This blog post is a response to a response by Sean Malstrom
to my blog post "Question to Nintendo apologists: Hasn't Apple proven that you can appeal to both the public and your fan base at the same time?"
that was posted on Destructoid earlier this week. I have never heard of Sean Malstrom prior to this but a quick search on Google suggests to me that this individual is the high priest of Nintendo supporters and so I suppose that I will take it as a honor that he has come down to enlighten a commoner such as myself. I am writing this response because I highly disagree with just about everything in his response.
To Hcapt, thank you for first informing me of Sean Malstrom and his response to my blog post. I am sure that your suggestion to "Please read it, as you might learn something" was made with the best of intentions and not in an arrogant "ha ha ha I got you" way.
To Sean Malstrom, a little note before I get started. I know that you consider yourself to be "hot shit" but I did not write my original blog to you nor did I send it off to be judged and misinterpreted by some arrogant prick who waves around theories with largely anecdotal evidence and more holes than a golf course. If you want to comment on my views blog, at least do it with some common courtesy and not churn out a personal insult to my views and intelligence.
"The old fans of Nintendo are not fans of N64 and Gamecube games. Old fans of Nintendo are SNES/NES/ Nintendo Arcade gamers. I remember playing Popeye when it came out in the arcade. Do you?" I'm going ignore that first part about old fans of Nintendo not liking the N64 or GameCube despite how wrong it is. I just want to say that if you consider Popeye
to be one of the hardcore favorites, that's mistake number 1 for you and that may explain why you are so completely clueless about the perceptions of the Nintendo fan base. Also, for your information, I was old enough to have played the Popeye
arcade game when it was out. However, being an immigrant with a poor family, I did not live the privileged lifestyle that would have allowed me to indulge in arcade games. So I am happy that you were rich enough to play Popeye
in the arcades. However, waving in my face like a badge of honor the fact that you had money at the time to blow in arcades, puts you in a league of pathetic that I have rarely seen.
Perception versus reality
My blog post is about the perception that Nintendo has abandoned its loyal fan base and how Nintendo's PR and marketing could be doing a better job countering that perception. You seem to be confusing the fact that there is a difference between Nintendo abandoning its loyal fan base and the perception that Nintendo has abandoned its loyal fan base. It is hard to say whether or not Nintendo has abandoned its loyal fan base unless we have a large amount of sales and demographic data to analyze how much of the Wii's sales can be attributed to that loyal fan base.
The question of whether there is a perception that Nintendo has abandoned its loyal fan base seems to me to be a resounding yes. I have heard plenty of complaints about XBox 360s red-ringing. I have heard plenty of complaints about the Ps3 being too expensive, having important features removed, not having enough games, etc. Moving away from this generation, I have heard complaints of the Ps2 having faulty disk drives. I have heard complaints about the XBox's crippled out-of-the-box DVD functionality and the size of the controllers. I have heard complaints of the GameCube's controller and mini-DVDs. Until the Nintendo Wii however, I have not heard with such fury and frequency the specific allegation of a company abandoning its loyal fan base. There is not a single video game console in history that I know of that has attracted this specific type of criticism and it is surprising that this same console is not only the best-selling console of this generation but one of the best-selling consoles in history.
If you want to argue about whether or not Nintendo has actually abandoned its loyal fan base, that is an entirely different argument which is completely unrelated to my original blog post, which is about the perception that Nintendo has abandoned its loyal fan base and how Nintendo has failed to deal with that perception in a meaningful fashion. For what it's worth though, since you dragged out the sales of Mario Kart Wii
and the game Punch-Out!!
as proof of Nintendo's love for the fan base, I should point out that the worldwide sales of Mario Kart Wii
, 15.4 million units thus far by my sources, is not enough to account for the 16.17 million unit difference between worldwide SNES sales and N64 sales. So even if you attribute all of the sales of Mario Kart Wii
to the loyal fans, Nintendo has clearly not earned them back yet. In addition, Punch-Out!!
is currently below 200,000 units sold and, as you point out, this is a game for long-time fans. Given the extremely low sales numbers for this game, I think it's safe to assume that the hard-core is not biting. If Punch-Out!!
is Nintendo's attempt to fish back the hardcore, perhaps Nintendo is using the wrong bait.
When did Nintendo's fans leave?
