It hasn’t been a good week for Blackberry. Following the failure of the Q10 to interest pretty much anyone, they’ve essentially announced they’re giving up on consumers and are instead going to go after their more reliable “Enterprise” users. They’ve also sacked 40% of their global workforce. So can the company turn things around? I think Blackberry could learn a lot by looking to Nintendo.
Remember the Gamecube? Nintendo’s little purple box that never quite managed to compete with the Playstation 2 and the original Xbox. It was a grim time to be a Nintendo fan. Whilst all of your mates were busy playing the likes of Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Solid, God Of War, and a seemingly endless stream of Triple-A titles, the only thing you had to look forward to was playing through Mario Sunshine – again – whilst waiting for the new realistic-looking Zelda: Twilight Princess (which only arrived just as the console was breathing it’s last breath).
What killed the Gamecube and it’s prospects was that there weren’t many Gamecubes sold, and there wasn’t any third party support. Companies like EA, Konami and Activision were reticent to make Gamecube games because there was no one to buy them. And no one bought a Gamecube because there weren’t many games available. As you can imagine – it was a deathly spiral.
Meanwhile back in 2013 Blackberry have the same problem – no one wants a Blackberry phone because there aren’t many apps available. And no one wants to develop any apps for Blackberry, because no one wants a Blackberry phone. Is there a way they can pull out of this nosedive?
Remember what Nintendo did. Rather than try to compete with the Sony and Microsoft powerhouses, they decided to take a huge risk and come up with something radically new: The Nintendo Wii.
The initial reaction from gamers was fairly negative: What a stupid machine! The controller looks more like a TV remote, not something for gaming! And (to paraphrase angry developer Chris Hecker at the time), it’s underpowered – it’s just two Gamecubes duct-taped together! But as soon as people actually had a go at using the motion controls that changed everything. And the Wii subsequently sold by the bucket load. And Nintendo, rather than folding into oblivion, are still here today.
So what is it that Blackberry can do that matches Nintendo’s bold move? Well, I’m not so sure (that’s why I’m not a millionaire having sold my revolutionary idea to them). But what I do know is that if their next move is to simply release a boring and unremarkable black rectangle that roughly matches their competition, then I wouldn’t expect them to be around much longer. Blackberry must innovate or die – and come up with something that is truly gamechanging, rather than play catch-up with the big beasts.
And as a footnote – the final irony of all of this is that whilst Nintendo has seen great success with the Wii, the console’s successor, the Wii U has been misstep after misstep. Maybe in a couple of years I’ll be writing “What can Nintendo learn from Blackberry”?