Rant – Nintendo Suffering From The Curse Of Mario? I Don’t Think So! (And Other Gaming-Console Spittle)
Here’s an unexpected twist: Sankei News is reporting that Mario is hindering Nintendo’s financial success. It’s been called the “curse of Mario” and the reasoning is about as specific as throwing a dart at a wall, near as I can figure. “As the game market evolves, Nintendo seems unable to move beyond creating games that rely on the image of Mario,” they claim. So, for example, Nintendogs was what then?
We’re supposed to believe that because Mario is so loved, game makers are too scared to make non-Mario games for Nintendo? Eh? Third parties are actually frightened away by Mario?
Not only do I not see anyone having any problems making Mario-free games for Nintendo, but honestly, without some decent Mario games, Zelda games, and Metroid games, I’m not even sure there would be a Nintendo. One of the major draws to any platform are the games that are only on that platform. It’s why someone buys Nintendo and Sony. (Not instead of. Does anyone really do instead of these days?) Or … um … Microsoft. I guess there is still that. No more Sega though…
Anyway, if you want to rip on Nintendo’s poor financials lately, try looking at how no one at Nintendo ever bothered to release a High Definition Wii. Emulators like Dolphin even show that the same old non-HD Wii games can look remarkably better in HD with minimal effort. Rumors abounded for years that “it’s coming”. It never came. Now we get a goofy Wii-U? Which isn’t entirely the same thing as this bugger has one awfully ridiculous controller. (Seriously, do I really want to hold a tablet for a controller?!)
While we’re at Nintendo failures, let’s look at their consoles more closely, hmm? The Wii just completely gave up the console fight entirely. No competing for specs with Microsoft Xbox 360 or Sony Playstation 3 here. No, the only motivating factor behind the Wii was … motion control. Which both Microsoft and Sony duplicated (or even improved on) quickly enough. Because their consoles had more than enough processing power to do it, and it really wasn’t all that hard to find other ways to do the same thing. That was it. Turn your body into a controller or swing a controller around like a bat/sword were the only technical motivating factors of the Wii console.
Meanwhile, Ninty’s true curse came out. With so much less capability in their console, third party developers literally had to look at the Wii and ask themselves, “Do we really want to downgrade the quality of our games on a port to Wii?” Gee, how could that possibly go wrong, Nintendo?
Oh … wait. I mean how could that possibly go right?!
And now Nintendo is jumping the gun (or is it jumping the shark?) by breaking the one useful feature of the Wii in a bid to upgrade it to HD by turning a lightweight controller into a tablet-based monstrosity. I can only hope most games don’t actually use it so that the old Wii controllers are still an option for most games.
Speaking of tablets and the Wii-U, why in the world is the Nintendo handheld not tablet-like, while the full TV-plugged console box is tablet-like? How does that make any sense whatsoever? Talk about the wrong form factors for the jobs.
While farting in the general direction of Ninty’s handhelds, let’s look at another big failure, how about Nintendo’s 3DS, nearly guaranteed to give you a headache! (Did they learn nothing from the Virtual Boy? Seriously? Is play-testing that hard to do? Is repeating the past that hard to avoid?) It’s so stunting to the eyes that child eyesight development is actually in peril? And that they had to add a warning? Great! I’ll buy one for each of my kids this Christmas! (Not.)
Then there’s how minimally changed from the DSi (which itself was so little changed from the DS) the 3DS really is! And how Nintendo has been dropping more backward compatibility from their handhelds with each generation when the ability to slot your old carts into your Next Best GameBoy used to be its best feature IMHO. I was still happily playing classic GB carts like Metroid II on my GBA.
If Nintendo wants to stop losing sales in general, they might want to try giving third-party developers half a chance with competitive performance specs (like HD). I’m sure the inability to port games to Nintendo without a serious degradation in quality is a lot more concerning to 3rd-party developers than any “curse of Mario”. Let’s try just a little pinch of common sense here.
And if Nintendo wants to start gaining my money again, they need to stop making me pay through the nose to continue playing my old games without hooking up 100 systems to one television! Backward compatibility means something to me. Sony just kicked me in the nuts with the PS3. But Nintendo has been doing it for even longer. They might think that they’re losing sales to old games somehow. Or more accurately, losing re-sales of re-releases to games people already bought. But to me, it just makes me that much more inclined to NEVER BUY FROM THEM AGAIN! Seriously. I’m down to PC gaming now. And oh … wait … happy to game on my PC most days. Hmm… I don’t even remember the last time that I kicked my PS3…
So let me make it clear and simple to Nintendo:
You need competitive hardware.
