One thing that really urked me about Podtoid episode 93 was in the beginning when Samit defended and agreed with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime's claim that the hardcore gamers are "truly insatiable." I suppose what bothers me most about this line of argument is that it completely misses the point of why the "hardcore" are disappointed with Nintendo. In fact, it many ways, I feel that the mere fact that Nintendo and its supporters' completely fail to understand why the "hardcore" are upset is part of that problem.
Speaking as a former Nintendo fan, I have always felt that the problem with Nintendo these days, and why I suspect that the "hardcore" are disappointed with them, is that they have completely failed to "act" as a "leader" in the games industry. By "leader," I am not speaking in terms of sales or profits because, as we know, Nintendo is undeniably the industry leader in terms of profits and sales.
In looking at what Reggie says, it seems that he feels that the hardcore want more games released out of Nintendo and that the hardcore want many of them to be either "mature" in content or a Mario or Zelda game. In my opinion, none of these reasons are correct because they ignore the fact that people were not complaining in the "glory days" of the NES, SuperNES, Game Boy, etc about any of those factors.
Amazing gameplay, graphics, and sound.
The problem with Nintendo is that their games and to some extent their products simply do not "lead" anymore. They do not inspire the type of awe or respect that they used to. When you got your first glimpse of Super Metroid
, you were blown the fuck away by what Nintendo did. Not only were gamers blown away by the game but I feel that games like this used to throw all sorts of shockwaves into the gaming industry. Now if you were making a game similar to Super Metroid
, you've got to work your ass off now to stand a chance. I wouldn't be surprised if the staff of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
at Konami spent a great deal of time studying Super Metroid
as part of their work on what would become one of the masterpieces of the 32-bit era.
The original on top. Melee in the middle. Brawl on bottom.
In contrast today, I am generally hardpressed to see Nintendo games and products command that same type of awe and respect, even games that are supposed to be designed for the "hardcore" crowd. With all due respect to Super Smash Bros. Brawl
(which is a fine game in its own right), there used to be a time when the third installment of a Nintendo game both completely revolutionized the series while managed to pay respect and be true to its roots. Think about how Super Mario Bros. 3
, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
, and Super Metroid
, all third installments of a series, managed to not only both innovate in all sorts of ways from its preceeding two games and also remain true to its origins. In contrast, Super Smash Bros. Brawl
is at best a minor tweak of Super Smash Bros. Melee
which in turn was at best a minor tweak of the original Super Smash Bros.
Many people, particularly on Dtoid, went crazy when Miyamoto said that he felt that Super Mario Galaxy
and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
were too conservative. I understand that gamers are probably scared that a more ambitious Mario or Zelda game would end up like one of the new Sonic games in terms of shittiness. Nonetheless, I cannot help but think that the vast majority of the Nintendo games that we treasure and love today, such as Earthbound
, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
or Super Mario Bros. 3
were created as a result of Nintendo acting in a ambitious and progressive fashion as opposed to being scared to tread off the beaten path.
As I see it, much of this lack of ambition and leadership on Nintendo's end translates to others areas of concern that the "hardcore" have had about Nintendo. A major complaint about the Nintendo Wii, for example, is the tired gimmicky Wii game controls that plague countless Wii games. Well, to be honest, how can you blame the developer? Nintendo themselves, the people who designed the Wii, just hasn't done a very good job themselves of showing the world how the Wii controls can be used in a polished and interesting fashion. Hell, most of the popular Wii games such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl
and Mario Kart Wii
are completely playable with standard controllers and in fact, every single person that I know that plays these games prefer using the GameCube controller for these games. Is it any surprise that if Nintendo doesn't seem to be able to do anything interesting with the controls that other third-party developers are probably stumped as well? The nostalgic Nintendo fanboy in me is really looking forward to the upcoming Punch-Out
for the Wii. Yet the early word and impressions of the game is that the controls are very unambitious and boring for what you would expect a boxing game with a Wiimote ought to have. Again, not surprised given Nintendo's track record with the Wiimote.
WiiWare Seal of Quality.
Another complaint: the tons of worthless throwaway games on the Wii and particularly WiiWare that are hardly to have taken any real effort to develop. Again, Nintendo themselves have released tons of throwaway shit on the Wii (such as Wii Play, Link's Crossbow Training, and Wii Music) and WiiWare (such as My Pokemon Ranch) that no one ought to be surprised that that third-parties are doing the same. Likewise many Wii developers are doing nothing but lazily porting over games from other consoles. Yet, how can you blame them when Nintendo is doing the same? The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
was essentially a port of the GameCube game. Now they are doing ports of Pikmin
and the Metroid Prime
I just can't help but think that, in the old days of the Super NES, if you wanted to develop for the system and you wanted to actually make money, you had to work your ass off in order to compete with the type of quality games and products that Nintendo was putting out. In contrast, the Nintendo of today (mainly with the Wii) has time and time again put out games and projects that are more often than not either conservative, unambitious, and/or lazy, What kind of an example is Nintendo setting for other developers by doing as they have done? When Nintendo's own games lack ambition, are lazy, and fumble on basic functionality such as online support, how can you expect better from its third-party developers? It's no surprise that, while the XBox Live was and still known for attracting all sorts of shit, the capital of the land of lazy shit games seems to be moving to WiiWare.
Earthbound: breaking the RPG mold.
Again, this is all just my own personal opinion on Nintendo. I just constantly feel that Nintendo is grossly exploiting this whole divide between "hardcore" and "casual" in order to make their own lives easier. Comments such "graphics aren't important" or "surround sound isn't important" just seem to show how far Nintendo has fallen since the days of their prime. I do believe that graphics and surround sound cannot make a shit game better than it is. However, I do know that in the glory days of Nintendo, the company claimed to and did make games that were fun, impressively-designed, and aesthetically brilliant. All the games Nintendo put out in the Super NES era weren't just great because they were fun. They were also great because they looked and sounded incredible. Even a game with minimal graphics such as Earthbound
do all sorts of amazing things with its graphical design and has arguably one of the most interesting soundtracks and use of sound in any 16-bit game. Again, let's not forget what an amazing story and departure in the typical RPG that the game was. Today, the whole "graphics aren't important" and "weee, fun waggle controls" mantra has become a way for Nintendo to deflect any complaint, legitimate or not, about the graphics of a game and attempt to hide the fact that, most often than not, even the best of their recent games are deeply unambitious.
It is this reason why I feel that the "hardcore" are not satisfied with what Nintendo has been doing. We get excited for games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl
and Mario Kart Wii
only to quickly realize that these games are the same things we have been playing on the previous console with minimal improvements. And in the meantime, in between these big releases, we get bombarded with shit game after shit game, many of which are developed by Nintendo themselves.
So yeah, Reggie, we are not insatiable. We are not expecting a Mario or Zelda game each year. We are not waiting for a violent game filled with sex and blood. We are just waiting for you to start making great games that will inspire and lead the industry as opposed to what you are doing now, which is sitting comfortably in your niche, churning out "safe" games on a factory line while counting your profits.