Over the past few weeks, I have written harsh criticisms of the way Sony and Microsoft conduct themselves, calling them out on a variety of problems and attitudes. One thing I have attempted to make clear is that I do not hate the systems they have made. I have problems with the companies behind the PS3 and the Xbox 360, certainly, but I love the consoles themselves.
The Wii is a slightly different matter. I had a Wii, once. I don't anymore. I sold mine for a tidy profit before I left Europe for the United States, but so far I have not considered an NTSC Wii to be a worthy investment. Unlike the 360 and the PS3, I have no real love for the Wii. I barely consider it a game system. At least, it's certainly not a system intended for someone like me. It could have been. In fact, it could have been a system for everybody, but it's very clear that's not the way Nintendo, especially Nintendo of America, is headed.
Yet Nintendo keeps talking like it is, and I really wish it wouldn't. The smug, passive-aggressive comments about the game industry and the almost gleeful dangling of carrots has become quite ridiculous. Nintendo is a man telling you he's your friend while he's steadily kicking you in the groin. For that, Nintendo definitely needs to STFU.
The final nail should have been E3 2008. That was the day Nintendo of America showed its true colors. A huge room full of gamers, and Nintendo stood there, boasted about how rich it was, spent an hour simpering and smirking, then unleashed the embarrassing horror of Wii Music upon the land.
While a man called Ravi Drums had some sort of seizure onstage, a once proud and legendary game designer held a Wiimote like a penis to his mouth and tried to convince us he was playing the saxophone. Then a group of clearly mentally impaired adults attempted to make a decent tune, which became a cacophony, a blasphemous rape of the Mario Bros. theme tune that had become an icon to many true gamers. That's what Nintendo did. Nintendo thinks this is high quality entertainment.
For me, it demonstrated that Nintendo did not consider itself a part of the game industry. That's not something I'm angry or bitter over. I personally have never had any real loyalty to Nintendo so I don't feel "hurt" or "betrayed" or anything similarly melodramatic. What annoys me isn't the fact that Nintendo "abandoned" the "hardcore gamer." It's the fact that Nintendo keeps pretending it hasn't.
E3 08 showed that Nintendo of America is pretty much ashamed of its own roots. During its press conference, NoA saw fit to show us such titles as Animal Crossing, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Music, and some shitty snowboarding game. Easy stuff. Safe stuff. What some call "casual" stuff. If it wasn't cute, instantly accessible, and ran some perceived risk of scaring off the mainstream crowd, however small, then Nintendo didn't want anything to do with it. That Wii Music was Nintendo's grand reveal, while Pikmin 3 was announced quietly to a handful of journalists the next day, typifies Nintendo's attitude: Keep the "embarrassing" stuff behind closed doors to make sure the mainstream crowd doesn't see it, lest they get frightened and run away.
Reggie Fils-Aime seems to be the one who enjoys stringing what he calls "core gamers" along the most. When he addressed the negative response to E3 08, he smugly declared that he could not understand why people were disappointed. His attitude perfectly encapsulates Nintendo's philosophy when he said this one statement: "How could you feel left out? The Animal Crossing that we've been hearing about that people wanted, fully connected to the Internet, go to other people's towns."
Yeah ... Animal Crossing was Reggie's answer to a new Legend of Zelda or Mario. According to Fils-Aime, a boring game where animals warble insane crap at each other like, "I think pasta is tasty, let's go to a rock concert," is a game we should be grateful for. That's part of the root of my problem with Nintendo right now, the belief that its longest-serving consumers should be thankful for the few scraps that get tossed their way, as if they couldn't get a more fulfilling experience anywhere else.
Ever since it crawled itself out of third place last generation, Nintendo has swiftly adopted a sneering, condescending attitude toward the rest of the industry and the game-loving public. Fils-Aime is certainly the biggest outlet for that, consistently laughing at gamers with patronizing statements like "the core gamer is insatiable." He seems to enjoy the bait-and-switch that Nintendo pulls, where it appeals to hardcore gamers for one day out of 364, gives them the occasional treat, then ignores them again.
At this point, you may say to me, "But Jim, E3 09 was the shit, son! They had Metroid. Think of the METROID!" Again, however, this merely proves my point. After the disaster of E3 08, a press conference so bad that even mainstream outlets like Yahoo came away disappointed, Nintendo had to do something. So it did what Nintendo does best: It threw a few bones, put up some smoke and mirrors, then sat back and basked in the jizz of naive Nintendo loyalists who screamed, "Nintendo is BACK," or "Nintendo has redeemed itself!" People are so quick to forget Nintendo's bullshit, and so quick to claim REDEMPTION at every turn. Nintendo played them like a Hammond organ, and it worked like a charm. How many more "redemption" moments will Nintendo have before this generation is out?
A new Metroid, Mario and the teased new Zelda (Pikmin 3 appears to have been forgotten by this point) do not exactly make for a killer lineup, especially considering the fact that it's been a year since E3 08. Yet Nintendo fans will justify the company's attitude by actually being grateful for it. As if Nintendo has done an amazing thing. Really, Nintendo has done what it's always done: Made a big show of being "sorry" for its arrogance, tossed a mere handful of interesting videogames our way, then gone back to its usual embrace of soccer moms and grandmothers. The fact that Nintendo fans lap that shit up like starving dogs is kind of pathetic, really.
Its executives say things like, "Only geeks and otakus want a hard-drive on their Wii," but if it announces just one Zelda game, all is forgiven, like an abusive husband who kicked the shit out of his wife one night, then comes home with cheap flowers the next. Nintendo of America has adequately demonstrated its contempt for the "core" gamer, and does very little but patronize and mock, yet it still sticks around for no good reason whatsoever.
It's the half-measures that irk me more than anything else. If Nintendo wants to be an arrogant, condescending shit, then that's fine. That's fantastic, in fact. However, it never wants to go all the way. It should have abandoned events like E3 long, long ago, but it sticks around, possibly because it knows nobody stands on top of the industry forever and it'll need loyalty from the people it's currently laughing at one day. Maybe it's simply because it realizes it can still make plenty of money out of a demographic it's shown public disdain for. Not many companies can laugh in the face of its consumers on a public stage and still command their loyalty. That would make you feel like some sort of God.
Whatever the reason, I hate that Nintendo sticks around, tossing down chicken feed with one hand and smacking people around with the other. Nintendo of America ought to have the balls to go the whole way with its attitude. Shit or get off the lavvy. Not act like the two-faced bitch it's currently being.
That's not a criticism of the Wii, I hasten to add. The Wii just is what it is. It's neither good nor evil, merely shaped by good or evil hands. I don't have an issue with the Wii's wasted potential, I just wish Nintendo would keep it on shows like Chelsea Lately where it belongs. That's Nintendo's core audience now. Still pretending that's not the case is just adding insult to, well, insult.
Oh but wait, there's another Mario game! All is forgiven!