Last week I phoned it in with something out of my meager unpublished archives, and I hoped you all enjoyed my dissection of Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu. However this week we’re going to take a look at Nintendo’s marketing once again. Last time I visited this topic it was in regards to the Nintendo Fusion Tour. Today; however, we’re going to examine something I thing Nintendo does exceptionally well, even if it doesn’t always result in profits. Nintendo promotes new ways of gameplay, that much is clear. How so? One way is by packing in its latest innovations with games, and by adding features into new games that make use of Nintendo’s latest products. Think about it, Nintendo rarely ever requires these devices to play the games in question, but it does offer incentives for their use. So let’s look at some of the successful, and unsuccessful, Nintendo add-in products that we have seen in recent times that serve as examples for Nintendo’s willingness to try new things and go in new directions:
1. Gameboy Advance Wireless Adaptor
If the sales of Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green are any indication, then this new product stands a decent chance of catching on with a sizeable amount of Gameboy SP owners. It’s a time tested Nintendo formula to package new products with games or hardware that will sell extremely well, and once again it seems to have paid off. With this new wireless device Nintendo has taken a step in a direction many Pokemon players have been waiting for: a chance to interact with other trainers on a larger scale. But the question comes to mind: Why now? The DS is almost here, and one has to reason the SP is now on a limited lifespan of full support. That is true, I won’t deny that. However, I think this new device is meant to serve two purposes. First it is meant for those gamers who will still support the SP, the Pokemon franchise, and other future games compatible with this device. They will be able to gather many more friends than before and use this device to play games by Nintendo in ways not possible before. The second purpose is the one I am taking a bit of a leap with. I think this is Nintendo’s way of looking into the possibility of eventually moving into online gaming and more wireless gaming (a huge feature of the DS). Nintendo may simply be testing the waters to see how such a device is received, and if it can make enough impact to warrant more trends towards this type of gaming in major franchises like Pokemon.
2. The E-Reader Device
Ok, so maybe this didn’t pan out like Nintendo expectedÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦I’ll be the first to admit to that. Poor pricing, sporadic support, and other mishaps contributed to the failure (for at this stage the e-reader certainly seems to qualify for that category) of this card reading device. Yet the intentions were there. Nintendo had the right idea. First by offering to play classic games by simply swiping a card that you could buy in a pack for a relatively decent price was a very good idea. Second, giving games like Super Mario Bros. 3 Advance, Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire, and others new features accessible by using specially designed e-reader cards was another great idea. However it just never really materialized. Perhaps the greatest fault of the e-reader was the price of the device itself. It was hefty and a lot of gamers weren’t going to drop that kind of money to simply get some extra features for some of their favorite games, despite cards being packed into some games, magazines, etc. It wasn’t a Virtual Boy-esque failure, but it certainly didn’t fulfill the expectations Nintendo had when this one hit the streets.
3. The Bongo Drums!
Ok, so this is really, really new. It’s also one of the most innovative twists on gaming to ever come down the pipe. Donky Konga is perhaps the perfect example of why Nintendo remains one of the gaming industries leading companies in new innovative technology. First off music games are always fun when they come out. They are a niche market that does very well within the demographic it shoots for. Creating a game based off one of Nintendo’s most popular characters, Donkey Kong, which mixes music with very physical gameplay is about as much as a sure bet as it gets. So far everything I have read and heard about this game has been positive. On our Super Secret Boards some of the Inside Pulse Games staff have already said that Donky Konga is a great pick-up, and since I’ve been here, I’ve come to trust the opinions of the writers here: they know their stuff kids. Will this device be used with any other games outside of the ones planned? That’s hard to tell really, although I would be surprised if Nintendo stopped here with the Bongo Drums and their use. They have a lot of possibilities to explore, and I fully expect them to go with the drums in several different manners of gameplay experience.
4. Nintendo Gamecube-Gameboy Advance Gamelink Cable
Personally, I believe the jury is still out on the success or failure of this gimmick. Right now I would say the results are still very mixed. Nintendo has made very good use of their Gamecube and Gameboy Advance connectivity features in some instances, but have also made some games that simply did not use this in a meaningful way at all. When I think of great instances I think of games like Pokemon Colosseum and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. I would also add both Mario Golf games that appeared on the Cube and GBA as examples of the GCN/GBA hook-up used in an interesting and helpful manner. However, there have also been disappointments such as Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles which delivered poor game play that didn’t fully use the technology on hand to its fullest. Nintendo has seemed very supportive of this in the past, but unless more support is shown in terms of more games taking advantage of the connectivity between the two systems this may never fully reach the potential it could. However the possibility of the Nintendo DS continuing this trend in a slightly different manner certainly does exist, so to say that Nintendo has abandoned this area of expansion is premature to say the least.
5. The Gameboy Player.
Ok, so perhaps this isn’t “original”. In fact, for those who didn’t grow up in the SNES era, Nintendo released a product called the Super Gameboy back then that allowed you to do the same exact thing. However, does that make this incarnation any less cool? Not in the slightest. By allowing players to play GBA games on the ‘Cube Nintendo merely opened up the GBA gaming library to gamers who perhaps just don’t like handheld devices, or simply want to play on a bigger screen sometimes. Myself, I have an old GBA, and an SP. But I also bought the GB Player simply because it’s nice to be able to not strain my eyes sometimes when I play Metroid, Pokemon, or whatever else I have at the time. Nintendo also did the smart thing when this was launched: they packaged it with Gamecubes for one low price, and as a result that enticed people into buying this. It’s called word of mouth people. Once the special ended, those who had the Player spread the word, and the sales did decent enough for Nintendo to feel satisfied with this device’s market performance.
Of course I could go one. Who doesn’t know about the GBA Cable that links two GBA’s together? Certainly that is one of the handheld devices best features since a vast majority of GBA games released these days have two player options. Another one of interest coming up is the microphone that will be packaged with Mario Party 6. What this all comes down to is that, love them or hate them, Nintendo takes risks. Sometimes they miss the mark. I will be the first to admit that their pricing can sometimes be very off target. Yet other times they hit a homerun. The future in gaming is as uncertain as it ever has been with a new generation of consoles and handhelds on the horizon. The one thing I will remain certain of though is that regardless of where things go Nintendo will still be here, taking chances, and catering to me, a gamer, just as they have since I was a child. Until next time, take it easy, and I’ll be back next week with another edition of From A Gamer’s Basement.