Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 7, 2020

2d Mario in top ten of Switch games sold


NSMB U is the laziest, most uninspired 2d Mario to grace home consoles. Despite that, it sells. Imagine if Nintendo gave it a proper budget and didn’t ‘send it out to die’ as a rushed Wii U launch game.

Mario Kart 8 was not rushed, had huge art budge, they even got Retro Studios to contribute.

NSMB U also has to compete with Mario Maker 2 as the two have exact same gameplay. You don’t see ‘Mario Kart Maker’.

Animal Crossing did so well, so fast, in part because of the lockdowns but also because it is the girl game. Animal Crossing is girl crack. I think the game is brilliant yet entirely shallow. I’d love Animal Crossing mechanics in a real game like Zelda or Mario.

Zelda BoW “Wow!” is doing great numbers despite it being a single player game. Therefore, we can be certain Aonuma and the Zelda team will go, “All right! That means the next game we can do WHAT WE WANT as BoW “Wow!” sales will fund our ‘creativity’. “Bring back the trains!” Aonuma is heard hollering as he runs through the Nintendo corridors.

Anyway, I expect Nintendo to look at this list and go, “See? No one wants 2d Mario.” That is clearly the conclusion they will make. It’s the conclusion Nintendo always makes about 2d Mario. “No one wants 2d Mario anymore. But hey! I think they want some Pikmin!!!!”

This ridiculous boost in Switch hardware and software sales is artificial, and Nintendo knows it. The lockdowns banned Switch’s greatest competitor:s outside and school.

Massive economic distress is boiling out there. Longterm, it will be interesting to see how this affects game consoles. Actually, I suspect many game sales to increase. Hollywood movies took off during the Great Depression because they were cheap forms of entertainment. Video games are still considered ‘cheap forms of entertainment’. This might be the moment of video games taking their place as the dominant entertainment medium for the twenty first century.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 3, 2020

Email: Why Smash is so popular

Hey Master Malstrom,

In a recent post in which you talked about the importance of sound in a game, I couldn’t help but think of Super Smash Brothers. Few people realize one of the reasons why the game is so popular. It’s not just the characters and the gameplay. A big factor is the amazing music! Even better, you now can choose exactly which songs will play on a particular stage. My favorite stage is Living Room with the song “Ring A Ding”, as it just elevates the gameplay times ten.

Bottom line, without the music (and the ability to choose which music to play), I don’t think the game would be even half as fun to play. I’ve tried a number of Smash clones (Brawlhalla, Brawlout) and haven’t been able to get into them, mostly because the music is subpar. Just as movies are elevated by great music, so are video games. I don’t think many people in the game industry realize this.

I think you may be extremely correct, at least in part. Smash Brothers captures the ‘fantasy’ of what those games represented. For example, Link character uses his sword, bow, and there is a Zelda stage with Zelda theme going. Smash Brothers plugs you into those games’ universes without you playing the game.

I think game music is the most criminally underrated part of gaming. Graphics age, but music is forever.

Above: A song from the NES gods…

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 3, 2020

Email: Game developers don’t understand their jobs

Master Malstrom,

I think the fact that game developers are obsessed with telling stories is not just because of their desire to tell stories but because of the fact that they don’t understand the purpose of their jobs. A number of years back, you once said that Nintendo’s job is the job of a clown: to entertain.

The same is true of the game developer. Their job is to make a game that entertains us. But I think they consider this job too lowly. They want to change society, change the world. They want to feel like they are “making a difference.”

Unfortunately, this leads to game developers putting in political commentary in their games. Thus, we get gay characters thrown into so many games because this is supposedly going to make us more “tolerant.” We get The Last of Us Part 2, a game that has you commit mass murder yet simultaneously preaches to you that killing is morally wrong. (Call me crazy, but I doubt that anyone who believes killing ISN’T morally wrong is going to be swayed otherwise by TLOUP2.)

Bottom line, people don’t like to be preached to. Preaching is the job of a pastor, not a game developer. Imagine, for a moment, if Christians controlled the entertainment industry. And imagine if, at the end of every TV show, movie and video game, a character turned to the camera and said, “And just so you know, Jesus loves you.”

Wouldn’t this be really obnoxious? Even if you agree with the message (which I do), you would be like, “Yeah, I know. I don’t need you to tell me.” Even worse, you realize that the people behind the product think you are stupid and look down on you, which makes you not want to buy their product in the future.

As I interact with them more, I can tell you there is a definite psychosis. What I’m trying to say is that many of these people have a mental sickness, they are not connecting to reality. This can be clearly seen in Hollywood people, for example.

This has me ask many questions lately. “Why did I love being around game developers so much in the 1980s and early 1990s? What do I HATE being around game developers today? What is different?”

