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Talking Point: Challenges for the Future of Nintendo Gaming

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Evolving with the industry

Recently we attended the Turing technology festival in Edinburgh, and in particular an event called Gaming@Turing. You know why we attended that one, of course. The focus of the event was to look at the future of gaming from a number of different perspectives, put forward by five experienced speakers from within the industry. These were industry consultant Ernest W Adams, behavioural economist Mark Sorrell, Colin Anderson who is the founder/CEO of Denki, Tom Armitage of Hide and Seek games, and experienced video game writer Rob Fahey, who’s written for websites such as gamesindustry.biz.

The speakers were talking about the industry as a whole, with no particular focus on Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Apple or any other big players in gaming right now. Over the five talks there were plenty of themes that can undoubtedly be applied to Nintendo, however, and with the company facing so many challenges in the coming months we decided to take what we learned at Turing and consider what Nintendo can do now to help achieve continuing success, and what it should consider for the future.

An important focus in the keynote speech to open the event, delivered by Ernest W Adams, was that video games have moved beyond light entertainment and become part of common culture. Gaming is no longer the preserve of enthusiasts locked away in a room, but is everywhere we look. Perhaps the term gamer is itself becoming less appropriate, as we don’t declare ourselves to be ‘television watchers’, for example; it’s just an activity in which everyone partakes. Gaming is getting to that stage, as basic titles such as Angry Birds are accessible, pick-up and play games for anyone.

Beyond the idea that games are now everywhere, however, is the evolving role of how the activity is used. Examples were given of games being used to help patients through physical therapy, or a tactical title called Peacemaker that tries to teach Palestinian and Israeli children about their respective nations’ conflict. Nintendo has arguably been at the forefront of these kind of ideas in the past, with one example being Wii Fit, a game and peripheral designed to help the player to improve balance, improve fitness and lose weight. DS has also seen software designed to exercise the mind, or quite literally to exercise the eyes for improved coordination.

Nintendo has opportunities to take the concept of video games as more than entertainment into Wii U. Satoru Iwata has spoken about a desire to unite a family in the living room around Wii U as one device. We already know that Wii Fit U is on the way, but the additional screen and motion control capabilities of the GamePad must offer potential for software that does more than simply provide a gaming experience, but offer tangible benefits to the player.

The concept of Wii Fit carries across to a term coined by Mark Sorrell, “Gamification”. In basic terms, this means applying video games to activities and mediums outside of gaming, therefore expanding the audience further. An example cited was The Typing of the Dead, an adaptation of The House of the Dead where zombies are killed by quickly and accurately typing on a keyboard. The activity of typing isn’t a game, and this title could perhaps fall under the dreaded edutainment genre, but it has a following of loyal fans. Nintendo’s only too happy to teach typing through gameplay, of course, with the upcoming European release of Learn With Pokémon: Typing Adventure on DS. Learn to type by catching ‘mon or destroying zombies? A bit more fun than well-known PC release Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.

This idea of gamification expands to taking advantage of the medium of television, an area where Wii U can try new ideas. We already know that the GamePad will have basic TV remote capabilities, but we’ve also seen concept videos, such as the E3 presentation reveal in 2011, that show content being transferred from controller to television with a simple flick of the touch screen. This isn’t exactly new, as there are already tablets and smart-phones capable of doing this, but Wii U can apply game-like ideas to these activities and apps.

This idea of gamification expands to taking advantage of the medium of television, an area where Wii U can try new ideas.

For example, 3DS turns a pedometer into a coin generating mini-game, with those coins usable in StreetPass Plaza or in selected retail games. What if Miiverse combined social networking with similar game ideas? Coins for taking pictures with the GamePad, swiping to the television and then sharing through a specific app, is one example. On an even simpler level, using the GamePad for non-gaming uses as simple as switching to TV can contribute to a coin total, or perhaps using a TV scheduler to switch from game to TV show, then back to game, would earn a ‘GamePad expert reward’. We’re sure that Nintendo can produce more creative and fun examples than these, but they would serve a purpose of making the console and its controller the centre of the living room.

What all of this can do, along with extensive apps that turn Wii U into an interactive device beyond just video games, is to bring Nintendo to the front of consumers' minds in an increasingly technological time. Tom Armitage spoke a great deal about gaming mechanics and how we interact with and learn the rules of a game, but that same principle applies to any gizmo we happen to own, whether it’s a gaming system or a smartphone. Nintendo is trying to get to the forefront of a lot of our interactions in the home, and Armitage’s comment seems appropriate: “Systems literacy may be the literacy of the 21st Century”. Literacy is no longer just about being able to read and write, but being able to interact with the world through technology.

