seen as an anti-console and would be difficult to sell.

I think Nintendo is operating from the wrong premise with the design for Project Cliche. Nintendo is looking at market data that says people do not want to turn on the home console because someone is watching TV or something else. This is why the controllers have a screen so they can ‘stream’.

The winning answer is a home console that adopts the elements of the home console. This would mean many people surrounding one TV playing a game. This would emphasize local multiplayer. This would mean games like Wii Sports, Mario Kart Wii, and Super Mario Brothers 5. Note that these games were most responsible for pushing Wii hardware numbers.

This Project Cliche direction is going to be extremely unsatisfying to people who want a home console experience. Most of all, it will be extremely unsatisfying to the Wii Sports type players. How exactly is Nintendo going to bring the Wii Sports gamers to the Project Cliche?

Does Nintendo even WANT to bring the Wii Sports crowd over?

“Malstrom, that is a ridiculous question. Of COURSE they want those gamers. There are so many of them!”

But it is not a ridiculous question. Look at Super Mario Brothers. Was Nintendo interested in bringing over the Super Mario Brothers players to their new console? They were with the Super Nintendo but that was it. Ever since then, if you were a Super Mario Brothers fan, you were out of luck. Nintendo did not want your business.

If Nintendo could leave behind the Super Mario Brothers audience, they will be willing to leave behind the Wii Sports audience. Some people might be shocked to hear this, but it is ‘highly probable’.

If I was an investor, I’d get out ASAP.


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