In the beginning, gamers (not console kids, yes you Atari and NES kids) were not average people. They were way beyond average. For their age group, they were extremely well read, open to new ideas, and, in general, had a higher than average IQ. Gamers were also nerds and not ‘cool’. Game developers weren’t in it for the money or fame, on average. The game industry didn’t make that much money back then. Consoles were lucrative, yes, but we’re not talking consoles here at the moment.

Also, the teams of game development were very small or non-existent. And of those game developers, they had to deal with the reality of programming, publishing, and market realities. You can’t do all these things without having a good appreciation of reality.

Today, game development teams have become very, very large. Only a few have to deal with reality. Many on the team get to exist in a ‘limbo’ land where they just have to focus on their art or their map or voice acting or whatever. They don’t have to deal with publishing, that’s for another department! They don’t have to deal with the market. That is for the company’s board to decide. In other words, you have game developers who get to ignore parts of reality… or ignore thought processes needed to understand reality.

What is hilarious is that they all think they understand this reality… when they clearly do not. They don’t have the mental chops to do it. I am watching, and laughing my ass off, at former game developers who ‘want to go indie’. They do not make games, that would mean completing something they started. Instead, they put out a demo. And the feedback to the demo is negative. In response, the ‘former game developers’ go and hold ‘teaching classes’ to teach amateur game makers how to make a game. They thought just because they worked on a hundred or two hundred person game development team, that they understand how to develop, publish, and market a game! Now, their team is like two or five. It is like the employee making classes on how to run a business to the entrepreneur. I can’t stop laughing at the hilarious nature of it all. A map maker for a game dev studio lecturing indie game makers (who have to make the ENTIRE game)! The arrogance is breathtaking.

There are huge chips on everyone’s shoulders that I didn’t see with earlier game developers. The earlier game developers didn’t spend their lifetimes playing games like today’s developers do. They don’t want to admit their lives have been wasted.

The common culture of ‘nerdom’ also isn’t there. I could make a Star Trek reference, and everyone would get it.  Today, the ‘reference’ would probably be an old video game. And by ‘old’, today that means anything before the year 2010 (!). Since pre-2010 is ‘old’, then anything pre-2000 might as well be ‘Before the End of Time’. There are game developers out there who have never played Pac-Man, Asteroids, or Space Invaders. All they know is the games they grew up with.

But going back to the psychosis thing, what attracted me to write this blog in the first place was witnessing an entertainment company, Nintendo, deal with absolute reality. The absolute reality, in this case, was the baby bust of Japan. Demographically, Japan is growing older as Japanese fertility has dropped. Nintendo said, “We cannot rely on the pipeline for children anymore for our games. Therefore, we must sell to non-traditional markets.” Disruption and Blue Ocean Strategy were really Nintendo dealing with the reality of Japan’s population trends.

Most people do not have the stamina to deal with such issues. Since Nintendo is a serious company, their board or someone has to look at this reality and guide the company through its waters. THIS is what your average game developer doesn’t have. Oh, they will talk ‘demographics’ and ‘markets’ and shit all day long.

I’m seeing some game directors express a similar complaint: many game developers lack life experience. For example, have you ever had a sales job?

“I want to make games, Malstrom! What does SALES have to do with game development?”

Like… everything? Remember the E3 PS3 announcement when the game dev went out and talked… well, might as well show you.

Above: Giant enemy crabs were a thing in ancient Japanese battles.

I feel like gaming has become the new Hollywood, and everyone in it is getting Hollywood disease. Instead of starving actors trying to get a shot at ‘big time’, it is a generation of ‘starving game developers’ who want a shot at the ‘big time’. It’s just sick.

The Game Industry labor standards exploits this mercilessly, just like Hollywood did. If the masses can turn on Hollywood and mainstream sports, they can turn on the Game Industry.

I think a possible future of gaming will be mass game development. Everyone will be making their own games, just like how everyone makes their own Youtube videos. More and more people are tired of the crap.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 22, 2020

Email: Why so many cinematic games

Dear Master Malstrom,

In response to your recent post about why people buy cinematic games despite there being no replay value, I think that there are a lot of people who just want a great cinematic experience. Of course, movies do a much better job at providing this at a much cheaper cost, and that’s why these cinematic games have failed to expand the gaming audience because the best cinematic games will never be able to compete with the best movies.

But I think the reason we get these cinematic games is not just because the developers are Hollywood wannabees who want to tell their stories. I think it’s a money issue as well.

Disney provides an interesting example. Over the past three decades, they keep jumping in an out of the video game business. They just have never felt comfortable making video games because, unlike with television and movies, you have less control over the production schedule and costs. With a movie, you can force it to be made within a certain time period. With video games, there are technical issues that can come up that can’t be fixed by simply throwing money at them. These delays are especially costly for companies like EA that need to release games on schedule if they don’t want their quarterly earnings to be negatively affected.