You argue that I am mistaken in my attributing Nintendo's "loss" of its loyal fan base to the Wii because "Nintendo already were leaving behind their older fans especially those fans who bought the NES and SNES. The N64 and Gamecube installed base just kept shrinking....The declinine install base of NES to Gamecube clearly shows this." When I read this statement, I became confused as to what he was trying to say. I looked further around your site, trying to get an idea of what your ideas are, and I found this quote from the FAQ on the website which pretty much illustrates why I think you clearly missed the point of my blog.
"Nintendo made a number of mistakes post NES. People point to N64 as the decline, but I believe it began in the SNES. Nintendo won the 16-bit console war at the cost of losing the bearings that made NES successful in the first place. The point of the decline I would say is when Arakawa and other Nintendo marketers decided to sell products in a demographic segmented route which continues to plague the industry today."
My entire blog was about the perception of Nintendo's fans and why I feel that Nintendo could have done a better job appealing to its loyal fan base. It seems to me that you are basically looking at everything I wrote from the perspective of business and sales, which was not my intention.
The following are the worldwide sales numbers for all 5 main home consoles by Nintendo.
NES: 61.91 million
SNES 49.10 million
N64 32.93 million
GameCube 22 million
Wii 52.62 million
To you, the drop in sales from the NES and the SNES is the start of Nintendo's decline. If you is talking about it from a sales perspective, I cannot disagree with you. However, you instead attribute this to Nintendo not "appealing" to the "casual" non-gaming market, which you felt that the NES had. This is a claim that I do not think I can necessarily agree with. First, the NES was a massively famous product of its time and I would argue that much of the difference between the sales of the NES and the SNES comes from people who would have never been gamers in the first place but bought the NES anyway just to see what it was all about.
However, there is also a secondary interpretation (I am sure there are many) that also shows that your assessment is not necessarily right. The two big systems of the 8-bit era were the NES and the Sega Master System. Given that the Sega Master System sold 13.4 million units worldwide, that means that these two consoles combined resulted in 75.31 million 8-bit consoles sold all together. The Sega Genesis sold a total of 29 million units worldwide. Therefore, the combined 16-bit consoles sold over 78.1 million units.
You claim that the drop in units sold from the NES and SNES is due to non-gamers dropping out due to the SNES being more focused on gamers than non-gamers. I think that the sales record suggests another possibility: Nintendo simply lost those customers to Sega. To my knowledge, the Sega Genesis was just as focused on the SNES on gamers. In fact, the Sega Genesis not only focused on gamers but it positioned itself as the system of choice for the hardcore gamer. For the record, I acknowledge that there would be overlap that is not accounted for in case someone owns more than one system. Nonetheless, I think that data does support my interpretation of events.
If you are trying to debate this from a business point-of-view, I cannot agree more that targetting non-gamers was the best idea Nintendo ever had. However, my point was not about that: it was about how Nintendo has failed to manage the expectations of its fan base and in this respect, I do not agree with his view that the fan base is something is not worth Nintendo's time to appeal to.
Taking a bite out of the Apple
You rolled his eyes when I said that Nintendo and Apple are similar in that both rely heavily on expectations and perception. According to you, Apple and Nintendo are all about the user experience. I had to read this statement three times to make sure my eyes were not screwed up because of how utterly ludicrous this statement is. I can agree that Apple and Nintendo products are heavily focused on the user experience. That being said, how do you measure user experience? How do you gauge the user experience? The answer is that you cannot objectively due so because user experience is in its very essence a subjective feeling. I love the Windows Vista interface. My brother and my friends throw up in their mouths thinking about the Vista interface. I know people who love the MacOS X interface: I personally cannot stand it. To say that Apple and Nintendo are all about user experience is to completely miss the point that ultimately, it is expectations and perceptions that drive ones evaluation and satisfaction of that user experience.
Before I leave the subject of Apple, I wanted to address you calling me out on my telling of the 1997 MacWorld Expo appearance of Bill Gates in which I said that Bill Gates bailed out Apple.
"This is just not true.
Microsoft was caught stealing Quicktime’s code because they were struggling to get Video for Windows to work. The outcome was that Microsoft had to pay a $150 million dollar investment in non-voting stock in Apple, continue producing Office for Mac, and make a public endorsement of the Macintosh platform.
Ultimately, this outcome ended up being very good for Microsoft. Investing in Apple before their stock exploded allowed Microsoft to sell the stock for twenty times more than what they purchased it for. Microsoft never loses money selling software on the Mac. Mac users are more notorious for actually paying for their software unlike on Windows.
Saying Microsoft ‘bailed out’ Apple is completely untrue. Microsoft got caught in a crime, their hand got caught in the Quicktime Cookie Jar code. And they paid dearly for stealing Apple’s code."