On page two we look at Nintendo's need to continue successful brands while producing more challenging, creative games, and summarise our thoughts on what we believe Nintendo should try to do in the upcoming generation of gaming.

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User Comments (36)

Zyph

#2

Zyph said:

These are the type of articles that keeps me going back for more :)

MegaAdam

#3

MegaAdam said:

Gamification is not really a good thing. Meaningless virtual rewards for using a gamepad as a TV remote? Not really seeing how that's a killer app.

RVN

#4

RVN said:

nintendo, pleeeeeeeeease, something competitive, like metroid hunters was on DS, i know it's all about fun, but some franchise sure could have a competitive tone, you know, starfox could be pretty fun if it was about skirmishes between fox team, wolf team... etc.
I'm not asking for no storyline at all (wich, let's be honest, it's common among competitive games), but come on, it's lots of fun improving your gaming in a game deep enough to explore it's mechanics

Samholy

#5

Samholy said:

apple provides fast food gaming and they should keep it that way.
when i see that square enix is releasing The world ends with you on iOS, it saddens me. leave those great titles on the right consoles. if people wanna try these, theyll buy the appropriate apparel.

and anyway.... playing on a touchscreen isnt fun at all. i need buttons. the touchscreen is interesting as a secondary or random feature, but not as the main ''gamepad''. try a fps on ios, youll see. its crap.

and i totally agree with RVN. make the game competitive, not only fun ! I can get fun everywhere. but competitive games, i get them on my ps3 only. on which i can also get tons of fun so...
do something nintendo,youre like on a cliff losing grip.

player310

#6

player310 said:

Our 'literacy' is kind of 'sci-fi' to some parts of the world... my prayers to developing countries...

grumblegrumble

#7

grumblegrumble said:

Personally, I don't think people will be happy until they have game chips implanted in their corneas and in their brains. I'll be the one old guy who stands out, clutching onto the holographic lamp post, saying "nooooo!" I'm perfectly happy with my Atari 7800, NES and 3DS XL :)

Squiggle55

#8

Squiggle55 said:

I'm just happy that Zelda and Mario will be in HD. And I will be more than happy if they simply make themselves more attractive to 3rd parties so that when a new downloadable title comes out I have to choose between the PSN and the Wii U Shop. But if Nintendo doesn't use a universal achievement system I'm going to choose PSN every time, unless the game pad provides a different/better way to play the game.

hydeks

#10

hydeks said:

I like how you show Journey (PSN) as a image for continuing new brands of games, cause all honesty, Journey, even though I know it's made by a studio of Sony's, feels so unique and artistically beautiful that you would think Nintendo, or there studios, did it. I would say Nintendo would have a brighter future if they stayed with there brands, but in the same time look at Sony games like Ico and Journey and take a idea or two from them, and make something new and awesome. Not everything with Nintendo needs to be made into a iconic mascot :P

GameLord08

#11

GameLord08 said:

If Apple is considered a major competitor in the gaming industry...

...then should Wii Fit truly be considered an actual self-fitness/exercise program?

ThomasBW84Admin

#12

ThomasBW84 said:

In terms of Apple being a part of the gaming industry, I believe it is. Is gaming on an Apple device part of my life, not in the slightest, and that may apply to a number within the NL community. Is Apple (and Google, with Android) part of the gaming industry in the wider world? I don't personally think that can be denied.

Exactly the kind of debate I'm hoping for, though :)

Mandoble

#13

Mandoble said:

This conference looks to me as "the future of the sport" attended by a football player while the conference talks about how good would be to sportify the races riding turtles or the epic tomatoe battles. The football player will exit the conference thinking "whatever while the football keeps existing ... "

Bankai

#15

Bankai said:

I like how people deny Apple is a gaming competitor and the reason? They personally don't like apple products.

