Ah, screw it, you've had more than enough time to construct something by now, I would like to go more in-depth on this. Here goes.
What is a market? Is it one entity or several? Is it a combination? The answer is; all of the above. Markets evolve and disappear, new ones pop up, they ebb and flow, markets branch and segregate and markets converge, we have examples of all of those in very recent history.
Video game markets are no different; they follow rules, trends and the overall financial market and movement.
The idea that one company can offer one single product or one single platform that appeal to all customers and demographics is horribly misguided.
Is there one car from one car manufacturer that appeals to everyone? No, there isn’t, there are some models and some makes that sell more but there are also a lot of similar models and makes that sell almost as well, as well as widely different models selling less.
And then there are niche vehicles or limited edition supercars that drive technology that is implemented in the cheaper and more folksy cars at later stages (same as expensive phones handing down features and tech down the model line in time).
Mobile phones are also a good example of this conundrum; they constantly need revisions in order to keep their appeal and sway over a certain demographic, or to reel a new one in.
Here we also find a good example of merging markets; phones started offering more and more features and became multi-taskers, and we saw an acceleration in hardware cycles and revisions, this is also in keeping with Moore’s law, as we all know. The more implemented features and possibilities, the shorter the hardware cycles, this is one way that consoles will be forced to renew themselves, either through revisions and added features or quite simply by replacing their entire line of models with new ones. Providing a product that already has a hardware deficit is not an advantage in a market with such features, going for such a user-base, and will lessen the impact of revisions and, ultimately, force an earlier replacement.
The 8th generation of consoles will likely be greatly affected by these factors, the bestselling multi-taskers are setting the pace and the rest are forced to follow, PC’s are mostly exempt since they’re a customizable platform that, in essence, exists in a liquid and continuous transitional state between the more clearly defined console generations.
Samsung, Apple, Sony, Nokia, LG, HTC, ZTE, Huawei, Lenovo, why are there so many different manufacturers? And why do they all have a range of models, revisions and minor updates? The answer is simple; the market is not one entity that houses one homogenous customer base with the same desires, tastes, purchasing power, availability and overall characteristics.
Why isn’t one mobile phone manufacturer owning the whole customer base and stealing all the developer support? Because it is impossible due to the very nature of markets.
The reason it diverges, converges, some parts die and others spring to life is that it is ever changing, there are very few constants and no one company or platform can mark with a single flag one single environment where everyone thrives.
The more gamers, the more diverse and the more branches of the market will develop, we’re seeing this now, there has never been more options for gaming, consoles, handhelds, phones, tablets, PC, browser games, social games, simply due to a market catering to a gigantic and vastly varying audience.
The larger the market and the more gamers it contains, the more improbable one unified platform catering to all of them is, we’re well past the point where this is remotely possible.
This inevitably applies to consoles as well, no one can rule in lonesome majesty. The PS2 and PS1 dominated and seemingly set Sony up for a lasting and bright future, but this was merely a transitional period where 3rd parties were coming into their own and Sony happened to offer the best environment for this to occur, this was a space they were forced to share with Microsoft in the 7th generation when they tapped into the market constant too by gaining massive developer support. The Wii was another example, another product that rode a wave and made good use of a transitional period; the rise of the casual gamer, once again seemingly providing their owner with a very bright and dominant future. The first iPhone was much the same story. The 360 and PS3 strived for same-ness; this is also reflected in their lifetime sales (Android and iOS market-share becomes more even the more alike the systems and developer environments become as well, making use of market constants, although Android will go higher simply due to a vastly bigger model range using it so it’s not directly comparable).
The difference in user-base is more or less directly in correlation with the difference in the product and the environment itself, and the 3rd party efforts are very evenly distributed among them.
The Wii U attempted the cardinal sin of markets; appealing to everyone. It doesn’t work, plain and simple, and the data supporting that sentiment is overwhelmingly massive.