First of all, when a company in a very poor financial position receives a ton of money to keep it alive, I call it a bailout. I don't think that my wording is wrong from a technical point of view. Now, I will admit that your story is indeed true and I was not aware of this angle of the story. However, I do not agree with your conclusion about the deal. If you wants to blame me for portraying this settlement as a bailout, then you might as well blame everyone because that's pretty much how that was portrayed in the names and it is the interpretation that I hear from die-hard Apple fans until reading your response. You claim to be a lawyer by profession. If that is the case then you should know that Microsoft could have dragged out this case for a long time and that could have been devastating for Apple, especially since Microsoft had at this point announced that they were no longer going to develop Office for Macs anymore. If Apple wanted to prove their case in a court of law, they should have pressed the case forward and seen it to its logical end. It is clear that Apple was in a position where it needed money and it knew that the lack of Office on their systems would hurt them greatly and so they took a settlement. Again, I don't think it is unfair for me to call it a bailout and I think that's pretty much the way the world generally saw it. Let me put it this way: if Bill Gates was seen as paying "dearly for stealing Apple's code," there would be no reason for people to have been angry or outraged at his appearance at the MacWorld Expo. If anything, he should have been greeted with laughter for getting caught with the hand in the cookie jar.
The N64 and the GameCube
"To be blunt, the N64 and Gamecube were carried by children, not ‘hardcore gamers’. Sorry dude.
In the same way, most customers of the GBA were children. There is a reason why Sony and Microsoft marketing keep joking that Nintendo’s latest offering (whatever it would be) is just trying to appeal to the Pokemon crowd. Gamecube was called a ‘kiddy console’, for better or worse."
Sorry dude, you are completely wrong. I never said "hardcore gamers" I said "hardcore fans." With respect to the N64, I don't think you can make the claim that it was carried by children and if so, I'd like to see your evidence. With respect to the GameCube, again, I would like to see the evidence for your conclusion. However, I will say that if there is a reason why Microsoft and Sony joked that Nintendo's GameCube was for the "Pokemon crowd" and a "kiddy console" I would argue that Nintendo invited such jokes when they kept talking about how thier controller design was made more simple. I am sure the fact that games like "Capcom vs. SNK 2" would come out for the GameCube with the subtitle EO for "Easy Operation" and a stripped-down control scheme certainly supports that type of claim. With respect to the GBA, I did not talk about the GBA in my article at all. However, I can agree with this on the basis of the massive fans of Pokemon. However, I do not believe that other than the Super Smash Bros
series, which is a hardcore game, that the home consoles found themselves helped or harmed significantly by Pokemon.
Let's assume for the moment that you are right and that the N64 and GameCube were "carried by children" and not Nintendo's fans. If that is the case, then why is it that we never saw the type of "Nintendo abandoned us" hate back with the N64 and GameCube? The reason is because Nintendo balanced the Pokemon games out with the Zelda games, the Mario games, and the promise of new IP such as Pikmin. Let me admit that I absolutely hate the Mario Party series. It is a collection of lazy and poorly-done minigames strung together with a virtual board game that is not very fun. I know many people in agreement with me, especially when they were bringing out one game a year. Still, Mario Party never invited the type of hate that Nintendo gets now because Nintendo balanced the expectations of its fans better at that time.
You said that "The hardcore are reminding me of the spoiled older sibling when the younger sibling is born. Now, the child is no longer an ‘only child’. Attention is going to be divided." Sorry, but you are completely wrong. Any Nintendo fans knows that its systems have appealed to different audiences all the time. The difference is that previously Nintendo fans felt that they were all being treated equally well. Now Nintendo is completely in love with this one sibling called the "non-gamer" crowd and only paying lip service to its fans. To use your analogy of a child, all the Apple quotes strike me as the type of silly crap like "mommy didn't buy me my favorite toy" or "mommy grounded me for peeing on the TV." Those are the time of complaints that you hear and you look the other way. The complaints that Nintendo fans have are not as silly as the Apple complaints you bring up, it is saying that "mommy gave the new kid a giant Lego castle but gave me a sweater."
Perception is the key
I am confused as to your response to me in general because it contains so many leaps of interpretative faith and a lack of understanding of my original point.
