by Gray Graham
As a business consultant I avoid writing columns such as this where I offer unsolicited advice of how a company can fix their business. For Nintendo I am going to make an exception because it is something a lot of people are discussing at the moment in the business and tech worlds.
Let's get the obvious out of the way first. Nintendo is not going anywhere anytime soon. The same people that are saying Nintendo is about to die are the same people that have been saying that Facebook is about to collapse for the past 5 years.
Nintendo has a top selling product in the 3DS that is thriving in a world of iPad, iPhones, and all kinds of Android devices when everyone said it was DOA when it came out 3 years ago. And despite what you have heard, the Wii U is a next generation system video game console and is plenty powerful enough when compared to the PS4 and to a lesser extent the Xbox One.
So you are now probably asking the question why is everyone trying to fix Nintendo. That is easy, in the business world people want you to make as much money as you possibly can today. If that means that you are out of business in 10 years that is perfectly acceptable. Nintendo is not this type of company and has never been this type of company.
In the consumer electronics world, the United States is different than the rest of the world. In recent years it is so different that companies have to greatly change their business strategies just to be in the American market. Take Huawei's recent exit from our shores. Despite making many business deals and competing in the market it is still perceived as being too different for our tastes.
Nintendo is a game company. That is their purpose. It has always been their purpose. They exist to make games. They are not an electronics company. They have no desire to become a major technology company like Microsoft or Sony. This is something that is hard for many American gamers and tech writers to accept since it goes against our American culture.
That brings us to the perceived troubles of Nintendo and how they need to drastically change their company. Not to make the company better mind you but to make more money. Nintendo has always been a company that bucked trends yet somehow is still with us today.
So the question is if I was advising Nintendo (and I am available for the job Nintendo board of directors) what things would I say the company needs to do to be successful. Here is my top list of things that need to be addressed.
1.) The number one problem Nintendo has and will probably not address is that they have a leadership and company culture problem. From the things I have read there are many great innovative ideas at Nintendo, the problem is that they are ignored by the leaders of the company.
In order to survive in the 21st century Nintendo is going to have to have leaders who think in the 21st century instead of what they did in the good old days.
2.) Nintendo has an image problem in America. I believe this is a difference in culture. In America we like brands. Something we can say we have. We don't like new names for our favorite things we just want new versions of them. Japan is the opposite which is probably why we have always gotten two versions of everything. Canon learned this a long time ago so Nintendo needs to follow suit. Nokia learned the hard way that being great in the world doesn't mean much in America. You have to fit your American audience.
3.) Unlike most people I am not going to say that the Wii U is lost. We really won't be able to say that until the new games come out in 2014. The Wii U still has more good titles than the PS4 or Xbox One at the moment for the average person and is the best value. 2014 will be the year that we see if they make that break through.
With that said, Nintendo needs to if they have not already done so be working on the Wii U successor or a major system update. The Wii U is well on its way to becoming the next Virtual Boy for the company. I am sure the Wii U seemed like a good idea at the time, but consumers are not responding to the idea so if it does not take off next year then it is time to move on from the idea.
4.) At the moment it does not appear that Nintendo has a clear vision of what Nintendo is. The company has got to decide if they truly care about having 3rd party games or not. If they do care they are going to have to work on building relationships with other developers. As it stands now the major game publishers are not concerned with Nintendo or their consoles. People buy Nintendo consoles because of Mario, Pokemon, Link, and Animal Crossing which is good except when companies like Capcom and Ubisoft shun you on major popular titles.
As far as their their games are concerned they need to get them out on time. There really is no acceptable reason that Nintendo did not have a major Mario, Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Animal Crossing, Metroid, or Pokemon game ready to go for the Wii U in the first year. If they only person making quality content for your console is you then you better get the job done.
5.) Start making plans for the future. Nintendo has been beating naysayers for 30 years but I think technology may pass them by in the next ten if the tech visionaries are correct. If Lehman Brothers can go out of business, then Nintendo can go out of business. There will always be Nintendo fans but there will always be Atari, Turbo Grafx, Intellivision, and Sega fans too and all of those companies are no longer in the console business and only one of them is still in business.
In business just like nature, if you do not evolve and adapt to new environments then you will become extinct. The dinosaurs ruled the Earth for millions of years, but today they are just fossils. Nintendo has to make sure they don't become a fossil before their time because of poor business decisions and a corporate culture too stubborn to evolve over time.