The Nintendo DS software bubble.
Recently, Masaya Matsuura the founder of the Japanese company NanaOn-Sha stated, when asked about the future of the Nintendo DS, that the DS trend was beginning to wane in Japan.
Specifically, Matsuura suggested that some people have already said that the ds software bubble has exploded They might seem like sensational statements, but the fact is that it is something that I have been thinking about for a long time. Let me explain.
That Nintendo DS has been an innovation in the field of portable consoles is something that no one disputes. Its sales figures are stupendous, and continue apace, becoming, along with Wii, a money-making machine for Nintendo.
However, it is true that for some time now the panorama has begun to be too repetitive, with all the companies determined to perpetuate a single formula that succeeds. Like a speculative bubble, where everyone wants to join the selling tide before it dies.
‘I will give you several examples, using specific games for this. On the one hand, there is the phenomenon of virtual pets like Nintendogs’, a game that has been cloned ad nauseam. In this field, there is a certain cloning effect, with various third parties releasing games with the same theme, with small variations (normally, the animal to be cared for).
Thus, we can breed from cats to horses, in games that are extremely cheap to produce (they are based on repeating the same mechanics and changing the graphics, after all) and that, however, sell wonderfully with very little investment. A round business.
On the other hand, there is the ‘Brain Training’ phenomenon and training games in general, which Nintendo itself is exploiting to perfection. It is no longer just about training our brain, but also our sight or our facial expression. A series of games that are also cheap to produce and make huge profits.
Obviously, Nintendo has been able to start a trend of casual games that are easily accessible to all audiences, and multiple producers have jumped on the bandwagon, given how cheap it is to make this type of title. The problem with all this is the avalanche of clone games that the console is facing, moving away from the promise of real innovation that they were selling us at the beginning.
We must not forget that fashions are always temporary. And although these games have been and will still be profitable in the future, as well as having a certain audience, it is true that a certain tiredness among the players is beginning to be appreciated. And it is that a ‘Brain Training’ is new at first, but one does not live exclusively from sequels of a game that is nothing more than a digital version of the hobbies of the newspaper.
Fortunately, there is still a wide stream of great games on the Nintendo DS. There’s ‘The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass’ to prove it. However, they are not as many as one would expect for a machine from the success of the Nintendo DS.
It is cheaper to produce a training or test game, taking advantage of the touch screen, than to create a new title from scratch that, using traditional narrative structures, establishes new forms of interaction.
This is nothing more than a consequence of the conquest of the market by casual gamers. If companies previously had to work hard to attract the attention of experienced gamers, now they know that they can get the same benefits with much less effort, creating a clone game of a trendy title.
And this is where all this connects with the conception of the Nintendo DS software bubble, understood as a long period in which producing games for the Nintendo console has been easy, cheap and profitable. However, this business model seems to be on the verge of exhaustion in Japan, a market that is an excellent thermometer of trends worldwide.
In the same way that new audiences were introduced to video games in this way, these audiences will soon demand better experiences. And then, the companies that have invested in innovation and have not rested on the laurels of easy work, will be the ones that win back these consumers.