Apparently some Nintendo fans are more important than a hundred million or so Apple owners. Good form.

c1pher_c0mplet

#16

c1pher_c0mplet said:

Nintendo will be fine. Sometimes they make eyebrow-raising decisions and take awhile to do certain things but I think they've really pulled out the stops thus far with the 3DS. While there are things that can be improved in 3DS, Nintendo has crafted the system with care in every possible way. Personalization (via your Mii), a single Friend Code, GameNotes (for jotting down important details), a multitasking OS (which I love), SwapNote for chatting, in-game voice chat (with games that support it), and the eShop is simply PHENOMENAL. There are so many great titles from indie games to classic games to play that even with the 3DS' slim library in North America/Europe (compared to Japan), you'll never run out of things to play, plus the promotions like "Mario Madness" before New Super Mario Bros. 2 was released really show that Nintendo is (finally) serious about the online space. While a lot of people may not use them as much (or at all), the cameras are great for taking funny AR pics with your Mii(s) and since I carry my 3DS around for StreetPass tags, the music player is great. (It's not iPod but it doesn't need to be.) Sure, improvements can be made but I for one think Nintendo's doing an excellent job thus far and I simply can't wait to see what the Wii U has in store.

Chris720

#17

Chris720 said:

@Waltzy I personally don't think of Apple as a gaming competitor simply because I find none of the "games" on their App Store appealing to me in any way, shape or form. If I want a true gaming experience I'll choose a Vita or 3DS. However, others, like yourself, enjoy these games.

Just because others don't think the same way as you about Apple doesn't allow you to think they hate Apple products - not everyone will have the same opinion and YOU have to respect that rather than being Mr. High & Mighty and that you know best for everyone.

OMG PEOPLE THINK DIFFERENTLY TO EVERYBODY ELSE, HOLY SHI-!!!

Jukilum

#18

Jukilum said:

I don't think I'll be doing it for several more years, but eventually I'll probably get a PS3 for games like Journey, The Unfinished Swan and Puppeteer.

To those who are saying that gaming on a touch screen with no physical button input doesn't work for them, hasn't the DS proved over and over again that it can work great? Kirby Mass attack was touch screen only and worked great and was fun. The same goes for Elite Beat Agents, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, the entire Ace Attorney franchise, etc.

Nintendo has had some of the "new experience" type games on their systems, like Zack and Wiki.

player310

#19

player310 said:

@OlympicCho I personally love Apple products, I have a range of them and have recommended them to friends and family - but - I think that gaming on the iPhone is a joke with no real substance... besides the 99 cent shovelware, playing even a simple game like Megaman on the platform was frustrating and seemingly pointless because of the controls. Long live Nintendo handhelds.

Bankai

#20

Bankai said:

@Chris720 You misunderstand me. Apple is competition to the gaming industry. That has nothing whatsoever to do with my, yours, or anyone else's opinion of Apple devices. It is simple fact: Apple has platforms that play games that are in the hands of hundreds of millions of people and every single third party developer - big and small - is diverting resources to mobile game development.

ergo, competition.

mudjo

#21

mudjo said:

“Gamification”. In basic terms, this means applying video games to activities and mediums outside of gaming, therefore expanding the audience further.

Mediums!?!?

You should say 'media'!

Bankai

#22

Bankai said:

"“Gamification”. In basic terms, this means applying video games to activities and mediums outside of gaming, therefore expanding the audience further."

Actually, technically, Gamification simply means to take the idea of a "game" and apply it to mundane activities.

ThomasBW84Admin

#23

ThomasBW84 said:

@OlympicCho My use of the term gamification was based on how it was presented in that particular talk. I'm sure your definition is right, but Mark Sorrell was making specific examples in the context I've given :-)

Bankai

#24

Bankai said:

@ThomasBW84 Well yeah, naturally at a game industry conference they'll be defining it in the way that it applies to them. :)

Nothing wrong with that - sorry if it sounded like I was criticising, that wasn't the intention - I just thought I'd clarify what the broad definition of the term is.

Hokori

#25

Hokori said:

Othello is also gaming, let's just all agree EVERYTHING entertainment wise (besides movies and TV shows) is considered gaming
Heck twirling your thumbs is free and everyone can do it, let's just say that will kill Nintendo as well

triforcepower73

#26

triforcepower73 said:

Gamification is ok, I guess. As long as it doesn't effect their main franchises. Just make pointless, storyless games with a simple idea like typing to protect a military base from being destroyed by meteors or something like that. Just don't make a game where you type to deflect Ganon's sword strikes or type to make mario jump from place to place to reach the button/lever to kill bowser. That would ruin those series.

Chris720

#27

Chris720 said:

@Waltz Okay, yes Apple has a footing in everybody's life somewhere, so developers can easily target them and sell them games. However, I'm personally not a fan of touch screen controls, I like them on the 3DS because they work well and also aren't the main way of controlling the game. The iPod and iPhone both rely on touch control entirely which is alright for some games, but terrible for others - for example, platformers.