The Xbox One and the PS4 are, once again, striving for relative same-ness, this is very likely to result in a similar sized-and minded user-base when all is said and done, they share one more thing this time around; more similar hardware architecture as well as more similar non-gaming features.
Kinect, as a gaming device is chasing a customer base that is unlikely to embrace the Xbox brand as it stands and I believe that focus will be slowly moved away from this peripheral, despite it being an integral part of the console itself (becoming more an interface tool than a viable gaming alternative as a controller) and the machine will end up selling more or less to the same people who bought the last one, still a fairly sizeable market. Kinect offered a different control scheme but in an overall environment that doesn’t speak directly to the potential majority customer base, Move is exactly the same; a peripheral that sold on curiosity but that won’t shape the direction the platform it was offered on is taking in the long run (neither was using the constant through offering breadth in software and implementation). Titles like Ryse being moved away from the Kinect concept shows a lack of faith in this system as a viable controller alternative and supports the notion of a more interface-oriented device (which is, to my mind, a good use for it, great even).
The 7th gen growth was never permanent, this much was obvious, and we are very likely to see the total number of consoles sold in the 8th gen drop significantly due to yet more transitions, handhelds are very likely to be hit a lot harder than home consoles aimed at market constants, at least for the foreseeable future. The 7th gen market leader lived predominantly on transitional consumers.
Again, due to the nature of markets, these consumers have entered the new “convenience” market with ever more basic mechanics and approachable philosophy.
Now, where does good old Nintendo fit in all this? Well, it’s a complicated matter and John Lucas is correct in one thing; history is part of the explanation, but contrary to him, I believe it can be used as a measure for the bad times potentially ahead rather than imminent greatness, there is nothing pointing towards the latter right now.
I spoke briefly of offering an “environment” for development and sales, this is basically what a console is; a platform for games and services.
When Nintendo burst on the scene and captured the home console market, they provided a poor environment right from the start, they had their arbitrary and dreaded “official seal of quality”, ludicrous royalties and were overall bastards to work with, oppressing developers by withholding distribution rights on their platform if their specific conditions for approval were not met. Publishers were only allowed to publish five games per year and Nintendo even controller the media outlet that covered upcoming games and had a hardware lock to stop unlicensed games from working on the NES. They basically had a lot of power and used it to oppress, humiliate and terrorize the developers into submission and charged hefty royalties for their own benefit.
This happened all the way up to the mid 90’s, despite competition from Sega, it wasn’t an easy task switching support to an unproven platform and Nintendo managed to let the SNES inherit the market constant simply due to lack of good alternatives and slightly loosening up their stringent policy.
Then the Playstation arrived, it offered a kind environment with none of the debacle and hassle Nintendo had put developers through for over a decade, it also featured a media format with a more modern direction that cost less to manufacture and could contain more information (or lines of code, if you will) and was fronted by a company with massive global distribution networks.
It gained massive 3rd party support and Sony themselves published a bunch of great games, the PS2 continued this tradition, as we all know.
Nintendo released two consecutive consoles with weird formats, solutions and controller(s) and as a result, a severe lack of good 3rd party offerings and low sales followed (past factors also contributed).
The Wii arrived, Nintendo climbed back to the top of the throne and people cheered; “the king is back!” and imagined another decade or two of domination.
There was a problem; as we know about markets, there are transitions, divergence, convergence, branching and all sorts of factors.
Why is that a problem in this case? Well, the Wii took aim to capture a transitional audience and everyone faultily assumed that they were theirs to keep for a long time.
There is one constant on the mobile market, automobile market and gaming market; people buy mobiles, cars and games. That’s pretty much it.
What Nintendo offered and offers is a giant funnel for their 1st party software, these machines are constructed at their core to carry and cater to 1st party titles and vice versa.
It is still not a good environment for 3rd parties, and ever since they lost them, they also lost their ability to maintain a lead, in no small part due to this, kind of a paradox.
The Wii was an anomaly in an otherwise highly predictable string of efforts and decisions with clear trends, more than anything, it targeted consumers who are always on the move; the casuals.
