Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Blunder from Downunder

So I try to IGNore most of the big bloaty "game journalist" websites and focus more on smaller blogs when I do my reading, but I came across a quote from this article and I just can't stop myself from making a lengthy and inflammatory response >.>

The author, Patrick Kolan (of IGN Australia... get it?), titles the editorial "Devil's Advocate" so that you'll know he doesn't necessarily believe anything he's writing, he's just saying it... I guess for the fuck of it? I'm really not sure why he did that, actually. Trolling for hits? Out of ideas? Bored of wrestling crocs? Just saying... Anyways, so, playing "Devil's Advocate", he leads in with this:

"From all the glowing praise the Nintendo 3DS has received during and post-E3 2010, you'd be forgiven for thinking this device somehow turns lead to gold, cures cancer, solved the conflict in Iraq and bridged the divide between Xbox 360 and PS3 fans. "

I suppose what he's trying to say (in a very snarky and witty way, lulz) is that everyone who was at E3 and witnessed/played the 3DS for themselves have very high opinion of it with very little doubt in their minds that it will turn out to be super-mega-ultra-amazing. Fair enough: Impressions coming out of E3 were extremely positive. So what is it that Mr. Kolan thinks are potential hindrances to the 3DS' success?

The Price
Yes, he's worried about the price first and foremost, despite that we don't even know what it is yet. Well, that little detail aside, I still have a few things to say. 

Ask any learned salesman: Price is never ever ever the issue: Value is always the issue. If a prospect (potential customer) says "The price is too high!" what this prospect is really saying is "The price does not match the value in my mind. Please explain why I should pay $X for the product you offer!" 

Nintendo, Mr. Kolan says, has a history of keeping their new launches at an affordable price. Well, while this might be true for Mr. Kolan, this may not be true for... a homeless person? "Affordable" is a strange word, isn't it? "Affordable" is completely ambiguous. A Ferrari is "affordable" to Bill Gates, after all. So let's rephrase it: Nintendo has a history of... building enough value in their new products to match the price for a large number of people around the world, whether that be in Japan, America, or Europe. After all, Nintendo's consoles almost always launch at a higher price in America than they did in Japan, and then an even higher price in the UK and Europe than they did in America. This is, of course, for a lot of reasons-- but the console still sells because of the value they've built for it. Hell, buying a Wii at Christmastime in America back in 2006 or 2007 sure wasn't very "affordable" for many people, but eBay operates on value, just like any other auction, and this is why Wii was sold via eBay for well over double the suggested retail price.

Nintendo will use a very similar strategy when building value for the 3DS that they used when building value for Wii. These are very difficult products for which to demonstrate value via a TV advertisement. Remember Nintendo's "Playing is believing" mantra? This was parroted over and over because Nintendo knew that in order to "sell" a customer on Wii, they had to try it for themselves and feel what the Wii Remote did for gaming in their own hand. 

I believe they'll take a similar route with the 3DS. "Seeing is believing" anyone? With Wii, Nintendo put them in every toy store, every electronics store, and even huge 20'x20' playable kiosk areas with multiple consoles in shopping malls.  Nintendo also organized "house parties", wherein "Mom" would invite a bunch of friends over, Nintendo would provide a Wii, and they would all "play" and subsequently "believe". Nintendo will have 3DS kiosks everywhere, just like they did with Wii. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see them inside of movie theater lobbies this time around either-- After all, people interested in 3D technology are getting it from movie theaters these days, are they not?

How much does 3DS cost? Let me tell you: (Here is how a salesman's mind might see the 3DS value proposition)

  • 3D you can afford: Skip the $4k television and the dorky glasses. Carry full amazing 3D in your pocket
  • View amazing (see for yourself!) 3D images in the palm of your hand without the need for intrusive and annoying headgear
  • Play all your old DS games, as well as all-new games in full 3D
  • Watch 3D movies in this same fashion
  • Connect wirelessly to browse the web, download apps and smaller games, or communicate with your friends
  • Use the 3D camera to take 3D pictures and send them wirelessly, locally or through the internet, to your friends 3DS'
  • (All the other features of 3DS that we don't even know about yet go here)
  • From the people who brought you Nintendo Wii-- This is the next big thing! Don't be late to the party!
...Oh yes, yes, you wanted to know the price? Well it's yours today for only $229. I know, incredible, right? I can take cash, check, or credit card.

Excuse me if you think I sound overzealous, but the 3D-without-glasses (and without $4k television) experience holds immense value to many consumers who are interested in 3D. The 3DS absolutely will be the next big entertainment phenomenon, just as the DS and Wii were before it.

