From Eurogamer’s review of NSMB 2, we read:
The shocking thing isn’t that Nintendo’s Super Mario series – once the byword for creativity, a sacred cow of game design that could reliably be expected to change everything, every time – has become one of those factory-made annual franchises. It’s that the developers working under Shigeru Miyamoto at the company’s Kyoto headquarters – the team that made this latest outing on 3DS – is now the reserve squad.
I am reading many rationalizations for NSMB 2. Some say it is a business decision because those who purchase NSMB do not want to see change. Others say that the game was rushed to completion. Still, others say the B Team was put in charge.
The only proper explanation, which everyone is tiptoeing around, is that Nintendo just doesn’t care.
The near twenty year absence of Super Mario Brothers from the home console scene is evidence that the software developers just never cared to make it. (The business side of the company certainly cares which is the only reason why it is being made today.) Notice how Nintendo only seems to care about 3d Mario and only about converting their customers to play it. Yet, it has failed with every iteration over decades. Nintendo even jeopardized their handheld line so we can ‘understand 3d’. Any other sensible company would have reined in these out of control developers. Not Nintendo. They just continue on.
This is the actual Nintendo arrogance. Apparently, I don’t know what games I like and require Nintendo to tell them to me.
“You don’t actually like 2d Mario over 3d Mario, you just don’t find 3d Mario accessible enough.” No. We actually don’t like 3d Mario. At least 2d Mario is demonstrating it can sell without graphics, amazing soundtracks, and new gameplay. 3d Mario can’t sell even with those things.
“You don’t actually like Classic Zelda over Aonuma Zelda, you just didn’t understand how there were puzzles in the first ones.” No, we actually don’t like Aonuma Zelda. We accept Zelda as an arcade/CRPG hybrid, we do not accept Zelda as a PC Adventure Game where you talk to boring NPCs all day and use items to solve ‘puzzles’.
“You don’t actually like Classic Metroid or the Metroid Primes, you just had an attachment to your previous experience which didn’t allow for Sakamoto’s vision to be embraced.” No, we actually don’t like Sakamoto’s vision of Metroid of a manga game.
“You like Super Mario Kart over our later Mario Karts? Therefore, I will try to beat Super Mario Kart.” This was the director’s mission when making Mario Kart DS. It was an enormous success.
Consider our viewpoint. We purchased Nintendo consoles and fell in love with their systems because of games like Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda, and Metroid. Super Mario Brothers turned into a 3d monstrosity (with that horrible voice which made Mario uncool). Zelda turned into a boring PC Adventure game whose sales relied entirely on the diminishing memories for tributes to Ocarina, Link to the Past, and the NES Zelda games. Metroid turned 3d which was fun to see, but there was still no actual Metroid game.
At first, we thought we had changed as gamers. We were older now. Maybe gaming is only for the young. Yet, we still were playing games and were having a hard time to find games we wanted to play. The explanation we accepted in our hearts was that Nintendo didn’t understand what they did. They thought in the mid 90s that they had to apply 3d to everything because of the competition and times. How could we blame them for that? We never knocked Nintendo for making Super Mario 64. We thought they just didn’t understand that they didn’t have to go 3d.
We kept giving Nintendo passes. With the N64, Nintendo just doesn’t understand. With the Gamecube, Nintendo just doesn’t understand. When Windwaker came out, people thought Nintendo didn’t understand people’s reaction to such an art style.
The year is 2006. Nintendo’s fortunes are riding high and going higher. Why? What changed here? What changed was that we, the old schoolers, began to think Nintendo was beginning to understand. We have been awaiting this day. It was the day where we could return to buying a Nintendo console. The Nintendo DS sales broke records in North America when the DS Lite and NSMB DS came out. The DS launched as if it were a portable N64 complete with Mario 64 DS. But with the DS Lite, the system had become more like a portable SNES which made many people comfortable with it. The button configuration was identical to the SNES controller. NSMB DS was, when it came out, panned by not being ‘as good’ as previous 2d Mario outings but this didn’t matter. One, it was a handheld game so NSMB was actually competing against the Super Mario Land games. Two, it was the first 2d Mario game made in nearly sixteen years. Clearly, Nintendo is rusty. We expected they would improve. On the DS, we also found Mario Kart DS which plays more like Super Mario Kart than the other Mario Kart games. We found Final Fantasy III (which sold out immediately when released in Japan stunning Square) and the other Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games. The DS had many adventure and RPG games which we were comfortable and reminiscent of the better days of the 16-bit generation. While the DS had “non-games” like Brain Age, Nintendogs, and simple games, so did the NES, and we were extremely comfortable with the system.
