I hate it when people compare Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft using standards that they don't even question. The simple fact of the matter is that, as early as the Gamecube's launch, we all should've realized that Nintendo CANNOT go toe-to-toe with Sony or Microsoft in any obvious way.
Simply put, Nintendo is little more than a large, experimental Japanese software company. Compared to the Cancerous-Domino-Octopus Microsoft, or the Skynet-like Sony, Nintendo has less resources, less know-how, less technological know-how, less pervasive market presence, and less chance than a snowball in hell.
So how does Nintendo seem to be coping? By examining the strategy of Sony and Microsoft. Sony and Microsoft are NOT in this for the games, they see the videogame market as a backdoor entry into people's living rooms, with their systems slowly progressing into what Sony and Microsoft hope to be game/DVR/computer/tv/internet hybrids. They basically want to take control of all of people's entertainment options via the game system, and this is what leads them on their rampage to cutting edge technology, endless ports, and that "technolust" factor that drives the early adopters in a traditional consumer electronics product plan.
Where's the chink of armor in that? With the first hints of the revolution, we should see how Nintendo hopes to carve out a successful niche for themselves in the market: Instead of committing hara-kiri by trying to out-compete Sony or Microsoft on Electronics or Computer technology (areas where absolutely NO one can challenge either Sony or Microsoft), they are trying to broaden the casual gaming market directly. This is what Nintendo means when they say "Revolution," they will try to change the structure of the videogame market where casual gamers are not the hangers-on off whatever the technolusting early adopters do, but instead are customers who can be sold to directly via introduction of new control schemes, new game types, and simplicity of use and pricing.
We can already see this with Nintendo's DS. Nintendogs, Electro-Plankton, Mystery games and Wario Ware are all games that defy contemporary hardcore convention: instead of providing a linear gameplay experience, they create new types of gameplay that appeal to Non-Traditional gamers, i.e. new customers who wouldn't normally be sought after by Sony or Microsoft except as after-thoughts who buy the PS2 3 years after it's out. Is it successful? Again, look to the DS. While "traditional straight-shootin' console gamers" like us don't know what to make of it, the Japanese have made the tamagotchi-esque Nintendogs a huge hit. And Animal Crossing DS may just prove to be the unique DS hit that Nintendo is incorporating into their battle plan: instead of having a select few early adopters ooh and ah at minimally improved graphics while gameplay remains virtually the same, Nintendo can offer games aimed directly at the wider-than-expected casual gaming market where Halo, Tekken, and MGS are not considered god's gifts to men.
This strategy allows Nintendo to choose their battleground. If Nintendo fights Sony and Microsoft solely on technology, or electonica geek-lust, then they will always lose. Always. But Sony and Microsoft are concentrated on taking over the living room via the early-adopter technolust strategy, so that leaves them blind to new gameplay possibilities. Already, we've seen the PS3 and X360 controllers. They are the exact same things as the PS2 and S controllers, except wireless (and imho, uglier). Sony and Microsoft believe that the true future in gaming is merely to keep continuously ramming more power and more graphics, more polys and more lightsources, into games that play basically the same as their predecessors. Nintendo hasn't revealed their controller because like Miyamoto said, Nintendo's analog stick was stolen, as was their rumble pack, their wireless controllers, and so many other innovations that Sony and Microsoft, with their armies of engineers, can replicate within 6 months. Let Sony and Microsoft innovate for themselves.
We've already seen Nintendo start to experiment with the DS's touch screen opening up new styles of gameplay that can appeal to non-traditional gamers. And while with the revolution, the requisite Metroid, SSBM and Mario will satisfy some traditional fans, any growth in marketshare is DIRECTLY reliant on Nintendo's ability to create new gameplay that isn't simply copied over and over by their competitors. And that new gameplay is what Nintendo is holding back, along with their new controller.
What's the revolution? The revolution IS NOT in the increase of technological power, but the application of it. Instead of making systems that can run hotter or faster than each other, Nintendo wants to make something that appeals to people who are outside of Sony and MS' blast radius. Microsoft wants to use the internet to connect players in Perfect Dark Zero deathmatches. Nintendo wants to use it to not only do that for SSBM, but connect Animal Crossing communities in ways that appeal to people without an urge to twitch-kill. Sony seems to believe that if they throw enough polygons at a game, they'llc ross a magical point where it will somehow convey "emotion." Nintendo knows that emotion is not a product of the eyes, but one of the heart. Players didn't cry over Aeris in FF7 because of the graphics, they cared because the story crafted a connection to her; Players won't see their DS' as personal extensions of themselves because of Metroid Prime Hunters (though that may entice some of you out there), but because their Nintendogs have wormed their way into their hearts.
Nintendo's success, ever since Sony entered the game market, has relied on their games. Now, with third parties having the ability to create quality games in any of the conventional genre, Nintendo, even iIF they had third party support, would have nothing to help them stand out...except new games that feature new gamestyles that connect with people who Sony and Microsoft expect to be rewarded with 2 years after their hardcore early adopter launches.
Will it work? Can Nintendo revolutionize, democritize, the industry by creating game experiences, either with ease of use, retro-games, or new gameplay? Only time will tell, and only the secrets that Nintendo's hiding can determine the outcome. Maybe it's even IMPOSSIBLE for Nintendo at this point, maybe the tides of history will be against them, just like it was against so many great powers in the past.
But to me one thing is clear: Nintendo CANNOT compete against Sony or Microsoft on processor speeds or polygon numbers. They will ALWAYS be behind. Nintendo is a company that made Hanafuda playing cards in the past, and software experiences now. Nintendo's only hope to succeed against Sony or Microsoft is to be different. Nintendo will be dead in the water the moment they have a system that is closely comparable to Microsoft's or Sony's boxes, because by then they'll have been so distracted as to lose their only competitive advantage, and Sony and Microsoft will NOT be beat on their home turf.
Nintendo may fail, their revolution may not succeed. It may even be coopted by Sony or Microsoft. But if that's the case, then Nintendo will have failed trying to win, trying to be unique and different and successful. They will not have failed with a retooled XBox360 on their hands and bereft of the deceny or innovation that sets them apart from Sony or Microsoft. They will have failed doing what they do best: developing innovating gameplay instead of following the consumer heartless, electronic and entertainment center bandwagon.
Carmine M. RedKairon@aol.com