A Response to a Nintendo Critic

Some time in 2009 I got a well thought out, even toned message on YouTube from a Nintendo Critic.

This was my response.

Before I respond I’d like to thank you for the time and thought you put into your message, getting people thinking and talking about video games in any was is pretty much my ultimate objective in making my videos.

The reason I care about Nintendo is the same reason anyone would care about any game company, because they put out games that I enjoy playing.

As you may have seen on my channel, I was in the audience of a live satellite viewing at Nintendo World of Nintendo’s  E3 2006 media briefing when the Wii was first revealed to the public.

I and everyone else were pleasantly surprised to see Disaster: Day of Crisis and Project H.A.M.M.E.R. for the first time and understood this as a message that Nintendo intended to stretch it’s reach farther than ever before, reaching out not only to its new expanded audience, but to players of darker, grittier games not even necessarily in Nintendo’s stereotypically cheerful and family friendly Pantheon of Mario, Kirby, and the cartoony interpretation of Zelda.

As the months went on, and Project H.A.M.M.E.R. was shelved indefinitely (according to rumor to focus attention on casual games), and Disaster: Day of Crisis suffered delay after delay, and is now unlikely to be released in North America, I definitely appreciate your sense that you have been misled by the fact that H.A.M.M.E.R. and Crisis were prominently featured in Nintendo promotional material prior to the Wii’s launch only to vaporize soon after.

However, I don’t agree with your sentiment that Nintendo has “abandoned” or “doesn’t care” about their fans or the traditional gaming audience which have been supporting them prior to their audience expansion which began with games like “Nintendogs” and “Brain Age” in 2005.

I could agree with you if Wii Sports and Wii Music were the only sorts of games Nintendo was putting out, but while those games do get lots of publicity due to their popularity and Nintendo’s marketing, they really are only a small subset of what Nintendo’s made available since the Wii launched.

Let’s look at the games that actually have “Wii” in their title and use the toy-like “Mii” graphical style. We have “Wii Sports”, “Wii Play”, “Wii Fit”, “Wii Fit +”, “Wii Music”, and “Wii Sports Resort”. That’s six games, two of which are essentially given away for free with the Wii console and with the Wii Remote, and another which is nothing but a retail replacement for its predecessor rather than an actual “sequel” as it were. I’ll add Big Brain Academy to that mix as well, for a total of seven. I can’t think of any other decidedly “casual appeal only” retail titles for Wii at the moment from Nintendo, and I’ve spent quite a while trying to come up with any more.

Yes they are games like “Animal Crossing”, “Wario Ware” and “Mario Party” that some would consider “casual”, but these games were an established part of Nintendo’s repertoire and enjoyed by Nintendo players long before there was any talk of audience expansion with the DS and Wii.

So in the last nearly four years we have had about a dozen or so retail titles from Nintendo targeted primarily at an expanded audience of newcomers who hadn’t played video games previously and would not consider gaming a hobby of theirs even if they own a Wii console or play one regularly.

And what games has Nintendo released targeted at their traditional audience who have been playing games well in advance of the launch of Wii and Nintendo DS?

Since 2006 Nintendo has released Super Mario Galaxy, Zelda Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3, Excite Truck, Super Paper Mario, Fire Emblem, Mario Party 8, Pokemon Battle Revolution, Battalion Wars, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart, Excite Bots, Super Mario Strikers Charged, Wario Land, Punch Out,  Wario Ware, Animal Crossing, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
That’s 18 titles that were already established in Nintendo’s lineup enjoyed by their traditional userbase of long time gamers, and that’s excluding anything I may have simply forgot to include, or like “Endless Ocean”, is sort of intermediate in it’s audience and marketing between the “casual” and “hardcore” audiences.

And that’s not including yet to be released games like Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid Other M, Sin and Punishment,  the new Legend of Zelda, Xenoblade, and anything else I haven’t forgotten or has yet to be announced.

Releasing and announcing more than 20 traditional titles, the sort of titles Nintendo gamers had come to love and anticipate well before the advent of Wii and Nintendo’s expanded audience, is hardly would I’d consider a case of Nintendo “not giving a shit” about their fans. In fact, it looks quite a lot like the lineup that’s kept Nintendo’s fans happy and coming back for more the last two and a half console generations.

And that’s only considering Nintendo’s own first and second party releases.

When it comes to third party shovelware, that’s bound to show up on whichever system is the most popular in a given generation. Remember all the horrible cartoon licensed trash that flooded the Playstation 2 last generation but often didn’t appear on Gamecube? Not to mention trash like Phoenix Games for PS2, and the list goes on and on. In fact, I remember shopping for Playstation 2 games last generation and often finding that two thirds of the games on the shelf were overtly trashy cash-ins.

