Is it time to outgrow Nintendo?

Normally, an article like this would begin with some sort of cop-out statement that renders every succeeding comment strangely pointless.  Something to wash the author’s hands of the thing before it starts, and keep the rabid fanboys off their back.  Something like:

“Don’t get me wrong, I love Super Mario Galaxy as much as the next guy!”

or:

“I’m sure everyone reading this has enjoyed the hell out of Pokemon X/Y!”

But that’s not going to happen.  I haven’t enjoyed a Super Mario game in years, and every single Pokemon game released after the first one just looked like more of the same old toss.  Instead, this article will begin as it should.  With a strong thesis that shows the intent of the piece.  Like:

“Surely by now, enough is enough?”

Nintendo is the bulletproof games company.  For every criticism of the lack of games for the wii-u, there are a hundred thousand eager fans willing to take a bullet for Nintendo and argue that it’s the fault of game developers for not being into the system enough, or the fault of gamers for not buying it.  For every doctor that steps up to warn that the 3DS might cause eye problems in the target demographic, there are thousands of fans willing to threaten to kill him and his family if he doesn’t keep his reasonable, qualified mouth shut.  There are so many people eager to swallow Nintendo’s shit that I can’t help but wonder what kind of strange Stockholm syndrome afflicts them.  It makes me wonder how long they spent chained to a radiator in the mushroom kingdom, defecating into a bucket while Mario watched over them.  Nothing else explains the perverse nostalgia that forces them not just to like Nintendo, as one might quite like Valve or Rockstar, but to dedicate themselves utterly to it.  And Nintendo capitalises on this nostalgia, with a recent advertisement reminding players that Mario “grew up with you, too”, in what amounts to a very cynical ransoming of players’ childhoods, piece by piece, rehash by rehash.  It remains to be seen whether this rather desperate clutch at straws will add anything to flagging wii-u sales.  A ‘new’ version of their flagship franchises of Mario, Zelda and Pokemon can’t work forever.

yet when I do this, I get arrested

yet when I do this, I get arrested

Because, after all, that’s what these games are, and they’re no longer even bothering to hide it.  The latest wii-u fare offered at E3 2013 offers the same-old same-old gameplay that most of us got sick and tired with after completing Super Mario World for the 3rd time, but this time, Mario gets to dress up like a cat! Some poor hapless goon at Nintendo was even encouraged to make pathetic meowing noises as he feigned excitement over it.  And of course, the crowd went wild.  Because what else could it do?  Mario is a cultural icon!  Mario is a phenomenon!  Mario is..realistically, a tired old mascot character that really should have been put nobly out to pasture when the other mascots became unpopular.  We don’t still bother with Sonic the Hedgehog, Bubsy the bobcat or Cool Spot because the era of mascots ended somewhere in the mid 90’s, and though we might look back with skewed fondness for McDonaldland, there’s no army of fanboys ready to support our delusion that it was any good, unlike Mario.

And it’s a delusion of religious proportions.  You can’t criticise Super Mario Bros to these crazed Nintendo fans for the same reasons you can’t criticise the Bible.  It’s divinely inspired, and who the hell are you to say anything bad about it?  In fact, you have probably never seen a criticism of Super Mario Bros.  Why does that not seem odd to us, when a criticism of everything else on the planet exists on the internet?  The control system is erratic, at the very least, and the power-ups imbalance the gameplay greatly.  It’s an enjoyable game, sure, but not my favourite of 1985 by a long shot.  Criticism of Nintendo has become taboo, and if you do so, however reasonably, there is something wrong with you.  It’s a slavish cult-like attitude, and it seems to be what have allowed Nintendo to get away with spamming the lowest-common denominator for so very long, adding only the very least of new content to scrape by.  New additions to the Legend of Zelda franchise have become more and more lackluster with each passing iteration, and the company has fallen back on a stream of virtual console and HD re-re-re-releases to make money without a new product.

new hat!

