Nintendo: Time to Break Open The Piggy Bank

Virtue CFO Asif Khan believes Nintendo must use its ample cash to buy its way back to relevance - perhaps an investment in Oculus?

Just last week, Nintendo pre-announced a horrendous sales miss for their fiscal year ending March, 2014. This has led to a flurry of blog posts, articles and tweets about Nintendo's impending death. As I have said before in my articles, Nintendo is not going to die. However, this recent Wii U sales data does have me concerned as a fan of the company as well as an investor.

Nintendo's ADR, NTDOY, is the third largest holding in the Virtue LLC portfolio that I manage and I have repeatedly stuck my neck out defending the company in my Game Trader articles and also when talking to my family, friends, and colleagues. The magnitude of the sales miss announced last week, and the drastic reduction in Nintendo's estimates has me questioning a number of things going on at the company.

Were their sales expectations wishful thinking or did they actually believe these numbers could be hit?

When a company misses their own sales projection by over 60 percent, it is toeing the dangerous line of misleading investors. Either the management team is full of eternal optimists or they did not see the writing on the wall. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that management needs to change. I am not saying that Iwata must resign, rather that the whole team at Nintendo must change how they view their business and the industry as a whole because they have proven to be out of touch.

"Nintendo has a great opportunity to take a minority stake in Oculus VR, or buy the whole dang company"

Just how long can Nintendo keep its head in the sand with respects to mobile?

It is obvious that Nintendo can not and should not make its own phone, but why not try to monetize legacy content in an environment with hundreds of millions of smartphones in the pockets of people around the world? I understand that 3DS has been much more successful than the Wii U, but I believe that releasing NES titles for mobile is not going to cannibalize sales of the 3DS as much as some inside and outside the company may believe. Nintendo has an opportunity to create a tiered system for releasing their content, where some virtual console titles will be made available on mobile phones and the new AAA Nintendo titles will still be made exclusively for 3DS/Wii U. The current walled garden philosophy isn't going to cut it. Super Mario 3D World was one of the most critically acclaimed games of 2013, yet the Wii U sales still were pathetic. The idea that software sells hardware does not seem to be working, so why not sell some older software on proven hardware platforms that are still growing?

How long can planned obsolescence, incremental innovation, and proprietary intertwining of an ecosystem continue before consumers become disenfranchised and bored with the brand?

This is not just a question for Nintendo, but now seems like a great time for them to address it. The Wii U is severely underpowered when compared to the PS4, Xbox One, and upcoming Steam Machines. In a market with so many high quality choices, why does Nintendo perpetually gravitate towards being a low cost, lower tech option? The NES and SNES were not nearly as guilty of this and they remain some of the best selling consoles of all time. I dream of a day when Nintendo actually makes a machine with a lot of horsepower. We can call it the Mega Nintendo Entertainment System! The planned obsolete Wii U hardware led them to lose support from EA, which I think was a serious factor in the sales miss this holiday. There are very few consumers in Europe that are going to buy a game machine that doesn't play FIFA, as is the case with Madden here in the US. Nintendo must do a better job of creating an ecosystem that 3rd party developers want to be a part of, or else they will eventually suffer the same fate as Sega.

Why not acquire growth and innovation?

Nintendo has a mountain of cash, which allows them to take risks and fail from time to time. This is why they have been around since 1889 and have been able to adjust to market trends. Virtual Boy was a complete flop, but it was an attempt at doing something new and exciting. I had a chance to see Oculus VR's Rift Crystal Cove prototype at this year's CES, and it was a mindblowing experience. Clearly VR is a user interface that is very close to being ready for prime time, and Microsoft and Sony are putting up barriers to Oculus. Nintendo has a great opportunity to take a minority stake in Oculus VR, or buy the whole dang company. Either way, this is an example of how Nintendo could acquire innovation and show that they are still a brand that can wow people. Even if they don't acquire the whole company, supporting and developing games that use Oculus VR's innovative tech would be a great way to differentiate Nintendo from Sony and Microsoft.

If that is too crazy of an idea, why not acquire Sega or Capcom? One of the main problems Nintendo has is their development cycles are so long that they never seem to have enough quality titles available. Expanding their development teams to include Sega and Capcom is something they can easily do with their balance sheet and would be accretive to earnings within a few years. Instead of sitting on a pile of money, Nintendo should do something to grow the company before it starts bleeding cash.

Why not license existing brands out to film/TV studios in an effort to achieve profitability and improve brand recognition in key demographics?

"Wii U is not Dreamcast, and Nintendo could continue at this pathetic pace for 20 more years before going bankrupt"

Nintendo has made movies in the past, and they have had TV shows, but they currently aren't doing either. Nintendo could easily monetize their brands by licensing content to Disney, Sony or anyone else in Hollywood that wants to make money. It is a low cost, high return effort on their part and would help them get out of the hole they are in financially. At the same time, it could reinvigorate their brand in the eyes of an age group that has no recollection of the NES. Put simply, bring back the cereal, Nintendo!

Are they even trying?

The fact that I could put forth all these ideas for how to grow the company's earnings organically or through partnerships and acquisitions shows that there is a way out for Nintendo. Wii U is not Dreamcast, and Nintendo could continue at this pathetic pace for 20 more years before going bankrupt. Part of me feels like this whole generation is a "kick the can down the road" move on the part of Nintendo. 3DS and Wii U are evolutionary products, not revolutionary. Perhaps Nintendo already has its next product in the works and it will address a number of my concerns above. Maybe this recent sales miss is the kick in the behind the company needed to change course.