Making great games is hard. I think that’s why so many game developers, rather than make real games, instead try to make great experiences. A cinematic game like Super Mario Odyssey can provide a great experience, but since there’s no replay value it can’t be considered a real game. But these cinematic games can’t possibly have the type of technical challenges that a game like Wii Sports does. Or Rocket League. So making these games does make financial sense, in the short run anyway. But in the long run, it’s a losing strategy because these games will never make gaming more popular.

An indie game developer told me, “The reason why I want to make games is because I want to tell stories.”

I was too utterly shocked to respond. That sentence is as absurd as ‘I want to do radio because I want people to see my wonderful visuals.’

As readers know, I can rant. And when I rant or propose one of my ideas, radical, horrible, disgusting ideas such as ‘games should revolve around the player, not the developer’, oh my my! They become hostile!

I’m beginning to suspect that the ROT in the game industry, which has been going on for decades now, is the fundamental misunderstanding of the medium.

Look at Star Trek. New Star Trek has great actors, great special effects, great props, great music scores… the craftsmanship is great. But the problem is a misunderstanding of what Star Trek is. It makes everything turn to crap. You can see this occur in other shows such as Star Wars.

Is Modern Gaming crappy because of the lack of talent and lack of hard work? No, There are people who work very hard and have tremendous talent. They just don’t understand the nature of video games.

But what is the nature of this misunderstanding? Is it INNOCENT as in, say, the early days of game development when there was zero market data because there was no market? Game developers made many mistakes then. Or is the misunderstanding GUILTY, as in a conscious choice to misunderstand the medium?

“Why would anyone choose to misunderstand the medium?”

For the same reason why someone would CHOOSE to misunderstand Star Wars or Star Trek.

Did Sakamoto innocently misunderstand Metroid to make Metroid: Other M? I doubt it. I believe it was a conscious choice. Sakamoto had a ‘vision’, a ‘dream’. He saw the game as a vehicle for his imagination.

I believe this is happening everywhere in the ‘game industry’ and even with indie game makers. The difference is that the indie game maker just has their ‘story game’ fail with no one watching. The AAAAAAA (I love adding As) developer just eats it because he or she believes they will one day have a shot as ‘game director’ will they will grace us with their ‘brilliant story’.

The AAAAAAA games don’t sell because of the games, they sell because of the rich craftsmanship of the assets. Graphics do sell. But not forever. Soon, the game is in the bargain bin. Meanwhile, Nintendo games and games such as Chrono Trigger keep selling and selling with little to no price reductions.

The nature of game making is to let the player be the actor. The ‘narrative way’ is reducing the player to a puppet, constantly being pulled a direction by the strings.

I believe the big reason why every game became an RPG was so game developers could dump STORY into their game. But RPGs are not about stories either. If you really dive deep into RPGs, even ‘classic’ ones such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6, the story is almost nonsensical. What those games had was world building (and world destroying too). They provided a great stage for the player to act upon.

Richard Garriott never cared about stories in his RPGs, even though people (like the Dragon Quest creator) assumed RPGs were about stories. Garriott, a son of an astronaut, wanted to go to outerspace. Since he couldn’t do that due to health reasons, he did the next best thing: create a virtual world. RPG, which stands for Role Playing (not systems, not story), means it is a game about role playing. However, the world must be fully realized.

The purpose of the ‘story’ was simply to give the player a REASON to be in that world.

If you look at the ‘stories’ of your favorite games, I bet the stories are non-existent. Super Mario Brothers. Legend of Zelda. Metroid. Even the Dragon Quests and Final Fantasies have really bad stories. But what is compelling, and what the players remember, are the worlds these games exist in. The sequels are, in many ways, another trip to that world.

I believe developers want to revel in their creativity and storytelling, deliberately misunderstanding games, instead of allowing the PLAYER to embrace HIS creativity and HIS storytelling. There is a reason why Minecraft is a massive juggernaut, and it has nothing to do with Notch’s ‘creativity’ or ‘story telling’ skills. It is one of those few games that truly allows the player to make his own story and explore his own creativity.

Most games are inside out. The games keep looking to the developers to provide it with story, creativity, and passion. Instead, the games need to look to the player for story, creativity, and passion.

I think, emailer, you were spot on when you said, “Hollywood doesn’t like that they lose CONTROL when making a game.” Not even game developers like losing control which is why you can easily rate the quality of game developers based on how much control they give to players. One of the secrets to Miyamoto’s success is the precise control he gives the player. Miyamoto’s games are always giving to the player, giving, giving, and more giving. The great imagination you see in Mushroom Kingdom or Hyrule is your own.

