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The pricing lessons

11 August on Blogs, Editorial  

So now Nintendo president Satoru Iwata says that the 3DS price drop stems from a lesson learned from the GameCube. Huh... I find that slightly ironic, actually. Not because I think it's a bad decision - on the contrary: I find Nintendo's flexibility in finally offering hardware at a loss as a strategic decision very important. That's not the reason.

Unfortunately, I can't find the original quote, but Iwata had a very interesting take on price reductions: he complained about the competitors pricing strategy of inflating on launch and discounting so soon - it basically educated most consumers into waiting. He did actually repeat this now, but I find it interesting that Nintendo had historically been aware of setting prices that were sustainable on the long run: have a look at any Mario, Zelda, Metroid etc title and how they hold their original prices for months, sometimes years. Heck, the Wii discount line was introduced not so long ago, as the console is going into its twilight years.

Ordinarily, I would not mention this now. However, there ARE two other topics Iwata brought up that are very much related: Maintaining the perception of value in games (which also relates to his opinion on the Apple Cheap Apps by the Dozen model) and the fact that they are still planning on an expensive Wii U.

“The value of videogame software does not matter to them,” Iwata said, referring to phone manufacturers.

Why do I say that? Because at the end of the day all that may sound like a conflicting opinion, but it's not: we as an industry cannot afford to let the perception of the value of gaming be diminished. Yes, it's nice to have a casual market that consumes on impulse, but this model will cause a continuous erosion to the point where games cannot get any simpler - this is not wrong in and of itself, but needs to be seen as an alternative path. One must continue to invest in the quality of their products so that the industry can grow and pursue new horizons.

Now many may now raise their hands and say that the launch of the original Wii against the PS3 and Xbox 360 would go against that. I disagree. It helped harvest a new public for games while keeping production costs under control during the *ahem* Revolution. It is now time to reap that benefit while still maintaining a responsible control of the hardware to keep the train going. The reason for the capital letters is simply to avoid another Cold War-style arms race for better graphics that could inflate prices again. As it is, we have to struggle with an avalanche of DLC and in-box anti-resale tactics from publishers.

Again, there are too many unknown variables in the Wii U at this point to make any sort of prediction, but I do trust Iwata's feelings on the industry and how to propel it forward. Yes, I do think the 3DS pricing was a mistake, but one based more on tradition than careful planning, and one that maybe was corrected in time. We'll just have to wait and see.

And for the record... they must be doing something right: New Super Mario Bros DS, a five year old game for an outdated platform, made it to the top ten most sold games in the US in July 2011. Just saying...

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

Author, freelance videogame journalist, cinematography major and a little insane.