kinda exactly like this

Modern big-budget games are cinematic.  Modern big-budget games hire crews of writers, story developers, characterisation specialists and voice actors.  These games receive criticism for their sexist approaches, their stereotypes and their content.  Nintendo is somehow able to sidestep all of this by miring itself firmly in the 1990’s.  We live in an age where videogames, arguably, challenge us more than movies or books.  We are invested in the narrative in a way that we can only view from a distance in other forms of media.  That allows for games to become something more than interactive entertainment.  They can be an experience in art, and in human understanding.  If there’s one thing we learned from Telltale’s ‘The Walking Dead’, it’s that grown men can cry like little bitches over video games.  But Nintendo seems immune to all of this.  They have some sort of golden ticket to churn out the same rubbish, year after year, with plotlines no thicker than “Princess Peach has baked a cake for you!” and still charge 60 bucks a pop.  The one attempt to release a story-driven title, ‘Metroid: Other M’ was so cringeworthy that they distanced themselves from it as much as they could.

We’d feel better about this if Mario was specifically a game for children, and was kept to the children’s market, but that is never the case, is it?  Not only are all other games franchises held to far higher standards, but games developers face the societal pressure to cite Super Mario as inspirations, and it is embarrassing to see that no matter how far gaming has come, we all have to keep constantly referring back to a tired old stereotype character, and the flat out lies that “Nintendo saved the industry!” (though, perhaps I was too busy playing awesome titles like Elite, Bomb-Jack, Paperboy and Knight Lore to notice the apparent lack of games).  Other art forms do not share this problem.  Artists don’t hark back to their inspiration they received from cave paintings.  Musicians don’t get all dewy-eyed about how they based their work off Edison’s wax-cylinder recordings.  These industries have moved on from what they consider their infancy.   Perhaps it’s time that gaming took off the training wheels?

In the end, it all comes down to business, and no matter how much you love them, or like to pretend that Reggie is your friend, he’s a marketer, and Nintendo is a corporation.  They’ll do their best to ensure exclusivity for their little goose and shit out a golden egg every year or so.  They can’t be wholly blamed for this.  It’s the aim of a business to make money.  They made a successful play for the family market a few years ago with the wii, and it worked out great.  They’re a company completely set up to bringing casual, family-friendly games to mainstream market, and they no doubt hope to hook a new generation of  children to their product.  But where do they go from there?  The wii-u isn’t washing as well with the “hardcore” gamers as they would have liked, and third party developers know better than to painstakingly tailor their games to whatever control system Nintendo decides to implement rather than the usual set-ups offered by other companies.

armourededition

look! new gloves!

These days, all Nintendo has to fall back on is the idea of “Exclusives”, at a time when most big-name titles are going multi-platform.  Every week, there’s some new sensation about a title that’ll definitely save the wii-u, from Bayonetta 2 to ‘exclusive’ versions of games that have been on other consoles for years.  The sad truth is that the wii-u wheezes to keep up now.  In a few months, when the xbox one and the ps4 take centre stage, Nintendo’s ‘next gen’ would have drowned before it learned to swim.  Ultimately, the fault for this situation mostly lies with us, the gamers, for never growing out of this weird dependency.  For never realising that we’re paying way over the odds for a barebones platformer, and that you can play something just as good for free on Kongregate.

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37 thoughts on “Is it time to outgrow Nintendo?

  1. Pingback: Character Assassination: Princess Peach | WASD UK

  2. It’s pretty easy to complain about a company that you know nothing about. Consider their business model and their company philosophy before you blab your empty melon away to a bunch of insatiable 12-year old morons looking for a reason to condemn gameplay over graphics. All this article displays is your ignorance to the sound and qualitative perspective that Nintendo brings to industry. Good job on showing your ignorance.

    • Their business model seems to be “Hook ’em young, keep ’em paying”. They’re a bit too much like the Catholic Church in that regard.

      The rest of your post is barely-intelligible whining about presumed 12 year olds and assertions of my ignorance. Forgive me if I don’t leap to bother responding, eh?

