Ever since the Wii U came out to underwhelming sales figures, people have been talking about the imminent fall of the Nintendo empire. Even more common are those trying to discern why this supposed collapse of one of the longest standing game companies is happening. Personally, I don’t think that the state of affairs is quite so dramatic. Nintendo is on a current decline, yes, but there are still many, many talented people working there. As well, they carry the type of brand loyalty from fans that only comes from being around for nearly half a century. Such momentum is a double-edged sword, however, which is what brings me to the statement that many may feel is not only heretical, but flat out nuts: I believe the reason that Nintendo is flagging, is that Nintendo sucks at branding.
At GDC, one of the many announcements made by Sony was that the PS4 would come with an in-box headset. This was a deviation from the PS3, where players had to buy the bluetooth headset separately in order to be able to voice-chat with their fellow players. It’s arguable this created an extra obstacle for cooperative gameplay in games like Battlefield or the CoD series which 360 owners didn’t have, and so for many players (including myself, initially), this provided an extra selling point in the corner of Sony’s next-gen console.
What has yet to be discussed, however, is the influence that removing this financial barrier may have on the culture of the PSN, specifically, the impact on “netiquette” (online etiquette) between players. Xbox Live has long been famous for being the forum where everyone and their dog has fucked your mother, and where pejoratives and racial slurs are used with impunity. This has led many players to instinctively mute all other players, restrict their online play only to known acquaintances, or even avoid online play altogether (an option which is becoming more and more difficult to continue).