Nintendo, Disney, and Cultural Determinism

Beginning in 2013, I began a series of essays that outlined my vision for an OTT “Disney as a Service” subscription, including how it would work, its likely pricing ($6) and release date (2019), and why it was likely to rapidly attract tens of millions of customers.

Many believe that Nintendo is Disney circa 2014 or 2015 or 2016 or 2017 — and thus poised for substantial growth as it makes the transition to online or D2C or OTT distribution or mobile or [new thing]. And certainly, there are many similarities. There is no other gaming company with more beloved and long-running IP, a stronger culture of creativity in storytelling, a deeper history of immersive/technological innovation, more resonant content brand, and so on.

However, the “Nintendo is Disney” thesis is deeply flawed. It feels more like a desire to apply a pattern than to find a real analogue. Elements of Nintendo certainly represent Disney, but they represent Disney insofar as both companies are best in class creators of four-quadrant, multi-generational content. Otherwise the businesses are fundamentally different, their management styles fundamentally different, and their approaches to content itself are fundamentally different, too.