The Nintendo Affair – Unwarranted Hatred?

Nintendo, the Big N, the company gamers love, hate and love to hate. A company that’s been responsible for so many innovations yet people still clamor for them to shut their doors and do something else, follow in the footsteps of other “fallen giants” and leave the market for the superpowers that are Sony & Microsoft. Why do they get so much hate? Why are they the butt of every joke? It seems most gamers, the newer generations especially, have forgotten Nintendo’s role in our history, their mark on the industry.

I’m a big Nintendo fan, I’ve had every console/handheld they’ve ever released with the exception of the Virtual Boy, because I knew that was a mistake 20 seconds into the migraine. I also don’t own a WiiU, but not for lack of want, but more for lack of funds, and you can bet I’ll be acquiring one ASAP. To quote Reggie, “My body is ready” for a WiiU.

I won’t take you through the history of Nintendo, through its greatest failures and victories; instead, I’ll propose my counterpoints to some of the more common arguments thrown against the Big N. While the following might just seem like a fanboy rant and I won’t exclude my own views, I will try to deal mostly in facts.

Nintendo should close its doors and go “the Sega way”: Which means, they should stop making hardware and move into the software market.

One thing people seem to forget is that Nintendo is the last true pure console manufacturer in the world, the last Great Videogame Company, the last Titan, having entered the industry in the 80s with the NES and now 30 years later still doing it.

Yes, Sony & Microsoft’s consoles are more powerful than anything Nintendo comes up with, but one thing you’re forgetting is for these companies, videogames aren’t their main source of income, they’re not even their highest sellers. Microsoft earns its money how it’s always done it, with Windows, and their many software suites. Sony is the giant of electronics. These two companies have money to burn when it comes to R&D for the next overpriced almost-PC consoles, and while it’s true that all consoles sell at a loss, the loss is insignificant for Sony & Microsoft.

In Nintendo’s case it’s not the same, they feel the losses more painfully, but you never see them give up and instead of condemning them for it, it should be celebrated that the last Titan refuses to go away. Have you seen any other videogame company where the CEO takes a pay cut when they’re on a loss? No? Thought so.

Satoru Iwata, this quirky man carries the weight of Nintendo on his shoulders!

Satoru Iwata, this quirky man carries the weight of Nintendo on his shoulders!

Another thing of note is that Nintendo has historically removed elements from their consoles that the others have included, in order to make them cheaper for the consumer. Take DVD playback for movies, never made it into their consoles because it would’ve made things more expensive, both for them and for you. Nintendo thinks about their consumers, making the consoles as affordable as possible. Why do you think HD didn’t make the Wii? Because it wasn’t something many people had, and they thought forcing them to buy expensive TVs wasn’t fair (and it’d be a loss, they’re nice, but they’re still a business).

That’s not even talking about how much their consoles have brought us. Let me list just three:

  • The Analog Stick: Yes, joysticks existed, but they were the bulky Atari ones. It was Nintendo who first included these in a controller. Now every controller has one.
  • Wireless Controller: The Wavebird, Nintendo’s Gamecube wireless gamepad, was the first of its kind, and like everything else Nintendo makes and introduces to the world; it was copied by the competitors.
  • Motion Controls: Say what you will about the Wii and its abominable list of shovelware, but without it, for better or worse, motion controls wouldn’t be part of the industry. When Nintendo perfected it with the Wii Motion Plus, it was only a matter of months before Sony unveiled the PS-Move, which was strikingly similar in design.
The first analog stick on a controller! Now it's part of everyday life, but then it was revolutionary!

The first analog stick on a controller! Now it’s part of everyday life, but then it was revolutionary!

Now, let’s talk about the hardware. Sure, their consoles aren’t that powerful, not compared to the PSs and Xboxes, but here’s some undeniable facts: The Wii outsold all consoles of its generation for most of its lifetime, by a longshot. Currently, the WiiU (even I admit it’s a pretty bad name) is outselling the PS4 in Japan, which while not being definitive in any way, is pretty damn interesting.

On handhelds, they dominate the market, as they’ve always done, even with “experts” claiming mobiles will be the new things, which all we gamers know it’s nonsense, for the simple reason that we WANT and NEED buttons, sticks and d-pads. It’s the truth. How many of you have suffered trying to play a classic game with a touchscreen? How many gave up very quickly? I rest my case.

The NES, the console that made many of us into the gamers we are today!

The NES, the console that made many of us into the gamers we are today!

Need more about how much we owe Nintendo? Without the NES, none of these franchises would exist today, and to make it fair, I’ll just list third party ones:

  • Mega Man
  • Street Fighter
  • Castlevania
  • Final Fantasy
  • Dragon Quest
  • Breath of Fire
  • Chrono series (Trigger, Cross) – Yes, SNES, but worth mentioning
  • Metal Gear
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Battletoads
  • Double Dragon
  • Contra
  • Ganbare Goemon (Mystical Ninja)

And that’s not counting all those born during the SNES era (except Chrono, which I listed above). There are tons I didn’t include in that list because they were Arcade games first, and while Arcades have died, I can’t say for sure that without the NES they wouldn’t still exist.

