Nintendo Can’t Live On Retro Alone

MG Siegler with some ideas for Nintendo:

Here’s what I’m thinking: a $99 box built from the ground up to play retro Nintendo games. Mario. Zelda. Icarus. Donkey Kong. Pokemon. You name it. Have a bunch of titles ready to go at launch to ensure a blow-out. Release more as time goes on. But not in stores, entirely online.

This device would not have any physical media. No cartridges. No optical drives. Only a hard drive and an online store. Games would be $5 to $15 depending on the title. Hundreds of titles would be available within months of launch. Thousands within the year. Stagger them.

Step two of my strategy would involve updating old classics to run with updated HD graphics and new levels. New Mario. New Zelda. New Icarus. New Donkey Kong. New Pokemon. Same idea. Updated graphics. New levels. These games would be $15 to $25 depending on the game. Stagger them.

Strike deals with other “retro” game makers such as Atari and Sega to license their old games and give them the same treatment. Updated graphics, new levels. Sell the games through your online store at $15 to $25 a pop. Watch the money roll in.

Interesting idea from Siegler and similar to past thoughts published here, but a bit flawed. This would be a nice cash influx for Nintendo, but would not probably be a long term income stream. The desire people have for these old games is mostly that of nostalgia. A feeling of being back in their youth playing something that brought them immense joy. Movies work the same way. A kids movie a person saw as a kid is still fun for that person to watch as an adult because it reminds them of their own childhood and the enjoyment it brought. But if someone were to watch The Goonies for the first time as an adult it probably wouldn’t be a super enjoyable experience.

Most of the people who want a system like Siegler described are probably between the ages of 27 and 42. Maybe it extends a bit in each direction, but 90% of the audience for this fits in that demographic. But that doesn’t encompass the largest portion of video game buyers, which one would have to imagine is mostly people under 27. While there would undoubtedly be some attraction to this right out of the chute from some people with disposable income (and probably some free time) the returns would diminish greatly over time as the popular games get used up.

Most gamers under 25 grew up on Playstation 2/Xbox or later. Original Nintendo games, and even Super Nintendo games, would feel like Atari and Intellivision to those 27–42 year olds who would purchase this phantom system. That is why going the mobile route makes far more sense. Nintendo could manufacture controllers (either carbon copies of their past controllers or more hybrid models), then build separate adapters for Android and iOS. These things would be far cheaper to make and support than a full on console with an operating system and lots of hardware. Then it could release either a single mobile app that games are bought and played through, or multiple mobile apps for each game.

This would be far less of a commitment initially, and could allow Nintendo to test the waters a bit before going all in. Their profits would probably be higher with something like this vs. building a dedicated console for it. It could be enough to get Nintendo hooked on making mobile games, a market they could literally own if they did it right. That is where Nintendo should head, not just retro games, but original games on mobile devices. A space that could use a major player to step up the bar.