It was because of the perception that “Nintendo finally realized how they moved away from gamers from the Virtual Boy/N64/Gamecube days” that allowed an environment of excitement for Wii to be realized. Had Nintendo been running against the market with the DS, the Wii would not have had its explosive part. Excitement over the DS turned into curiosity about the Wii.
What was the Wii? It was a simple console with a very simple controller. More to it, the Wii resembled a modern day NES. The controller layouts were identical where you could turn the Wiimote on its side and have it the full NES functionality. At E3 2006, Nintendo showed off the Wii Zapper and ‘gun games’ which is reminiscent of the NES light gun. And the Classic Controller resembled the SNES controller exactly with a couple of analog sticks.
The Virtual Console was a big deal. While the Virtual Console shop was terribly done and the lack of an account killed any and all sales, the Virtual Console represented that Nintendo was remembering its past.
Wii Sports resembled the NES Sports games, and Nintendo actually said so. Wii Sports golf courses were based on the NES Golf game. The idea of taking a console home and having the entire neighborhood stream through your living room is reminiscent from the early days of game consoles. I remember it from the Atari consoles and the NES.
The Wii Balance Board was reminiscent of the infamous NES Power Pad. The motion controller was reminiscent of the NES Power Glove (in the concept, not the reality).
The Wii phenomenon cratered when Wii Music was released. With that game, everyone thought Nintendo was just trying to take their money. Nintendo eventually pulled the game from the shelves due to the intense negative reaction it made.
At the end of 2009, the Wii sold out thanks to NSMB Wii which I call Super Mario Brothers 5. Why? It is because we interpreted it as Super Mario Brothers 5. We have been waiting for that game for 18 years. When Super Mario Collection came out, it instantly sold out even though it was nothing more than NES games with 16-bit graphics. We were telling Nintendo what we wanted. Donkey Kong Country Returns was also a great success whose sales are responsible solely due to the SNES Era games and the fans the DKC series made beyond that time period (kids growing up with the game on the handheld versions).
After that point, the Wii declined in great amount. This was a sort of turning point. Gamers like myself, who were waiting for fifteen years for Nintendo to ‘understand’ its break with the past with the N64 onward was the cause of the decline. The DS and Wii appeared as a signal that Nintendo ‘understood’ and was returning to its roots. We just tried to pretend Wii Music never occurred.
We could not ignore the DS Zelda games, Skyward Sword, and Metroid: Other M. These games were not representative of Nintendo returning to its roots but intentionally slashing them. These games felt like Nintendo was just giving its fans a middle finger. Nintendo was demonstrating they just didn’t care that Zelda was going further and further away from its roots. With Metroid Other M, Nintendo was saying they just didn’t care about our previous Metroid experiences. If Nintendo was not going to care about giving us the games we wanted to buy, why should we want to buy their upcoming consoles?
The 3DS was a massive departure from what made the DS fun. Nintendo was trying to force its N64 direction onto the handheld line, and it created a disastrous result. The 3DS did not cost ‘too much’ (Nintendo was the one who originally thought it was a good price). The 3DS did not have the value for that price. And even when selling at a loss, the 3DS still struggles to be seen as having value in people’s eyes. This could only have occurred if people held little to no value to the system’s 3d output.
The 3DS feels like such a hostile console. It changed the placement of the D-Pad signalling that 3d games would be the priority for the system. If you didn’t like it, then the 3DS was not for you. Nintendo offered Gameboy games through the E-shop, but what does that matter with the incorrect placement of the D-Pad? What does that matter without an account system? Every 3DS game was about ‘OMG 3d!’ with constant flying through clouds. No one cared.
NOA thought they were in the clear when Ocarina of Time 3d Remake came out. What occurred with that was N64 fans thinking Nintendo was going to return to N64 roots. But Nintendo was more interested in the Gamecube or Post-Gamecube direction. Their enthusiasm was short lived. The problem with N64 roots is that those consumers are largely located only in North America and are vastly outnumbered by Arcade Era/NES/SNES roots people.
Does Nintendo realize that it has more former customers than potential new customers? They can’t keep wiping the slate clean each generation. The population growth trends don’t support that. The economic growth trends don’t support that either. The only way for growth is to go back to the roots. And Nintendo wonders why the NES colored plastic ‘special edition’ models of the handhelds sold so well as well as the Classic Series.
It is now the year 2012. Twelve years ago, we said, “Nintendo just doesn’t understand,” as they rushed headlong into 3d and made 3d Mario and distorted Zelda into a PC adventure game (to make Aonuma’s kid happy). Six years ago, we said, “Nintendo now understands,” and I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages over the Nintendo resurgence. Today, we say, “Nintendo just doesn’t care.”
