During this year's E3, a whole bunch of industry veterans met at the Lunch with Luminaries event. In this yearly talk Gaikai and Shiny founder Dave Perry invites big names for a in-depth discussion about the games industry, and this time around we had Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford, Boss Key Productions co-founder Cliff Bleszinski, ngmoco and N3twork founder Neil Young, Double Fine Productions founder Tim Schafer, Entertainment Software Association president Michael Gallagher, Amazon Games VP Mike Frazzini, and Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe.
While much of the chat was about big trends in the industry - such as mobile and VR - the group did touch upon Nintendo's current situation. The Japanese company's E3 presentation didn't go down as well as was hoped, and Randy Pitchford believes that the problem the firm has is that it is locked into serving its existing fans, when it should really be trying to reach new ones - as it arguably did with the Wii.
Pitchford explains that while Nintendo's games are highly rated and very playable, not enough people know they exist - and he likens the situation to visiting the movie site Rotten Tomatoes to find the best films currently available:
It tends to be that some of the highest rated things on Rotten Tomatoes are films I've never even heard of. They're indie things that are marketed not to me. Nintendo's gotten really good at talking to Nintendo customers. But I think that Nintendo could at least lead more if they figured out how to talk to new people that they're not already talking to. And that's a very difficult problem.
Amazon's Mike Frazzini backed this up with another example. He recently took his kids to Disneyland and asked them if they wanted to see Mickey Mouse, but found that they didn't even know who he was. However, they had heard of Anna and Elsa, the stars of Frozen - one of the biggest movies of all-time and Disney's most recent animated success.
Pitchford pointed out that Nintendo is in the position of being a "slave to its former success", and that it needs to try something new to gain more fans:
We're always trying to invent the new thing, and it's scary because no one knows what the new thing is, so you have to build the gravity up. Meanwhile, your existing customers are screaming, 'Give me more of the old thing!' But we know the biggest brands of the future don't even exist today. And the brands that are biggest today will fail, will go down. So from my point of view, the only option is to create new stuff. I'm making a new game and nobody knows what it is. A lot of people know and like the last big thing we did and ask why aren't you doing more of that? It's funny because I had the exact same thing happen the last time. When we were trying to figure out Borderlands and telling people why that was going to be cool, everyone was like, 'Why don't you make more Brothers in Arms?'
Should Nintendo be trying new things - like Metroid Prime: Federation Force, for example - or should it be focusing on pleasing its existing fanbase? When the existing fans have only managed to notch up 10 million Wii U hardware sales, then you could argue that Nintendo needs to heed Pitchford's advice and branch out a little.
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