What I know for certain is that Nintendo still makes some of the best games in the world, it has some of the most recognizable characters in the world, and millions of fans worldwide. Not every decision at a video game company should be about profits and losses, but when a company has three straight years of losses and misses sales by an egregious 60 percent something has to change. The status quo will not work anymore, Nintendo. I have not sold any of my shares because I still believe that the company can turn this around, but it needs to realize that 2014 is a lot different than 2006.

When I bought the stock in 2010, in was with a 3-5 year time horizon. After this recent sales miss, I have realized that it will take close to 6 more years before we know if Nintendo really is going to turn it around or not. It remains the cheapest stock that I own on a number of valuation metrics, but companies are usually cheap for a reason. Nothing is going to appear undervalued when things are going well, and it is very apparent that things are not going well at Nintendo. Something has to change.

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Latest comments (50)

Richard Browne Head of External Projects, Digital Extremes8 years ago
Software sells hardware, but not when the hardware is $100 too expensive and when you've epicly failed to explain why the "differentiator" is worth that high price. Nintendo don't need to compete power wise with Sony and Microsoft, they are after a different market. But if you're in the toy business you have to be at a toy price - and that's not $300.
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Ralph Tricoche Studying MA, CUNY8 years ago
No O Rift is not the future despite what everyone thinks. Nintendo has 2014 to make some impact with WiiU, next it will have to reveal their next console. But in order to compete new, fresh ideas need to be brought to the table. A world class backbone network needs to be realized and unifying account system needs to be in place. Some fresh IP's to accompany those tried and true classics. Keep the game pad, keep off TV play and come up with a plan to not anger your loyal fans to much for backing the WiiU.
Also make sure the all those digital purchases carry over to the new machine as well. They cant just die at the vine. They don't need a new gimmick this time around since the gamepad and the features mentioned here were never fully realized. Also keep Miiverse and some kind of scoring system, this seems to be all the craze with gamers these days and to be honest with as many skill based games as Nintendo has this would be a no-brainer.
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Maik Buetefuer PR Manager, Ubisoft Germany8 years ago
The amount of wrong in this article is baffling. :)
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Show all comments (50)
Christopher Hennen Designer 8 years ago
I would be very surprised if Nintendo acquired any part of or all of a VR company. Nintendo and a few other large brands have worked with recent VR technology like the type that is gaining momentum today. In testing on children, the the way these goggle type devices display and interact with the brain and eyes poses a major threat to eye development. This is not to be confused with the mild controversy that happened with the 3DS, this was happening in early test phases that made the companies involved decide the liability was too great. I wish I had a reference for this. I am sure some targeted journalistic sleuthing would uncover this data from more viable sources.
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Asif A. Khan, CPA Financial Reporter 8 years ago
Please elaborate, Maik. Also, I am still waiting on my Watchdogs that I preordered last year.

In all seriousness, this article was meant to illustrate that Nintendo has many options besides bankruptcy. My suggestions may be wrong and baffling, but they show that the company can and should do something to arrest this decline in their share price. Instead of posting a one sentence quip, why not suggest something else that they could do? Unless you think their current strategy is perfect...
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Asif A. Khan, CPA Financial Reporter 8 years ago
@Christopher Hennen You do realize that Nintendo did make a VR device called VirtualBoy back in the day? Clearly VR is not meant for kids, but there are plenty of dudes that live in their parents' basements that would love to be transported to a virtual world. We live in a world where we are staring at screens all day, and the amount of screens in our lives is increasing. I am sure some targeted journalistic sleuthing could uncover studies about smartphones and tablets being detrimental to young people's vision as well. You are right that large companies are afraid of the risk, and this is why I believe Oculus VR could be a massively disruptive success in a few years.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
It is not in Nintendo's DNA to buy in ideas. They even hated 3rd party publishing on their platforms.

Amazon have taken the public domain bits of Android and made it into the buying machine that is the Kindle Fire.
Nintendo could do the same, but optimise it for gaming, on a phone.
This gives them a quick route to market with a phone that is sufficiently the same as to be acceptable. And sufficiently different, with the Nintendo games, to have strategic advantage. Also using ARM would help with DS conversions.

Dedicated gaming devices no longer have a purpose. Even Sony and Microsoft have moved on from that with their home consoles.
The vast majority of all the world's gaming is on multi purpose devices.
Nintendo are the last hold out. And they are suffering as a result.
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Germán Vázquez Executive Producer, Neggi Studio8 years ago
I did not expected to say this but I kind of agree with Bruce, while not maybe the best way for Nintento is a viable one notheless.
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Jordan Lund Columnist 8 years ago
A couple of points:

1) Software does sell hardware. The problem is that the Wii U only has Nintendo software to offer. The die hard Nintendo fans will spend $250-$300 on the promise of an annual Mario or Zelda release (or re-make), but the general consumer will not. When they look at the shelf of Wii U games and only see old 3rd party titles that are just now getting to a Nintendo platform it's not an incentive to buy. it's great that the Wii U had a Batman game at launch. Everyone loved Arkham Asylum. You know, when it came out, a year before the Wii U launched.

2) Nintendo has been behind the curve since the SNES. Let me explain what I mean by that. Sega launched the Mega Drive in Japan in 1988. The Super Famicom didn't arrive until 2 years later. Nintendo essentially handed the 16 bit market to Sega for 2 years before doing anything about it.
They then repeated this pattern when the Saturn and Playstation came out in 1994. Nintento actually ran print ads saying "16 bit is good enough." They again waited 2 years to do anything and compounded the error by sticking with the previous generation notion of cartridges.
They improved things slightly with the Gamecube, launching 2 years behind the Dreamcast, but only 1 year behind the PS2 and 1 week behind the Xbox and moving to an optical format, but they missed out on doing basic things the other consoles did like marketing a component cable. Whereas the Xbox and PS2 were ready to go with HD images, the Gamecube had the ability to do progressive scan, but the cable to enable it was impossible to find. You could only buy it directly from Nintendo.
They also failed to learn anything from their competition moving into the online space. The Dreamcast was online from day one with SegaNet, the Xbox had Xbox Live 1 year after launch. Meanwhile, even though both a modem and network adapter were released for the Gamecube, Nintendo didn't seem to know what to do with them.
Roll forward to the Wii and now they have an online store, a generation after everyone else did, and they finally release component cables for HD monitors, but without the HD resolutions that everyone else had been using for a generation.

