Atari Co-Founder Nolan Bushnell Says Nintendo Could Become Irrelevant

Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell believes that Nintendo could become irrelevant if it continues to target a younger demographic than its competitors.

He also said that handheld console gaming may be on its way out with the rise of mobile gaming.

“I don’t think handheld game-only devices make sense anymore. Not when you have an iPod or an Android microtablet,” Nolan told BBC News. “When it comes to the console market, I think the market is truncating. Nintendo always had a soft spot for young people – they sort of did the 12-and-under pretty well, and the other guys did the 12-and-over.”

But that strategy could be spell trouble for Nintendo as other consoles focus on an older demographic, Bushnell said.

“Now I think the other [consoles] are good enough on those things, and the rush to upgrade from the 12-and-under is not nearly as important,” he said. “They could be on the path to irrelevance.”

Nintendo will try to revive sales of the Wii U, which was released November of last year, by cutting the price by $50 beginning September 20. The console will start selling for $299 in Europe and the US to coincide with the release of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Premium Pack.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said the purpose of the price drop is to “drive Wii U momentum.” Fils-Aime and Nintendo president Satoru Iwata have both acknowledged that the lack of software is to blame for the failure of the Wii U.

“The basic version should have sold a lot, but the fact of the matter is that people are buying more of the premium version. So the issue is not there,” Iwata said. “I understand that the real issue is the lack of software, and the only solution is to provide the mass-market with a number of quality software titles.”

Fils-Aime echoed Iwata’s sentiment, saying that the console has only sold 1.5 million units since its release — about half of what the original Wii sold in the same amount of time.

“The issue is the lack of a steady rate of software launches to motivate the consumer to drive buzz and engagement and to highlight the wide variety of uses of the GamePad,” he said. “That’s the issue.”

[Photo credit: Javier Candeira/Flickr]