Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 18, 2015

Emails: What about Genyo Takeda?

Several emails on Takeda:

Hi malstrom! I have been reading your entries about the future of nintendo and the next-to-come president and your reasonings about Miyamoto. I agree with you that he may be the “de facto” replacement for the immediate future. I am not sure about liking this idea. I see him as a very arrogant man that cannot accept to be wrong. But hey who knows right?

But what do you think about genyo takeda? he is also one of the current temporary directors. Don’t you think he may be the most probable candidate? he has much more time than Miamoto, he is “young” enough to travel and may has more experience than miyamoto. I don’t know, what are your thoughts about him?

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Hello Master Malstrom

while I do agree that Miyamoto would take teh position I was also thinking that Genyo Takeda could also fir the position or at least be the corporate president, as being the very first Nintendo game designer
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While I’ve agreed that Miyamoto could be a popular choice for President in the eyes of fans, employees and some investors, what about Genyo Takeda?Takeda apparently lead the committee on Iwata’s funeral which Reuters is saying could be an indication he’ll be taking on a leadership role:http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/13/us-nintendo-president-death-idUSKCN0PN00520150713Additionally Takeda was one of the lead developers of the Wii console and was noticeably disenfranchised with the power-race direction gaming was taking around the 6th generation. He’s mostly been involved in the hardware end of things, but when teams under him were involved in making games it was NES-era sports and arcade style games. Seems to me to be the direction you’re always advocating Nintendo to look more into.

And last but not least, we know barely anything about his hobbies or personality quirks, so no “game god” nonsense here.

Takeda may very well become the Nintendo president. The question is: “Does he want it?” Also: “Does Miyamoto want it?” I don’t know. None of them have told me anything. How would I know any of this?
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I do think Miyamoto wants it… at least, he once did. Does he want to just lie back and make small budget games? Miyamoto’s risen to crisis of Nintendo before. Donkey Kong was Miyamoto solving the crisis of Radar Scope, for example. Super Mario Brothers was solving the sales instability of the new game console. Miyamoto’s development career and Nintendo’s business trajectory are not separate and have been deeply interlinked for decades.
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Here is (my) reasoning for tilting the guess to Miyamoto. Presidents are normally chosen by who ‘looks good’ in that chair. You laugh, but it is true. “This guy looks like a bank president. Let us put him in that chair.” Before you guys go, “No, that is impossible! That never happens!” Consider how a president of the United States is chosen. Is not one of the requirements about how they look, act, and sound in the role? Clearly, if TV was around in the day, Abraham Lincoln could never be president with his gangly nature.
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Generally, the president needs to be able to run the company (which Miyamoto can since he is a senior director already), rally the employees (which Miyamoto does), bring confidence to investors (they always ask for Miyamoto to do this and that), and do the PR game well (which Miyamoto is a master). These factors matter now in a Nintendo president because Nintendo used to be more unusual. Let me explain.
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Why was Yamauchi president? It was because he was in the blood line. That is it. That was why Yamauchi was president number 3.
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Why did Iwata become president? It was because Yamauchi hand-picked Iwata as his successor. Takeda mentions this as well in the eulogy. Yamauchi’s family also owned most of the company then too. I do not believe this is the case as it once was.
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So I think the new president will be chosen by more ‘normal’ factors that you see at other companies. The most famous person at Nintendo is Miyamoto. He is also a senior director. It just makes sense. The news media will have a grand time with Miyamoto’s ‘rising’ as it parallels Nintendo’s latest console and new business strategy.
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Now, Miyamoto may not want to be president. Maybe it will be decided Takeda is to become president or even someone else. I don’t know. They don’t talk to me. I don’t see Takeda being the ‘PR animal’ that Miyamoto is. A president of the company has to be a PR animal. Iwata did it. Yamauchi did it too in his own way.
Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 18, 2015

Iwata’s Funeral

The rain didn’t keep more than 4000 from attending.

Takeda gave a eulogy:

As we gather here today for a joint funeral with Nintendo Co., Ltd. and Mr. Iwata’s family, I would like to share my heartfelt condolences. President Iwata, allow me to call you Iwata-san, just as I always used to.