If you bore with me through all this, the #1 thing to take away is that Nintendo has always been slow to adapt and behind the competition. Since the SNES days. The problem currently is that they can't get away with it anymore.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd8 years ago
Bruce is certainly right about one thing. Nintendo doesn't buy other people's ideas. That's one of their biggest strengths.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
Who are Nintendo's competitors at this point? Parents using their lifestyle phones as digital pacifiers? 'Anything goes' online shops as found on iOS and Android? Highly usable and flexible social networking software? Other software companies and their visuals? Other hardware companies and their hardware power? Mobile phone and internet service providers subsidizing other hardware and not Nintendo?`Toygames such as Skylanders? f2p business models? Indy darling platforms? VR??

Certainly, you can pick the best of everything and blame Nintendo for not having had that idea. Which says more about the impossibility of our expectations, rather than the reality of Nintendo's capabilities. An inconvenient interpretation would be Nintendo having competition on too many fronts, while actively fighting on too few.
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Tanya Rei Myoko Programmer 8 years ago
I'd like it if they spent that money catching up to the ps2\original xbox, Nintendo still makes games as if it was the n64 era. Especially when it comes to online
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
The thing about Wii U ports, Jordan... is they're NOT made for people who already played them, but even if they had... it was quite clear to see that nearly all the ones on the Wii U are in one way or another superior to the previous versions. Of course, some of those former "exclusives" ended up on other consoles later and at least one that got a multi-platform release (Rayman Legends) is clearly better on the Wii U, but hey - that's showbiz, I guess.

Look, not every Nintendo console owner has the luxury of owning or hell even playing those games (they're not all games journalists or want to be), so getting them on the system with improvements, Wii exclusive features and (all previously available DLC ON the disc in some cases) was a good thing for some who'd maybe only heard of those games from friends. That many critics overlooked this in some reviews isn't at all the reason they didn't sell, mind you. But having a fresh eye and maybe writing Wii U port reviews to those who may have never played these games might have helped even a tiny bit more.

As for Nintendo being slow to adopt, I'd say the company has been more slow to change AFTER they innovate. And in some aspects the tendency to do too many variations on a platform merely because it sells well (were all those GB, GBA, DS and now 3DS variants really needed?) might be something they want to look at.

Upgrades are fine, but I'd rather them make less "collector's" systems and funky colors and just concentrate on a solid (and perhaps upgradable) portable that connects to a home console and can be personalized per user from the inside with content. Let someone sell authorized cases and skins or whatever, but stick with games and getting as many great ones out there.
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Caleb Hale Journalist 8 years ago
The Wii U represents an awkward phase for Nintendo, a console that's trying to achieve three separate goals - 1) A system that retains some of the Wii's motion-control charm (whatever may be left of that fad in the eyes of the consumer), 2) A system with more processing heft and HD visuals, and 3) A system that touches on that "next big thing" in gaming, which seems to be the convenience to access your gaming content in front of and away from the television.

Based on the supposed Nintendo "Fusion" platform I'm reading about - a system, mind you, which is likely nothing more than a spec sheet on the desk of someone at Nintendo R&D - and the recent streamlining of handheld and console development operations announced by Nintendo, it seems the company's next trick is (and should be) to develop a truly unified platform that allows people to access their gaming content anywhere they'd like.

There are a few caveats to successfully doing this. 1) Don't skimp on the power. Nintendo needs to compete with its juggernaut rivals in the home console space with a platform that's as easy to develop for and powerful enough to handle what developers want to make on next-gen consoles. 2) Don't be afraid of a higher asking price. Nintendo seems hesitant to approach the $500 mark on MSRP, even in an era when the iPad has proven its perfectly acceptable in the consumer's eye. If Nintendo's next platform is truly a unified home console and handheld all in one, a $500-600 asking price really isn't above and beyond what somebody would have to pay to get both a Wii U and 3DS. 3) Understand the difference Nintendo should be leveraging against its competition isn't innovation in its hardware, but innovation and support in its unique lineup of software. Few people my age would deny a Nintendo console powerful enough to play any third-party software, combined with the lineup of quality Nintendo titles consumers are assured each console cycle, is an offer that would make them second-guess ever really needing a competitor's console.

Nintendo should accept the fact the Wii U is going to live out the rest of its days in mediocrity, despite the guarantee more quality games are inbound. As a company, I'm not sure it's wise to try to change that fate, as doing so would likely come at the expenditure of resources better left for Nintendo's next fight.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 8 years ago
Occulus Rift is not a mainstream product. Anything that isolates the user from each other is not only niche by default, but anti Nintendos entire philosophy.

I am a huge enthusiast for Occulus, but I also recognize that the big money is in industrial design, scientific and medical applications, not games.

Nintendos projections were a product of their own internal delusions. They gave to dump everyone at the top not named Shigaru Miyamoto. Consoles are dying in Japan, and Nintendo needs to stop designing for a market that is diverging from the rest of the world. They are entirely mystified as to why the church's congregation continues to shrink. They still believe the Wii was momentarily popular on its own merits, and not because it played well on Good Morning America.

