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The Future of Console Gaming

part 2/page 3


   While the world and Nintendo changes, many things remain the same for them. In some ways the tremendous success of Sony in the market has allowed Nintendo to return to an extremely successful strategy that they were actually blasted for in the 1980's. Peter Main, an executive in charge of public relations at Nintendo at the time attributed the high profits and high sales on NES software to what he called "inventory management". This was a method of limiting the amount of product available to consumers so that Nintendo could keep the demand for any particular product high. Nintendo received complaints about this during the NES, and early SNES days because they were so dominant in the market that everyone wanted to get their games published and share in the profits. These days, everyone wants to publish for PlayStation allowing Nintendo to be far more discriminating in what they release and when they turn away a publisher they don't have to worry about a lawsuit.

   Another way that this process benefits Nintendo is that while they make a good amount of their profits off of their first party releases, internally, they do not have the staff to produce new and diverse enough games to regularly meet the demands from their user base. It is here that third party support really comes into play by helping buffer the time between corporate releases. It also helps to bring down Nintendo's internal cost to manufacture cartridges by providing consistent levels of cartridge manufacturing demand which can adjusted as needed to their benefit. Nintendo plays their market extremely well, they limit third party development at the front of a systems life to help fill out release schedules and drive down costs. Then everyone who stood clear of the launch begins to see the high sales figures from the handful of third-party companies who were involved with the system's launch. Next thing you know, everyone wants to jump on the wagon for second and third generation releases. This demand from publishers then creates a buyers market for Nintendo where they can choose who they want to work with as they wish. If you haven't noticed, clear formulas are starting to immerge in this picture.

   Now on the subject of threats to Nintendo, the biggest question facing gamers is what will happen to the company following the retirement of Howard Lincoln (set to retire Feb., 14th 2000) who has been the key public figure and chairman for Nintendo of American, and Hiroshi Yamauchi (planned for sometime in 2001) who is the President of the parent company in Japan. While there are many well spoken individuals within Nintendo who have a clear vision of where Nintendo is going, it is Minoru Arakawa the son-in-law of Mr. Yamauchi and current President of Nintendo of America, who appears to be in succession to lead the company.

   While I would like to say something about Mr. Arakawa as an individual, or provide examples of his thoughts regarding the company, I can't. In fact, I can't really say anything either positive or negative about the man. In all the years that I have followed the company, Mr. Arakawa rarely holds an interview without Mr. Lincoln present, and even then he only tends to recite stats about the company, leaving statements on projections and opinions to Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Arakawa is currently a mystery, and hopefully he will reveal more of himself and his personality in the months leading up to Mr. Yamauchi's retirement. If nothing else but to provide confidence that the same leadership as today will persist into the future.

   Another thing to note is that regardless of other companies hardware releases, or the unlimited number of analysts/journalists that would like to claim that so-and-so's actions forced Nintendo to reconsider and release a new system, you should note that since the mid 1970's Nintendo has consistently released a new console system approximately every five years and a new portable every ten, and then, only when they have felt that they have both completely maximized the potential of the previous platform, and been able to balance the cost of hardware component availability vs. expected software needs down to an absolute minimum. The only exception to this has been the Virtual Boy which has it's own unique and in somewhat tragic history that goes beyond the scope of this article. A general timeline of system releases (with comments) can be seen as follows:

Platform w/notes
Consoles 1977 Colour TV Game 6 (console developed with Mitsubishi Electric)
1983-1985 Nintendo Entertainment System aka NES (83' in Japan/85' in U.S.) at least three distinct versions
1990-1991 Super Nintendo Entertainment System aka SNES (90' in Japan/91' in U.S.) at least three distinct versions
1996 N64
2000-2001? New console (previously code-named "Dolphin")
Portables 1980 "GAME & WATCH" wrist-watch based video games
1989 Game Boy
(1994) Super Game Boy (Game Boy variant modified to be a SNES expansion module that Nintendo used to encourage developers to start coding new 4-color palette defaults into all games.)
(1996) Game Boy Pocket (Game Boy variant modified for compact design)
(1998) Game Boy Color (Game Boy variant modified for color screen output, plays all Game Boy games, and utilizes the default 4-color palette selection in GB games introduced since 1994 so that without buying a single GBC specific game, both upgrade users and new users alike can be playing in color via a significantly large, pre-existing GB library)
2000-2001? Game Boy Advanced (32-bit system)
Misc... 1994 Virtual Boy

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