Embrace backward compatibility.
And you need more Mario!
Oh, and maybe innovate in some way that doesn’t give people headaches or potentially permanently damage their eyes/visual cortex/whatever as your sole hook to upgrade to The Next Big Thing. Just a thought.
It’s classic Nintendo lines like Mario, Zelda, and Metroid that are the only reason I don’t discount Nintendo entirely in my purchase considerations these days. Heck, Nintendo, bring back Zelda and Metroid platformers! First person isn’t the only way to go. Frankly, I’m getting sick of first person. (And no, third person that plays like first-person doesn’t count as something different! It’s just first-person with constant butt in your face!)
Frankly, if it wasn’t for Mario, Nintendo would probably have gone the way of Sega by now. Don’t blame the plucky plumber. Thank him!
And try competing for a change. Yes, it’s costly. But I would dare say that not competing is even more so.
You’ve proven that just giving up and creating your own niche doesn’t rain down riches because then third-party developers have to actually choose between your niche or everyone else, and everyone else is a much larger market than any niche, no matter how interesting that niche may be. Especially when that niche isn’t an order of magnitude cheaper. Duh. Who’d have thunk it?! It was a sore point then. It’s still a sore point now. Especially when that niche doesn’t even really exist anymore. Motion control? They’ve all got that. So don’t blame Mario for Nintendo’s failures. Blame Nintendo. Failure after failure after failure is going to amount to a Sega-sized Epic Fail if someone doesn’t crack open a can of common sense.
And look out for iOS/Android casual gaming to continue to devastate the handheld gaming market. Five bucks (or less) for a game compared to twenty, thirty, or more, is a compelling factor. As is free. As is the inherent usability of a generic tablet compared to some specialized gaming device. Why buy just an e-book reader for x when for a little bit more (or sadly, a little bit less at first) you could buy a tablet that can do waaay more? Why buy just a 3DS or Vita when you can buy a tablet that can do waaaay more? And has a bigger screen? Better battery life. Etc. Either make your handheld gaming device more compelling by offering something that is literally an order of magnitude beyond a tablet’s capabilities, or make your handheld as usable as a tablet for everything else (or even better than by adding features they don’t have, like making it a cellphone too), or expect sales to just keep dropping. If you can’t beat them, join them. And if you can’t beat them or join them, bye bye.
Let me also just reiterate backward compatibility again. Seriously. If Microsoft or Sony wanted to really win me over with their next console, it would play all of their past-gen console disks as well. Even if it cost me extra for that option. Likewise, if Nintendo really wanted to win me over, they’d come up with an expansion box for their console that I could literally drop in any NES, SNES, N64, GB, GBC, GBA, DS, DSi, 3DS (Did I miss any?) cart into. Or drop any GC disk into. While being able to play Blu-Ray, DVD, and CD disks from their console. (Added bonus if I can rip CDs onto the console at the very least. More so for movies.)
And if I could actually drop in a CableCARD / M-CARD into my console and use it as a DVR, that’d be the bee’s knees! I’m so sick of crappy DVRs from cable companies. But heck if I want to fork out umpteen million for a TiVo. That I have to continue paying heavily for. Seriously, the first game console manufacturer to take DVR replacement seriously, as well as Blu-Ray player, as well as Netflix/etc. IPTV, and has the forethought to let at least non-gaming features be run by any tablet with the appropriate app, wins my gold star and money. One device to rule them all literally would rule them all. Especially if they were devoted to continual software updates to fix any bugs / improve the user interface. Nintendo, you want a true money-winner? There you go.
I’m sick of twenty devices on one TV for no good reason. I want to minimize my device overload. I want to stop a dependence on video/audio cable and HDMI splitters and so forth. I want to run one feed from one device to one TV and one stereo surround sound speaker system. The first company that can give me that level of blessed simplicity wins my money, no matter how ridiculously expensive that one device may be, no matter who’s platform-specific game titles I’ll be locked out of. That’s where the money is. With that, anyone else would be an afterthought.
As rants go, this one wasn’t very orderly I suppose. But I think I hit all of the base points. Mario = good. Nintendo = many mistakes. Sega = dead. Microsoft and Sony = meh. Tablets = death of handheld gaming. PC = champ. Backward compatibility = high priority. All-in-wonder = god.