Iwata-san, you left us far too soon. Having just chaired our shareholders’ meeting the other day on June 26, the news of your sudden death has left all the employees overcome with a deep sorrow. The late Yamauchi-san passed the baton to you in naming you the president of Nintendo in 2002, and the two Senior Managing Directors of the company, Shigeru Miyamoto and I, have been assisting and working alongside you. Being rather short-tempered myself, the thing that I am most deeply struck by is that you were a true leader in every sense of the word, overflowing with compassion for people. You always maintained a two-way dialogue, even with the next generation of employees, or with much younger members of the development and marketing teams, or with employees outside of Japan whose different customs and cultures can make communication challenging — sometimes even admitting your own mistakes to them. You demonstrated this through your belief that people could eventually come to understand one another, and your strong conviction that the best way for us to grow is through patient communication, even if it took several times, a dozen times or even seemingly endless discussion.

You succeeded in planting the seed in employees’ hearts that, in order to solve an issue, there is a fundamental cycle whereby you make a hypothesis, execute the plan, see the result and then make adjustments, and by which you have caringly nurtured these seeds to sprout and mature into plants.

Until now, our successors and the younger generation would take a few first steps and then look back at you for guidance because they could not tell if they had chosen the right path. Today they cannot ask for your guidance anymore.

However, I am sure that they have already made the firm determination that they will continue on their own, making the hypothesis, executing the plan, seeing the results and reflecting on the results to improve and adjust by themselves.

In the face of your unbelievable passing it will surely take some time before we can emerge from this deep sorrow. Please know, however, that the seeds you have planted, and the plants that have sprouted will put forth small flowers as they bring smiles to the faces of people around the world, blossom into a grand flower bigger than even you, our leader, Iwata-san. Together with Miyamoto and others of our generation, we swear in our hearts that we will continue our efforts so that, someday, we can report and present to you the blossoming of these flowers. May you continuously watch over and guide us managers, our employees and your family.

On behalf of all of us, I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences and sincerest prayer. May you rest in peace, Iwata-san.

 

This eulogy does tell us some things. The ‘sudden death’ tells me Iwata’s passing was a surprise to everyone. The ‘left all the employees overcome with a deep sorrow’ tells us that morale has been hit. Third, the ‘two Senior Managing Directors’ running the company now are Takeda and Miyamoto.

There has to be a president. Odds are is that it will be Takeda or Miyamoto. Out of the two, I would guess Miyamoto because he is such a public face of Nintendo. The fans love him. The employees love him. The press loves him. Now maybe Nintendo might bring someone else in. I don’t think this is likely especially someone outside The Council. I’ve wondered if Nintendo would be so bold to run around without a president. I don’t think the shareholders would accept that though.

All the ‘change’ talk Fils-Aime and others said at E3 2015 is being interpreted as Nintendo knowing that Iwata was about to die and that ‘big changes’ were in place for when Iwata kicked the bucket. The eulogy clearly shows this not to be true. Not only does Iwata’s colleagues seem surprised at his passing, Takeda vows he and Miyamoto will continue Iwata’s direction. This means Nintendo ain’t going to be making games for Sony or Microsoft consoles. This also means that the ‘change’ talk was what I thought all along: hints of what is to come with the NX and Generation 9. I largely ignored E3 2015 because it is the end of the lifecycle for the 3DS and even the Wii U. I want to know about the NX. I want to know about Nintendo’s online system. I want to know about Generation 9. Nintendo was saying, “Wait until next E3, Malstrom.” Very well.

Gamespot did a fine tribute video for Iwata. Check it out.

 

 

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 15, 2015

Email: Miyamoto

I don’t think there’s any way Miyamoto will be CEO. When Iwata had to field tough questions from shareholders, he may have given some cupcake answers, but you could always tell he knew what he was doing. Can you imagine Miyamoto answering shareholder questions?

You think he could have help on the “business side,” but I’m not sure what a CEO does other than the “business side.” You have to have one big cheese at the company that bears the weight of success or failure. As much as Miyamoto can serve as the public face of Nintendo, he’s way too much of a cartoon character to take that role. He’s like the crazy uncle that you always love to have in the house, but you’d never want as your *dad*.

