Oh Miyamoto, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

18 06 2009
Nintendo's Wii, currently the best selling console of this generation.

Nintendo's Wii, currently the best selling console of this generation.

by xeroxeroxero

Nintendo takes a lot of flack these days for their Wii wand waggling efforts, criticised by the gaming enthusiast for not having enough ‘real’ games, panned by critics for recycling old IP and ideas, and finally, even the Ninty die-hards are beginning to turn their back. Now I’m not going to try and tell you about how wrong everyone is, or how Nintendo is actually the saviour of gaming by cornering the casual market, but instead I want to put forward that in actual fact, Nintendo’s outlook on the industry has never changed, and perhaps we should look at how we now perceive games as the key factor in our disenchantment with the house that Mario built.

When in 1983 Nintendo launched the Famicom and later the NES, the company perceived it as a toy, another electronic gadget to have in the home, good family fun for all involved, just like the cards they originally sold 90 years previously. You can see by several games from their NES launch line-up; Golf, Baseball, Tennis, and other similarly titled games, that the market they were trying to capture wasn’t the Atari 2600 playing ‘gamer’ (arguably this term hadn’t even come into use) but the parent looking for a new gizmo to play for the upcoming holiday they bought it. The console came packed with two hard wired controllers, one of which included a mic that replaced the Start / Select buttons. Later the console and its various NES incarnations would include a light gun, motion sensing hand glove, and even disk system that allowed for external media to store games ‘downloaded’ from an external source.

Sound familiar?

It should, because this focus on the casual consumer, a wealth of innovation and hardware experiments that would be used in later iterations, epitomises the Nintendo ethos throughout the ages. Modems, RAM expansions, the 64DD, shoulder buttons, analogue sticks, Virtual Boy, hand-held gaming and all manner of third party interactive sport peripherals, all of these features and technologies have had one, and only one thing in common. To sell more games, to more people, over a wider audience.

Efforts to expand their user base may have met criticism, but Nintendo products now appeal to more people than ever before.

Efforts to expand their user base may have met criticism, but Nintendo products now appeal to more people than ever before.

But what about said games? General consensus seems to be that Nintendo consoles traditionally provided swathes of high quality titles, in a timely fashion. But if we take a look at the highest selling games of each console you begin to see a pattern emerge. Relatively few high quality titles per console iteration, of which all highest sellers are first party (as are the majority of the rest of the top twenty), and most are based on existing franchises from previous generations. Third party efforts bring up the rear, mainly consisting of ports of other consoles. Similarly, it tends to be titles launched early into the consoles life span that sell the best, from Super Mario Brothers, to Wii Play.

So if Nintendo hasn’t changed, what has? Speaking with a fellow gamer recently, they referred to the Wii as a ‘boardgame for retards’, and whilst their words could have been better chosen, the sentiment rings true, its a console (and company) that has maintained it’s family orientated approach, a thing for children and the easily amused. And if we are being honest, perhaps that was us all those years ago, too young to notice bad game design, too ignorant to see any other way of doing things. ‘Hardcore Gaming’ has moved on, our expectations now much higher, our tolerance for anything not catered specifically to us, much lower, and whilst that’s not a bad thing, its also not the fault of a company staunchly resolute in the practices that have kept it afloat for nearly 110 years.




4 responses

19 06 2009

Sony and Microsoft have a lot to thank Nintendo for.
The SNES was a gateway drug for a generation or two, myself included.
As you say xeroxeroxero, they know their target audience and seem happy to maintain the model of ‘get-em-while-they’re-young’.
Sure they may be trying to pull back the mature crowd (MadWorld, et-al), but Nintendo know that a large proportion of their customers move on. But I’d bet that for every ONE gamer that packs away the Wii for a 360/PS3/PC, there are FIVE new customers.

Great article.

19 06 2009
Matthew Moore

Yup, cracking work ther Xero, its a hell of a point. Nintendo have never changed the way they work, the industry around them has broardened

19 06 2009

Nice article man. As an early fan of Nintendo it saddens me when I see yet another piece of (guarenteed gold) shit coming out for the Wii. I think too that with the advent of Playstation 1, was the slow demise of Nintendo realised. It may have been through lack of decent competition that they were dominant for so long.
Fair play to them for reinventing their machine to optimise their profits but really Nintendo, stop claiming you make games for gamers and stop turning up to trade shows. It’s just embarassing for your executives to walk out on stage and waggle a controller like six year old at the latest software you are trying to peddle. Why not just stick to your over saturated advertising showing us the perfect family unit because your target market really do aspire to be footballers and their wives

21 06 2009
Wayne Shayler

Yep, great article Xero.

Yes, Nintendo have always been pioneers, and they continue to do so.

I must admit, I have been one of the consumers (like Snaj) to complain about the lack of games on my Wii, and that has always been the case for Nintendo consoles. I’m not sure they have ever had ‘swathes’ of high quality titles, but when they have come, they have definately been of the highest standard. Twenty years on, and I still playing the orignal Mario, Zelda and Metroid.

As the games industry has grown, so has the number of top quality games available. Nintendo would never try and compete with Sony and Microsoft in that respect, so they do what they do best. Releasing quality, family entertainment. Certainly not games for the likes of us, but every now and again, one slips under the net.

Take ‘Punch Out’ for example. I cannot remember the last time I had this much fun playing a single player game. Laugh out loud moments, cracking gameplay and the elusive ‘Holy Grail’ of game design. The ‘One More Go’ attitude.

Yes, Nintendo are still supplying me with my fix, I just have to look a little harder for it these days!!!

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