Nintendo fans will continue to believe that success is right around the corner. Ninendo lacks the technical teams to develop or support a modern console, and the money, time and effort it'll take to ramp up will further sink them. They're not going under today or tomorrow, but ten years from now Apple or Sony will own them. People wil buy Mario and Zelda, but it needs to be on a console that has a reason to purchase outside of nostalgia. The college kids of tomorrow are going to be nostalgic for call of duty, not Kirby.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 8 years ago
I also don't see them buying Occulus Rift as it wouldn't make sense for them. As for putting games on phones, thats still not likely to happen. A more realistic scenario would be them allowing Nintendo apps to be sold in the various mobile marketplaces. If they did somehow decide to release older games on mobile it wouldn't be any of their Mario, Zelda, Metroid or other first string titles. It would be more for the stuff that has fallen under the radar over the years such as Kid Icarus or something even lesser known than that.

While Nintendo should open their wallet more to get some better third party exclusives, they still need a killer app. Unless I'm mistaken they atill don't have the equivalent of a Wii Sports for Wii U that would easily help the public to understand the benifits of playing Wii U games over the competition. That should probably be the first thing they start to spend some of those billions on.
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Maged Hamdy Studying Computer Science, Rochester Institute of Technology8 years ago
Buying out oculist would be a bold... and very good move. With the Wii Nintendo built a reputation for immersion which they didn't really do much to continue. Sure the 3ds is 3d but that was released at the end of the craze, oculis is just warming up. That being said, I would be worried about Nintendo policies choking the Indie scene that's driving oculus forward.
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd8 years ago
why not try to monetize legacy content in an environment with hundreds of millions of smartphones in the pockets of people around the world?
It's probably something to do with the revenue they could generate from doing that for several years is maybe 1% of what they can earn from a single high profile SKU on a platform they control. Lots of other publishers are exploiting their back catalogues in this way and they're not making billions.

All of these articles from fund managers sound like letters written to Nintendo by twelve year olds. Why don't Nintendo team up with everyone and make a super machine and make Mario lunchboxes again.
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A lot of people seem to be missing the point.

Amazon makes hardware, and sells things. They don't make software for their devices. Same with Apple, Samsung, Google, HTC (etc) and its almost the same case with Sony and Microsoft - the majority of the big titles aren't theirs.

And other companies just make software or media - and try and get it on as many devices as possible (i.e. web/mobile).

Nintendo is the only company I can think of that seriously does both - and both are strong assets. Game & Watch (hardware), Gameboy (hardware), Wii (hardware) ... Zelda, Pokemon, Mario (etc) - Software.

This is the real dilemma for Nintendo. Which do they do? Both? Dump software, and make awesome hardware? Or dump hardware, and try and make awesome software (for other hardware)?

As far as "investment" there is a lot they can do. They could purchase any number of companies - or even mobile companies. They then get their profits, and can leverage them to make Nintendo branded mobile media. Externally.

I don't see how Occulus really helps - unless you area proposing a new console based around it.

Secondly - software definitely sells hardware ... when people want the software.

The real truth with the WiiU, is that the games to date really lack that Nintendo "magic". The only game that stands out to me is Nintendoland - but even that is a min-game collection.

The Wii launched with new experiences, that were impossible on other consoles. It was a truly new experience, and something everyone wanted to at least try. Compare this to Super Mario World - which no doubt is an excellent "game" - but its also a game that is just not really new in any game-experience way. It could have been written for the Wii, or the PS3, etc.

This is the real failing of Nintendo - and the thing that amazes me, is after the BLATANT success of the Wii which was coupled with a must-play-original-game ... the WiiU had (almost) nothing. Upper management must take the blame for this. If the console would have launched with a single, high-quality, original, hardcore (their market) title ... that made proper use of the GamePad, and was impossible on other consoles ... I have a strong feeling we wouldn't be discussing this now.
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Maik Buetefuer PR Manager, Ubisoft Germany8 years ago
Haha! You will get you copy of Watch Dogs eventually, I'm sure of that. :)

I just didn't have time to elaborate yesterday and I don't mean to offend you. It's just that I'm amazed how frequent and constantly people want to tell Nintendo what they should do. I am not exactly happy from a gamer's point of view with what they did, but business wise, I believe they know exactly where they are and what they do. And all the success/failure is based on their own ideas, the own creativity and their own (sometimes critizised) decisions. Would anybody have bet in the Wii when it was first announced? No. Did everybody predict their doom when the 3DS was first unveiled? Yes.

Looking at your article I get the feeling that you have a lot of short term cash grab ideas for Nintendo, that might really work. But Nintendo (at least to my understanding) is more interested in a long term success and a "secure" business. And I admire that.

Sure, they could release NES classics on iOS and Android, but they would just not live up to the standards in quality the company is known for. Nintendos classic games are best played on Nintendo hardware. Emulating them with touch controls will never be good enough.

Sure, they could develop a console with lots and lots of horespower to challenge Sony and Microsoft, but to what end? What would be the benefit? Enourmous costs in R&D, the heaviest competition you can imagine and development costs for a new Zelda-game would multiply. The have enough trouble to get these games developed on Wii U. It would be great to get the third party support, but would a Wii U really be selling better, if it had the same specs as an Xbox One and you could play Call of Duty Ghosts in 1080p on it? I doubt it.

While I love the tech of Oculus, I don't see Nintendo in the same mindset. It's very techie, very high quality. If Nintendo did VR, it would be affordable for everyone and natural to use. However, I really, really doubt that Oculus would limit themselves to Nintendo hardware.

Acquiring SEGA or Capcom? Why would they want to load something on their backs even more? The only benefit I can see from that would be to have more in-house developers to create desireable software exclusively for their own hardware. While I can see the appeal in that, maybe securing an exclusive deal for a game would be a lot cheaper. SEGA is pumping out games with Sonic on Nintendo hardware anyway, so why bother? Plus, for Wii U that would be far too late (you wouldn't see fruition on this before 2017), so it wouldn't really help the console that much.