Nonetheless, Miyamoto is by far the most powerful person at Nintendo now. He’s going to have the final say in who fills that role, so we can expect that the next CEO will be a guy that thinks every Miyamoto idea is brilliant and gives him carte blanche to do whatever he wants and influence every hardware and software decision that is made. In a way, Miyamoto can be CEO by proxy. Is that what you meant in the first place? Hopefully, as you say, Miyamoto has come to terms with what happened with Wii U and 3DS (and Virtual Boy).

But I just don’t know. As you’ve demonstrated, Nintendo has been infected with validation culture. Entire projects and products are devoted to proving that previous failures weren’t bad ideas, they were just ahead of their time. Miyamoto is right at the center of that. I never felt that Iwata was. So we’re hoping for an awfully big about-face in a short amount of time (since, say, the rerelease of Wind Waker). Also, Iwata was a very very humble guy–do you feel that way about Miyamoto? Pride has historically been bad for Nintendo.

 

This is why you are the emailer, and I am the Malstrom.

The Wall Street Journal is speculating Miyamoto as the next possible president.

I’ll let you in on one thing I know: the president needs to be able to travel. This is partially why Yamauchi retired and why a younger Iwata was given the responsibility. Miyamoto travels all the time. That ability to travel may be the most important requirement.

Miyamoto will retire soon. But if you are going to go out, you want to go out on top. Miyamoto has done nearly everything else at the company. Why not be president? The employees would accept it. The investors would be thrilled with it. And the public would love it. Miyamoto is also very good at talking to the press which a president would do often.

It may not be Miyamoto. The business world is about probabilities. The most probable new Nintendo president, from what I know, would be Miyamoto. Yamauchi used to call Miyamoto ‘son’. I don’t see anyone protesting him becoming president. From my limited perspective, he is the most probable successor.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 13, 2015

Iwata’s Balloon Fight Challenge

Here is a video of Iwata doing the Balloon Fight Challenge:

You know what I see?

Iwata isn’t selling a console here.

Iwata isn’t selling a game (unless you count the Virtual Console version of Balloon Fight).

What I see is someone in awe of gaming. He is in awe of how people experience gaming, how gaming is developed, and how it all brings fun into the world.

I liked how he asked: “What was your toughest challenge?” and the answer being Ninja Gaiden for the NES. Back then, Iwata explains, the game makers made games for themselves which is why the games were so outrageously hard. So us 8-bit gamers got placed into super hard games hahahahaha.

One aspect of Iwata’s life that doesn’t get commented on is how Iwata defied his parents to pursue a life in video games. His parents were very unhappy. I imagine his parents thought it was as if he was going to clown school. But Iwata had an optimistic vision for gaming. I’m not sure if his parents are still alive or not, but what better career success is there for a son to become president of a big company?

Iwata’s ‘optimistic’ vision can be illustrated with the Wii and DS, but I think it is better illustrated with his decision to invest his life in it.

You guys are younger. To you, video games have always been around like TV or the Internet. Some of you know how life was like before the Internet. To say, “I want to invest my life in doing stuff on the Internet,” sounds fine today but sounds INSANE thirty years ago.

Video games were not ‘a fact’ or ‘everywhere’ back then. And even back during the PONG days, it is not like every generation experienced it. Parents wouldn’t understand why a kid is playing the games for so long.

Here is a much younger Iwata. He was optimistic about gaming enough to bet his life on it. This was before gaming became ‘popular’. But in many ways, Iwata was part of the reason gaming got ‘popular’. To those who grew up with the DS and Wii, those distinct systems were shaped by him. And you, the old school gamer with your NES cartridge collection, some of your classic games are programmed by him.

He expanded the frontiers of gaming on every front: developing, business, and ones I haven’t seen before. He was the perfect ambassador for gaming.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 13, 2015

So what happens to Nintendo now?

Being this site as Nintendo business centric, I know readers and followers come to see what my take is on a new Nintendo console or a big new Nintendo game. In this case, it is the death of the CEO.

It is not a post I want to write.

However, we live in the cold reality of the world. In entertainment, the ‘show must go on’ and so, too, the ‘business must go on’. Some emailers have asked me to write things about Iwata, and I will do so. But Iwata’s death does bring up a huge ‘what happens to Nintendo now’ moment.