Shakespeare was said to hold up a mirror to nature. But a game developer must hold up a mirror to the player. “Only the player has the right to be selfish,” said Iwata.

Master Malstrom,

I wanted to get your take on sexual harassment allegations that are now flooding the game industry. While I’m sure at least some of these allegations are true, I’m concerned that people’s lives may be destroyed based on mere allegations. Bottom line, allegations alone should not be enough to get someone fired. There needs to be real evidence, and the accuser should have to come forward and press charges. Otherwise, we may be creating a world where any man’s life can be destroyed on a whim. This will only hurt, not help, women in the long run because there are already reports of companies refusing to hire women because it now seems too risky.

Sexual abuse allegations rock the game industry again


This isn’t just going on in video game ‘industry’, it is going on throughout the entertainment industry. You ask for my take, so here it goes.

Once upon a time, there was a woman named Jeri Ryan. This is what she looks like:

Jeri Ryan

Now that I have the readers’ attention, let me show you another photo of her.

NOW you remember Jeri Ryan.

Jeri Ryan’s divorce records were unsealed and information in it was used politically. Her former husband was running for Senator.

“I do not understand,” sniffs the reader. “I like the pictures, but what does Jeri Ryan have to do with anything?”

There is a philosophy out there that says the best way to defeat opposition is to level the playing field. Why beat the other team? Just get them thrown out of the game. The Senate candidate would withdraw his nomination. Sure, the GOP threw in another candidate at the last minute (an Alan Keyes), but the race was pretty much over. Who was the opponent? Who walked into office with little opposition?

Barack Obama.

He actually attempted to do this on the presidential field. McCain was to be deemed ‘ineligible’ to run for president because he wasn’t a ‘natural citizen’. The point here is the goal is to ‘clear the playing field’. Disqualify the opponent. Throw them out of the game. Lately, Obama and his organizations have been focusing heavily in entertainment.

Sexual harassment is a means to ‘disqualify’ someone and ‘remove them from the field’ entirely. It is an easy means to take someone out and put someone else in.

I consider nearly most ‘sexual harassment’ charges to be weaponized. It puts the person on defense and mostly they cannot withstand the legal fees or the dirtying of their name and reputation.

I don’t think people like to think of entertainment being politically weaponized, especially gaming, but there is more and more emphasis on it lately. For example, the NFL, NBA, etc. doing BLM anthems and such is a form of political weaponizing.

Don’t think of it so much of ‘sexual harassment’ but as a ‘political weapon’ designed to take someone out. Then, someone else gets to control that entertainment apparatus.

(To give further example that ‘clearing the playing field’ is still going on, remember the ‘Access Hollywood’ tapes on Trump right before the 2016 election? They thought their political opposition, candidate Trump, would resign right then or become politically crippled. THIS is why they were so shocked on election day. Other attempts have been made to ‘clear the playing field’ such as, say, impeachment. Lately, I have seen more direction of them attacking the election system itself, to disqualify the election if they cannot disqualify the candidate, so that will come into play soon.)

There is a myth that people’s political and cultural beliefs are formed through entertainment, that politics flows downhill from culture. If you take over entertainment, then you should take over politics, right?

But this isn’t happening at all. What is happening, instead, is the ‘go woke, go broke’ phenomenon. You have to ask if these entertainment creators are SO STUPID to make their work so brazenly lecturing their audience. Did everyone in Hollywood lose their minds? They’ve always been political, but they haven’t been so heavily weaponized before.

There is the belief that games like ‘Call of Duty’ or maybe RPGs are causing the ‘political opposition’ because it normalizes freedom fighting, people running around and shooting with guns, strong men, and so on. The real answer is that games are made the way they are is because that is what SELLS. Kids love Contra for the same reason kids loved GI Joe, or why kids love Call of Duty.

There is much political interest now in gaming because gaming is blamed for the rise of ‘Alt-Right’. Young people get into gaming, and then they ‘fall into the Alt-Right’. There is a belief that these entertainment studios and commentary must be taken over so ‘proper content’ can be made.

I just have to laugh at it, especially on the gaming side. Gaming cannot become politically weaponized because games do not make narratives or stories. It’s as absurd as someone trying to politically weaponize rollercoasters or toys.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 21, 2020

NOA should fire their marketers

Red Bull did it.

I bet the weakest link at Nintendo is going to be the marketers. They’re probably the ones screaming ‘Can’t go to work because I will die!’ hysteria. I think the marketers are also the ones behind much of the nonsense going on. For example, the Aunt Janine syrup or Uncle Ben’s Rice logo changes, that belongs to marketing. I’d rather they get the corn syrup out of the syrup.

