SAN JOSE, Calif. – Video game players are tiring of sequels and the industry needs to move to new games to broaden the market, Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s President Satoru Iwata said on Thursday.
He pointed to Nintendo's upcoming Revolution console, which he said could open doors for cash-strapped development teams that may have the next "Tetris," the iconic puzzle game that came out of Russia in the mid-1980s and remains wildly popular today.
"We would like to create a circumstance where they can realize their dreams," he said in an interview with Reuters, referring to game developers. Revolution will compete with Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) XBox 360 and Sony Corp.'s (SNE) upcoming PlayStation 3.
Video-game development costs are on the rise amid intense pressure to turn out sure-fire hits, and Iwata said the industry's reliance on sequels as a way to limit those risks has begun to wear thin with game players.
"Our business is beginning to resemble a book store where you can only buy expensive sets of encyclopedias," he told game makers in a speech at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose.
Iwata has long urged developers to look for game ideas that will lure new audiences and expand the video game market beyond young males. That message was echoed this week in speeches by major game makers as well as No. 1 video game console maker Sony.
GAME BOY, AND GIRL
Recently, Nintendo has had some innovative and runaway hits of its own that are in different genres than the first-person shooter games that have long been a mainstay of the industry.
"Nintendogs," for example, is a dog training game that sold 6 million units worldwide in one year and has been popular with girls. And the company's brain-training games have sold more than 5 million units in Japan. "Brain Age," the U.S. version, is set for an April 17 release.
Iwata said the idea for the brain games was suggested by an unlikely individual — a member of Nintendo's board of directors who asked for a game for seniors.
The company, which rules the hand-held game market with products like the Game Boy, has also caused a sensation with its dual-screened Nintendo DS portable game device. In a little over one year, Nintendo has sold more than 6 million units of the DS.
One of the two screens on the DS is responsive to touch, creating new opportunities for game makers.
Nintendo's own "Nintendogs" and brain training games took full advantage of that technology.
"Nintendogs" allows dog "owners" to pet their animals virtually. Players of the brain training games hold the DS like a book and answer quiz questions by writing on the touch screen with a stylus.
The controller for the Nintendo Revolution looks and operates like a remote control, and Iwata expects it to also inspire novel game play.
"The game industry is ready for disruption, not just from Nintendo but from all game developers. We all need to expand our imaginations," Iwata said.