Nintendo’s reaction to this seems similar to ours: we are all shocked. We didn’t expect this. I don’t think Nintendo did either. When Steve Jobs died, Apple expected it. They already had a plan in place. In this case, there is no plan because I don’t believe it was expected.

A bigger issue for Nintendo is morale. The 3DS and Wii U were commercial disasters. Now their beloved president dies?

In the public statement Nintendo put out, note what it says at the bottom:

As a result, the following two Representative Directors remain at the company. Genyo Takeda (Representative Director; Senior Managing Director) Shigeru Miyamoto (Representative Director; Senior Managing Director)

There has to be a new CEO. There has to be someone who can correct the morale problems and win the trust of the investors. There is only one person at Nintendo I know who can do that.

Shigeru Miyamoto.

I believe Miyamoto will become the next Nintendo president. First of all, Miyamoto wants to be president. He was kinda miffed that Iwata was chosen by Yamauchi instead of him. Yamauchi handpicked Iwata remember. They told Miyamoto that he was better off heading off creativity projects. This probably was true.

Also, Iwata was chosen by Yamauchi because there are no real candidates to pick. A business president has to know business and sales and not just be ‘creative’.

I suspect Miyamoto will be elevated as president and they may put a ‘corporate president’ or whoever to help aid him in the business side. Miyamoto may not want the position now and maybe others may not want him as president. But I see him best as filling in that role even just as a figurehead position because Miyamoto represents so much about Nintendo to investors, to the employees, and to gamers. Miyamoto would make a great ‘transitional’ CEO until Miyamoto ‘retires’ when they find someone.

If Miyamoto becomes president, I think the smarting of the 3DS and Wii U along with various games has given him some wisdom. Let’s hope so.

Then again, Nintendo could put someone else up. But the thing is… Iwata was chosen by Yamauchi in part because of Iwata’s youth. You need a younger person to fly around the world and give public presentations and all.

And I almost forgot: Iwata was also CEO of NOA too. That position must be filled as well.

Right now, the NX blueprint has been written, and Nintendo will follow it for the next half decade. But there has to be a CEO. It has to be filled soon too.

What’s going on at Nintendo now? Aside from the sadness, there are emergency meetings going on behind the scenes. What Nintendo does from here, we can only wait and see.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 13, 2015

Iwata the Game God

Satoru Iwata has passed away. Here is the link.

I am not a fan of the term ‘game god’. It implies some developer has become an ‘angel’ and lords over everyone else as ‘worshipers’ of their ‘vision’. The most important entity in the gaming equation is the gamer. But with Satoru Iwata, he was a Game God. He was a game developer. He programmed HAL games and classic Nintendo games. He also understood the business sense of gaming. Gaming, itself, is a very difficult business. This is the reason why Yamauchi picked Iwata to succeed him.

Iwata was not just a passing CEO figure that many companies go through. His statements was a large part of why I began listening closely to the business side of Nintendo.

It was Iwata who said, “The only person who has the right to be selfish is the customer.”

It was Iwata who said, “The programmer does not get to tell the designer what the game cannot do.”

It was Iwata who heralded the revolution. None of us really know what goes on inside Nintendo and its inner workings. But it is clear that Iwata was a big factor behind the DS and Wii. I love Iwata standing before game developers telling them that things need to change. I loved his Heart of the Gamer speech.

Above is Iwata revealing the Revolution controller to the world. “I was greeted with silence,” Iwata remarked later on. “It’s like the crowd didn’t know how to react.” They didn’t!

Above is Iwata telling us about the Revolution.

While others are doing ribbons and other various things, I think it is best to put the spotlight on Iwata’s integrity when it came to gaming. From the business side to developer side, he wasn’t shaped by events but shaped them.

Honestly, I’m so shocked by the news that I cannot summon up words to say things. Anything I imagine I could say would seem so inadequate. It’s all such a damn shame.

When I think of Iwata, I think of class. I have read nearly every word Iwata has said to the public for almost a decade. Never did he say anything disparaging of another, never did he sound pessimistic, and never did he crap on anyone. As gamers, Iwata represented the best things we loved about Nintendo. But as a businessman, he represented the best things about business.

