Nintendo Gets Push (But Hopefully Not Pushy)

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata recently revealed that the Wii will automatically download content during the night (broadband permitting.) In other words, push technology. It isn’t clear from the interview whether consumers will be able to tweak or disable this functionality. A quote:

This would allow Nintendo to send monthly promotional demos for the DS, during the night, to the Wii consoles in each household. Users would wake up each morning, find the LED lamp on their Wii flashing, and know that Nintendo has sent them something. They would then be able to download the promotional demo from their Wii’s to their Nintendo DS’s.

This could be a very good thing, but there are many ways it could go wrong. Push technology has been, with rare exception, a market flop. There are plenty of theories as to why, but I subscribe to the simplest: people hate having anything pushed on them. And modern life has given us so much pushiness to hate: junk mail, unsolicited sales calls, spam, friends-who-forward-too-many-stupid-jokes… you get the idea. In this environment, even “legitimate” push content suffers as a result. For example, most people give very little mindshare to newsletters that they’ve intentionally signed up for, because even the best (opt-in) push content starts to feel like spam when your inbox is flooded in general. And with broadband speeds being what they are, push technology feels less and less necessary every year.

So what should Nintendo do? IMO, it needs to make push content feel like a treat. And that means two things, primarily:

  1. It isn’t a treat if it happens all the time. If that LED only flashes a few times a month, I’m much more likely to pay attention / appreciate it. On the other hand, if it pops up as often as the “new email” icon on my toolbar, I’ll expect the equivalent of Viagra advertisements in the queue.
  2. It isn’t a treat if it isn’t special. Don’t push ordinary stuff. No run-of-the-mill trailers, for example (unless consumers specifically request them, in general or in specific.) An occasional high-quality game demo that is in-and-of itself fun to play — that qualifies. Very rare non-game content related to the release of an extremely anticipated title… maybe that works. New, free expansion content for a game I already own: yes. Ditto for patches.

Nothing in the interview transcript sounds ominous, so I have faith that Nintendo will do the right thing. And since the Wii has limited storage capacity, it’s hard to imagine rampant excess, regardless. But, just in case, consider this a personal request: no spam in my Wii, please!

PS. I should note that I’m writing primarily with the American market in mind. I’ve been told that Japanese (and indeed, all Asian) consumers are more open to push content. If that’s true, different push strategies could easily be employed for the different markets…

2 responses to “Nintendo Gets Push (But Hopefully Not Pushy)

  1. I fully agree with you that push has to be a treat for the player. I can see why they opted for a push model, though. The alternative would basically be that they post the downloads somewhere, and people can use some built-in browser on the Wii to find and acquire them. Not so many people will take the initiative to do so (though who knows how many people will immediately play whatever content they push to you). The push model, where stuff just magically appears on your box, fits in much better with their “easy for everyone” strategy. Plus it allows them to expire old demos.

  2. One way to address the storage part of the problem is to adopt the “Tivo Recommends” model: a Tivo will record shows that it thinks the user will enjoy if there is space available, and it will delete these shows automatically if space is needed to store user-scheduled recordings. Similarly, Wii could initially download a variety of “treats” and, based on the user’s interests (reflected by the games they play and the treats they explore), preferentially download treats that match those interests and delete less-interesting treats as space is needed.

  3. Nice. That would be ideal.

    Of course, Nintendo is being so coy, that for all we know, they’re planning to implement something like this. It’s a good strategy for them — we’ll all continue to believe the best of them until it actually comes out.

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