Nintendo DS: Losing sight of the brand

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

3 November 2010

Will serious gamers really play a Nintendo DS?

Early next year, Nintendo plans to release its latest iteration of the Nintendo DS – the 3DS. The new version of the handheld gaming device will feature a screen capable of producing 3D images without the need to wear glasses.

When the 3DS was announced formally at this year’s E3, people flocked to the Nintendo booth to see how it works. By all accounts, E3 was very successful for the 3DS with even some giving it the auspicious title of “game changer.”

“It seems to me that Nintendo made the decision long ago that both the original Nintendo DS and the popular Wii were not for those hardcore gamers.”

Nintendo DS

I don’t know. What game is it trying to change? Nintendo has said that it hopes the 3DS will entice more hardcore gamers to use its device because of the screen and its higher-end processor. It seems to me that Nintendo made the decision long ago that both the original Nintendo DS and the popular Wii were not for those hardcore gamers. Rather, Nintendo appeared to be positioning itself as the video game system for families and young kids. (How many college students carrying around a DS?)

That strategy worked well. The Wii expanded the video game market and introduced gaming to many first-time players/buyers. Consumers from nursing homes to families with children bought them into the fold faster than Nintendo could make the consoles.

Now there is a disconnect. Nintendo wants to be for hardcore gamers. The perception with these  gamers right now is that Nintendo is specifically not for them, and it feels like Nintendo may be losing its focus.

This is a quandary for Nintendo that could have long-lasting repercussions. For a brand to truly be resonate and take hold, it has to have the courage to not only tell people who it is for, but also tell people who it is not for. It is the only way a potential consumer can see how they “fit” into the brand. Nintendo had done both of these things very well – until now.

I have no doubt that some Nintendo marketer had a couple of nice charts and graphics that showed a fancy product life cycle and how a kid who grew up with the Wii and Nintendo DS will want to move up to the next level of video games with the 3DS. But the truth is that most kids who grow up with the Wii or DS want to get an Xbox or Playstation3 or Alienware computer to move up to the next level of gaming. The Wii and DS are for kids and families after all.

I think that there will be an initial spike for the new Nintendo 3DS. But, once the novelty wears off, hardcore gamers will be back to their Xbox’s and Playstations and computers, relegating the 3DS to some forgotten drawer or shelf only to be periodically dusted off to be reminded that it still a Nintendo DS with a fancy screen.

And Nintendo will be scratching its head, wondering what went wrong with its revolutionary device and trying figure out a way to reincorporate it back in to its real target market of casual gamers and kids.

See more posts in the following related categories: Nintendo DS Wii


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