Marketers are not engineers or developers. They’re not even testers. They’re just salesmen. But they are also the vital communication link between the company and the customers.

I say just fire the marketers. If they aren’t working now, then they aren’t going to change. Just have a NOA person record themselves playing the game. BOOM! We don’t need a ‘fancy, quality’ direct. Who cares?

These marketers are way overpaid. With Nintendo selling everything they supply, why need marketers in the first place? It’s high time for them to go.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 21, 2020

Email: Nintendo’s Switch Problem

Hi Sean,
I had emailed you earlier this year talking about if Nintendo could execute in the current the Corona virus environment, which is causing many to work from home. With the recent dearth of first party Nintendo releases in the seven months of 2020, it is clear Nintendo is not executing on making games from home. So far this has been a horrible year for the Nintendo Switch and possibly the worst year Nintendo has had in the video game business in terms of first party software releases. At the onset of this generation Nintendo said by merging their handheld and console platforms they would be able to make more games for the Switch. So lets take a look at past and go to the year 2008, 7 Wii first party games released that year in North America. Mario Kart Wii, Brawl, Wario Land shake it, Mario Super Sluggers, Wii Fit, Wii Music, and Animal Crossing City Folk. This does not include the DS games released that year or the first party Wii Ware releases. Last year Nintendo released the most first party releases on Switch thus far, 6. In 2018 the Switch only had 4 first party games released in North America. There is a significant lack of Nintendo games on the Switch. But there is not only a lack of games but there is also a sever lack of quality in many first party titles. The games Nintendo makes today are GameCube and Wii u games. Where is the ambition in Today’s Nintendo that existed during the Wii era. Not mention where are the smaller first party games like Donky Kong vs Mario or Mario & Luigi rpg series. All the first party games on Switch have been console games, where are the smaller handheld games that existed and thrived on the Ds.

There is another much bigger problem with the Nintendo Switch. The Switch allows more ways for the consumer to play. Play on the tv, play on the handheld. Play on the couch or in bed or take the Switch with you while traveling. Because of this so many ways to play the Switch, consumers are playing games for longer hours but also going through the game faster. For example it is easy to play Breathe of the Wild for 120 hours or more, or Splatoon 2 for 100 hours or more and the same can be said for Mario Kart Deluxe and Mario Odyssey and so many other games. As such on Nintendo Switch games are getting stale much faster. After consumers log 80 to 100 hours or more into a game there is nothing new to explore in the game, so they are looking for the next game to play and then the next one after that. On the Switch consumers are content hungry. And ports from older console and indie games can keep them satisfied for only so long. This is Nintendo console and everyone expects Nintendo quality first party titles. So the severe lack of first party titles will be even more devastating. For Nintendo the Switch may start to become a double edged sword. This is a problem that didn’t exist to this extent in the previous console generations. If the current corona virus environment conditions persist in 2021 will Nintendo still have problems on working from home and making enough first party games for the Switch?

I don’t think English is the emailer’s first language.

We’re in a market anomaly. The lockdowns and quarantines have removed Nintendo’s entertainment competition so they don’t have to do anything and watch all their Switch supplies sell out. Nintendo isn’t hurting for money during 2020. So why would Nintendo care?

If the rumors are true, after exhausting 3DS and Wii U’s library of games to port over, now Nintendo is moving on to Gamecube and N64. To me, this is ridiculous and going to hurt Nintendo in the long term. For the moment, Nintendo is raking in the money.

Nintendo has seen first party releases as something to concentrate in the first two years of a console. This establishes a market. Then Nintendo happily allows third parties to sell and enrich themselves from that market. At this point in time, Nintendo would be putting out first party releases for their other console (handheld or console). Since there is only one console, they may be holding stuff so it ships with whatever new hardware they have. Metroid Prime 4 might be to Switch 2 what BoW was to Switch.

During America’s Great Depression, many millionaires and inventions were made. These winners were productive while others were not. I think Covid 19 will do something similar. Those who are being productive today will reap the benefits tomorrow, while those who are in constant ‘crisis’ are going to be seen as standing still.

I don’t know the future of Nintendo because I don’t know what they plan to release. For all I know, the issue isn’t game development but marketing.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 20, 2020

Covid 19 reveals how pathetic Nintendo of Japan has become…

Take a look at this story. It is a story that shifts blame for lack of Nintendo direct (or any news) due to ‘Japanese culture’ in facing the pandemic.

First, this story is infuriating because of the journalist making an apology piece for a company. Second, it is infuriating because Nintendo accepts this story being out there as their public face.