Describing the 3DS and the Wii U as evolutionary products rather than revolutionary, is quite bold. Yes, I'm looking at the PS4 and Xbox One. :)

Don't get me wrong, the situation of the Wii U is tough and I would love for Nintendo to strike back soon, but I don't see why so many people want them to act so short sighted and panicky. Have a little faith. The Wii U will not sell 100 million consoles? So what, as long as Nintendo turns a profit at some point and you get to play great games?
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
Buying the oculus rift is a pretty dumb move. As the strength in their business is the IP. And a virtual reality headset is only good for certain games. Like point and click shooters. It would work for a star fox game or maybe a metroid prime, but not a fire emblem, Super Smash bros or Mario game or even a pokemon.

And in any business. It doesnt matter how small it is, if you can turn a profit, its good business. And Nintendo has remained relativly small so they can take a few hits. they have a few heavy hitters in their software lineup, and right now all 3 console holders are going through a software drought. I just feel the Nintendo consoles will end up having shorter life cycles than the other ones.

But it seems people love kicking them when they are down. Nintendo will survive this. And I fail to belive these are the only cards they have left.
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Jamie Read 3D Artist, Neon Play Ltd8 years ago
@Maik - Well said Sir.
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Max Brode Videogame Consultant 8 years ago
Nintendo is in a real pickle. They missed the boat on several counts this time around and they have nothing to make up for it.

As Jordan pointed out, Nintendo don’t have a history of coming out with high powered hardware in comparison to their competitors, but besides hit software delivered in a timely fashion, they usually had a USP up their sleeve that captured the imagination of potential buyers – a Mode 7, 64-bit magic, GBA connectivity and the silver bullet for the causal market – the Wii Remote. The Game Pad has failed to do that, however, so Wii U has to compete on merit alone. And unsurprisingly it struggles.

The hardware gap this generation is massive and bigger than it has ever been. Nintendo are effectively one whole generation behind in terms of hardware capabilities and arguably even further in their online integration – a key component of the previous console cycle and thus a core building block of this new generation. The Wii U is a clunky console. The Game Pad is massive and feels a bit cheap, and the OS is slow and prone to comparatively long loading times – especially when going online, losing out to even the 360 and the PS3 in ease of use.

This is a huge problem, as it turns the Wii U into a dedicated Nintendo machine. There’s hardly anything available other than a sparse selection of first party software and due to the lacklustre online integration Wii U versions are consistently the worst version of multi-platform games one can pick up. And there is no way this will improve. Games made to the common denominator of this generation (XO, PS4, mid-range PC) cannot easily be squeezed down to last gen spec, so it’s only worth it if the console has a large install base – and that just hasn’t happened in the one year window the Wii U had due to a royally botched launch (lousy messaging, no software, a price point that didn’t match the value proposition).

In my opinion, Nintendo need to do four things:
- Study the competition and make sure that they can match basic features next time around they launch a new machine (power, content delivery, online components, multi-media offerings). This could be soon or further in the future, but whatever shape it takes, it must be competitive for at least one AAA game development cycle (2 years or so).
- Court third parties and make sure they have everything they need / want to include the hardware into their multi-platform line-up.
- Study the price structure at launch and match up the value proposition (i.e. you can launch a PS4 level machine at the same price point, but not a 360 level machine at double the price).
- Increase the in-house software making capabilities (I fully agree with Asif here – buy SEGA or Capcom or both – a higher frequency of high quality in-house software is a must for Nintendo, as it is its most powerful differentiator and is the easiest to build upon).

All the other ideas (mobile exploitation of legacy content, TV, Oculus support) are all well and good and certainly worth looking into to prop up the bottom line, but they wouldn’t stop the decline of Nintendo’s core assets (IP and software development).
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Kevin Ezeadiugwu Associate Product Manager, [x+1]8 years ago
I love how most of the points brought up in this article are short sighted "solutions" from a panicked investors point of view. The thing is simple. Wii-U was a crap console, point and simple. third party support was lacking. Marketing was lazy and reactionary. That's the reason why Nintendo failed. Its been over a year and the only noteworthy title released for the Wii-U is super mario 3D world. who's going to buy the Wii-U just for a platformer? Those are not system sellers anymore, its not 1995, i don't care if the game gets 10/10 from IGN. Personally as a gamer who grew up with Nintendo, this Wii generation has been the worst, i feel betrayed by Nintendo for making that crap and leaving behind their core fans for casuals. Now lets get back on track:

As for your solutions, VR is a niche product that is probably more than a decade out from being mainstream. Waste of cash.

Selling legacy titles on mobile devices or outside their platform of hardware devices for a quick buck will cheapen their brand and the value of their overall ecosystem of hardware products. Nintendo needs to double down on technology and strengthen their online services to survive. Its ironic because Nintendo was ahead of the game in this area in the Gamecube generation but easily rested on their laurels with the Wii generation. I agree Nintendo should increase the game developers in the trenches to shorten their development cycle ( or at least increase the number of games made in the cycle) but buying capcom and Sega? Another shortsighted strategy from a panicked investor. How about instead of wasting billions on Goodwill and months/years of integrating their culture and technology lets partner with outside studios to put in more work on all the IP that's been sitting wasting away in Nintendo's vault. Obviously there will be the close product supervision of Nintendo who will own the vision and direction of the game during this process. Only after the studios develop a close partnership and gained trust with Nintendo should an acquisition should be considered. And besides, Sega and Capcom make crap outdated games lmao who cares about them.
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Asif A. Khan, CPA Financial Reporter 8 years ago
@Robin Clarke

If you read my suggestion, I didn't claim that Nintendo should abandon making AAA titles for their own machines. I did suggest that they are missing out on a huge opportunity to monetize content on mobile. I never claimed that they are leaving billions on the table, but you really think a Nintendo branded app wouldn't be number #1 on the App Store? They may be leaving millions on the table, and after the latest pre announcement, all revenue streams should be considered.

