Not the Same Old

By eweek  |  Posted 2003-06-29 Print this article Print

  • Leave the past behind. Sure, its an impressive engineering feat that the Game Boy Advance SP, which debuted in 2003, can play games designed for the original Game Boy that debuted in 1989, but its time to move on. I understand the rationale behind nostalgia marketing, but Nintendo is allowing adults to keep using the same cartridges they owned as kids (not that anyone would want to)! There comes a point where backward compatibility simply becomes backward.

  • Enter the third dimension. Nobody expects the experience of a handheld gaming platform to rival that of the latest console. Unfortunately for Nintendo, however, the market has irrevocably turned to 3D with at least the expectation of Dreamcast quality. The Game Boy Advance has roughly the power of a Super Nintendo, which is fine for side scrollers, but even dated 3D games such as Doom II and Crazy Taxi are plodding and grainy.

  • Grow up. Game Boy retailers would do well to place software for the system at about three feet from the ground, because thats the eye level of the apparent target audience. The Game Boy library includes, for example, no less than 20 Disney-branded titles, and thats not even including the ones co-branded with Pixar. Theres also plenty of other Sponge Bob-set favorites, such as Yu-Gi-Oh, Mary Kate and Ashley, and of course, Pokemon. Nintendo continues to find the adult market elusive; its stabs at adult games have either turned into fantasy horror epics or toilet humor.

  • Get sexy. Cost may be king for the handheld game market, but Nintendo remains reactionary in its refusal to embrace many new technologies. Just as its GameCube shies away from DVD playback or the online robustness of even the PlayStation 2, the Game Boy Advance fails to capitalize on the potential of wireless. This isnt to say that Nokias N-Gage has it right, but if Nintendo isnt going to figure out how wireless data can enhance a mobile game, some company will figure it out for them.
Nintendos current rallying cry of synergy between its market-leading Game Boy and XBox-battling GameCube holds less water than a Game Boy cartridge case. I dont know whats less appealing—projecting some monochrome game from the era of Dan Quayle jokes onto my TV through a $50 GameCube add-on or giving up the extra controls and convenience of a WaveBird for a next-generation PocketStation. Theres no serious threat to Nintendos entrenched market of handheld games for younger hands. However, if it wants to capitalize on the rapidly expanding market for mobile games, its going to need a heck of a power-up.
Will Nintendo be crushed between the volume of cell phones and the marketing power of Sony or will it find a ray of Super Mario Sunshine? E-mail me.
Wireless Supersite Editor Ross Rubin is a senior analyst at eMarketer. He has researched wireless communications since 1994 and has been covering technology since 1989. More from Ross Rubin:


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