A final note on price-- Let's take two products that cost the same, and compare the sales:

PSP Go (America) $249
Wii (America) $249

Was one affordable while the other was not? Well of course not: They're the same price. So why did on sell like crazy and the other fizzled? The value proposition.

True Specs
Mr. Kolan continues by questioning the unknown hardware specifications of the 3DS (and is essentially making the same argument as "price", because all of these factors contribute to the product's value anyway). He raises questions about the following: 

Backwards compatibility with old DS games: ...which is already confirmed? I guess he is asking whether or not they'll be "in 3D" or not? He doesn't say. Of course, Nintendo has taken a strong stance on backwards compatibility the last few times they've released hardware (a very strong one if you look at the handheld market specifically) and I see no reason for them to change their tune now. Even if they didn't include any BC at all (and again, they've already confirmed that all current games for the DS models will be supported), this would only serve to decrease the value of the system, forcing Nintendo to adjust the price accordingly.

Region locking: Doesn't every new game system have region locking? Whatever the reasons are, companies who produce gaming hardware have mostly stuck to their guns on this one throughout the past. I could make a list of all the systems that have region-locking enabled, but I don't feel like it: The vast majority of them do. This is nothing new, and since game systems have always been this way it doesn't really detract from the value of the 3DS. Removing this restriction may serve to add value for a small number of consumers, but region-locking isn't and never will be a deal-breaker.

Battery life: Battery life is always a concern with portable electronics, and since we don't have any concrete facts on this matter, we're left only to speculate. According to a post I translated from Disruptive Sketchbook (en espanol), right here, the 3DS is being said to sacrifice the SSAA capabilities of the graphics chip in order to operate on a single GPU rather than a dual GPU setup. Of course, this is currently unconfirmed, but to speculate further let's look at history: Nintendo has always absolutely dominated the handheld gaming market. This is no coincidence: This is a direct result of being really fuckin good at designing handheld gaming systems. Whatever battery life the 3DS will have will certainly be "good enough for most consumers" (which is just them taking another page out of the Blue Ocean Strategy as they tend to often do these days).

The threat of shoddy ports and rush-jobs
I don't have much of a response for this, mostly because it's just dumb. Wii was clearly a victim of these exact "problems", and it was never an issue. If you look to the past, these "problems" also "plagued" the original Playstation and the Playstation 2. The fact of the matter is this: No matter how bad they are, more games are never a bad thing. Ever.

The PSP2 is coming
This is my favorite part of the article, and in fact was the part that inspired me to write this whole post :) Here is one of Mr. Kolan's choice quotes from this section:

"It is foolish to assume that Sony is simply going to drop the PSP brand entirely; while the DS may well have much of the handheld market stitched up worldwide, the PSP still has a strong legion of fans and solid brand recognition in the marketplace"

Let's begin: Is it foolish to think that Sony will drop the PSP brand entirely? Faithful readers of this blog already know how I feel about the Playstation 4, so I won't go too deep into this part of it: Let's examine the reasons why Sony may want to keep the PSP brand instead.

Actually... Let's not. The PSP brand is very heavily tarnished, and is considered by some to be a blemish on the Sony and Playstation names. This is why it is always referred to as "The PSP", and not "Playstation Portable" or "Sony Playstation Portable". It is rarely even called "The Sony PSP" anymore, and this is a deliberate attempt to separate it from the rest of Sony's products, including the Playstation brand. To be clear: Sony's first entry into the handheld market was somewhat of a success-- They succeeded where many have failed before them which was to even begin to compete with Nintendo in the handheld market. That said, the PSP has also been a failure in many regards:

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrr: I know quite a few PSP owners. You know how every single one of them perceive their PSPs? "Plays Sexy Porn". That's a joke. Hah. But it's not actually a joke: Everyone I know that owns a PSP regards it as nothing more than a "pirate media gadget", by which they've supplemented with a big phat chunk of flash memory, to store digital media for viewing on-the-go... but you know the real kicker? Every single one of them uses it to play Nintendo games. This is hilarious to me. NES, SNES, and Game Boy emulators (along with pornography) seem to be the primary drivers for their PSP purchases. Let's also remember that Sony's constant fight with the PSP hacking pirate groups has been a long, costly, and dangerous one. All the PSP owners I know "know better" than to update the firmware on their PSPs, as "Sony will ruin it again". Very bad, indeed. 