As for me sounding like a 12 year old, yes I do own shares of the company. Do you think that 3 years of losses is not a problem? The company went 30 years running at a profit and now has 3 years in a row of losses. There is clearly a problem. Many of the comments to this article imply that my ideas are dumb, day-dreaming nonsense that will never happen. My point is that the people who think Nintendo is doomed are very mistaken. There are a lot of options for them to achieve profitability. Brand engagement is going to be a key to their turnaround, and I believe some of these ideas I put forth can help them get out of this mess.
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Asif A. Khan, CPA Financial Reporter 8 years ago
In response to the Oculus VR skeptics in this thread:

It does not surprise me that folks who are not developing for the platform are panning it. Yes, it is a risky enterprise. Disruptive technology is always met with a lot of skepticism, and Oculus Rift is the beginning of something and not the end. Only time will tell how stupid my suggestion of an investment in Oculus VR by Nintendo is, but I will go out on a limb and say that Oculus VR will be a bigger company in 3 years than it is today. You don't have John Carmack jump on board as CTO if your technology sucks. As for it being a niche market, many people said the same thing of the personal computer in the 1970s. My opinion remains that VR is going to become more influential as a user interface and a gaming platform going forward, but perhaps this discussion is better left for another article.
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Asif A. Khan, CPA Financial Reporter 8 years ago
Regarding planned obsolescence:

Yes, Nintendo is not alone in this boat. Losing EA support is the main thing I point to in this article as a big problem with their current strategy. I cannot stress how key it is to keep the 3rd party devs on their platform. It is a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking to talk about Wii U hardware specs, but going forward Nintendo must have the support of their 3rd parties. Maybe consult them when developing the hardware next time?
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Asif A. Khan, CPA Financial Reporter 8 years ago
As for my suggestions being short-sighted and focused on short term profits:

Nintendo has had 3 straight years of losses. Any reasonable company would realize that they need to do something differently to stem the decline. It is the duty of management to shareholders to do their best to achieve profitability. I don't believe the current management strategy is working. My suggestions were posed as questions, not to be viewed as absolute truths. I use the words could and should when talking about my suggestions. I do not think that Nintendo is going to listen to any suggestions as they have a reality distortion field around their HQ. The point of the article, which many people seem to have missed, is that management needs to reassess their strategy when they miss their internal sales projections by 60%.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Asif, I don't think Oculus Rift and Nintendo make a good partnership. Nintendo is very local multiplayer focused and OR is a very centric experience. True, that would be a means to diversify their portfolio of products but it is so opposite their corporate philosophy that it seems like it would never see much potential.

A partnership with Valve for Steam or even Android makes more philosophical sense.

I agree with you that branching out to outside services and partners is a good idea. I'm just not sold that OR should be one of them.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 8 years ago

I love Oculus. But trust me, the mainstream will think it's an amazing novelty for about a month. They'll dump it faster than they stopped buying Wiis.

Anything that isolates the user or makes them look goofy has proven a non starter

That doesn't mean that enough PC gamers won't buy it to make pikes of money. That doesn't mean that it won't find huge success in non gaming applications. It just means that no one is basing a system around it.
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd8 years ago
If you read my suggestion, I didn't claim that Nintendo should abandon making AAA titles for their own machines.
I never said you did.
you really think a Nintendo branded app wouldn't be number #1 on the App Store?
How much money do you think any single re-release of an old console game would make? There are many on the App Store for reference. How much do you think Nintendo made from Pokemon X/Y, NSMB on the DS, Wii Fit or Mario Kart Wii by comparison? Porting their old games isn't worth getting out of bed for, plus it tangibly damages their brand (virtually all of their games require physical controls), and one of the strongest selling points of their ecosystem (exclusivity). Nintendo aren't working on the same scale as most other software publishers.

A company running up losses during the development, launch and initial marketing of new platforms isn't surprising. And considering that in the last decade of Nintendo's 125 year history, under the current management, they've achieved two of the best selling platforms ever (Wii and DS), and are sitting on a $multi-bn warchest, I don't think it's time for them to sell the family silver just yet.

Their immediate priorities are fairly clear - a home console - should they consider that a front worth fighting - that addresses the issues with the Wii U in its current incarnation (price and a confusing consumer proposition - hardware power and third party support are not relevant), and sorting out their network services (i.e. linking purchases to user accounts rather than devices). Most everything else is a distraction.
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Asif A. Khan, CPA Financial Reporter 8 years ago
@Derek Moss

I couldn't agree more. In fact, let's only report facts in all media. Opinions cause discourse and free thought, these are things that shouldn't be encouraged. If you have a problem with the labeling, I recommend contacting my editor in chief, James Brightman. Once again, I apologize for trying to create a discussion about the options Nintendo faces in the aftermath of their revenue guidance. There is nothing worse than an exclusive opinion? I am sorry your time was wasted by my useless article. Maybe you should ask Games Industry International for a refund? But what do I know? That is just my opinion.
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Andreia Quinta Photographer 8 years ago
The planned obsolete Wii U hardware led them to lose support from EA, which I think was a serious factor in the sales miss this holiday.
Who would buy Nintendos for EA or Activision type games?

Personal opinion; Nintendo just needs to let the big boys out, they know what nintenfans want. Forget this Oculus fad nonsense, it's promising but still underdeveloped, it needs another 10 years (ok, maybe 8) at least to really mature and be fleshed out.