These are the same type of customers who started abandoning Apple in favor of Samsung and others (due to very similar circumstances at that) and who will keep on travelling every year to graze new lands (entertainment nomads?) and move their money around towards higher perceived value.
Nintendo are missing the market constant (people buy games) by not having a broad enough offering, this was the key to the PS brand’s success and survival.
They don’t have a broad enough offering due to 3rd parties being more or less absent, and 3rd parties are absent because Nintendo have yet to show that they can offer a developer friendly environment.
They continue with their strange solutions and controllers and refuse to follow technological trends.
The Wii U is a study in sheer folly. Nintendo are attempting to force market convergence from a point of no influence and power, the Gamepad being the main culprit here. They attempted to mesh the tablet with a standard controller, a hybrid solution made up of two parts that appeal to different audiences, a sheer hardware oxymoron.
By attempting to combine opposing elements and appeal to everyone, without any base of breadth through a lackluster developer environment, they are making their biggest mistake yet; they are taking the weak points of the Gamecube and the Wii and trying to melt them together into something they’re actually trying to sell, a feeble attempt at an impossible compromise.
This “conspiracy” boils down to simple things; Nintendo fans want to blame outside forces since it would be too painful to bear that their favorite company has been making a very big, very long mistake (all companies make mistakes) for about 30 years in their treatment of 3rd parties.
Continuing on the previous red line; why is there reason to believe that the PS4 and One will fare better? Simple; they’re reading the market and chasing the constant, first and foremost and they’re not trying to force market convergence from a weakened position (Microsoft are trying to “force” Kinect on us, something that won’t work in my opinion and for previously stated reasons but they are stronger than ever and can afford a minor setback), they (Sony and MS) actually maintained momentum after the second half of the 7th gen rather than losing it and always had the constant to fall back on, with their hardware and environment that is first and foremost catering to the infinite possibility of the 3rd party developer, yet not their every whim, despite popular belief.
This isn’t weakness; it is adaptation and control through cooperation rather than force and restraint.
Nintendo seem to think, as well as John Lucas, that one single manufacturer can provide a platform and an environment where both 1st and 3rd parties can live equally side by side and keep moving the same amount of software, with Nintendo maintaining their incredible software sales and 3rd parties the same.
This is impossible, one excludes the other on a shared platform, and when it comes to making money, there is no reason for anyone to believe that Nintendo would offer a model where 3rd parties would ever get the chance to shine as brightly as Nintendo’s own product, again becoming a developer hostile environment by default and falling on old times, especially in a scenario without options (NES). Alternately; Nintendo make it simpler but reinstate their ridiculous, past policies (that didn’t even work; the NES had a bunch of shit games).
So not only are Nintendo attempting to converge conceptual designs, they are also for some reason harboring the illusion that they can successfully combine two developer paradigms in one melting pot, a true mark of madness. They also house no significant development cost advantage this gen.
But they’re the smartest company in the world, right? They know what’s going on, why would they do this if it was destined to fail?
They managed to shrink while the industry as a whole kept growing, a clear sign of a company that has the master plan (this was only due to a conspiracy though and in no way Nintendo’s own doing), how did they ever pull off such an amazing feat?
Again, the answer is simple; tradition, they are a very traditional company and their failure to see the massive importance of online components and their failure to not only see the phone/tablet revolution but also to respond accordingly and swiftly all but prove this beyond doubt.
They cannot adapt to a market unless they set the guidelines and they cannot set the guidelines without creating another anomaly, and even then the influence is only apparent in the transitional period or perhaps even non-existent due to the lack of a stable constant throughout.
In short; the Wii U as a product and creative concept shows that they in fact do not know what they’re doing right now, and that in turn is the result of being caught off guard by the mobile/tablet revolution which is, as mentioned, due to a lack of an ability to read the market (especially Europe).