Now... the people I know who own a PSP Go on the other hand... errrr... wait. I don't know anyone with a PSP Go. Shit, I've never even seen one in person... Which brings me to my next point:

PSP Go nowhere: The PSP Go was a joke. Aside from Michael Pachter's "apology", just about every other media source out there lambasted the PSP Go for being a very very clear attempt to wring the PSPs "loyal fanbase" for as much money as possible. It flopped, of course, which will always cause a lot of damage to the brand. Even the most die-hard Sony fans out there (you know who you are) couldn't fight the feeling that Sony was literally trying to rip them off.

Deja Vu: Wasn't Mr. Kolan worried about the value of the 3DS being hindered by battery life and backwards compatibility? Sony has already demonstrated that they care not about either of these value-adders. Will Sony just up-and-decide to design their next handheld properly? That is an extremely bizarre assumption to make only moments after making the assumption that Nintendo won't design their next handheld properly.

Better. Faster. Stronger: Now Mr. Kolan is expressing his believe that 3DS will somehow be hindered by the release of a PSP2 because, he believes, Sony will not only match the capabilities of the 3DS, but also put even more powerful hardware into it. This doesn't seem like a very well-thought-out editorial: These too will change the value/price proposition that he mused would be an issue for DS already. More importantly, Sony is stuck between a rock and a hard place:

Sony is trying to build value for its electronics divisions that have much stronger brand recognition and customer loyalty, their televisions, which require 3D glasses to operate. Nintendo has put Sony in an awkward position. How could Sony release a PSP2? Their options are:

  1. Release a PSP2 that does not include 3D functionality
  2. Release a PSP2 that includes 3D functionality that requires glasses
  3. Release a PSP2 that includes 3D functionality that does not require glasses

This is Sony's conundrum, and I think you can see it for yourself. If they release a PSP2 without 3D functionality, well... they'll look antiquated right out of the gates. This is not a matter of 3DS being "better technology" than PSP2, this is a matter of 3DS' technology literally making the PSP2 irrelevant. What if they release a PSP2 with 3D that requires glasses, like their televisions do? Well, obviously this doesn't work for a handheld at all. People have enough of a problem wearing the silly things in their homes or a darkened movie theater, let alone on the bus or in line at the post office. 

How about Sony go with the "best" option and release a PSP2 that includes the same 3D-without-glasses functionality that the 3DS enjoys? This is very dangerous ground for Sony: They're making their televisions and computer monitors look bad first of all... but more importantly let's remember that this would only put them on "even ground" with Nintendo and would not provide any unique value. What happens next? They put a "bigger screen", a "better processor", "more ram", etc, into the machine which serves only to drive up the price (or they play razor-and-blades again, which they cannot afford to do). What does "better" techonology really equate to in the video game market? A quick look at history will tell you that it equates to absolutely nothing. The "most powerful" system never ever prevails. The system with the most games does, and with Nintendo's backwards compatibility confirmed (along with a dozen very strong handheld properties belonging to their first-party alone), as well as the insanely strong line-up of launch-window software announced for 3DS, That's not even bringing into question the extremely strong brand recognition that Nintendo is enjoying at the moment: They are innovators that produce valuable and high-quality products, and they know video games for "everyone". Sony can't really hope to compete with Nintendo in the handheld market this time around: They've already nipped all of Sony's options in the bud

The dangers of being first to market
What dangers of being first to market? Well Mr. Kolan only points to one: The idea that Sony might copy Nintendo and release a "better" PSP. We just went over that for a few paragraphs, so I'll move on.

Gyroscopic Controls: Why Bother?
We have no idea what Nintendo plans to do with the motion-sensing abilities of the 3DS, but it's silly to forget that games can be played with 3D turned off. Perhaps a game that uses the gyroscope may not need the 3D effect? Perhaps Nintendo intends to surprise us with uses for the motion-controls that we can't even imagine? I'd say that's pretty likely. No matter which way you slice it, though, the prospect of playing games with motion-controls but not... being... able... to see the 3D if you move... well, that's silly. Clearly Nintendo has other ideas.

The launch date
We know only that Nintendo will release the 3DS "before March 2011". This is the official statement. Mr. Kolan argues that this is "confusing and frustrating to consumers and retailers", and I think he's got it way out of proportion (and lacks any understanding of Nintendo's motives). Consumers just want to get their hands on the damn thing. If there is any "frustration" amongst consumers, that's it right there. Retailers, on the other hand, most likely aren't too worried either: "Will Nintendo just sell Wii's and DSi's through me like crazy for another Christmas, or do I get to sell 3DS like crazy this Christmas too?" Sure, the release date is a concern, but it's only July

What would you have Nintendo do? Say "It's coming this Christmas. Stop buying DSis and DSi XLs now please." By remaining vague-- in July-- they're not giving anyone a concrete reason to stop buying other DS models. Reggie Fils-Aime even "accidentally" said that 3DS was coming "next year" when pushed for a release date announcement on the Jimmy Fallon Show. Anyone who thinks this was accidental doesn't understand Reggie very well ;) This was a deliberate attempt to distort the timeframe of its release so Nintendo doesn't further hinder the little momentum that the 6-year-old DS platform has left. 