Nintendo is not unique in its struggles to adapt to a work-from-home model. That’s especially true in Japan, where a number of companies were not prepared for this kind of shift. And even weeks after Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe enacted a state-of-emergency, corporations in the country are still trying to catch up. It turns out that you can’t remold Japanese business culture in a handful of weeks.

Is Nintendo an AVERAGE Japanese company? No. Nintendo was doing teleconferences since the 1990s. How else do you think Donkey Kong Country was developed? Also, Nintendo is no stranger to pandemics. I remember laughing at Iwata and other Nintendo execs going into self-quarantine after attending an E3 in America because of the bird flu.

To me, Nintendo was a great company who strove past challenges. Remember how Nintendo sent one of their emissaries into Communist Russia to get an exclusive deal on Tetris. That took balls. That took courage. The Nintendo then was extremely competitive and very difficult company to stop. Today, Nintendo just folds and doesn’t appear to be trying. What a joke.

One of the supposed pros of the Switch was that Nintendo could output more games since Nintendo would just have one console and not two. But where are the games? We don’t know because there is no Direct. However, if rumors are true that the ‘big holiday game’ for this Christmas are N64 and Gamecube ports, what else needs to be said?

Nintendo’s Switch release quality is highly suspect. Generally, every Nintendo Switch game (and even third parties) is a port. There are very few original Switch games. Since Nintendo only has one console, where are the games? Where are they? Why do we have all these ports? And this was BEFORE the pandemic.

Some people are impressed with Switch library, but I believe, and I think history will align with me in time, it is very unimpressive. The Switch is nothing but a Giant Gameboy you can plug into your TV. Everything is a port. The original Nintendo Switch games aren’t winning any awards for their quality. How was that Yoshi game? How was that Mario Party game? While Mario Odyssey came out with big fanfare and a huge hit with kids, is the game actually that good? Many people today say no, that the game is way overrated and disappointing especially compared to prior 3d Marios (which, as the reader knows, I already have problems with).

Apparently, we bought the Switch to play Wii U and 3DS games. And we bought the Switch so we can pay twice the cost for Xbox 360 and PS3 games. And we bought the Switch to pay five times the cost for indie games. The Switch’s hybrid hardware has made OLDER software much more expensive. Is it worth it? The answer belongs to the reader.

But even the hardware has significant problems. The reason why I like Nintendo hardware was of its arcade quality. i like controllers that have good input. I like the simplicity of connecting to a TV and go. I don’t want to play arcade or fast action games (that don’t use a mouse) on a computer. It just feels wrong. Nintendo hardware is an integrated system, the PC is NOT integrated. Therefore, I expect Nintendo hardware to WORK and to KEEP WORKING.

But Nintendo hardware is not doing this. The dock, itself, adds significant input lag making wireless the optimum choice to play (which already has issues). The joycons have drift issues. I’ve had my Xenoblade special edition Pro-Controller die on me. There is no D-pad on the joycons, and the Pro-Controllers, which are way too expensive, have terrible D-pads. How long has Nintendo made D-pads? How could they fuck this up?

The only saving grace to the Switch, the reason why their gamerbase hasn’t revolted, is the physical medium. Carts have pushed software sales and mark-ups on levels that are unbelievable. People will only pay full price for physical mediums. You might get more ‘sales’ with digital, but no one is going to pay premium for digital. They just wait until it is discounted. I see a cottage industry of ‘limited run’ print manufacturing games that do nothing but make indie games into physical carts and sell all their copies.

But the point is, with one console, Nintendo isn’t putting out the games. Nintendo isn’t even putting out TRAILERS to games. How hard can that be? Even I can make a trailer to a game. “It has to be high quality.” More bullshit. All they have to do is just record themselves playing the game and upload it. Seriously, why does Super Mario 64 et all need a ‘high quality trailer’? THESE ARE OLD GAMES. We know what they are. We’ve played them before.

I’m currently typing this from the medical district in Houston. I go to work. I don’t make excuses. So why is Nintendo doing it or allowing others to make excuses on their behalf?

Maybe this is generational of a bigger problem coming up with Nintendo. They don’t seem like movers and shakers with this pathetic attitude we’ve been seeing of late. I like the older Nintendo, Yamauchi’s Nintendo, where somehow the employees figured out ways to get things done. I like the older Nintendo of America who played hardball with fishing Sega games in front of the US Senate as bait (which the Senate bit). The old Nintendo of America would go to Communist Russia to get a deal on an exclusive game, aggressively destroy Atari in the courts, and only ask of politics for politicians to leave video games alone and to leave Japanese products alone (in the 1980s, Japanese products, like cars, were routinely burned). Today, Nintendo of America does gay parades, does Black Live Matter tweets, and resembles nothing of their past selves.

Today, Nintendo can’t even get their act together to make a TRAILER. How pathetic is that?

