How does Nintendo use “old technology” to innovate?

Zhihu has a question titled "Which two things in history sound different from the same era, but actually happened at the same time?" The highest praise answer is:

In 1889, Emperor Guangxu was in power, and Nintendo was established in the same year.

This sounds like the standard beginning of an ups and downs story, no wonder it gets so many likes. The fact is true. Nintendo, a century-old company, has experienced too many ups and downs. You can see from its stock price chart. Peaks and valleys alternated many times.

What is even more legendary is that Nintendo’s several summits and the rise in stock price are not due to how advanced technology it has developed. Game & Watch, Game Boy, Switch, etc. are all examples of Nintendo's innovation through old technology.

In today's Internet age that worships "new technology", it seems so incredible.

Innovate with "old technology"

When talking about Nintendo now, most people may think of Switch. Games such as "Fitness Ring Adventure" and "Animal Crossing Friends Club" have been out of the circle during the epidemic. Many non-gaming players are also familiar with Switch. Fitness Huan has even become one of the annual " financial products ".

However, this best-selling game console has also been criticized by players. It is 2020. The screen resolution of the Switch is still 720P, and the TV can only support 1080P resolution. In this mobile phone, 1080P and 4K TV have become the standard. In this era, it is a bit backward.

If you are an old Nintendo user or familiar with Nintendo’s history, you will be no stranger to it. Using "old technology" has always been Nintendo’s traditional arts and even corporate culture.

Yokoi Junhei, the former head of Nintendo’s first development department, once said: Using technology that has matured and is even close to being obsolete for horizontal thinking, and applying it to completely different fields, it is easy to produce best-selling products.

This set of concepts, known as "level thinking with blighted technology", is fully reflected in Nintendo's best-selling products.

▲ Yokoi Gunpei

Let's set the time back to the 1980s, when Nintendo released its first game console Game & Watch, which uses a fixed-background LCD screen, which also caused one game console to play only one. game.

Even with the technological development progress at that time, it is still one of the old technologies, but Nintendo has successfully opened the situation with Game & Watch. Its global sales of more than 43 million units are one of the highest-selling handhelds in the world.

▲ Game & Watch has multiple styles, both single-screen version and dual-screen version

Moreover, Nintendo has brought a huge innovation to Game & Watch-the cross button. At that time, the handheld market was an emerging market, and many content was learned from arcades. Most game interactions rely on joysticks, but Nintendo is the only way to improve The handheld is portable and user-friendly, and the cross button is introduced.

Although the cross buttons do not have a joystick for flexibility, the buttons greatly reduce the size of the handheld. At the same time, the cross buttons can also meet the needs of 2D games at that time. Anytime, anywhere, and lightness has won the recognition of a large number of players for Game & Watch, which has promoted the steadily rising sales.

The same is true for its successor, the Game Boy. Contemporaries such as Atari and Sega have already used color screens, but the Game Boy screen can only display four colors: white, light green, dark green and black. .

▲ Atari Lynx with color screen. Picture from: Kotaku

With such a wide range of technological backwardness, Nintendo can still take the lead because of its insight into the game market and deeper control of players. As a portable device, the most important thing is portability and battery life, even though Nintendo still lags behind. Screen, but it guarantees battery life.

Moreover, the interactive innovation of the cross button and Nintendo's continuous investment in high-quality games have brought a comprehensive advantage of software and hardware integration.

What’s interesting is that Nintendo’s products with leading performance or technological advantages have not been recognized by players. Nintendo’s N64 uses a 64-bit chip and is one of the best consoles for 3D performance at the same time, but it has encountered Waterloo. Sales were mediocre.

Interactive innovations and gameplay innovations like Game & Watch are very common in Nintendo’s products. The labo box, fitness ring, and the recent AR game "Mario Racing" have all brought unexpected results. Most of them do not use cash technology, but rather innovative applications of mature technology.

In the hands of Nintendo, the game console is not only a computer hardware that provides functions, but also a set of toys that can be expanded almost infinitely.

This may have something to do with Nintendo’s experience as a toy manufacturer. For toy manufacturers, what matters is not technology, but to make toys fun enough.

What's more commendable is that Nintendo insists on this concept.

Nintendo has embarked on a unique road to industrialization

Nobuyuki Takahashi, the director of Nintendo’s planning and production department, once told the media that innovation is a by-product of Nintendo’s work. Within Nintendo, creativity is the first in the entire creative process.

The persistence of good ideas has also affected Nintendo’s corporate culture. Even in an era when mobile games are sweeping the world and mobile games revenues on the App Store and Google Play are rising, Nintendo has never changed.

This doesn't mean that Nintendo does not make mobile games. On the contrary, Nintendo's 2016 mobile game "Super Mario Run" has refreshed the App Store's fastest record of reaching number one in the free game list.

However, "Super Mario Run" and another IP game licensed by Nintendo "Pokemon GO" have a huge gap in commercial performance. According to the data of the mobile application data research company Sensor Tower, "Pokemon GO" And the derivative IP has swept over 2.5 billion US dollars of global players from its issuance in 2016 to 2019.

"Super Mario Run", which was launched in the same year as "Pokémon GO", had a cumulative global revenue of only 60 million U.S. dollars by 2018, which is far away from the 2.5 billion U.S. dollars.

