Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Living in a Post-Angry Birds World

I saw this little gem at the downtown Minneapolis Target after work today.  It's Angry Birds Trilogy, a compilation of three titles from the immensely popular iOS/Android Angry Birds series.  Can you see the crisis for Nintendo?  Any company executive who does not see it deserves to be fired immediately.

A paradigm shift in the video game world is rare, but the arrival of Apple's Apps store is one of them.  Five years ago, Angry Birds would have easily found a home as a $20 Nintendo DS cartridge.  Today, it's a 99-cent download for smartphones.  For Angry Birds Trilogy, that means $20-$30 on Nintendo 3DS, $40 on PS360...or $3 on the iPhone.  That's a paradigm shift, kids.

Nintendo gambled hard on stereoscopic 3D, hoping the Avatar phenom would usher in a new era of entertainment.  They're gambling and, outside of Japan, they're losing the bet.  Every week that goes by, store shelves of $40 3DS games look increasingly bloated and out-of-touch, while Apple and Google capture the "casual" market that was once in the palm of Nintendo's hands.

How can you sell a $40 video game in an age of $1-$5 apps?  You can't.  Sorry, Charlie, them's the brakes.

To Nintendo's credit, their situation isn't hopeless, at least, not yet.  Nobody can touch their quality when it comes to classic arcade games like Super Mario Bros and Mario Kart.  And iOS developers are struggling even to make a dime, as the smartphone market is over-saturated with free and Free-to-Play apps.  If the Big N was smart, they could navigate their way out of this minefield.  But they're going to have to make some radical decisions about their pricing, their online strategy, and their hardware/software.

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