Not only was the NES the birthplace for so many franchises we’ve come to love, but for an entire generation of gamers, it was the first console we ever had. If the NES hadn’t come along, a lot of us and the people who make the games we love maybe wouldn’t have been gamers. Hell, without Nintendo and its consoles and its mistakes there wouldn’t even be a Playstation, since the first came out of Nintendo backing out of a deal with Sony.

Another part of this argument is the idea that Nintendo needs to make their games available on other consoles, which is never going to happen, as some of the experiences those games provide can only be experienced on Nintendo devices, the DS & 3DS (and 2DS I suppose) games being a perfect example.

On the previous point, I find it amusing that while most gamers want Nintendo’s games on other platforms, the same doesn’t apply to other games. You don’t see many people crying for God of War making it to Xbox or even a Nintendo console, same with Gears of War or Halo, no one even mentions them jumping lines. It’s only Nintendo games people want this for, which is very interesting.

Without the NES then maybe this would have never existed. Can you imagine a world without Symphony of the Night?

Without the NES then maybe this would have never existed. Can you imagine a world without Symphony of the Night?

There’s also one final point and it’s Nintendo Identity. From the start, Nintendo has always done what it wants and how it wants it, and it’s because of this that they’ve been such innovators, because they take risks their competitors don’t, even if they have much more to lose. The console wars are still being fought in terms of power, of graphics, of which console can best portray the many freckles in a characters face. Nintendo, on the Wii, decided to step away and focus on gameplay and new ways to experience games and the result was the complete monopoly over the casual gamer market and their competitors scrambling to find a way to do their own motion controls. Sure, the core gamer felt abandoned, even when Nintendo still had their flagship franchises. Now they’re trying to recover the core gamers, but these, like spurned lovers, reject the WiiU.

Nintendo’s always done what it wants and because of it, they’re the innovators of the industry, and the rest just adapt and yes, improve on their design. You might not have noticed it, but Nintendo’s been driving how you play your games since the start. Can you imagine a world where they don’t?

I shudder at the thought.

Nintendo only makes Casual/Kiddie-Games: You’re wrong…just wrong.

During the first decade of this new and so far strange century, a weird idea arose from somewhere that unless the game contained copious amounts of sex, foul language, blood/gore, and gray/black/brown palettes, it was a kiddie game and gamers were conditioned to avoid them.

Many games, both 3rd party and 1st didn’t find the audience their creators expected because of this perception that colorful worlds and “family friendly” games were not to be touched with a 2-yard stick.

As a Kingdom Hearts fan (a series mostly on PS systems), a game that, we who know it, know it’s awesome and sometimes reaching epic heights surpassing even God of War and Devil May Cry or any Action RPG; try to convince someone to play it, someone who buys into the Kiddie-game mentality? The moment you mention anything Disney related you’d lose them, or even the cartoon visuals, not matter how deep the game is, compared to those “adult” games they play.

This point of view is so strong that if you dressed Dark Souls with a colorful cel-shaded dress, it wouldn’t sell a single copy, because people are convinced that games need to look gritty and dark in order to be good or edgy.

Cute? Yes. Family-friendly? Yes. Pretty and colorful? Yes...Badass? Hell Yeah!!

Cute? Yes. Family-friendly? Yes. Pretty and colorful? Yes…Badass? Hell Yeah!!

Strangest thing of all, most people buy into this with the last few gens, even though they might love and replay 8-bit, 16-bit and “simpler” generations. They love the beautiful style for the American Super Mario Bros. 2, but Paper Mario is a sacrilege.

On the content, yes, no Mario is ever “dark”, even though Twilight Princess was a pretty grim Zelda and the Metroid Prime games were pretty gritty, nor do they feature foul language, but does that make them bad games? No, there’s not a single bad Mario game, and some of them surpass more “adult” games on every level but FPS – Fucks Per Second.

Casual is another thing entirely, and I made a post a long time ago (clicky!) about this misconception. A game can be as casual as a chair can be angry. Games can’t be Casual or Hardcore, because those are human qualities, it’s people who are casual gamers, those that play once in a while but don’t try to beat the game on every difficulty or get hard achievement or in RPGs go for the super-bosses, or hardcore gamers, the ones playing for 36-hours straight on nothing but the joy and NEED of gaming and copious amounts of caffeine.

If you want an example of a “family friendly” kiddie-looking games that still has more hardcore players on them than every other game in the world, take POKEMON. It looks pretty, and there’s not a foul word a mile away, and no blood or gore, just a grind-y experience and still people flock to it.

Sure, Pokemon is recognized as a “hardcore game”, but do you want to know the difference between it and the “kiddie/casual” games you’ve been avoiding?

Nothing at all.

Nintendo needs better multiplayer, aka “welcome to [insert year here]”: Yes, I won’t deny it, Nintendo still has a lot to catch up in terms of online multiplayer, though they have worked on it.

The downside of the independence or “I did it my way” attitude of theirs is they have trouble changing and considering new things, which is why they still have “friend codes” on the 3DS.

