Jay Wilson tweeted his interest in a Diablo 3 review from the Verge. In it, it explained that Diablo 3 was a success due to it not making anyone want to play Diablo 2 again. Despite other Diablo clones that have come out, Diablo 2 still had something that made people want to keep playing it. Diablo 3 has successfully replaced Diablo 2 in the appetites.
And is that not what gaming is? An appetite? This made me realize, in crystallized terms, why I keep playing old games. It is not because I am old, a fuddy duddy, a retro gamer. I don’t see myself as a retro gamer. I see myself as an Old School Gamer where I love Old School gaming values.
This gives us a more precise tool in evaluating the quality of video game sequels. If the old game is being played instead of the new one, it shows the new game is not satisfying the appetite correctly.
For many, many people, Super Mario Brothers 3 made Super Mario Brothers obsolete. Given a choice between SMB 3 and SMB 1, nearly everyone chooses SMB 3. The controls are more precise, there is more content, it is just a better game. One of the reasons why people persist in saying that SMB 4 wasn’t that good is because we are still playing SMB 3. SMB 4 should have rendered SMB 3 obsolete as SMB 3 did to SMB 1. That did not happen.
The reason why modern Zelda fans keep replaying Ocarina of Time (and rebuying it for the 3DS) is because the other Zelda games failed. Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, Majora’s Mask, and Skyward Sword failed to make Ocarina of Time obsolete. Why can’t these new games satisfy the appetite?
The Classic Zelda games remain interesting and playable because other Zelda games have not satisfied the similar appetite.
A decade from now, people will still be playing Super Metroid even though Metroid: Other M is a much newer game. Super Metroid satisfies something in the appetite that Other M does not.
Blizzard correctly analyzed that their games are desired to satisfy the consistent appetites of the consumers. Diablo 3 was designed to satisfy the Diablo 2 appetites. Starcraft 2 to satisfy the Starcraft 1 appetite. And so on.
At one time, Nintendo believed in this too. The next Mario game was to make the previous Mario game obsolete (unless it was on the handheld and the handheld game was to satisfy that appetite in a mobile context). The next Zelda game was to satisfy the existing appetite. In a way, when you go to a restaurant you order certain food to remove an appetite that keeps reappearing (no matter how much food you eat, you keep getting hungry!).
Nintendo doesn’t believe in any of this today. Today’s Nintendo doesn’t believe games are to satisfy appetites. Nintendo doesn’t believe sequels should satisfy existing/reappearing appetites. Instead, Nintendo believes gaming should revolve around “surprise” and “new experiences”. But for some reason, this always involves an old IP.
What would the result be if you kept trying to make ‘new experiences’ and ‘surprises’ with an existing IP without focusing on satisfying the existing appetites? The gamers with the existing appetites would become disappointed and no longer buy the games. Meanwhile, a totally different audience would appear for THAT game. But if the process continued, that new audience would become discouraged with the next sequel and leave. But a new audience may like the ‘surprise’ with the new game.
Such a process would create a very young fanbase where older fans constantly keep leaving, would it not? And does this not sound like the ‘base’ of Nintendo?
“But Nintendo is still making video games while other game companies fell off the Earth.”
While this is true, it is a deception. Nintendo may still be around, but their customers are not. Nintendo’s customer base is like a huge wheel where players start out young or new to the games, become increasingly discouraged as the ‘sequels’ do not satisfy existing appetites, and eventually leave. They are replaced with more younger people.
But Nintendo’s customer base has also declined until the DS and Wii. What was different about the DS and Wii? What games were the difference?
The big myth is that the games were the ones that made NEW GAMERS, i.e. casual gamers. There is plenty of research, and especially market data, to confirm that the so-called ‘New Market’ was actually Old Gamers. The Wii was many people’s first game console since the Atari Era or NES Era. Now why is that? Wii Sports has more in common with the NES sports games (including NES Golf’s courses taken directly) than anything else. Wii Sports and Wii Play have much in common with PONG and the early arcade games. Wii’s peak revolved around Super Mario Brothers 5 which was *definitely* food for the 2d Mario gamer.
“What is the point of this post?” asks the gentle, beautiful reader.
The point is that if you are consistently playing a video game that is over ten years old, the Game Industry has failed you. They have failed to satisfy your appetite.
The reason why I point out that I am playing these old games is not to point out the quality of these games or to raise some Retro Flag on this website. The point is to say: “You have failed me.” For example, how much longer are we going to have to replay Super Metroid until a modern game comes out that satisfies and does more? How much longer are we going to have to keep replaying Super Mario Brothers 3? Or Zelda 1 and 2 or 3?
Super Mario Brothers was not successful because it was new. Super Mario Brothers was successful because it satisfied old appetites. Donkey Kong became obsolete next to Super Mario Brothers. Super Mario Brothers hit every appetite Donkey Kong satisfied while doing more. Donkey Kong became a ‘relic’ after Super Mario Brothers came out instead of a ‘classic’ people consistently keep playing today. Outside nostalgia, no one really plays Donkey Kong. But that does apply with why people keep playing Super Mario Brothers 3. It is because there is no substitute for it. No game satisfies in the same way.
Are you still playing Chrono Trigger? Or Super Metroid? Or Super Mario Brothers 3 or Super Mario World? Are you still playing Alpha Centauri? Or Master of Orion or Master of Magic? Are you still playing a game older than ten years?
If so, you are not the problem. The game makers are the problem. They have not bothered to satisfy an existing appetite. It may be due to the existing appetite is too small (i.e. a niche game). But most of the time, such as the most popular video game ever made with Super Mario Brothers, it is because the game makers do not wish to satisfy existing appetites. It hurts their creativity. It makes them do things they do not want to do.
Nintendo game developers like to compare themselves to chefs. But chefs make the same dishes, day in and day out, all the time. When someone orders pizza, they want pizza, not a “surprise” like a watermelon-salmon-peanut-butter-tangerine pizza.
People do not play video games for ‘surprises’. People play video games to satisfy appetites… ones they know and ones they do not know. The sooner we realize this, the sooner gaming can get back to growing the market again.