You countered my view of Apple fans by claiming that I don't "know Apple fans. Many Apple fans are not too happy about Macs becoming more popular. When they heard that Apple wants to start selling Macs at Wal-Mart, they blew a gasket." Are you serious? These are the examples you choose to cite? There's a difference between saying that you are upset because Apple wants to make their products more available to others and saying that you are upset because Apple has totally abandoned the fan base. I can only imagine that you do not understand the difference. Nintendo fans are not angry because the products are attracting more sales: they are angry because Nintendo's marketing has completely failed to convincingly show that they view their long-time fans as high priorities. If you are trying to compare the quotes you gave me to the complains Nintendo fans as being equivalent, then I can only say that like Nintendo, you are completely clueless about Nintendo fans and what they are thinking.
"Everyone knows that the best selling N64 and Gamecube games are the Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Smash Brothers, and Paper Mario ones. Yet, sequels to these games do not satisfy the hardcore."
If this is your opinion of the hardcore then you clearly are just as clueless as Nintendo. People cared about Super Mario 64
, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
, and Super Smash Bros.
because they were innovative games of their time that brought something new and fun into the Nintendo lexicon. In the N64 era, fans were excited about the potential of the 64DD drive and the promise of a new Earthbound
game based on that drive.
You claim that the sequels are not satisfying the hardcore but you are ignoring the fact that these sequels are themselves arguably less satisfying on an intrinsic level. The third Metroid Prime
game is fundamentally still the same as the previous games in the series. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
did not innovate in the way that both previous Zelda games did with respect to their predecessor. The wolf game play was done better in the game Okami
which came out earlier. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
dropped popular characters, had a pathetic and aggravating single-play story mode, and was marred by horrible online game performance. Like Nintendo, you blindly assume that just because it's a sequel, that Nintendo fans will bite and love the game. Nintendo fans, for the most part, are not that stupid. They want innovation and if you are going to offer a sequel, you better make sure that it is really really good. You can't just throw out a sequel that feels less interesting or ambitious than its predecessor and then wonder why the fans aren't happy.
It is this same reason that I question why you feel that Virtual Console is proof that Nintendo loves the hardcore fan base. If Nintendo loves the fan base, it would make more new games like those games and not just make a quick buck by dragging out old games that most of these "hardcore fans" already knew how to pirate and emulate for years.
I am disturbed by your comment that "I can understand if Nintendo is no longer making the games you want. But I find it disturbing that people’s happiness depends on whether a corporation coddles them. Take a hint from the Expanded Market and get a life." I am not sure where you get this idea from that people's happiness are depending on Nintendo's actions. Passionate comments about Nintendo's direction are due, not because the individual is actually bawling out their eyes Chris Crocker style, but to fans who genuinely feel that Nintendo has lost their direction and has abandoned the legacy that they themselves have touted. Granted, given the other ludicrous comments you have made already and your inability to understand what it is that Nintendo fans are unhappy about, I am not surprised that you think this way.
"You have two other consoles that appeal directly to the ‘hardcore’. Why must all three consoles do so? Are they so selfish that ALL GAMES must cater to their taste?"
Again, it is not selfish to be angry when the company whose works you have supported for years, who has spent years touting its legacy and its commitment to its fan base, has decided that you are no longer important to them. To you, games are just games. For many people, the products that Nintendo create are works of art that have touched and affected people for many years and shaped their growth. In contrast, I do not think an Apple product has every made someone feeling emotion or cry in the way that certain video games Nintendo has made has. People are passionate because of the experiences that Nintendo has created.
To summarize, open your eyes and look around you. Nintendo fans are annoyed and feel betrayed and this is something new for Nintendo. Your view is that Nintendo should say "screw the hardcore" because they are making tons of money off of the "disruption" that is the Wii. To criticize your theories on disruption is far beyond the scope of this blog. That being said, I will say that I do not agree with your impression that disruption is as easy and obvious a strategy to pull off as you claim. It is very hard to pull off what Nintendo did with the Wii and it is likely that they will not be able to do it again. You make fun of my conclusion, comparing me to a teenage girl, but my point has already happened and been proved when Nintendo failed with the N64 and GameCube and found itself appealing, focusing, and targeting its fan base more and more. History has already proven that Nintendo runs back to its hardcore fans when it does badly with the mainstream. The difference is that this time they have thrown its fans under the bus.
Sean Malstrom, the argument I have been having, which is the predominant complaint fans have been having, is simply about perception. We already know that Nintendo has done well financially. If you want to go study that, feel free to go for it. When it comes to an argument about Nintendo and its ability to handle perceptions, I think you are way out of your league. Regardless of how well Nintendo's business is doing, it is never a good idea to have tons of people hate you. It is even worse then that group of people are your long-time fans.