Challenge Nintendo? You wish

Read this article from GamePolitics.

I couldn’t help but laughing at the Korean president Lee Myung-bak’s curiosity with Nintendo’s success. His mind, almost in naivete, cannot comprehend the nature of videogame console markets which rather requires a healthy ecosystem of software instead of one monolithic, powerful hardware. Maybe it has a lot to do with his background in the construction industry.

Lee is one typical figure of yesteryear’s minds which still haunt much of Korea’s industries. He seems almost confident that alternative products rivaling these consoles can be easily built when Korean corporations stretch their manufacturing muscles. To this kind of mindset, Nintendo consoles can be (and will be) replicated and manufactured within months, just like flat-screen TVs or refrigerators. Once you know what kind of parts are needed and find a way to manufacture the product under acceptable costs, you win. Oh, now we have a domestic console. We will outrun you, Japanese, the same way we make cars, build ships, and construct buildings! Voila!

Okay, that was the easy part. To someone like Lee, Software is trivial, other than the basic, minimally necessary bundle mounted on the product. Taking on Nintendo (and also Sony and Microsoft), however, is so much more than building some piece of hardware to run fancy graphics on your TV. Without all the software titles, your console is no more worth than a brick. Even Nintendo, which owns powerful in-house teams which released some of the best videogames in history, still requires the support of third-party developers to sustain the longetivity of DS and Wii. Hardware is nothing without software (lots and lots of software) in the videogame business.

The difficult part is that it becomes the chicken-or-the-egg problem for both the console company and videogame developers. A console would sell if there are plenty of software titles available for that console, but conversely videogame developers would only develop for a console platform which are widely sole already (therefore would guarantee minimum sales of their games). If a console fails to secure a reasonably large user base and hence has too few games, it would quickly tumble down the spiral of death. It happened to a lot of videogame consoles in history, including a Korean console (wow, Korean government should’ve subsidized this!) named GP2X.

Lee’s comment on Nintendo could be taken with a laugh and a sense of humor, but such a speech from the highest-ranking official of the country represents Korea’s incapability to enter markets in which creativity and systematic mind are more required than simply pushing forward, which emblematizes Lee’s leadership. Perhaps in coming months, we may see the birth of one Korean-manufactured Nintendo-alternative, and the eventual demise of it too.

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