Both are Nintendo’s IP games, why is the difference so big?

This will be analyzed from the business models and production companies of the two games. "Pokémon GO" is a product that Nintendo and Pokemon have authorized Niantic to develop and operate. Nintendo only provides some suggestions.

"Super Mario Run" is a game developed and operated by Nintendo itself. Although both are free games, "Super Mario Run" still needs to spend $10 to unlock all the game content. "Dream GO" provides many in-app purchase methods, which is commonly known as krypton gold.

Independent research and development by IP owners is not as profitable as authorized IP games. The reason is the business model. There is no reason why Krypton has become a mainstream business in the mobile game circle. Its ability to attract money has been verified time and time again.

▲Unboxing is a common mechanism in krypton gold games

Not joining the Krypton Gold model is Nintendo’s active choice, and even it will require partners to adjust the mechanism so that players will not spend too much money. According to the “Wall Street Journal” report , Nintendo requires such partners to protect their brand. Image.

Buy-out games require players to spend a lot of money at one time, and the quality requirements for games are naturally higher, which will naturally encourage manufacturers to improve the gaming experience.

The seemingly free krypton game is different. Although the game itself is free to download and basically has no restrictions, in order to produce rewards and form a loop, game companies often set up various induction recharge mechanisms in the game, such as important games Props and equipment items need to be obtained through krypton gold out of the box, which will almost inevitably have a negative impact on the game experience.

Whether it is stubborn or proud, as a game company, Nintendo is not so interested in mobile games. What it insists on is the buyout business model around traditional games. The persistence of this model also indirectly promoted Nintendo's continuous exploration of good ideas.

Of course, like Nintendo’s insistence, the risk is not small. Like games and movies and other entertainment content products, the production cycle is long. A game production cycle of three years is already normal for Nintendo, but it takes such a long time. Funds and time investment, all need to rely on game sales to recoup the cost.

If the money is burned out, and the players do not buy it, the loss is not small. Throughout the history of Nintendo, there are products with the highest sales in the world, and there are products with mediocre sales.

Fortunately, Nintendo has enough background to support its continuous adventurous activities. Before that, there was a media inventory of the world’s most profitable IP. Nintendo’s Pokémon and Mario also entered the top 10 of the list, with the former’s IP revenue reaching The latter also reached about 36 billion US dollars.

The recently opened Nintendo Super Park has also triggered a frenzy of topics on social media. Nintendo’s IP continues to influence players and fans.

Games are Nintendo’s basic business, but it is also its IP foundation. Every time a game is launched, it expands and strengthens the IP brand, and the high value of IP can also support Nintendo to take risks again and again to make better game.

Let me say that Nintendo is not stubborn or proud, it is just used to the past industrial production methods, because it is familiar and feasible for it, why should it change.

Technology cannot solve all problems

In the gaming industry, there is almost no benchmarking company with Nintendo. Sony and Microsoft, both of which are the three masters in the console industry, have different business models from Nintendo. Although they sell consoles and games, the console itself is not profitable. , This year’s PS5 and Xbox prices have been delayed, and there are reasons for the high costs.

What really carries the main revenue is the game rake. Games sold on PS4 and Xbox need to submit about 30% of the revenue.

Although Nintendo also sells Switch consoles and games, its main revenue is borne by first-party games produced by Nintendo. According to statistics from vgchartz, the top ten games sold on the switch platform are all developed by Nintendo. Nintendo’s financial report further confirmed this data. About 85% of Switch software sales in 2019 were first-party games.

This is also in line with the perception of the outside world. Switches are mostly bought for games developed by Nintendo.

Compared with game companies, Nintendo is not a pure game content company. It still insists on launching hardware products, even if hardware profits are not high, and even occasionally losses.

Just imagine, if "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is logged on to platforms such as PS4 and Xbox, sales will definitely increase again, but Nintendo does not. It has always insisted on selling games on its own hardware platform.

The reason for this is that in addition to the competitive platform, most of the games developed by Nintendo are designed to work with its own hardware to achieve maximum performance. "Fitness Ring Adventure" does not have a Switch handle. Can it still be fun?

Under Nintendo's concept of "withered technical level thinking", hardware and software are equally important. They are both carriers of creativity. As for whether the technology is new or mature enough, it is not the first.

Unlike the technological transitional road of industrialization represented by Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo has embarked on a unique path, relying on mature or even outdated technology to show better creativity under the strategy of integrating software and hardware.

Of course, this has a close relationship with the game market. The console game generational battle has proved that game quality is the first factor in players' money. For Nintendo, it is also common for games to feed back hardware. During the epidemic this year, the fitness ring The soaring sales, becoming the annual "financial hardware", and promoting the increase in Switch sales are the best proof.

Nintendo has innovated time and time again, making unexpected innovations from ordinary things, winning the recognition of players.

This can't help but make people wonder, is it really necessary to emphasize the cool "new technology"?

What Jobs said at the developer conference may be the answer to this question:

You need to start from the user experience, and then reverse what technology to use, instead of starting from the technology, and then think about how to sell the product

Technology is just a tool, especially in the content market. The most important thing is always product quality. The basic "old technology" can still continue to innovate.

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