IMHO: The Mobile Gaming War Between Sony and Nintendo
Nintendo and Sony constantly compete against each other, as major companies in any industry are wont to do. Last week, the competition hit a pitch fever with the launch of the PS Vita. The gorgeous handheld is a dedicated mobile gaming platform, a sphere of the gaming industry that Nintendo has long dominated. The PSP saw moderate success, more in Japan than elsewhere, but it didn’t measure up to sales of the DS. Sony hopes to lead a revolution in the mobile gaming sphere with the PS Vita.
Nintendo’s gaming systems are usually the most innovative and daring in the market. The Nintendo 64 drastically changed the controller shape (and, quite honestly, I’m not sure what possessed them to create that thing). The GameCube opted for a smaller system physically than the competitors and again redesigned the controllers. The Wii introduced motion-based gaming to the masses. The GameCube and the Wii didn’t have the processing power of the competitors, but they offered something else: a feeling of something new and exciting. Sony generally doesn’t offer much innovation in their gaming systems, but strives to cram as much functionality into them as possible. The PS Vita signals a change in Sony’s development plan.
While there isn’t anything overtly revolutionizing about the Vita, the combination of general utility common of Sony systems and the integration of a beautiful front touchscreen and rear touch-sensitive panels creates something not seen in the gaming world before. Sony has a chance to break into the mobile gaming market, but will the $250 – 300 price tag be too much? If past experience has anything to say, the price won’t be a problem. If gamers are excited about a product, they are more than willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for it. After all, people still pay $60 for a digital download.
Nintendo tried to steal some of the Vita’s fire last week with their Nintendo Direct Nintendo Update. President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime discussed some of the current projects underway at Nintendo and revealed some new information in this video. Several exciting titles will come out for the Wii and 3DS this year. Kid Icarus will launch in the US on March 23. Xenoblade Chronicles will launch on April 6. For those of you who aren’t aware, Nintendo of America claimed that Xenoblade Chronicles wouldn’t see American shores. Users on IGNBoards wouldn’t stand for that and started “Operation Rainfall,” a campaign to persuade Nintendo of America to localize the game. Either Nintendo of America planned to localize Xenoblade Chronicles all along, or they actually listened to fans. Reggie Fils-Aime announced last week that The Last Story will be released in the US. The Last Story was also part of “Operation Rainfall.”
Nintendo appears to be listening to fans, and that is good for everyone. If Nintendo is willing to hear fans out and cater to them when possible, it’ll create a whole new brand of fan-boy. Nintendo already has a strong following, but if it can establish itself as a company receptive to fans’ wants and needs (needs is certainly debatable), Nintendo will find itself with so much support that it will be difficult to keep up with sales. There is no clear indication that Nintendo of America was directly influenced by “Operation Rainfall;” however, I like to think that those dedicated fans got Nintendo’s attention and were responsible for the localization of two highly anticipated games.
Did Nintendo’s effort to steal some attention from the PS Vita launch succeed? Probably not. But last weeks’s announcement is a good sign of health for Nintendo. With several big titles (with very devoted fans) coming out this year, the 3DS and Wii will likely see another year of good sales. While the PS Vita is a sleek machine, it will be difficult for Sony to overtake Nintendo’s lead. Ever since the GameBoy, Nintendo has carved a place for itself in the mobile gaming community and it will take more than a couple system generations to overthrow the king of dedicated mobile gaming.
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