Why does it feel that we lost a friend today?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 10, 2015

Rocket Arena should be Mario Kart’s Battle Mode

Going to go through my email soon, but meanwhile…

There is a new game out called ‘Rocket Arena’. The reader should look it up and see the gameplay. It is basically cars  going around and hitting balls into goals. “But that sounds like Federation Force!” No….. As soon as I saw Rocket Arena, I thought that was how Mario Kart’s Battle Mode was.

Mario Kart’s Battle Mode used to have the carts hop around and use physics (in its primitive way) to create a fun and exciting little game. It’s a shame Nintendo doesn’t seem to get Battle Mode. Why have 200 CC and all this other DLC but not give us a good Battle Mode? How about a Bob-Omb Mode too while we’re at it?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 4, 2015

Is the IQ of gamers falling over time?

Let’s consider.

In the past, there were three distinct forms of video games. There were arcade games, PC games, and later on console games. Console games are games that are unable to be played on PC and the arcade. The first true console game would be the original Legend of Zelda. It was too elaborate to be an arcade game, but too fast paced to work on the PC. As Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter revealed the game, it was the ‘best of both worlds’. While many pre-16 bit games were arcade ports or PC game ports, many fully fleshed console games came to be. You couldn’t play Super Metroid in the arcade. But it doesn’t work quite right on the PC as well.

What IQ is there needed to play a video game? Very little in fact. This is evident in that children playing video games. PONG does not require a high IQ. I’ve noticed the lower the IQ a game has, the more it grants in ego or false accomplishment.

The home console games lost their edge when the Internet allowed all maps and hints to be easily revealed.

Today, console games are something else entirely. They are like PC games stripped of all mechanics and gameplay. I find most console games to be unplayable today.

But with the PC, did PC games cater to lower IQ people over time? We have gone from Apple IIs to Commodore 64s to IBM clones all the way to smartphones. Since it required more money to buy a PC back in the day and more time to set it up, one could make the argument that IQs were higher back then for PC gamers. But then again, PC games haven’t exactly been simplified. A MMORPG is far more complex than the early RPG games. Starcraft 2 is far faster paced than Starcraft 1 and Starcraft 1 wipes the floor with Warcraft 2 in its complexity.

One thing I don’t remember is people spending so much leisure time playing video games. The largest, beefiest games then were games like Ultimas or Civilizations. But compare Civilization 1 and 2 to 3, 4, and 5. It takes a week to play one game of 3. It wasn’t that way with 1 or 2. An Ultima game can take a good month, but it was not that different from an early Final Fantasy game in time usage. It was a meaty open world game. Ultima Underworld was amazing. But the game did not go on forever like Minecraft.

Then there are the smartphone games. No one will argue these smartphone games are the epitome of IQ. But it is not evidence of lower IQ.

What I believe is happening is not that games are dumbing down or that gamers are getting less IQ over time but…

Gamers are becoming less and less interesting as time goes on.

And do you know why, fair reader? It is because as gaming, as a leisure time, grows and swells to occupy people’s time, they have less time to do other things and become interesting.

Gamers used to be prolific readers. This is why adventure games were popular and why early RPGs had mountains of text in them. There used to be big beefy manuals. Today, gamers are not stupid because they do not read, gamers simply devote more time to gaming instead of reading (or whatever).

Gamers of the past used to go on more real life adventures. The Atari 2600 did not keep guys from meeting girls. However, World of Warcraft does.

Another darker way to look at this is that as a people who are getting poorer in society. With inflation adjusted, the minimum wage of the 1970s would equal the purchase power of $25 today. As people become poorer and poorer, they spend more and more time inside the Virtual World.

Is gaming becoming the medium for poor people? Look at your popular streamers. They can barely afford their rent. With things like Free-To-Play becoming more prominent, it is harder to hide the fact that to be a gamer is to be a poorer person. The hardcore gamers are the most uninteresting because their life achievements are Virtual World achievements.

And the big reason why commercials wouldn’t work in gaming is because gamers tend to be too poor to afford anything.

Gamers do have to eat and drink. Hence, this is why the marketing is doritos and mountain dew.