Nintendo just doesn’t care that they’re ruining 2d Mario by turning it into a joke.
Nintendo just doesn’t care that no one buys Zelda because “everything is like a puzzle” like a cheap PC adventure game.
Nintendo just doesn’t care that the Metroid franchise is destroyed because of Sakamoto and his yearnings for ‘maternal instincts’.
Nintendo just doesn’t care that we can’t use their hardware as a ‘box’ to play games on. It is like they prefer us going through hoops to use only a certain control scheme with a certain game.
Nintendo just doesn’t care that they keep bleeding top talent from Retro Studios despite the enormous success they’ve done. They tell Retro that the company is more important than the individual while they push Aonuma and Sakamoto in our faces while Zelda and Metroid franchises implode.
So what does Nintendo care about?
Nintendo cares about 3d. This cannot be emphasized enough. If a game is not in 3d, Nintendo feels the game is ‘beneath them’. Nintendo has hired and replaced their software developers with obsessions with 3d which is shared.
Nintendo cares about 3d Mario. They will give 3d Mario orchestras, cutting edge visuals, Giant World, and even DVDs to educate the neanderthal 2d Mario fans about the bliss that is 3d Mario. Nintendo will keep releasing 3d Mario games until we ‘understand’. (After six 3d Mario games released, 3d Mario still lacks mass market appeal.)
What I have realized is that Nintendo had the exact opposite perception. Consider:
We think Nintendo doesn’t understand that not every game has to be in 3d.
Nintendo thinks the market doesn’t understand 3d gaming.
We think Nintendo finally understands they need to get back to their roots.
Nintendo thinks the sales are due to market finally understanding thanks to accessibility and marketing.
We think Nintendo is returning to its Gamecube ways and no longer cares about becoming a mass market success.
Nintendo thought the 3DS would be ‘now is the time for 3d’ success they have been dreaming about since the Virtual Boy. Confused and frustrated by the 3DS failure, Nintendo lives in alternate reality and blames the price, marketing, and ‘stupid consumers’.
Which way will the Wii U go? The question about Nintendo is where do they go after the crash and burn of the 3DS? If Nintendo tries to go back to the Gamecube with the Wii U, I do not think Nintendo, as a company, will be able to recover. If Nintendo tries to go back to their roots with Wii U, there is hope. And even if Nintendo does this, they will not see the red hot success of the Wii (outside of the macro-economic changes). People who loved the Wii, like myself, do not trust Nintendo anymore. It is more probable for us to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach concerning the Wii U.
I have none of the excitement I had for the upcoming Wii for the Wii U. The Wii U I want to get but only in the same sense as replacing an aging DVD player. I want the Wii U to replace my aging Wii, to have an account system for my Virtual Console games, and for 2d Mario. But I don’t have to rush out to buy it. I can wait a year. Or two.
There are alternatives to getting involved in the Game Console Rat Race. There are many things that changed with game consoles and how they were in the past. For example, in the past most games were arcade ports. Therefore, I understood the value of those games before I put out $60 for them. When Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat came out on consoles, everyone understood their value. When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 came out for the consoles, everyone understood its value as well. When Space Invaders came out for the consoles, everyone understood its value. When PONG was released for the home, everyone went to Sears Sporting Good stores because they knew the value. All this emphasis on ‘surprise’ means riskier investment. And I don’t want to go through it. Remember what happened when Pac-Man was ported to the Atari 2600? People bought it, thinking it was Pac-Man, but it wasn’t arcade Pac-Man. This was a significant factor in the destruction of the home console market. No one could trust the arcade-to-home ports anymore (and what purpose did a game console have except to play arcade games at home?).
I AM TIRED OF BUYING CRAPPY GAMES. Even Nintendo’s games are crappy these days. The blowback is coming because arrogant game companies are making games for the ‘mass market’ and not for individuals. The term ‘masses’ is a dehumanization of the individual. And we can sense it when we see the latest ‘party game’ or hardcore sequel number 345345′. Right now, we are sensing it with NSMB 2. Nintendo is on very dangerous ground here.
If 2d Mario dies, Nintendo dies. Nintendo cannot successfully maintain a hardware market presence without 2d Mario. The Nintendo software developers’ arrogance could condemn the entire company. As much of a ‘warchest’ as Nintendo has, the company cannot survive long on selling at a loss. The ‘warchest’ is for emergency events, and ‘Now is the time for 3d’ is not an emergency event.
There are alternatives to consoles. I am currently planning an alternative to last me the next twenty years… without buying anything new from the Game Industry. And no, this does not include roms from old consoles.
I went fifteen years without buying a game console. What is another fifteen?