Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 28, 2015

Email: Cloud is a commercial for Smash, and is PS4 really direct competition?

You’ve got things backwards, Malstrom. Smash isn’t drawing attention to Cloud and FF7, Cloud is drawing attention to Smash. It’s easy to think about Smash as a commercial for each of the games it shows off, but that crossover appeal works both ways. I adore Smash and think the game is strong enough that it would have a large following even if it had original characters, but the appeal of having recognized characters has undeniably boosted its success.

Before I continue, there are two things to think about:

Isn’t it strange that the biggest release for Wii U this Christmas is the new Xenoblade, yet Nintendo is barely talking about it?
And isn’t it worth noting that Cloud was included in the direct as a TEASER for a big Smash announcement this December?

It seems obvious that Nintendo wants Smash Bros to be the ‘big game’ for Wii U this Christmas. With Cloud’s reveal as a character doubling as the announcement for upcoming Smash news, they clearly want to draw as much attention as they can to this upcoming announcement. Why else would they announce Cloud, a ‘big reveal’ character, BEFORE the ‘big news’? We’ve likely got at least one or two more high profile characters coming soon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of them ends up being a well-known Western character because that would cause the most surprise and word of mouth. I’m sure we’ll get at least one more character who has never been on a Nintendo console.

You said putting Cloud in Smash makes about as much sense as putting in Master Chief, but right now, doing something like putting Master Chief in Smash would be great for Nintendo because it would generate interest. It would get people talking about Smash. It would get people who have no interest in Nintendo to look at the Wii U. The same thing happened when they announced Snake for Brawl.

It’s far too late for the Wii U to carve out an audience with the general public, and anyone who was going to buy a Wii U for the kind of games Nintendo is putting out already has one. This makes me think they’ll try to ride out the rest of the Wii U’s lifespan by targeting PS4 and Xbone owners. But they can’t do this by putting out the kind of games those systems have, both because of the Wii U’s limitations (aka lack of skill in modern developers) and because Wii U would become a redundant product. At this point, is the Wii U really in direct competition with PS4 and Xbone? Mario Maker and Splatoon compete with Halo 5 and Uncharted about as much as a romance movie competes with an action flick. PS4 and Xbone are in direct competition with each other, and with PCs (as a gaming platform, anyway). For anyone who has one, it isn’t worth the money to get one of the others. But the Wii U has almost an entirely different library.

Many of the hardcore crowd owned a Wii as a supplemental system to their 360/PS3. I think Nintendo will try to repeat this by using Smash to grab their attention and get their foot in the door. An Xbone owner has no need for PS4, but Wii U offers stuff that, at the very least, isn’t currently available to them. Isn’t this the Nintendo method? Lure people in with one thing so they can see the appeal – the “genius” – of what Nintendo is putting out?

The thing that makes me doubt my analysis of all this is that don’t most companies try to have big Christmas hits come out, or at least be announced and available for pre-order, in November? That way they get the initial high sales at release, and can use Christmas to extend how long those high sales last. But then, Smash and the Wii U have been out for a long time, and the DLC is what would generate interest – does it make sense to have digital content announced and released closer to Christmas than earlier, compared to physical products? Considering excitement is highest right after announcement and right before release, I could see it making sense. But if they plan to use new content to attract new customers, then those customers would need to buy a Wii U, so it would make more sense to have this all out in the open BEFORE December, right? I don’t know how Christmas sales work, I’m not a businessman.

Still, I think a Smash Bros Wii U bundle with DLC included on disc could be part of this upcoming Smash announcement. The biggest hurdle they’d face in making Wii U a supplemental console would be the price of the console itself, but if they lower the cost for the Christmas season then they’d get some decent (not good, but decent) sales.

Sorry that this email is kind of all over the place, but it all seemed too connected to split up into separate emails.

Looking forward to your take on all this.

-A Reader

P.S. Is there a term for this kind of strategy? Getting sales by circumventing direct competition, but not expanding the market – purple ocean???

 

You’re overthinking it.


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