Nintendo’s DS with 3-D is a failure. Fears by parents (who buy the things, after all) over seizures and the like limited its sales. Another round of price cuts from $249 to $169, have failed to boost sales. Nintendo has always been the cheaper, affordable, and kid-friendly (no violent stuff for parents who buy the systems anyway) gaming system. That strategy, along with intensive in-house development and integration, has allowed Nintendo to survive when other systems dropped out, were absorbed, or destroyed by larger competitors (mostly Sony and Microsoft). Now of course cheap games on Iphones are really hurting both the Wii and 3DS. But Nintendo has a secret weapon, if only it unleashes it. Books!
E-books are becoming the dominant way in which Americans buy books. Its convenient, fast, and much, much cheaper. With library lending already here for e-pub (Nook and the like) and coming for the Kindle (mobi format), you don’t even have to go to your Library. Just download the book from your computer. E-books are cheap, with many free versions of the classics, and other low-cost options of back catalog books. Nintendo has seriously missed an opportunity.
Currently Amazon is the dominant e-reader, but it has an appeal mostly to older, and female consumers. No surprise there, Women account for 80% of the fiction market. Look at the Kindle Ads on TV. They all feature (hot young) women. A kids oriented reader, cheap and good enough, would do well. Particularly if it played kid-friendly, non-violent games (parents are not too keen on shoot-em-up, beat the prostitute to death, games like Grand Theft Auto) and was … cheap.
Right now, the Kindle with Special Offers is at $114. Of course it needs a cover, and a light for night-reading. But that’s cheap. Nintendo could offer a DS, without 3-D (who cares, really) for around $120 with a larger screen, in color, aimed at combining kids reading with educational games. Chess, backgammon, Go, Chinese Checkers, Scrabble, and the like. Currently people are laboriously hacking “homebrew” solutions to read books on their Nintendo DS systems. That’s ridiculous. Nintendo ought to offer a cartridge for them, sold off their own website and through retailers, to read e-books. While using their own advantage (in-house engineering staff) to combine cheap/easy gaming and e-books. Bonus if the system reads both e-pub and Kindle mobi format.
E-readers are all targeted at adult women, and that leaves boys and young girls out in the cold. There is a market gap, in which Nintendo can challenge the Ipad and Iphone. No one wants to read a novel on their phone, or much less have their kid reading Treasure Island on it while they need to make a call. A price point of say, $120 that includes games no parent could object to (“Chess makes your kids smarter”) and a way of transferring e-books already purchased onto the system, is a no brainer. [Likely a usb-adapter to connect a cartridge to a computer, in a simple file transfer system.] Meanwhile take money put on the table by current Nintendo DS users who would go to the trouble of doing a “homebrew” system. Allow the current DS systems to become e-readers officially, with a Nintendo sanctioned and supported cartridge.
The 3-D bet has obviously failed. Time for Nintendo to do something else. Someone will make a kid-oriented E-reader. It might as well be them.