Maybe there is a conspiracy after all, but if so then it is certainly Nintendo conspiring against 3rd parties in the 80’s and 90’s, providing unfair conditions and keeping their head under water in order to rise into a desirable seat of power themselves, the very worst thing that can befall any market (and that also never lasts), no one should see a hypothetical Nintendo (or other) monopoly as a good thing, no one. Nintendo propelled themselves to greatness by kicking others in the knee and they expect to be celebrated for it.
I’m thinking these Nintendo supporters also champion MS’ attempted OS monopoly then? Thought so.
I could go on forever, but I’ll give it a rest for now. I’ll certainly expand upon these arguments when John Lucas arrives with his “master plan” and “conspiracy” notion. Note; I’m not saying that other companies don’t make mistakes, what I’m trying to convey is that Nintendo do as well.
PS: allow me to admit that I was an ignorant asshole when I joined vgchartz and I never believed in the Wii. However, the 7th generation taught me a lot and I have spent my recent years trying to get under the skin of the industry and markets in consumer electronics as a whole. Whether or not I’ve succeeded in this is largely up to anyone reading this to decide.
The 3rd party conundrum
Now, the OP’s scenario is looking more and more strange and hinges upon a lot of factors that are not only improbable, but also directly contradictory in several ways.
Let me explain:
I wonder and have been wondering for some time now, just how will the Wii U become “everyone’s console”?
Will 1st party titles drive this alone? Like they did with the N64 and GC? Will 3rd parties aid in this? Why on earth would they start putting the smallest user-base that also buys the least 3rd party software at the top of the priority list all of the sudden?
How will the user-base grow into something that can “dominate” without this support and breadth of software, will this rely solely on the likes of Mario Kart, Smash and Bayonetta 2?
Are all 3rd parties and Sony/MS (lol) suddenly going to find themselves on the brink of financial break-down at the same time? Seems like a fairly odd assumption (amazingly, a lot of companies also went belly-up before the HD era, this is one of the primary reasons why Activision, EA and Sqeenix, among others, have risen to such power and influence, not to mention the fact that is an ongoing financial crisis).
Will it be more gradual? Then they will resort to the other possibilities I have mentioned previously.
How are 3rd parties going to be “saved” by moving all their efforts over to another, costly development platform with HD capability and with a small user-base (and again; how will this expand without it)?
Isn’t the first logical step cutting more support for the one platform that is the least likely to yield returns on relatively costly productions?
Or, are the development costs for HD low enough to justify continued support?
If that’s the case, then the problem really isn’t that prevalent, and certainly not the main cause of the demise of developers in the 7th gen?
It appears as if continued Wii U 3rd party support shows some expectation of profits which in turn means; even more profits on platforms that move more 3rd party software which in turn renders this entire subject moot. If anything, if this scenario or something similar were to play itself out, the first and most likely victim would be the Wii U, both from a creative and economic standpoint.
Look at Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, you think they’re making more money on the One and PS4 or the Wii U with that? Even assuming they go full retard and make full use of the higher specs of the two, the added cost will not under any possible circumstance outweigh the extreme advantage of higher sales, unless John Lucas suggest that One/PS4 development is somehow 8-10 times more expensive (John Lucas makes it sound as if the development costs difference is the same as in the 7th gen, which is clearly not the case, also, as I’ve stated before, 3rd parties can easily scale their budgets through a multitude of options).
Look at CoD: Ghosts, where does the vast majority of revenue come from? Hint; it’s not the Wii U (unless someone imagines hundreds of thousands of Wii U owners cramming their tiny hard-drives full of 20GB of Ghosts, that it), that version will likely be in the red when all is said and done and the “crappy port” excuse from the 7th is now clearly invalid. There is also visual and technical precedence now to claim that differences in development cost will be small indeed, not even in the same ballpark as Wii – PS3/360. And no; Nintendo having HD hardware now does not constitute a good developer environment by default (duh).