      • You respond with a guess? A GUESS on their business model? Wow. Here’s a tip. Don’t ever get confused that you’re a journalist and save us all from your empty thoughts.

      • Not having a seat on the board directors, I have about as much knowledge as you do about Nintendo’s business. You’re confusing their PR with their actual business.

  3. So, you’re complaining about this company because they focus on gameplay instead of trying to do cinematic experiences.
    My god.

      • If we didn’t mention a particular game that you would like to see in a 1000 word article, it’s not ignoring it.

        It’s not a first-party Nintendo release. It was devved by Monolith. And Nintendo didn’t care about it. It took years to get localised.

      • Monolith Soft is a first-party developer for Nintendo. Most people who know anything about Nintendo knows that nowadays.

      • The article is talking about Nintendo’s core IP. Besides, Monolith soft have developed games for PS2, and aren’t really worthy of consideration. They’re not in-house Nintendo developers.

      • Game Freak, who develop the main Pokemon games, isn’t first-party. A lot of Mario games aren’t developed in-house, either.

        Monolith Soft is completely owned by Nintendo now, so they actually are in-house developers. I’d say they’re worthy of consideration.

      • If there’s a follow-up article of some kind, Xenoblade Chronicles might get a mention, probably alongside The Last Story, actually.

        In fact, if you feel passionately about the subject, perhaps you’d care to write a counter-point article? We’re going to accept submissions for all opinion pieces, features articles and editorials.

  4. People like Nintendo because they focus on the game, first and foremost. You can count on the latest Super Mario platformer to have refined and polished game play that you won’t quite get from other platformers. You can count on Pokémon to improve upon itself in every iteration and you can count on Smash to be a fantastic game that you can easily sink many hours into with friends.

    Cinematic and story-driven games being thought of as the current peak of video games as a medium is absurd. Games are first and foremost about GAME PLAY. About INTERACTIVITY. That is the strength of the medium, what is unique to it, and what got it to where it is now. Many of the recent story-driven games spit in the face of that, sacrificing game play for story until they become barely more then walking down a linear corridor to the next cut scene. You honestly may as well just go watch a movie or read a book, because you’d barely lose any interactivity and gain a much better story.

    That’s not to say all story-driven games are bad, far from it, but if developers want to do something like that then they need to put effort into making a good game as well. The cinematic experience right now almost always comes at the cost of true interactivity and freedom for the player.

    Nintendo are very much stuck in the past, it’s true, but it’s not a bad thing. It broadens the variety of games in the industry, and they provide something traditional for people to play when they’re done with the latest “modern” game and want to go back to gaming’s roots. Because that’s what Nintendo represent.

    • I’m not sure you can count on any of those things. Mario and Pokemon games have become more and more homogenous with each passing iteration, and the level of ‘fun’ you have with a game is pretty subjective. I had lots of fun with Castlevania: Judgment, but it still wouldn’t make my top 1000.

      Being story-driven, or at least character-driven, can aid INTERACTIVITY so much. Would anyone give a fuck about Planescape Torment if they didn’t care about the characters? Would anyone feel as immersed in VTM:Bloodlines if the setting wasn’t fuck-awesome? There was no problem with gameplay in these examples. Gameplay is completely and utterly subjective. It can’t even be defined without a lot of nervous coughing and muttering.

      It is very much a bad thing to be stuck in the past! Nintendo are completely mired, and they have shown numerous times that they can’t cut it with the big boys anymore. Nintendo has long stood for nothing but pushing a brand, and I think that gamers are asking for slightly more than a mascot now. Going back to one’s roots is not a good thing if you stay there, and stubbornly refuse to move on.