It goes back to the original principle of software sells hardware. Together with getting their act together regarding online support and infrastructure, Nintendo just needs to release what people have been asking for years, give them a true open world Pokemon game with ongoing development and additions. A Pokemon game that would have synergy with 3DS Pokemon games like X and Y. Throw in (optional) NFC characters to expand gameplay, where an NFC character would add extra abilities to your pokemon and possibily an exclusive NFC transformation.
Add cameos as Link and the Mario brothers in the game with extra NFC characters. This would be the killer app, this would be the next wii sports, and the Wii U tablet is perfect for this, to show what it's capabilities really are.

Look at skylanders or disney infinity, skylanders was a success but it kind'a sucks because the characters have no established fan base. Disney infinity just sucks because the game is bad. Both things that Nintendo can easily avoid with their IP established fan base and high quality standards of game making.

But hei, need more money? No problem, forget licencing to hollywood, that's a finite amount of money for a movie or three, no. Try instead licence Nintendo IP's to LEGO, another acclaimed toy company go figure, and with the same type of ethos. That would be a money printing machine right there if I may say so.

Nintendo still has a lot of room to maneuver without selling out to the constantly suggested (and getting kind of tiring) mobile 'opportunities'.

PS: On another note, I really like the fact that Asif Khan interacts so much with its readers. I'm loving the back and forth input.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Andreia Quinta on 22nd January 2014 11:54pm

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Paul Jace Merchandiser 8 years ago
@Jeff Keist
Anything that isolates the user or makes them look goofy has proven a non starter
Not exactly true considering that the Wii sold over 100 million units and Kinect has sold over 24 million units:

I assure you that me and the majority of people who used the Wii and Kinect looked quite goofy flailing our arms(among other actions) while playing. But I do agree that the Occulus Rift will be nothing more than another fad. It reminds me of how many people use to talk about OnLive as the future. I wonder how that turned out....

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 23rd January 2014 7:39am

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 8 years ago

I phrased it poorly. Glasses are something that isolates people, as the resistance to 3D glasses at home have shown. Oculus is exponentially more isolating
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Morgan King Animator 8 years ago
Fire Emblem would be incredible with the Rft! A massive virtual table wargame spread out before me sound incredible. There's a reason Crystal Cove demoed with a Tower Defense game - the Rift is a great platform for top-down games. A Mario platformer where you can turn your head to look ahead at upcoming or off-screen enemies or jumps? Also awesome. I don't see any chance of Nintendo partnering with Oculus, but I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the kinds of games that can be played on the Rift, especially once input devices start maturing.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany8 years ago
Either the management team is full of eternal optimists or they did not see the writing on the wall.
Well, Reggie Fils-Aime was saying not long ago the he was "completely happy and didn't saw any problem" with current Wii U's library and userbase.

Don't know about the rest of Nintendo. But I actually believe that Wii-U missed a lot of key multy-platform games, lost a good number of exclusive tittles, and good number of their fanbase now have a PS4.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany8 years ago
Dedicated gaming devices no longer have a purpose.
Aside 8M dedicated gaming devices sold in less that 2 months (that only for next gen) that is.
But hey! mobile phones have the biggest market, its just quite a pity that you have no exclusive hardcore gamers in that market.
Like saying that Hollywood movies would kill opera, I'm beginning to wonder if mobile phone enthusiasts really know who their costumers are.
It is not in Nintendo's DNA to buy in ideas. They even hated 3rd party publishing on their platforms.
Sadly, that is true. I had a notion of that when I was working in EA Games (my first step in the industry) That got confirmed three years later when I started working directly for Nintendo.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alfonso Sexto on 23rd January 2014 8:18am

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Kevin Clark-Patterson Lecturer in Games Development, Lancaster and Morecambe College8 years ago
Nostalgia is only good for so long. The sell by date of Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Metroid are beyond putrid. (that’s not to say the new games aren’t any good but I no longer want to stomp on Goombas 20 years after I first did it!)

I believe the term is, evolve or die? Something like that anyway...

Oculas is an interesting idea, an evolution from the Virtua Boy to the 3DS perhaps?
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee8 years ago
I don't see any problem with breaking open the piggy bank, if it means spending more on software and hardware revisions for example.

Not too sure about using the funds to buy shares Occulus but then again, it could be a good bet for them to buy shares in up and coming technologies that may be big in the near future.

On another note, I'm sure a few of you would have noticed the severe price cut the WiiU has seen in the UK since the 'bad news', slashed by £120 at Argos and Amazon. So we have a £179.99 premium console, good news for some!
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University8 years ago
@ Adam

The price had already been cut to around £250 before Christmas, but £70 is still a significant cut. Saying that, I think £180 is a much more reasonable price. It's the price I paid just before Christmas and am happy to have paid.
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Christopher Ingram Editor-at-Large, Digitally Downloaded8 years ago
But Greg, even the largest independent Nintendo gaming site in the world, Nintendo Life, writes its reviews in such a way that is geared objectively towards the games at hand, regardless if it is a fresh new title or a port of existing software. Trail off in the comments in the reviews (or news coverage articles) for these ported titles, and those gamers whom don't own other consoles are buying these amped up ports and loving them.

The problem is - so many Wii U owners also own other platforms. I know for me, I simply don't have the time to replay games any longer. I can't possibly play all of the games that I want to that are releasing, there are just far too many. In fact, I bought the Mass Effect trilogy on the PS3 right around the time Mass Effect 3 landed on the Wii U. I got a few hours into the first game once again and I've haven't touched it ever since then... too many other great games are out and about to replay these incredible games again.
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Nick Wofford Hobbyist 8 years ago
Christopher has figured it out. Nintendo's problem is that the average age of gamers keeps going up, and it's now in a sweet (or not so sweet) spot where the average age of gamers is adults without children. As my fellow adults know, there's not enough free time in the world to play all the games on multiple consoles. I can't even finish my last gen backlog until 2015!