There are a bunch of examples of the same thing, this is exactly what I have mentioned earlier and my thesis of Nintendo hardware being, in essence, a massive funnel for 1st party software can be objectively observed by looking at sales charts and also by seeing Nintendo’s continued ignorance on online features (there’s not even a proper account system on the Wii U yet), clunky hardware solutions (Gamepad and storage stand out here, the Basic SKU was beyond ridiculous) and strange format choices, slower, un-integrated OS and they still think that local multiplayer is the industry standard, it seems.
They are also including a lot more non-gaming features now, putting the Wii U more directly in contest with the PS4 and One or other services, and being soundly beaten on every single account (woot, TVii!!!!), striving for same-ness without any advantage, yet trying to differentiate themselves via the enormous and poorly conceived Gamepad, great strategy.
This, among other things, also punches fist-sized holes in John Lucas tiring insistence that customer variables and demographics are “an illusion” constructed by the industry and the media.
There is such a thing as gamer archetypes and the particular archetype that always purchases Nintendo consoles either practically don’t buy these games at all or simply buy them on another console, there is evidence and text in this very thread that the most stoic Wii U fans detest most of the software on the other consoles so don’t even try it.
As I pointed out earlier, the sheer number of options and branches currently on the market testify to the same and the dedicated handhelds being more severely affected by this branching in the 8th gen will be another, look for a total installed base between the Vita and 3DS landing somewhere around the halfway point of the PSP and DS, or there about, a surefire sign of what’s going on globally.
These long-ass posts from John Lucas are designed with a purpose; it’s a smoke screen. The screen is designed to cover the fact that when viewed in isolation, all his points are misguided, illogical, impossible or downright silly and he knows it.
His entire premise is built on paradoxes, arguments swathed in a (to some) appealing theatric guise designed to draw more attention to the zest and flare of the author than the actual subject(s) at hand. Diversion, I believe is a suitable word to describe the entire tactic.
There’s a problem though; if you bother to lift your gaze for only a second, the veil wears thin and fails to cover this ludicrous stance.
The burden of proof is on John Lucas, he keeps referring to the future and he keeps forcing his points as facts, and he also keeps insisting that sales numbers don’t affect a theory directly and wholly tied to sales domination, when you make fantastic claims, you have to make a fantastic argument for it to stand, it doesn’t take a debating champion to spot that this is not the case here.
Not saying a word in a week or more on a subject you show such fiery passion about and on a case you have such incredible faith in also speaks volumes.
On bias and missing the big picture
Now, John Lucas love accusing others of bias and labeling anyone who argues against his points as “haters” or “non-believers” (infidels, anyone?). To those who fell for this, I ask one simple question; have you ever read what this man has written on other websites, Popzara being one of them? It is by far the most unprofessional, biased, infantile banality I have ever read and puts all other hopeless gaming journalists and writers to shame. “Playing is believing”… try “Reading is believing”.
Here is an example;
That is sales report coverage; this is how he presents sales numbers! What. The. Hell? Anyone else writing that would have chased around the village with torches and pitchforks, so how does he get a free pass? No one takes him seriously any more, and perhaps never did.
If anyone is missing the big picture here, it’s this man, he doesn’t understand the basic composition of markets, the marks of influence and when these are lost, he doesn’t see the inevitable failings of all companies or the consequences of these. This is the same guy who proposed that the Wii could be carried into the 500 million territory simply be releasing in India and China, because huge population = huge sales, right? This is a highly stylized, illogical and faulty way of thinking and shows a complete and utter lack of the understanding of markets, demographics, social standings, purchasing powers, distribution channels and rights, cultural bias and ethnographic factors as well as fundamental theories of appeal and advertising.
He also berates other products for selling on hype, all the while praising the Wii’s viral marketing. You know what viral marketing is? It’s hype, the very same thing only on a potentially larger scale (think epidemic/pandemic or macro/micro).
They say that love makes you blind, John Lucas is one more example for the text books, all his texts are stained with bias and acidic formulation designed to fault and critique everyone else and elevate Nintendo past all others on a creative, economic and ethical pedestal.
Almost like a Disney adventure with only contrasting features and no middle-ground and nuance.