      • I really don’t understand the complaint of Pokémon being homogenous. Every game is better then the last and adds a lot of new content, but they don’t destroy the core system that people play the series for. Isn’t that what a sequel should be? Do people ask for Forza to stop being about just racing cars? There are plenty of Pokémon spin offs if you want different kinds of game play from the franchise, but people seem to take fault with this particular series for keeping the same core battle system, even though the battling strategies change dramatically with each new generation. Their laziness with the story is frustrating, but the series is primarily about battling and trading with other players, which the new games do better then ever with fantastic online integration.

        As for Mario, 3D World looks fantastic from what we’ve seen so far, as has every 3D mario been since 64. I do think the “New Super Mario Bros” series is lazy, though. But what would you suggest changing about Mario? It has it’s genre and it does it better then pretty much anyone else. What direction should it go from here?

        It’s true there have been fantastic story-driven games in the past, but I don’t think it’s fair to use them as an argument for the modern cinematic games we’re dealing with today. They’re a different breed. They didn’t put all their budget into graphics. They were thought provoking and were backed by great writers. Plainscape:Torment wasn’t following a linear pathway so that you could sit and watch a cutscene where you’re subjected to dialogue that sounds like it was rejected from a cheesy Hollywood movie script, followed by an explosion and a few “press X to beat the bad guy” quick time events to try and thrust upon you the illusion that you have any importance in deciding the story.

        If Nintendo don’t cut it any more then why is the 3DS crushing the Vita? Because it has more games that are actually worth your time and money. Games that you can put over 40 hours into as opposed to an 8 hour cinematic experience. Nintendo still has the strongest 1st party titles in the industry and that’s not going to change any time soon. I think they need to make more of an effort then they have been of late, but by no means are they going down and under any time soon.

      • Pokemon is straight-up lazy. They could easily add an interested enough story to the games, and the core mechanics wouldn’t be affected one jot. But they won’t. Or..what’s more frightening, they can’t.

        Nintendo, I think, would stand to future-proof themselves a lot better if they were to focus more on new IP. Mario won’t last forever, and people aren’t going to be happy paying upwards of 60 dollars for the same experience they could get on thefreebundle.com.

        We’re not starving for examples of modern story-driven titles. The Arkham series is a fantastic example, I think. There were numerous points where I wished that Nolan had taken cues from them, and plenty of great little in-jokes that showed how well-crafted it was as a narrative, but I never once got bored playing them, and greatly enjoyed the core ‘gameplay’. Well, maybe I got a little bored with Arkham Origins. They use QTE just as much as other games, but they never take away anything from the overall experience.

        the 3DS is crushing the Vita because the Vita is shit. Sony can’t make a handheld to save their lives, and they seem to think that making it powerful enough to wow people is going to work. Handhelds are quirky-fun little toys right now, and having genuinely good games is a great plus. Still, the 3DS was plagued for so long by a lack of games, and compared to the DS, still is. Nintendo is losing third-party support in buckets, and they’re lucky enough to get them on the 3DS only because there’s no viable alternative with the Vita dead in the water.

      • You’re a serious moron if you think game-play is subjective. Game-play is the composition of game mechanics and player controls. There is nothing subjective about it.

      • “There is nothing subjective about it”.
        Except the fact that appreciation of ‘game mechanics and player controls’ vary from person to person, which is pretty subjective.

      • That part isn’t the game-play, buddy. Your “appreciation” is your subjective opinion about the game-play. The game-play itself is not subjective.

    • I think it has something to do with art history: remember when paintings were mere portraits of people?Video Games are not only about being Games anymore, it has evolved into something more complex.But Nintendon’t.

  5. I reckon you’re grabbing a small minority of the Nintendo Fan Population and blowing it up to be the entire fanbase.
    I also think that you glance over games without giving them proper credit.
    Have you read any articles recently mate?
    It’s almost all “Nintendo is Doomed” and “The Wii-U is getting destroyed” And rightly so, but to imply Nintendo get’s a free pass is ridiculous
    The reason I (and I guess many other) like Nintendo Games is that They are games First. They aren’t an interactive story, What good is Shite Like Bioshock Infinite and The Uncharted Series where the gameplay is scripted and minimal?

