Monday, March 17, 2014

Nintendont (A Work-Related Post)

The Nintendo Wii was a groundbreaking device when it was released. In some ways, it probably still is. For years, we used it every day for Wii Fii. Now, we mostly use it for Netflix and occasionally YouTube. I use the balance board downstairs for freestep 60-90 minutes a day and if life ever gets less crazy I'll get back to doing some yoga regularly.

While it's commonplace on systems today, it was an early pioneer in online connectivity - you could email between Wiis, it could get system updates online, you could even download games and apps. And when it needed to tell you something, this really cool blue flashy thing would happen with the case around where the optical disc went.

But then the iPhone came out. And Nintendo seemed to completely ignore it. The game had changed. The iPhone (probably unfairly getting more credit here than it deserves) showed mainstream users some pretty cool new tricks:
  • Regularly delivered updates
  • Lots of apps due to making it easy to create apps and giving them a marketplace to sell them inexpensively (or give them away)
  • Quick, casual games
  • Limited multitasking
  • Better and better graphics
  • Eventually an ecosystem of related devices (iPod, iPad, etc.)
But the Wii sat there firmly resistant to the change happening around it. Sony and Microsoft continued to innovate and Nintendo said "Nope, we're not playing that game." and the Wii sat there, looking less and less innovative.

Fine, we thought, maybe the Wii's replacement would address all of those concerns. Maybe there was just enough drawbacks to the Wii (like limited graphics processing) to make continuing to enhance the platform difficult, unpleasant, unenjoyable, whatever. Eventually the blue flashy coolness came to mean bad news or annoyance, used to try to promote new products or tell us about features they were cutting:

Eventually it's reasonable to stop supporting old platforms, whether that's Minitel in France (1978-2012 - still had 10 million customers in 2009) or Windows XP from Microsoft (2001-2013, still the 2nd. most used Windows operating system).

And frankly, I'm not sure there's anything I'll miss.

But it's a reminder:

Plan your support and maintenance. You're not just having a child, you're raising that child - there are ongoing costs.

Plan your exit strategy. My Ford Sync tells me I get three years of free service, then they might charge me. I'm hoping they won't, but they could. And if I'm paying for it, there's probably a better chance it will be around longer. (Minitel would have been gone a lot sooner if it were free. Granted, also something better - the web - came along.)

Learn from the ever-changing world. The Wii U could have been a backwards-compatible upgrade (Wii 2 or Wii 2013) with better graphics and sound that still played all the existing games. But more importantly, the Wii ecosystem could have been opened up to the marketplace allowing for the easy creation of games and apps with Nintendo taking a cut of every sale.

Don't be stubborn (or appear stubborn). The Wii had a proprietary optical disc drive, sort of. I think some hackers proved years ago that you could get a Wii to play CDs, but Nintendo wasn't having any of that, in part because they didn't want all the extra wear and tear on the drives of people using it to play movies. Microsoft's original XBox used a competitor to Blu-ray that turned out to be unpopular in the marketplace, future XBoxes switched the the more popular standard. Apple created stores to help it address customer problems with broken devices.

I have fond memories of my NES and N64 and of the early days of my Wii. I want to cheer Nintendo on. But I can't. Sometimes an underdog proves it doesn't belong in the race because it is so clearly in the wrong weight class.

And I don't think it had to be that way.

See also:
How App Stores Changed How We Buy Software for Better or For Worse (Lifehacker)

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