(Note: I’ll get to emails soon.)

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 16, 2020

Metroid Prime 4 will be Open World

Before I forget about it, I’ll make a prediction about Metroid Prime 4: it will be Open World.

Here are the reasons why I believe this will be the case.

First, any observer of Nintendo knows that the ‘Nintendo way’ of doing sequels is not just to put out a game with ‘more levels’. There has to be a reason, a value proposition. Super Metroid was Metroid remake with souped up 16 bit graphics in a souped up world. Metroid Prime was a Metroid remake with 3d graphics in a souped up 3d world. Can Metroid get away with remaking Metroid Prime again?

I don’t think so. Metroid Prime’s design hinged heavily on Gamecube hardware limitations such as narrow corridors to load in the textures for the next big room. The door would delay until the textures were loaded. Then it would ‘open’, and the player experience was a ‘seamless world’ where, of course, it wasn’t. A Metroid Prime redux would be nonsensical on today’s hardware because of that.

Metroid Prime (as well as 2 and 3) may have a remaster. Nintendo will not make a Metroid Prime 4 when a Metroid Prime Remaster would do the same exact job.

Metroid Prime was all about taking Metroid to 3d. Metroid Prime 2 was all about the multi-worlds laying on top of each other (like Link to the Past). Metroid Prime 3 was about utilizing the Wii-mote. Metrod Prime 4 will be about taking the franchise to a NEW PLACE.

Sakamoto makes an appearance into the blog post.

Metroid Developer Interview - NES Classic Edition – Official Site

Above: Sakamoto

“Hello readers! I am the Sakamoto! The future of Metroid is about CINEMATIC STORY. Of what? Why, of Samus Aran’s MATERNAL INSTINCTS!”

No. Good-bye Sakamoto. Metroid: Other M was definitely a bold direction, but it was a direction the market didn’t like. If anything, Metroid needs to go the OPPOSITE way of Other M. What is the opposite of a cinematic story game?

A game of freedom. An open world game.

“Just because open world is an option doesn’t mean Nintendo will use it!” says the plucky reader.

So if you accept the premise of the first reason, that Nintendo would not be spending all this money on a Metroid Prime 4 unless it had a propelling novel value proposal (NOT something a Metroid Prime remaster would cover), then we come to reason two. Business reasons all point to open world proposition for Metroid.


Zelda: Breath of the Wild is why. Zelda BoW “Wow!” is the best selling Zelda game ever made. I have not heard Nintendo talk about the title lately, but how could they NOT be pleased with it? Plus, the software drove people to buy the hardware which is the purpose of first party software.

The gameplay structures of Zelda and Metroid overlay in many ways. The franchises also appeal to similar audiences. The Metroid gamer is not afraid of  exploring a ‘giant labyrinthine world’. In fact, that would be the definition of the Metroid experience in the first place. Even if it isn’t true, it is WAY closer than ‘maternal instincts’.

Metroid is a very, very sick franchise. If Metroid Prime 4 is not successful, the Metroid franchise will join F-Zero and Startropics in the Nintendo IP graveyard. Nintendo will not be looking to do anything risky. Other M was risky, and it blew up the franchise. From a business perspective, you’d want a sure sell.

What is a ‘sure sell’ value proposition and something Metroid hasn’t done before? Open World.

“But Malstrom,” says the reader in the back. “Nintendo is coming out with Breath of the Wild 2. Why would Nintendo have their Open World games compete?”

This is probably the best criticism against this idea. But this assumes Breath of the Wild will be ‘Open World’. Says who? Nintendo will likely take BoW 2 in a different direction, probably smaller in scope with more ‘story’ (plus, Mega Man abilities since Link transports like Mega Man and has laser and magnet beams and has Dr. Light type NPC give him ‘new weapons’. They ought to just give Link a robot dog at this point).

“What about Metroid Prime 4 being a shooter?”

Like Metroid Prime Hunters? I don’t think so. Nintendo wants shooters on their console since they can’t make them, but Splatoon 2 is already doing that role. Metroid Prime Hunters (which I love) didn’t light the world on fire. But Breath of the Wild did.

If I am sitting on Nintendo’s Board, you see BoW’s crazy numbers and see a dying Metroid franchise. Why not combine the two? When Breath of the Wild came out, my immediate posts were saying that this is where Metroid should go. Metroid Prime is great, but imagine a vast overworld like in BoW? That’d be sweet. Instead of paragliding down, you’d be using the space jump. Instead of towers, you’d have your ship drop you off. You already have ice beams to turn the water solid. Hell, they could just use the same exact engine!

Above: Metroid mod in Breath of the Wild. Watch it before Nintendo Ninjas take it down!

