Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 11, 2015

Why did no one at Nintendo write a memo like Bill Gates ‘Tidal Wave’ one?

A very famous memo of Bill Gates to Microsoft was the Internet Tidal Wave memo of 1995. It is definitely worth a read if you haven’t read it yet. In it, Bill Gates realizes that Microsoft must make the Internet its priority or see itself become obsolete.

What amazes me is that Nintendo has not had such a memo. If it did, it certainly wouldn’t be in the case it is today in 2015. Keep in mind that the DS and Wii were thought to have a future because the two consoles embraced the Internet. The DS had wifi in all the systems. Not even the Xbox 360 offered that. The Wii had the 24-Connect which, while wasn’t really used, pointed to a forward thinking. The Virtual Console was a huge embrace of the Internet. The Wii’s weather channel, news channel, and other channels was also embracing of the Internet. Mario Kart DS offered Internet multiplayer which helped make it sell extremely well. Mario Kart Wii embraced the Internet and saw huge, massive sales.

While Nintendo’s relationship with the Internet is seen by hardcore gamers as a joke, this is not the case with the non-hardcore. I liked how Mario Strikers Charged allowed online Internet multiplayer. The demand for Internet is beyond anything Nintendo could offer. What Nintendo did offer was snapped up by the market.

Nintendo’s latest offering of Mii-verse and all points that they don’t understand the Internet or why we want it.

I’m looking at one game company whose entire success can be said due to embracing the Internet: Blizzard. Blizzard is a compentent game maker. Rock and Roll Racing and Lost Vikings are great, but they aren’t better than the SNES classics and can’t really compete with them. Contra 3? Castlevania 4? Super Mario World? Mega Man X? Super Mario Kart? Yeah. Silicon and Synapse was outgunned.

In the world of PC gaming, Blizzard was also outgunned. Warcraft and Warcraft 2 are fun games. But Command and Conquer was also a really fun game. There were many other RTS competitors too that were very fun (many, many, oh so many). But some genius at Blizzard did something that forever altered the company: they placed the starter version of Kali on the Warcraft 2 disc. Kali tricked LAN packets to be sent over the Internet to create online multiplayer beyond typical modem play. Blizzard saw this popularity and put huge investment into Diablo 1 launched with Then Starcraft came. While other games used online services you had to subscribe, was free with the game. It helped create the precedent that one shouldn’t subscribe to play games multiplayer over the Internet. Then came Diablo 2 and Warcraft 3. This set the company up well to make a MMORPG. World of Warcraft obviously transformed the company. was overhauled into 2.0 which launched with Starcraft 2. Diablo 3 comes out. Blizzard unites all their games to have cross game talk (or, rather, uniting WoW with Bnet 2). Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch will also launch with Bnet 2. Hearthstone uses Bnet 2.

Are these games so successful because Blizzard is so god-like at game design and polish… or is it because Blizzard is leveraging the Internet wave more than most companies? I’d say it is the latter. I keep wondering why Heroes is in alpha or beta for so long. I think Blizzard is realizing that they released Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 too early. They didn’t have time to properly evaluate the endgame. They didn’t realize everyone would get sick of Starcraft 2’s too fast multiplayer. They didn’t realize Diablo 3’s terrible endgame until it was upon them. It might explain why their development hell has increased lately.

Nintendo’s relationship with the Internet is enigmatic, but I believe I have a reason for it. In 1995, while Bill Gates was writing the ‘tidal wave’ Internet memo, Shigeru Miyamoto and other key Nintendo people were pushing 3d. Virtual Boy. N64. Both market failures. The Gamecube was pushed further into the 3d realm, and it failed even more. The Xbox, on the other hand, made moves to align itself with the Internet which helped it gain market penetration (at least in America).

For more evidence, look at the 3DS. Internet seems to be an after-thought on it. The system, even its name, revolves around 3d. Someone at Nintendo thinks 3d is a huge selling point and the future of gaming. Yet, it is the Internet that has revolutionized PCs, revolutionized how we watch TV shows and movies,, revolutionized PC gaming, completely altered every industry on Earth, and yet someone at Nintendo is still pushing 3d.  As forward-thinking as Bill Gates memo was is as backward-thinking whoever at Nintendo keeps saying the future is in 3d, 3d, 3d.

Why is there no real account system? This is saying, in another way, why has Nintendo not accepted the standard of basic Internet use? As Steve Jobs once said, Apple didn’t make the network standard, but they still had to use them because it was standard.

The future of Nintendo will be tied with the Internet. Nintendo may not want to go there, but it does not have a choice. The Internet can bring new life to franchises just as new hardware can. Mario Kart’s value is increased by being able to play over the Internet.

Nintendo gained its market share in consoles due to having ‘the best games’. But what is ‘the best games’? It is the complicated question which defines the game industry itself. As an observer for decades, one of the reasons the ‘best games’ are the best is because they use new technology. Name one classic game that, at its time, wasn’t state-of-the-art. “B-b-b-b-but Tetris!” Tetris was state-of-the-art especially on Gameboy’s primitive hardware. Other games could not compete with Tetris on the Gameboy.

Donkey Kong used graphical art to tell a story sequence. It was state of the art then. Super Mario Brothers had a BLUE SKY as well as background music. The game scrolled too. It was state of the art. Super Mario Brothers 3 did amazing things with technology then. And remember how Super Mario World was marketed?

Mario is not the Mickey Mouse of gaming. He is the technology avatar of gaming. When a new Mario game appears, we expect to see the heralding of new technology. “Now you’re playing with power.” Now you’re playing with technology.

Nintendo knows games need to use new technology. But there were many much hyped games at the time that failed because they used the WRONG TECHNOLOGY. The 32X was wrong. The Virtual Boy was wrong. The Gameboy series of hardware was one right decision after another until the major setback hit by the 3DS (embrace of 3d). The Nintendo 64 also faltered (which also embraced 3d).

Nintendo has lately fashioned themselves alchemists where they mix hardware and software together to make something ‘magical’. What crap.

There are many PC companies that fought against the trend. Bill Gates, in the memo, mentions companies that fought against the IBM Standard because they had reason to fight against it. Today, all those companies are gone. The Internet is a phenomena, and it can be used correctly or incorrectly.

The question of the future is not what Nintendo’s NX console going to be. The question of the future is what is Nintendo’s relationship to the Internet going to be? This question will paint a picture of the Nintendo NX.



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