The WiiU is their first step in the right direction, with the Nintendo Network ID, encompassing all their platforms and hooked to MiiVerse, one of the most brilliant ideas ever conceived, a console specific Social Media, where users can share their experience. It’s unique, for now, another innovation on Nintendo’s part, though one I’m actually surprised hasn’t been replicated yet.

Then again, maybe, like many things Nintendo does, it’s a conscious decision. Check out all their commercials and they all still feature local multiplayer, which let’s face it is the best kind. There’s nothing quite like playing with your friends in the same room, and the banter, boasts and taunts that go on during a match, and it applies to every game out there, even Call of Duty.

There's nothing like local multiplayer with your friends. And it's a fantastic icebreaker with new people!

There’s nothing like local multiplayer with your friends. And it’s a fantastic icebreaker with new people!

Nintendo’s consoles have always been local-focused, even if the Wii and 3DS and WiiU have online elements. I think it might be less of a lack of effort from their part and more of a strategy. Sure, for most gamers, it’s an odd strategy since we’ve grown accustomed to playing online with a friend from the other side of the world, but even if that’s the only type of multiplayer you play, give local a chance, trust me, you’ll have a lot more fun, and on the upside, being in the same room with the person might make you learn some manners.

Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw has a very intense love/hate relationship with Nintendo, leaning heavily towards HATE, but he recognizes Nintendo as the last bastion of local multiplayer, and celebrates it, as it’s something he likes, you know, when he can tolerate the presence of other human beings.

Nintendo needs to come up with new IPs: Together with the first one, this is the other main criticism thrown/spat towards the Big N, the lack of New IPs, accusing the company of rehashing the same game over and over again.

No Nintendo game, aside from straight remakes, is a rehash. They have elements in common, in the same way Call of Duty [Insert Number/Subtitle here] all share common elements, or the Assassin’s Creeds or God of War, or even sports games. They’re franchises and even ever-changing ones like Final Fantasy (though some would argue the changes haven’t been very good for it) have commonalities between them. Link always saves Zelda, Samus always fights Metroids, Mario has more costumes than a cosplayer; these are all elements that are part of the franchises’ identities.

This game was bashed as much as it was praised for how it changed the formula in some dungeons!

This game was bashed as much as it was praised for how it changed the formula in some dungeons!

Strangest of all, on franchise identity, is how much players and critics want changes to the formula, changes to those commonalities, so the new titles feel “fresh”. But when Nintendo actually does it, then they get backlash for the changes¸ for not sticking to the formula.

Nintendo, on its own, has many franchises, and while they may feature their mascots, they’re still separate IPs, for example, Mario Kart is a different IP from Super Mario 3D, even though both include Mario. Do the other 1st party studios, including subsidiaries, have as many IPs as Nintendo? Not really, and let’s be honest, if they changed these games and replaced mascots with new characters, there wouldn’t be any complaints; and in fact, people would ask Nintendo to patch in or include their mascots in a future release, because we LIKE to see Mario in a game.

Let's be honest, we like seeing them in every videogame Nintendo pours out!

Let’s be honest, we like seeing them in every videogame Nintendo pours out!

Then there’s the fact that as much as people want new IPs, they want Nintendo to release new games in classic series that haven’t gotten much love. How many people clamored for a new Kid Icarus? How many still want a Puch Out? We demand new IPs but also remakes and “rehashes” of older ones. Someone in Nintendo’s hierarchy must have thought, “Well, make up your minds already!”

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I think Xenoblade Chronicles is hands-down one of the best games I’ve ever played and I think the best RPG on the Wii, and that’s a Nintendo IP, a new one, developed by their subsidiary Monolith Soft. Thinking of how it almost never made it to America, or outside of Japan for that matter, reminds me of another good point when it comes to Nintendo franchises and IPs, which applies to many other IPs from other Japanese developers:  Not every release makes it out of Japan! There are hundred of titles across decades that have never come to America or Europe because of fear they won’t find a market.

This masterpiece almost didn't make it to the US.

This masterpiece almost didn’t make it to the US.

Nintendo also acquired the Fatal Frame rights, meaning it’s a new IP in their arsenal, not a completely original one, but one I’m very excited to see them take advantage of…AND RELEASE IN AMERICA!!!!!!

But I won’t deny the amount of new IPs released during the Wii era is scarce, and I won’t count the Wii Fit IP because to core gamers it’s not a real IP, even though technically, it is (and the Wii Fit board minigames are pretty damn fun). But one thing that’s always struck me is how much Nintendo gets bashed for releasing a new iteration of their franchises, but no other company gets the same treatment.

Not a real IP? This thing is FUN!

Not a real IP? This thing is FUN!

My final arguments might hold the answer for all Nintendo-directed criticisms.

As the Titan of the videogame industry, the oldest living “being” in existence, we have expectations of them that are probably too high. We want Nintendo to be perfect, to always deliver, and we burn them when they don’t and even when they do, we don’t celebrate them as much, because it’s what’s expected of them.

If we’re honest, it’s a bit unfair. We should appreciate them a bit more, as that last true Videogame Company.

If you agree or disagree vehemently, please, share your thoughts in the comments below. I JUST HAVE ONE RULE: BE POLITE, if only because being rude often makes people disregard your opinion as a either a troll or an immature child.

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