    • Also I’d Like to Expand on What I mean when I say you don’t give proper games credit. You see stuff like Mario and say “Barebones Platformer” and then go on to praise The walking dead which is sitting on the fine line of what is and isn’t a game? Also it seems that you glance at Pokemon and say “Rehash” Without even playing it. Pokemon has evolved quite a bit over the years even if at first glance they all seem basically the same.

    • Well, as always we’re going to focus on the vocal minority rather than the majority. I’d wager that the majority don’t care about the issue at all. Nintendo does get a free pass. You even admit yourself that you see them as “games first”, which doesn’t say much, other than you have a preference for the simplistic.

      • “which doesn’t say much, other than you have a preference for the simplistic”
        Buddy, Please define to me what your idea of a Deep game is. And I swear to god if you list some Cinematic shit I’ll die inside. There has not been a single game that rivals the story of even the lower spectrum of Literature. Games without engaging gameplay is like a Film that is being shot in one long shot. Sure it gets the job done but there is not much Finesse to it.

      • My idea of a “deep” game is one whose story, characters, setting and pacing lend as much to replya value as core gameplay. Probably my favourite example thus far is Final Fantasy X. Sure, I greatly enjoy the core mechanics. It’s got, in my opinion, the best example of a turn-based battle system i’ve played, but I will replay it for the story, and every single time, I come across something new.

        I fear that you are putting literature on a pretty high pedestal. Plenty of literature over the ages has been written with social commentary in mind over depth of engagement. I love Dickens’ work, but i’d never try to argue that he didn’t write some awesome shlock, because he demonstrably did. Great Expectations, for instance, was designed to be a serialised, shocking soap-opera.

        The idea of engaging gameplay is utterly subjective. I never feel engaged in Grand Strategy games. But I can admit that they are engaging to some people out there. We might as well be talking about the idea of ‘fun’.

      • A free pass?
        Like hell; they don’t get a free pass. They get rightful criticism all the time.
        It’s just buried under a lot of band-wagon hater prattle and anti-Nintendo fantard hypocrisy about how Nintendo never really changes anything when there’s a wealth of first and third party games on both Sony and Microsoft systems that are just as guilty.
        And when their hypocrisy is pointed out, they bitch and whine and swim full-speed-ahead up Denial River, because it takes away their feeling of superiority to realize that no matter what they levy at Nintendo games, the games they like on other systems are just as guilty of all the cries of “rehash” and “Stale” and hundreds of other insults.
        Here’s the fact, of the matter and the moment: Right now, being a Nintendo hater is the “popular” thing amongst graphics/specs whores and dudebros who only give half a shit about how realistic their games look.
        The type who base personal pride and worth in their choice of system and get a kick out of kicking people who play anything less than GTA5 and Battlefield and Killzone and TLOU and dozens of other pseudo-realistic games with “gritty, dark, and edgy content”.
        You know, for “mature” gamers.*eye roll*.

        Frankly it makes me sick to see these console-war-soldier-wanna-be’s being given any sort of voice when all they come online to do is heckle people [and things] they don’t like for the most inane and fallacious reasons.
        Freedom of speech be damned; some people just shouldn’t speak, let alone type on net forums.
        Better to be thought a fool than to open their mouths and remove all doubt.

      • You are saying that their criticisms get buried under criticisms. I don’t see that as very likely. Criticism of Nintendo is treated VERY harshly indeed. There aren’t many articles like this, but hopefully over time, there will be more.

        The rest of your post seems to be whining about how you don’t like other companies before then, bafflingly, going on to say that you don’t think “console-war wannabe’s” should be “given a voice”.

        I shall re-read this post over and over, with a grim little smile, over a cup of coffee. You’ve made my day, in some strange way.

  6. If outgrowing Nintendo means games that are just FPS then no thankyou…
    Nintendo creates games that are away from that audience, and pull in their own to provide them something different than shooters or over-the-top games.

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