Third, Nintendo keeps taking down videos of the Metroid mod in Breath of the Wild. Nintendo wouldn’t care unless it is too similar to an actual Nintendo product. Nintendo was already putting in motorcycles into breath of the wild, why not a space ship? The game already has laser beams.

As you can tell from the video, Metroid works in Breath of the Wild. The landscape obviously has to become alien looking. Nintendo loves their 3d stuff so this would all fit well.

“But Metroid is not open world!”

OK, Millennial. Whatever people *think* about Metroid genre, it most definitely aims to simulate an open world. In 1986, Metroid was one of the first true FREEDOM games out there. Zelda was the other. You could go anywhere. You were not stuck going one direction like Super Mario Brothers. There were no ‘levels’ like in Super Mario Brothers 2 or 3. Everything was connected.

“But there are items you get which unlock new areas!” There are, but in many ways that is closer to simulating an RPG than ‘puzzle adventure game’. Instead of ‘levels’, you have missile packs and energy pods to collect. The more you get, the easier the game becomes. What would be revolutionary is if Metroid Prime 4 adopted BoW’s Ultima 6 like thinking of ‘many ways to solve a puzzle’ instead of one way. Metroid could definitely use that.

Ultimately, I cannot imagine Metroid Prime 4 NOT being open world at this point. Metroid needs a best selling game. This is not going to come with regurgitating a prior game formula from the past games. A Metroid Prime Remaster would be way cheaper to do if that was the case (which may be coming anyway). Metroid Prime 4 won’t be about ‘cinematic story’ because that was tried with Other M and bombed hard. The FPS has been done by Metroid Prime Hunters and Retro isn’t a FPS company. No, I think there are very strong probabilities for Metroid Prime 4 being open world.

Such games are not easy to make. It may be delayed even until the next console. Nintendo may keep quiet on it for that very reason. Metroid Prime 4 could do for the Switch 2 what BOW did for Switch.

Zelda was a franchise on verge of collapse before BoW. Open World saved the IP. Perhaps Open World can save Metroid.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 9, 2020

Email: Mythic patterns in Mario games

Here is an interesting video which analyzes the arcade Mario games with the
focus on mythological patterns:

There has been said and written more than enough about the history and
mechanics of Donkey Kong and Mario Bros., but there is hardly anything on the
mythos of those games. Your blog was actually the first time I saw someone talk
about the mythos of games as a crucial part and not just superficial window
dressing. Years ago you wrote something similar comparing Samus to the
character of Britomart and that really stuck with me:

It is important to understant that the game designers were not necessarily
aware of these connections, they just happened to emerge because the patterns
are inherent to human nature.

This is way too much over-analysis. Instead of looking at literature, a better comparison would be carnivals and toys. Nintendo was primarily a toy company when Donkey Kong was made. Atari’s founder, Nolan Bushnel, learned much from entertainment by running carnivals. Toys and carnivals have more in common with video games because they all revolve around the player, with the player doing input and the toy/carnival/game doing output. Both Donkey Kong and PONG were market tested in a BAR (of all places!).

One thing he doesn’t mention (didn’t watch it fully so I’m going to assume he didn’t) was the audio. Nolan Bushnel said that spending more money on audio resulted in much, much better sales. Indeed, the audio of these games transcends the dated graphics and have become iconic. Donkey Kong has great sound effects.

If I play NES music, the reader’s mind takes off to flights of imagination. The music has been so, so integral to the video game success. It certainly was with Super Mario Brothers.

Why? I don’t know. Shakespeare said, “How strange it is that sheep’s guts may hail souls out of men’s bodies.” Shakespeare is poetry. Poetry is music. MUSIC endures. Nearly all the ancient literature out there is poetic, meaning musical.

I do know that Blizzard spared no expense for their classic games’ audio. The graphics were so-so, but the audio was top, top notch beyond any other game company then and maybe today. For example, Warcraft 2 came out in 1994. The CD had redbook audio so it doubled as an audio disc. Everyone remembers the “Zug zug” and other lines the characters make. The graphics were slammed and criticized for being too cartoonish, too childish, not very good. When Starcraft came out, it was slammed in its ‘primitive graphics’. The siege tank, in particular, was criticized specifically for ‘looking like crap’. But the audio of Starcraft is incredible.

I think there are universal human nature themes out there. But there is something with the audio, something with the music, that is catapulting the game to mythic heights.

Could Final Fantasy series succeed without its musical composer? He’s clearly a critical part.

When people replay these games, they tell me, “Malstrom, the gameplay seems somewhat dated. The graphics look bad. But the MUSIC! I play these games for the music!”

The visuals are one thing, but they are the most technologically changing part of a video game. What about the audio? What part does the audio play? Is the audio the bell that makes our dog-like brains salivate?

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