The growth of gaming in a person’s week of time comes in part of the decline of television and other hobbies. Games can still be interesting why television has become terrible. Even many books have become terrible so why read them? People tell me, “Malstrom, the gamers are not going to the woman. How do we fix this?” I say to them: “Why assume the problem is with the gamers? If a flesh and blood woman cannot compete with a video game, then something tells me there is a big problem with the woman. Is she fat? Does she have a crappy personality and not fun to be around? These would all be reasons for gamers to keep gaming.”

While gamers have increased their gaming and have become less interesting, the alternatives to gaming have really gone to the crapper and become uninteresting.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 4, 2015

Email: “Thief vs. AAA Gaming”

A video essay. I don’t agree with every point he makes, but he makes many good points. Namely, that modern game developers add in certain popular game mechanics without thinking about what their impact on they would have (like mini-maps or quest markers), modern AAA gaming’s obsession with “empowering” the player (a game is about what the player CANNOT do just as it is about what the player can do), and other things.

 

There is a much simpler way to look at this.

The first few Thief games were designed for PC. Thief 2014 was designed for console. End of story.

Now it is time to make a very controversial statement. I’ll save it for the next post.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 3, 2015

Email: Link is “not masculine”

I caught this recent interview between IGN and the director of the Zelda: Four Swords 2 game. If anyone needs another example that a) Nintendo doesn’t understand their own IPs nor their fans and b) Nintendo is obsessed with their “Vision”, here it is:

IGN: I guess I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t express some slight disappointment with that, especially because there is a Zelda outfit Link wears in the game. It just feels like it’s one step closer to giving the Zelda series’ female audience the chance to explore that universe from another perspective.

Shikata: Understood. I understand what you’re saying, and just as general information, we do have a lot of female staff members who are playing this game and enjoying it. It doesn’t seem to be a big issue to them. They still are getting emotional investment in this game. And to be honest, Link isn’t the most masculine of guys in the world, depending on how you want to project yourself into the character.

If they’re already giving players a cutesy wardrobe of dress-up clothes, how hard is it REALLY to add in female characters? Oh, you can sure dress up like a bomb-Link or a Goron, but it would break the expertly crafted storyline (lol) if they allowed you to be a female.

What really takes the cake is Nintendo responding “Link isn’t the most masculine of guys in the world” to why there aren’t women. As if they’re admitting “Link is an effeminate sissy, so it’s pretty much like playing a girl, right?”

I would be zero surprised if playable Zelda shows up in the next mainline Nintendo game, and then Nintendo will expect us to be surprised and impressed. They did the same thing with Peach: it was “too hard” to add her moveset into NSMB U (even though Luigi U had totally different physics….) but she showed up in Super Mario 3D World just fine.

 

What other perspective could there be? Nintendo already made a Princess Peach game where Peach saves Mario.

The real reason why people want to play Zelda in a Zelda game has nothing to do with ‘her perspective’ but everything to do with more gameplay options. Zelda uses arrows and spells. Adding in Zelda is like adding in the Wizard to Gauntlet or the amazon in Golden Axe.

Nintendo is responding to a crazy person here. What other perspective could a ‘female’ have? Does playing Metroid with Samus somehow make that a different perspective since Samus is a girl and not a guy? These crazy people suffer from a type of political cancer to the head. All they see is politics, and they cannot get away. They probably even politicize their dinner!

One of the big changes with Zelda is who plays Zelda. Girls did not really play Zelda back in the 8-bit and 16-bit generation. Now, girls did play Ocarina of Time and some of the other Zeldas (though I have hear girls, like everyone who thinks Ocarina is the bee’s knees, totally hate Wind Waker. Those who like Wind Waker are probably younger than 20 at the moment).

We can’t get a Zelda where Link becomes a badass with a sword and rips through enemies because Nintendo fears that might alienate the female demographic. This might explain why Link has been so wussified lately. NPCs talk to him about feelings to NPCs and performs ‘puzzles’. In the past, NPCs would give the clue and shut the hell up because they are NPCs and do not matter.

What will Zelda U contain? Probably some girl stuff. By girl stuff, I mean Facebook stuff. Link will probably grow a farm and raise vegetables like farmville. Link will also gather apples and give them to a NPC to make that NPC’s feelings happy.

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