Nintendo are trying to bring gaming into the mainstream, by making more accessible consoles and games that are something of a departure from the usual shooting aliens and killing goblins with magical swords and things. And they’re not doing too badly: sales of the DS are through the roof and even my grandparents were entertained by Nintendogs. The Wii is attracting attention from all corners of the media and their marketing has taken a distinctly Apple-esque “lifestyle” twist. But they have a problem.
The problem is not with the product – the product is good, it is accessible and people who wouldn’t normally play games are interested. The problem is with how they’re going to sell it: currently, the biggest games retailer – and therefore, presumably, Nintendo’s biggest potential source of sales – in the UK is Game. Game is a veritable temple to the traditional, unflattering image of the gamer: whilst they’ve made an effort to lighten up their stores of late, they’re still filled with sweaty, spotty teenage boys crammed around demo pods; they’re still staffed by condescending sixth-formers with dubious personal hygiene – they are utterly terrifying and alien to exactly the kind of people Nintendo want to sell to: my grandparents – hell, my parents and girlfriend – would never dream of setting foot inside a Game store. And so exactly the kind of person Nintendo want to sell to will be completely turned off by the retail channels through which they sell.
I don’t have a solution to this – other than Nintendo should lean more heavily on their “mainstream” distribution channels like WHSmith and Woolworths – but it’s something that I think could prove to be the biggest stumbling block to Nintendo bringing gaming to the masses; and sadly, it’s through no fault of their own.