For the past few console generations, Nintendo has been keen to portray themselves as a family-friendly company, selling products parents would have no issue buying their children for Christmas. While Nintendo isn't likely to be dropping this image completely any time soon (as it's very profitable!), they do believe their brand has become too associated with the "kiddy" reputation that particularly hung around them during the Wii and WiiU era. A recent Wall Street Journal article has announced that #Nintendo is actively encouraging producers of "violent or risqué videogames" to produce consent for the #NintendoSwitch as part of a move to shed its reputation as making games just for families.
If successful, this would position Nintendo's brand perception as something closer to where it was during the Gamecube era: popular with families, but also respected by the "hardcore" gamer. Perhaps Nintendo's recent failings with the WiiU have concerned them that the "casual" market is no longer interested in traditional videogame consoles, and so finding success will rely more on courting the more experienced gamer. With core titles such as Splatoon 2, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey as blockbuster titles in the launch year of the Switch, I believe Nintendo has been making a statement to gamers and the industry that they are back to focusing on great games, rather than gimmicks that they hope will attract the mass market like the WiiU Game Pad.
If Nintendo is serious about changing their brand strategy in this way, it will involve a strategy they have previously been reluctant to approach in the past: directly facing Microsoft and Sony in the "red ocean", highly-competitive core gaming market, as opposed to forming their own, uninterrupted market in the innovative "blue ocean". Having said this, the strategy does appear to have worked excellently thus far, with the Nintendo Switch selling very well since its launch in March, and people speculating how much stock Nintendo is going to be able to provide to consumers for the busy Holiday season.
The belief that Nintendo is moving towards courting a more "core" audience appears to match up with comments from other developers. One software executive said that while Nintendo was previously "passive" regarding the development of violent or risqué titles, their stance has recently changed in a noticeable way. With evidence from Nintendo's own offerings in the first year of the Switch, and developers behind the scenes revealing there has been a real change in Nintendo's attitudes to certain types of games, it seems likely to me that there is definitely some level of truth to these reports.
Even the initial reveal of the #Switch in January was apparently designed to signify Nintendo's new attitude to "core" content. The Switch presentation was held in a nightclub-like atmosphere, which Shinya Takahashi - a Nintendo executive - says was intended to "attract grown-up game players in the West". Takahashi's comments are interesting for specifically mentioning "Western" gamers: a demographic that Nintendo has done very little to specifically target in the past. I believe it's likely that Nintendo's sudden and unexpected level of cooperation with Bethesda is a direct result of this changing philosophy to core gamers and Western games.
If this is the case, it means Nintendo has had this strategy for brand readjustment for a long time - certainly since before the Switch launched. I believe there was likely a serious discussion when it was evident that the WiiU was going to fall well below expectations about what Nintendo did wrong that generation and how they could improve for the next. It seems there was an agreement that they had strayed too far from their core gaming roots, and that pure, excellent games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and attracting Western gamers would be key to securing a dominant market position.
I am really excited to see where Nintendo takes this new philosophy to the industry in the future. Could we see more collaborations with big Western developers? Will Nintendo be more willing to release "mature" titles of their own in the coming years?
Only time will tell.
(Source: Wall Street Journal)