And thus ends the Blue Ocean era.
If there is one thing Nintendo has always aimed for, it’s to get more people playing games. This tendency reached a zenith with the DS and Wii, where going after the “blue ocean” and expanding on the gaming population, using them to bolster sales of their products, was what they were explicitly doing. But even before then, the company has always aimed for a broader demographic than Sony or Sega or Microsoft.
However, that is something the company will now no longer be doing. Speaking to investors in a financial call, Nintendo’s president Shuntaro Furukawa confirmed that thanks to the smartphone gaming boom, the gaming audience is already expanded. Instead of wasting time trying to expand the reach of an already expanded medium, Nintendo will now be trying to get these expanded audiences interested in their products via exposure to their IP. This means that Nintendo will still make games that appeal to everyone, mind you—but that they will no longer explicitly attempt to make blue ocean games like Wii Fit in its day.
“The current market environment for smart device applications is showing signs of maturity, and the competition is becoming even fiercer,” Furukawa said. “Also, it’s becoming difficult to create different game experiences on different devices. And, with the pervasiveness of smart devices, the gaming population has expanded rapidly beyond the reach of Nintendo’s dedicated video game products. We will continue to propose products that are not limited by the definition of “game,” and that bring entertainment to various consumers regardless of region, gender, or age. However, the term of “gaming population expansion” itself does not fit in the current situation.”
If you think about it, that makes sense—the Switch has been a success off the back of products very clearly aimed at core gamers, games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. While Nintendo’s games will always have broader appeal than most other games do, in the end, I think it’s good that the company recognizes that “expanding the gaming audience’ is a futile endeavour when smartphones are already doing such a great job at that (although Nintendo themselves aren’t doing quite as well on that front as they could). I think Nintendo just focusing on making great games that appeal to everyone inherently will lead to a far better output from them in the end.