The sad fact is, console manufacturers care more about collecting their licensing fees than making sure the games third parties are making for their systems are any good if they know that the shovelware won’t harm their system’s image or reputation so much that it will endanger their marketshare.

It took a crisis of unlicensed tripe on Atari which endangered the entire console industry to force Nintendo to institute quality control and licensing agreements on 3rd parties back in the 80’s, but once consumer confidence had been re-established, the “Official Nintendo Seal of Quality” became simply the “Official Nintendo Seal” certifying that the game wasn’t bootleg. That’s frankly just how the business works, and as usual the best way to deal with it is just to ignore the obvious shovelware and vote with your dollars for quality games.

I do agree with you in that I’m dissatisfied with Nintendo stance on online support, which is often contradictory and wildly inconsistent. I’m actually surprised that Nintnedo’s first Nintendo Wifi Connection hit, Mario Kart DS, even had online support. Just two months before Mario Kart DS’s online capabilities were demonstrated at E3 2005, Iwata was asked if Mario Kart DS would support online multiplayer, and he responded with something to the effect of “It will have local LAN play and that’s good enough. :)”.

With impressive connection statistics for the games that do support online multiplayer, and their increased interest in online Wii Ware and Wii Channel applications, along with their increased internet connectivity with the Nintendo DSi and rumored investigations of bundled wireless broadband for a possible DS successor, I have hope that Nintendo will be less shy about online connectivity in the future, though I wouldn’t go as far as to expect something on the level of XBox Live, especially with Nintendo’s obsessive commitment not to charge a fee to make their wireless connection.

When it comes to my recent videos about the Playstation Move, I’m actually not upset at all that Sony adopted the freehand setup pioneered by Nintendo’s Wii. Like I said in the video, the potential benefits of motion control are limited when both hands are stuck grasping a one-piece controller, and even with the acuity of the Playstation Move, you’ve gotta keep the analog stick in play some how, and Nintendo showed that a secondary left hand controller is the way to go.

Just like how Nintendo innovated the Nintendo 64 controller by adding controllers with force feedback, C buttons dedicated to camera control, and an analog joystick built for 3-D gaming, and Sony responded by improving the design by removing the need for a bulky external “pak” with batteries for rumble, designing better analog sticks and adding a second stick for analog camera control.

Then Nintendo and Microsoft went and applied Sony’s improvements to their Nintendo Gamecube and Xbox controllers. That’s the nature of competition, and if it weren’t for console manufacturers copying and improving on each other’s designs, games would have not evolved beyond the original Atari VCS.

Finally, I’d like to refute the point that Nintendo doesn't care about graphics. The NES, Super NES, and Nintendo 64 all had the best graphics available at the time of their launches, and Nintendo Gamecube, though not as powerful as the original XBox, was itself more powerful than the Playstation 2 to the point where gaming magazines hailed the PS2 version of Resident Evil 4 a considerable achievement in that it’s visuals were nearly identical to those of the Gamecube version.

Nintendo likes their graphics. They weren’t afraid to boast Twilight Princess as the most beautiful Nintendo game ever made at E3 2006, but Nintendo won’t consider graphics above their overall strategy of designing a system when their goal is to make the hardware, small, affordable and easy to develop for.

If Nintendo tried to go head to head with Sony’ Playstation3 as they had the PS1 and PS2 with the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, making a console with the best graphics available with the addition of Mario and company and some waggle controls, I could only see Nintendo’s current system as being third place out of three rather than the best selling home console in history, and had Wii performed on par with or less than Gamecube, it’s questionable if Nintendo would even be making games today.

And the Wii can put out pretty nice visuals. You may not be able to see the fleas in Pikachu’s fur as might be possible on a high performance HD system akin to the PS3, but they are Wii games truly good graphics in their own right. I’d specifically point out Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Metroid Other M(not the cutscenes obviously), and Red Steel 2 as examples.
I’m particularly excited to see the new Legend of Zelda at this year’s E3. Twilight Princess still stands as one of the overall nicest looking games Nintendo has put out, and that was purely a Gamecube game aside from the waggle and pointing controls.

With the level of care and polish Nintendo can dedicate to a game built from the ground up for Wii utilizing 1:1 Motion Plus control, the next Zelda stands to showcase the full potential of the Wii’s visual and motion control prowess.

The buzz at Game Developer Conference of a high performance Nintendo DS successor with graphics comparable to the Nintendo Gamecube is also to me reflective of Nintendo’s desire to improve their graphic capability as the costs fit in with their business strategy.

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