The Financial Times published an interview with Yoichi Wada, chief executive of Square Enix. The relevant quote is as follows:
Mr Wada expected Nintendo to release a new Wii by 2011, with functionality more like that of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 or Sony’s PlayStation 3, and possibly a different controller.
So 2011, eh? Unlike many gamers, I´d certainly welcome the next generation as soon as it comes. By 2011, the Wii would be out for five years already, having reached the typical active time of a home console system. It seems likely that Microsoft and Sony will put a stop to the hardware-spec-race and hang on to similiar hardware they already have for a few more years, that and the current global recession are reasons for a lot of gamers to think that the current generation of consoles will last until 2014/15. Personally, I´d hate that. I want a Nintendo-system with more power, and I want a Microsoft/Sony-system that evolves in one or another way, too. Hanging on the same system for ten years is a horrible thought. This generation of HD-consoles disappointed me already, when developers decided to use all the extra power for HD and visuals, instead of realizing new game concepts (read my blog for examples). The Wii does have what it takes for new game concepts, but with the exception of a handful of games, it simply doesn´t get the kind of support to make the system´s potential bloom.
Now, I took this interview with Wada as a chance to talk about Nintendo´s future in terms of home console systems. I do not believe that Nintendo will release a WiiHD as a small upgrade like Michael Pachter, sales analyst, predicts. I do, however, believe that the next Nintendo-system will come rather sooner than later, AND will be released before Microsoft or Sony proceed with some new hardware. Of course, usually the market leader releases its new system last, having no reason to block his own money-making first place system. If I´m allowed to take a look at the past, however, I see the following: Nintendo was market leader with the SNES. Sony released its Playstation 1 before the Nintendo 64 and won the generation. Several years into the future, Sony released its next system, the Playstation 2, before their competition (poor Sega got stomped by Sony´s and their own marketing). Again, Sony won the generation when they came out before the GameCube and the XBox. Now looking at the present, Microsoft came out first and won over Sony. Wii being the exception because of its totally different, fresh, new control feature. So, what i can see is that whoever releases his nextgen-system first, has got a big, big advantage.
This kind of historical theory isn´t the only reason for an “earlier” launch of Nintendo´s nextgen-system. It´s also because of Nintendo´s new philosophy. A philosophy that is very similiar to Apple, the famous Ipod-company. Apple releases new hardware every year. Whenever a new Ipod is announced, the previous Ipod´s price is cut and the new one takes the old one´s place. In terms of software, Nintendo is even stricter than Apple, already. Nintendo-games rarely fall in price. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for Wii costs now the same 50 bucks it did cost at the end of 2006. It´s 2009 by the way, so no price cut for a game in three years. And Zelda isn´t the only one. Nintendo´s started being Apple-like in their hardware-business, too. See the DS lite and now the DSi (which´s name alone is very Apple-esque). Instead of launching some brand new hardware that needs its very own software-support, Nintendo just upgraded the existing hardware and added some neat features. If that isn´t Apple-like nothing is. The Wii has been sold for the same price since its launch in late 2006. Now, at the end of September 2009 we have first rumors of a price cut to 199 bucks. This kind of price stability is unprecedent. The Wii has proven to be an everymen´s system, a system for everyone. The Wii has become a popular, well-known brand. This is where Nintendo wanted to go to. Now, it´s chance time.
Nintendo surely knows that a lot of gaming enthusiasts aren´t exactly happy with neither their own nor 3rd-partie´s software output. The former can be speculated much, the latter finds its roots in the lack of power and HD.
Nobody can know for sure what Nintendo is planning, but I strongly think that they´ll launch their new, real Wii-successor soon. At the latest in 2011. Rather sooner, though. This won´t be a problem, because the Wii´s successor, which I call “Wii Too“, will be fully backwards-compatible. It will bring new features, most of which will be upgradeable on older Wiis via WiiUpdate-function. It will feature new Wiimote´s with built-in MotionPlus that, too, are backwards-compatible. Basically, Nintendo will take the market, their market, onto the next step. All that while not leaving the first step. Look at Ipod Classic and the new Ipods and you get what I am picturing here. This new way of distributing a home console system will be an opportunity for everyone. There will be high budget games exclusively for the Wii Too. There will be Wii-games with an HD-option for crisper textures and bonus-features. And there will be Wii-only games, that can also be played on the Wii Too, that don´t cost as much money to develop them and thus giving smaller developers a chance. Sure, you could argue that WiiWare, XboxLive Arcade and PSN already do that today, but by having the whole Wii-userbase as a potentional audience, things will be different.
Three ways to create games. That is the future Nintendo could initiate. In a way, Apple is already doing that, though having the advantage of not having to deal with different gaming-generations. MP3-files remain MP3-files. But the chance is there for Nintendo. It has to bee seen what they´ll make of it.