It all drowns in nonsensical rhetoric, conclusions drawn straight out of the same hat the proverbial rabbit materialized from and long-winded walls of text that are essentially constructed on paranoia, nostalgia and deep desires to see others burn and your heart’s desire prevail (at one point I thought Lucas and Malstrom were the same person, especially when Malstrom started to only dream back to the golden old days and posting only retro video game music on his blog, perhaps this is why JL was too busy to come here? Nah, joke alert).
This is a crusade against the modern, revisionist, fast-paced, superficial market and the companies that are a part of them, a market I hold no love for myself, to clarify, this I have been quite vocal about in the last 4-5 years.
It is a bannered march against change, uprooting of tradition and everyone with the ability to enjoy things John Lucas deems as unworthy or a waste of time, i.e; anything non Nintendo.
Bluntly put; it is all personal and nothing else, the brash answers, the incredible huge ego and the failure to address flaws and crashed predictions in any meaningful way points to that very conclusion and he manages to become what he accuses others of being.
There are three things in this piece that have something in common; Apple, Nintendo and John Lucas. They all had an era of greatness, they had one major resurgence (but even his most stoic fans are fleeing this thread or at least have stopped blindly defending his every word) and they are all headed for darker waters.
On rhetoric, cheap tactics and why it takes so long to respond
Now, why does it take such an incredibly long time to respond? Because the weaker the cause, the more time and effort you need to put into defending it.
Anyone with a completely unfounded belief or view will expend massive amounts of energy supporting it, constructing a house on sand or mud is not a simple task, there is no bedrock in sight.
Showing up every now and then asking people to “wait in line”, referring to warranted and well justified questioning of the motives and numbers throughout the thread as “noise” and generally acting like some higher life form by dodging the issue at hand and turning it (again) into a personal battle riddled with laughing emoticons and off-topic bouts of self-doting just makes the whole thing a farce.
There are some users in here who simply resort to saying; “you’re stupid, your argument is invalid” and are, rightfully, scorned for it. John Lucas is no different, he manages to dodge problems by referring to an ever distant future, postponing the revolution and turnaround and he does it with amazing amounts of letters and sentences that, in reality, contain naught of value, only false proclamations of insight and knowledge, rationalizing the most unreasonable predictions ever made and instilling a mock sense of confidence.
You can apply all the deodorant you want; sooner or later you have to take a shower lest everyone smell the stink.
It does not take days and weeks to make rebuttals if you have an ounce of an argument to build on, filling them with pictures, meandering philosophy and personal insults and unjustified gloating is in and on itself not a valid excuse to waste your life on this.
You want to be an internet star? Good luck “son”, as you would have probably put it.
And for all of you diehard fans, I leave you a classic; “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. The man sees but draws faulty conclusions, he observes, intent on looking for support for bias and reads into things precisely what he needs then and there.
Sometimes, he reminds me of people who shout out the Word from the Bible; fire and brimstone and the surreal certainty that comes only from the outmost form of ignorance, someone who truly does not know how much they don’t know.
Draw your own conclusions, don’t let your intelligence be insulted by such old and cheap tricks.
As for me, I don’t think I know everything, all this is my suggestion, my theory and not facts and I don’t mean to present it as such. Parts of the theory are based on actual facts while others are based on assumptions and my personal logical conclusion through deduction and observation. Don’t mistake me for the same attention seeker I’m responding to, I’m doing this because I find it unfair that someone can spout so much nonsense and seemingly get away with it or even get lauded for it.
And again, I need to clarify; I don’t like consoles and what they represent today, I hate the turn the market and gaming is taking and I absolutely abhorred the 7th generation, the constant chase of convenience and simplicity makes the entire industry more stupid by the day.
This, however, does not hinder me in seeing the events unfolding before my very eyes. It saddens me but doesn’t elude me.
End of 2016 hardware sales:
Wii U: 15 million. PS4: 54 million. One: 30 million. 3DS: 64.8 million. PSVita: 15.2 million.