Greetings! I am Chris Furniss from The Weekly Geek podcast, here to bring you a brand new feature aptly named: “Ask The Weekly Geek”. Why should you ask me anything, let alone believe anything I say? Because I am known to have an encyclopedic knowledge of things Geek, and it is clogging up my brain tubes. I must eject some of this knowledge or else my head will explode. Help my head not explode!
I like to rant. I am passionate about things, either rabidly for or rabidly against said things. I take video games way too seriously, just like you, dear reader. And with that, let us begin!
QUESTION: “Why does Nintendo insist on ignoring the hardcore gamer base and marketing to my grandma?”
Ah, yes. You are obviously referring to Nintendo’s new marketing strategy where they release a metric ass-ton of games that make you waggle your arms in order to have fun. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Wii hater, nor am I a Wii fanboy. For the record, I love Nintendo, and always have; I even sport a Triforce tattoo on my wrist. That said, the Triforce on my wrist burned like hellfire when I was forced to swing my Wii remote around to make Link’s sword slash in Twilight Princess, but I digress. First, let’s get a little context.
First rule of business: Make money.
This is why businesses exist. They aren’t around for the betterment of mankind, for the elevation of society, or for the protection of the Earth – that’s the realm of charities and private organizations full of crazy people (see: Greenpeace,). No, businesses are in the business of business, and the video game business is quite the lucrative one indeed. Nintendo knows this firsthand: back in the 80’s they dominated during a time when all that was being released were clones of other successful games. Everyone had their Centipede, their Pong, their Missile Command, until a sparkling young artist named Miyamoto came to town and was set to task at making use of a bunch of old arcade cabinets for a game that didn’t sell called Radar Scope. Because seriously. Would you play a game called Radar Scope? He came up with Donkey Kong, which was so innovative and crazy addictive that arcades began to take issue with the cabinet’s coin case filling up all the time. You couldn’t play it when you wandered in to your favorite arcade because everyone had already played it to death. Nintendo saved the games industry then, and ushered in an age of home console gaming a few years later with the NES. This is where we come in.
By “we”, I mean the hardcore gamer demographic. The guys who used to stay up all night playing through Milon’s Secret Castle because it was there. The guys who would wake up three hours before the school bus came to conquer Contra without the code. We are between the ages of 18-35, typically male, and ridiculously white. We know every bit of minutiae regarding the games industry, and can tell you things like the Japanese name for Goomba (kuribo!). And perhaps most importantly, we have a lot of disposable income, and take our video games very seriously.
The trouble is that we’re a static group. Hardcore gamers are an exclusive clique with an entire industry built around their specific needs. We buy a ton of games and are going to continue to buy a ton of games into our old age, but as we approach that elderly threshold, the average age of gamers keeps going up. We aren’t attracting anyone older or younger to our demographic. If this keeps up, we’re likely to start seeing strange titles in the future surrounding the adventures of 70 year old men all of a sudden realizing they have superpowers along side Madden 2050: The Maddening.
Simply put, there’s no growth in the hardcore gamer demographic.
What happens when the hardcore gamers start dying off? Nintendo is used to thinking long term; they’ve been around for over a hundred years, and got their start making playing cards called Hanafuda. They’ve only recently got into video games. How lucrative can a market be when in 40 years your target demographic is worm food? Enter the blue ocean strategy, which has Nintendo throwing a Wii remote-shaped life preserver out to non-gamers. Brain Age, Nintendogs and the Wii have all proven that you can get people who had no intention or desire to play video games in the past to spend their money on Nintendo’s products.
The question is: will this new demographic that Nintendo is trying to win over transition into the hardcore? Will you see soccer moms playing Metroid Prime? Not likely. Rather than simply ushering non-gamers into the gamer fold, Nintendo is creating an all-new market. They are turning their focus on to this brand new group which, by sheer virtue of its numbers, has much more money than we hardcore gamers ever had. This is horrible for us! This is not a good thing at all! As their focus moves more and more towards constructing hats made out of money, the hardcore games are going to be left in the dust. Funds are no longer going to be spent making some brilliant new 40+ hour RPG where you fight monsters made out of poop (see: Blue Dragon), it’s going to go to the development house who is making the next compilation of Super Partysaurus Fun Time Land, because it sells. You and I may think that waggling your arm and pretending it’s a sword doesn’t feel like the real deal, but people with no experience using a d-pad are going to think it’s immersive and amazing.
Sure, this may be a jaded point of view, but look at Nintendo’s E3 conference this year. There was a magical moment there when Bill Trinen announced that Miyamoto was coming out to present a brand new IP no one had ever seen before. Nick Brutal was sitting next to me, and I was so excited I think I peed his pants. Was it going to be a brand new and exciting series like Pikmin was? Was it going to be a new Zelda? We started clapping excitedly like a couple of little girls at a Hannah Montana show. Miyamoto walked on to the stage, and my chest swelled a bit — this was the man who brought so much happiness to my life through his creative vision. What sort of new magic would he wow us with today?
Oh. It was a standing simulator. WiiFit.
My heart sunk. Miyamoto no longer cared about me. He was marketing to someone else now, someone with completely different gaming tastes. Someone who likes to stand and get said standing evaluated on their TV screen. I felt forsaken by the man who helped hone my gaming tastes to begin with.
What does the future hold for Nintendo? What can you do as a gamer to cope with this horrible waggle-based brave new world? Pretty much nothing. You can learn to enjoy Nintendo’s new “casual” gaming attitude, or you can look elsewhere for your gaming fun. Nintendo has changed, and they’ve left you in the dust. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go weep for a couple hundred hours. Thanks for depressing me with your question, jerk.
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