Move and Kinect: the gateways to Failtown

I’ve been keeping up with the E3 Expo going on in LA. The general consensus is that Nintendo has “won” this year, even with some technical glitches in the presentation, mostly by not making huge fools of themselves like everyone else. Penny Arcade has it exactly right in this strip.

But what’s so wrong with the other guys this year? They’ve all decided to come running after Nintendo with the worst possible strategy in the entire friggin’ universe: expensive add-ons. “Get the Nintendo Wii experience on our consoles by spending nearly as much as it would cost to just go ahead and buy a Wii,” they seem to be saying. Apparently the Playstation Move and Microsoft Kinect will both be $100+ solutions (or more if you have friends, which isn’t a given for gamers). Apparently nobody remembers the lessons of the Super Scope or the EyeToy: If a peripheral doesn’t automatically come with the console, then only about six games will ever be made that exploit the peripheral.

Consider this scenario. You’re a game producer. A console has 45 million units in the field. Of those, 2 million have the excess cash to shell out for an expensive peripheral. Now this is a tough question, so think hard: Which of those numbers represents the largest market? Take your time. I can wait.

Actually it’s not quite that cut and dried. Those 2 million people are probably desperate for any old crapola, so you could make an extremely sketchy low-budget game in about a week and maximize your profits. But then, hey, guess what? Nobody buys the peripheral because all the games for it are sketchy low-budget affairs. Unless, that is, the manufacturer opens the cashgates to entice developers. Good for developers, good for owners of the peripheral … bad for the manufacturer. So the manufacturer, being a business and all, has to raise the price on the console, the peripheral, AND the game to recoup. Oh. Hmm. That kinda backfired on the consumer, didn’t it. DARN YOU, FREE MARKET! :argh:

Nintendo knew what they were doing with the Wii, with its  new controller and new ways of playing. There’s no Wavebird packed in with the unit. There are no “extra” motion controls. It’s WHAT IT IS. Developers know everything’s right there for everyone who bought one. Same with the DS, with its two screens, touchscreen, and microphone, which also happens to be the best-selling game machine of all time. Nintendo’s come out with some add-ons too, of course, but they can afford to bundle MotionPlus units with the games for an extra tenspot. If Microsoft is really “all in” with Kinect, and Sony with Move, they can’t match that. And if they’re not all in, those peripherals will be an interesting footnote to history at most.

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