With games like WiiFit and Face Training becoming the staple of Nintendo’s wares in this “new generation”, most hardcore gamers are left asking, “Hey, what about me? Where are my kind of games at, son?” I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Nintendo doesn’t care about you anymore. They have moved on to greener pastures. Which is to say they want your mom’s money now, not yours.
The number one indicator for this theory was their show at the 2007 E3 conference. We had nearly 20 minutes of WiiFit, but only 20 seconds of Mario Kart Wii.
They didn’t want to show more because Nintendo was in front of all the world’s media, and they wanted to send out the word that they’re all about the non-gamers now. That’s why they focused so much on WiiFit. It was a signal to everyone that hardcore gamers are not Nintendo’s main market anymore. Iwata was on stage for nearly 10 minutes trying to defend what their company was doing now:
“Basically, non-games make us mad cash money, and we want more.”
And I’m willing to bet that they could have shown off a lot more of Mario Kart, since it appears to be running on the Double Dash engine.
You can also gauge the seriousness of the situation by looking at the Japanese software charts for the last few months. They are consistently dominated by games like Brain Age and English Training; software that is only useful for non-gamers.
And because they are on the charts for extended periods of time, Nintendo is doing what any good business would do and is taking advantage of it. When they make millions of dollars on games like Nintendogs (which has sold nearly 15 million copies at this point), you can’t expect them to forget about that and go back to making “hardcore” games only. It’s money in the bank for them, whereas most of their “hardcore” games would get on the chart one week, and quickly fade into obscurity the next.
It’s just good business. They’ve found a huge source of income with the non-gaming crowd, and they would be foolish to pass it up.
But what happens to their legendary franchises, like Mario and Zelda? Surely those games will always be a part of Nintendo’s portfolio. We will definitely get those kinds of games at some point, but don’t expect them in a continuous fashion like before.
Recently Iwata was quoted as saying that the Wii platform is going to be left open for 3rd party games in 2008, with Nintendo titles taking a back seat for a while. While not explicitly denying fans “hardcore” games, this is going to make it even harder for Nintendo to justify putting millions of dollars into a game that only sees a moderate return. If they are only going to release five games next year, they’re probably going to make those games “non-games,” as they generally realize a much larger profit from them. Nintendo has fans to please, but they also have shareholders to please. Hardcore gamers can go on blogs and bitch all they want, but shareholders can pull up stakes, which would leave Nintendo in a bad financial situation.
At this point, it seems Nintendo wants to use just enough resources to keep their old consumers content. They’re not trying to outdo themselves like they did before. You’re never going to have another situation where Nintendo teases you by alluding to an unknown property, and then introduces something like Pikmin. If Nintendo is planning some crazy, out-there kind of game, there is a 75% chance that it’s something like WiiFit. And what helps justify this theory is what people were predicting before WiiFit was officially announced. Everyone assumed it was going to be something as unusual as Pikmin, positioned as some innovative game that “hardcore” gamers would enjoy. Nope, it was just WiiFit.
From a hardcore Nintendo fan’s point of view, this is somewhat tragic. You are the reason why Nintendo is even around at this point. They didn’t make Brain Age or Nintendogs on the NES; they made Zelda, Mario, and Metroid. Nintendo wouldn’t be here had they not focused on the “hardcore” gamer. It now seems like they have forgotten their roots and act like the “hardcore” gamer is just dragging them down.
But is this situation necessarily a bad thing? Nintendo isn’t the only kid on the block nowadays, so if you really want to focus all of your gamer dollars on “hardcore” games like BioShock and Metal Gear Solid, then Microsoft and Sony have you covered. And playing a non-game like Brain Age or Nintendogs isn’t the worst thing that could happen to you. I do like the fact that Nintendo has created a genre of games that most never expected on a video game console, but I do agree that moderation is key in this situation. You need a good balance between the two kinds of games, and I don’t see Nintendo doing that. Not right now, anyway.
In the end, Nintendo will keep making Mario, Zelda, and Metroid to appease the few lingering hardcore gamers they have. Just don’t expect them as often (which is really scary, as they were never that frequent in the first place). Nintendo is too busy counting the stacks of cash that Brain Age and Cooking Navi have made to really care about them.