The big question is “is it relevant anymore?” Nintendo’s core useable is more families and children, not the hardcore primary gaming demographic that fatten up the Xbox and Playstation user bases, however children, families, and casual gamers in particular are much better suited for a different and newer type of gaming media, browser and social networking-based games. The easy integration of these platforms into other computing experiences, along with free-to-start models, are far better suited for those core demographics. What does this leave for Nintendo to do? Their brand is so cotton candy that convincing hardcore gamers to jump ship to the Nintendo system seems like a stretch. Do they innovate with UI again? I don’t know where they can go. We’re nearing the point of mind and machine UI being a possibility, but Sony holds a lot of those patents. Anything between the current generation of Wiimote-Kinect gaming interfaces and full mind-to-machine would represent unremarkable incremental change. Perhaps Nintendo will try to redefine the gaming console and enter the broader battle for the living room. I can imaging some sort of cross between the Xbox 360, the next generation Apple TV, and deeply integrating their successful handheld systems. Otherwise, I’m not seeing the opportunity for Nintendo to do something remarkable in this particular moment.
The rumor mill was really churning last week about Nintendo’s plan to announce a next-generation console to debut in late 2012. This is interesting as Nintendo is in danger of sliding into irrelevance in the console wars. While the Nintendo Wii was very innovative when it debuted, now that Microsoft and Sony have copied and in some ways exceeded to Wii-mote user interface, the diminutive Wii appears hopelessly underpowered and dated. Major console systems run on extremely long product cycles with only one or at most two consoles per company per decade. With neither Microsoft or Sony seeming to have a new console launch on the horizon, Nintendo has rare opportunity to leapfrog companies with a better system.