So if I can only really buy one console, I'm certainly going to buy the one that gives me all of the must-have games for the generation. If I pick Wii U, I know I'm missing out on Fallout 4, GTA, Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, etc... and that's just not worth doing. I can miss out on Hyrule because I've been there 10 times. Same for the Mushroom Kingdom, DK's Jungle, Dreamland etc....

People always say that Nintendo consoles are for Nintendo games. But the value proposition just isn't there anymore. I'd rather spend $300 on 5 games on another system than play another Mario game.

As for Asif's mobile idea, I love it! Just look up the Virtual Boy emulator on the Google Play store. Over 5 million downloads, all for glitchy retro titles that Nintendo won't release. Here's how to print money: make a Nintendo-quality emulator, and sell it for $5. Sell ROMS for $1, with the same quality. Make the app link to the Nintendo Network and use that integration in creative ways. Example: Sell Pokemon R/B/G/Y for a buck and make it so that it can connect to the Pokemon Bank for trades. I'd love to play the original games again (and with cartridges dying every day, that's getting harder to do), and trading some of those Pokemon over would be a great incentive to play.

I've said it before: retro titles are not system sellers. They need to be dirt cheap, and I need to already own the system they're on. I won't pay hundreds for a console with only remakes. But a dollar on the phone I already own? Hell yes I'll pay that.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
In short:
We want a new Nintendo console more powerful than the PS4 in order to power a VR goggle addon and enjoy all encompassing 3rd party support. We are ok with the WiiU controller and want it to be more like an iPad though, so we can play on the go, only streaming games to its screen at home. We want Nintendo to create an online store where anybody in here can basically release anything from Combat Monsters to Unicorn Powered Rainbow Fart Simulators. We certainly would not mind a 4.5 inch Nintendo reboot of the NGage, but until our contracts renew, we'd like some Nintendo games on iOS and Android pronto.

In other words, we really love the PC and wish Nintendo was there.

Gosh, the new Armchair CEO 2014 game is so great :D

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Klaus Preisinger on 23rd January 2014 6:20pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 8 years ago

The character yiu mention evolves, not only as characters, but across media. Aside from a crappy movie and TV show 20 years ago, how has Mario evolved in the last 30 years? Peter Parker moved out, got married, divorced, had a kid, went to college etc etc. he's evolved with the times. Mario, Zelda and the rest are still essentially the same game, telling the same story.

Nick. They'll never sell the games that cheap, especially third party ones. It's also a variation on what you said. The people who do buy multiple consoles are unwilling to drop $300 for something they're going to play 1-2 games a year on. And getting the WiiU price down to a level where that becomes an option is unlikely. Their build costs are similar to the current 360, but the GamePsd costs almost $80 to build, and due to the parts being already commoditized, isn't likely to reduce any time soon. It's their version of a hard drive, a. Fixed cost that isn't going doen much

But yes, emulation on phones is not only practical, but millions of people are playing every day. All they need to do is release a controller that snaps on the back of yiur phone
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 8 years ago
Guy Ritchie's Sherlock film was an abomination there is more punches thrown in that movie than in every book Doyle wrote. And that's just the start. Too bad too, everything else but the story and characterization was fantastic

That's the thing though, continuity is sacred. But time marches on. Retconning, rebooting etc is a sign of creative bankruptcy. But how has Mario been evolved? Link? They haven't.

I've played nearly every Mario and Zelda game.
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Nick Wofford Hobbyist 8 years ago
The Mickey Mouse analogy doesn't really work since Disney doesn't really use Mickey for anything other than branding.

edit: And that's because he got stale after awhile. He's good for consumer recognition, but not good for actual entertainment. I, for one, wanna kill myself watching that short before Frozen. And Mario's getting to that point.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick Wofford on 24th January 2014 4:29am

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Nick Wofford Hobbyist 8 years ago
That's still mostly only for branding. Things like edutainment and preschool programs are only there to get kids familiar with the Disney logo. Disney's real money has been in their other movies and shows for decades. The Mouse is just a logo that they put in kids' minds early on. He doesn't lead to much cash flow.

And I firmly believe Nintendo should emulate this with Mario. Mario=Nintendo, and that's a good branding to have. But Mario is starting to see some serious fatigue in the market, so in my opinion, Nintendo needs to use him as more of a gateway character instead of a full-fledged system seller. 2 Mario games are already on the Wii U, and sales haven't improved at all.
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Teut Weidemann Consultant Online Games, Ubisoft Germany8 years ago
Wow, funny, that the author suggest buying a technology which NO ONE HAS MADE PROFITABLE YET,.

What a waste of suggestion. How about you research why VR failed last decade when the first wave was here. Only because there is an investment hype doesn't mean there is a profitable business around.

Nintendo will prove you wrong.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 8 years ago
Teut, 3DTV is HUGE in all kinds of design space. Hell, Pamoers takes stereoscopic images to determine how their products fit children. The money that is in Oculus is in everything BUT entertainment. Just like Kinect, whose uses in the medical and robotic fields have been amazing. Kinect is in every Xbox because if what it does for the entertainment experience, and a oculus will use the fact that commercial applications will find their passion for gaming VR failed 20'years ago because the headsets weighed a tin, and the technology was not there to drive a satisfactory experience. Oculus pretty much fixes all the
Robles, including the amazingly high cost.

There will never be a console that successful based around VR till we have holodecks. That doesn't mean that a bunch of people totally won't want one, nor thatit will be anything short of amazing. But hell, the Velcro in your shows came from millions in research in the space program, so if the $300,000 Oamoers pays for a VR design system subsidizes the research for my $199 HD Rift. bring it on
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