Maybe Nintendo is actually hoping Sony announces a PSP2 :) After all, Nintendo waited and waited to announce a release date for Wii until after Sony announced the PS3's release date. Nintendo stole all of Sony's thunder. Maybe they're considering doing this again?

Final notes
After the whole article by Mr. Kolack ends, he changes his tune. He goes back to saying that Nintendo will rule, etc. Perhaps the "Devil's Advocate" label wasn't just a cover-up after all? I'm not sure. Perhaps this paragraph was meant to create that uncertainty. Perhaps I was too harsh with my photoshopped kangaroo? Meh... regardless, he ends on this light-hearted note...

"Knock us out and release the thing already, Nintendo!"

...and I'm finally inclined to agree. It just hurts my heart to know that I'll still be waiting at least a few months to play one of these damn things. Grrrrr...


  1. Well, we all know how you feel about pornography.

    Maybe you should make a series out of this? I know another Australian who just seriously poo'd all over a few wii games ;)

    You and I know him well.

    Atlas out.

  2. I'm sure he did. He is way more of a douche than this poor IGN guy I'm picking on though.

  3. On the dangers of being first to the market, that's just stupid and it's not only Malstrom who pointed it out but past history as well. Wait until Nintendo releases the 3DS in order to copy it and make it "better"? This is retarded. It's not simply "copy & paste", it would take planning, restructuring of the PSP2, production and shipment, not to mention the extra millions spent on it, so by the time the "better" PSP2 is ready, the 3DS will have already hogged the market like an aggressive badger. It's clear, after the N64 and the GC, Nintendo has vowed never again to let Sony be first.

  4. "So I try to IGNore most of the big bloaty "game journalist" websites and focus more on smaller blogs when I do my reading..."
    Same here.
    I do enjoy reading the forums on the larger sites, as sometimes they have good discussions on topics; but the articles/opinion pieces I try to avoid.

    I'm not really sure what price the 3DS will be released at, but I don't plan on rushing out right now to get it day one either. If I did though, my magic price would be $199.99, or lower.

    As for the PSP, I thought Sony's E3 press conference was interesting, with how they talked about trying to advertise the PSP instead of ignoring it.
    I have seen A LOT of the Meet Marcus ads all over the internet, though I doubt they will do much good in the end.

    Anyway, good read.

  5. Why do you think we wrestle crocodiles for fun? The vast majority of us don't, I'm tellin' ya!
    Why you gotta hate, ticcie?
    Oh, nice photoshop job by the way <3
    *is too tired to comment on the intelligent stuffs*

  6. Great read, tactics.

    These articles are pointless and pathetic, and I'm happy you addressed and destroyed each of his "points".

    Can't wait for the 3DS. :)

  7. I agree with a lot of what you have written, t, but I feel I should point out a few things...

    "The PSP brand is very heavily tarnished, and is considered by some to be a blemish on the Sony and Playstation names. This is why it is always referred to as "The PSP", and not "Playstation Portable" or "Sony Playstation Portable"

    I have in my possession a PSP and a DS, However, I have never once called them A Playstation Portable OR A Nintendo DS. PSP and DS is easier. The PSP Go on the other hand is most certainly a pimple that Playstation wants to hide before she goes to the prom.

    "Every single one of them uses it to play Nintendo games. "

    I don't :p I do, however know lots of people that do. Playstation and Xbox weren't even in the market back then, Nintendo was ALL there was. So naturally the games from our youth are all from Nintendo. I only own about 4 PSP games, but that's largely because I dont OWN the PSP. However, the games I do have are really good.

    A fair bit of Nintendo's success in the handheld market is the ability to draw from our nostalgia and rerelease old classics. Again, from a time when neither Playstation nor Xbox even existed.

    It is, however, curious to me as to why Sony would release another handheld. Seems to me it's only purpose is to try and keep up with the 3D craze. The GPU doesn't need to be improved, its just a matter of pumping out some more games.

  8. Nintendo is all there was? I guess you never played an Atari 2600, Colecovision, Commodore64, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, TurboGrafx 16, or any other of the dozeon other cosoles that competed with Nintendo back then :P

  9. Of course... if you were referring to handheld systems only, then the notable competitors are few and far between. Still, there was GameGear, Lynx, WonderSwan, and NeoGeo Pocket.