If an Apple product is your first line of gaming then I think you're an idiot. The iPod can play games but it will never be a definitive handheld console while Sony and Nintendo are around - it's holding in the gaming market may be large, but when most Apple owners most likely own a 3DS, Vita, Wii, 360 etc. in the first place then Apple's footing in the gaming market is very weak.

StarDust4Ever

#28

StarDust4Ever said:

Screw Pokemon; I actually learned how to type using Mario Teaches Typing. Can y'all believe that?

Bankai

#29

Bankai said:

@Chris720 You might think that people whose primary way of playing games is through Apple products are "idiots." I have even less respect for people who allow their opinion of people be determined based on their own entertainment preferences. No one made you the supreme arbiter of what is and isn't fun, so can it.

For the record (why the hell I need to make a disclaimer to you I have no idea), Apple products are no more my primary source of games than Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft. I seem to be the only person on the planet sane enough to care more about the games I play than the platform I play them so, so I go wherever the good games are.

Chunky_Droid

#31

Chunky_Droid said:

Apple is a HUGE competitor in gaming, and Google is increasing its speed too, I would say definitely moreso within the age bracket of anyone over 15 however, being that the majority of the AppStore/PlayStore users (I have no evidence to back this up, though I believe it to be common sense) are mobile phone users with credit cards capable of buying these games.

Personally, I can't stand iPhones themselves (I'm an Android user), though I can't stand playing games on my Android either, it's a clumsy mess in 90% of the games I should enjoy playing. However, this is a personal choice, I prefer my 3DS, then my Vita (still waiting for something I'm interested in other than Katamari that will get me back on it), then, if I have absolutely nothing left to do and I'm waiting for a doctor's appointment or waiting for a train, I'll play some Zombie Dash or whatever on my Samsung Galaxy SIII.

Chris720

#32

Chris720 said:

@Waltz I forgot to explain what I meant by this sentence didn't I? :P "If an Apple product is your first line of gaming then I think you're an idiot"

What I meant by that was this, if they prefer playing on an Apple product over a Vita or 3DS (if they own one) for their gaming needs then I personally think they're a bit weird. Everyone has their own choice of where and how they receive their entertainment, but when I see people saying that the "iPod experience" outweighs the experience on a dedicated handheld... well y'know... and @ChunkyDroid has helped make my point, nothing can beat playing on a dedicated console, Apple/Android are still useful for those 5-minute games, but in my opinion, that is as far as I would ever take that Apple product.

Also, since when I have been making myself the supreme arbiter? I've just been stating my opinion and you've been stating your opinion. Oh and how are you the only "sane" person on this planet? Get off your high horse and stop thinking you're Mr. "Definitive" and you know best for everyone and that your opinion outweighs everybody else's.

Some times I do agree with some of the statements you make and you can back them up rather well, but I'm pretty sure that just goes to your head and you starting drifting around the stratosphere.

Geonjaha

#33

Geonjaha said:

"Some times I do agree with some of the statements you make and you can back them up rather well, but I'm pretty sure that just goes to your head and you starting drifting around the stratosphere."

Hahaha. Brilliant.

JohnPhilipSousa

#34

JohnPhilipSousa said:

I personally find that a smartphone is quite an important device in this day and age. I myself decided to get a Windows Phone so that my money would go to a company that makes real gaming machines. For me games are a small part of smartphones. The real important thing about them is internet and productivity usages. Games belong on game systems. Not phones.

SilverArrow

#35

SilverArrow said:

Ugh. Some people won't be happy until Nintendo successfully divide by zero.

Nintendo, keep doing what you're doing. Everything will be A-OK. :)

kdognumba1

#36

kdognumba1 said:

Reading about these typing games reminded me of my Phantasy Star Online days on Dreamcast and Gamecube. I learned how to type previous to these games but got good by playing these games and typing on the keyboards (love the GC KB controller). Also for me, the 3DS is a great device that I use for more then just gaming. I use it as a portable digital art pad, I use it as my primary netflix device (it helps for those hot Texas summer nights), take it everywhere and use the pedometer.

I really like the direction Nintendo has been going because it seems to me they get this, they get that there's many more people out there playing games now and that new ideas and content need to come about. On the 3DS, we've already seen several new IP's come from Nintendo and the return of Kid Icarus. I'm very happy with what they've been doing over this past year and the major turn around they've made.

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