When I read pieces like this, not only do I wonder where these guys were a year or two (or three!) ago, I keep noticing the same pattern made by every single analyst/columnist/Game Message Forum Philosopher:
They treat all Nintendo games as having the same quality. In fact, they just call them “Nintendo games”.
Nintendo has a very long history of gaming which is much longer than Microsoft and Sony combined. Not all of Nintendo’s games are of the same quality. And by quality, I mean what the market likes.
For example, people say Pikmin 3 and the Pikmin series is quality. Is it? Based on what? Certainly not sales. The job of first party software is to sell the hardware. Pikmin has not only failed at this, it has always failed. If a Pikmin 4 is made, it is easy to predict that it would fail in selling the Nintendo hardware since the first three had. I would not say Pikmin 3 is a ‘quality’ game. I would say Pikmin 3 is an ‘inferior game’ in regards to the job of selling hardware. Based on the massive amount of resources and development time Pikmin 3 required to be made, Nintendo would likely be better off not having made Pikmin 3 at all!
Is Super Mario 3d World a quality game? Based on what hardware sales? Looking at the entire 3d Mario series, is any of that considered ‘quality’ in terms of selling the hardware? This is arguable. What isn’t arguable is how expensive it is to make 3d Mario and how expensive it is to market it.
I am not saying all quality is based on hardware sales. I am saying that if high development costs and high advertising costs do not deliver a game that moves hardware, the game has failed from a first party perspective. Obviously, some games should be made that have LOW development costs and LOW advertising costs. Those games do not have to move the hardware at the same way the more expensive games do due to their cheaper costs. The reason why these cheaper games should be made is because there is potential for something small to EXPLODE in the market and move the hardware (such as Minecraft).
Are Wii U games the same quality as the Wii games? This is an interesting question. I would say NO.
While I was made well-known for being the guy on the Internet heralding the Wii domination, there was some very important differentiation from me and other various gamers on the Internet. What is different from me and the typical Nintendo fan? I do not believe Nintendo first party software was ‘quality’ on the N64 and Gamecube. I think the quality is also somewhat questionable on the Super Nintendo as well (which is why Nintendo had to get Rare to make Donkey Kong Country to beat back Sega). I believe the hardcore gamer, or typical gaming fan, is less discriminating of quality than most customers. These guys will play nearly any hyped up industry game and write a million message forum threads on it as well giving us a ‘diary of their tingles’ during each stage and event. I believe the more common customer is more discriminating than your hardcore customer. This is why they buy less games instead of more. Quality > Quantity. Hardcore gamers should be renamed to ‘Quantity Gamers’ and gamers who buy and play few games should be renamed to ‘Quality Gamers’.
Nintendo could put out any junk, and gamers will buy it. These are your Quantity Gamers. The question is what about the Quality Gamers? Why happened to cause them to stop buying the games? What happened to the Wii gamers? What happened to the NES gamers? To the SNES gamers? Why can’t Nintendo hold on to its market? Nintendo can hold on to their market in the handheld space, why not on the home console space?
Every competitor to Nintendo in the handheld space looks down at Nintendo’s ‘handheld games’ and believes that offering mobile console-experience games will destroy the ‘Nintendo ghetto’ of handheld consoles. I’ve seen it all. Sega thought Game Gear’s color would destroy the Gameboy. PSP thought its console experience games would destroy the DS. What happened is that Nintendo is very consistent in its handheld space of designing handheld games to perform the job of handheld games. These games are not designed to be console games. They are short, easier to pick-up-and-play, and designed for an ‘on-the-go’ experience.
The design of Wii Sports was not a ‘new trick’ but a return to the NES design of video games as Nintendo literally ripped from its original NES sports games in design and function. Nintendo’s performance in the handheld space remains consistent because it has kept designing games around a certain experience. But the changes of Nintendo’s performance in the home console space remains inconsistent due to VAST CHANGES in designing games around a certain experience. Is it not a coincidence that the two times the Nintendo handheld was in deep trouble was when Nintendo was pushing 3d gameplay? The first was with the DS launch of Metroid Prime Hunters and Super Mario 64 DS. The second was with the 3DS. This is still a generalized view of the differences of the design change Nintendo has made over the years, but it is an example of acknowledging that Nintendo has changed their design. When Nintendo went back to its classical design (Wii Sports, NSMB Wii, etc.), hardware sales shot out like a farg out of hell. Does this mean that Nintendo needs to return to a classic design? No. What it does mean is that changing the Gamecube-esque design philosophy of games will have a higher probability of increasing Nintendo’s sales.
It is clear that Nintendo sacrifices its performance on the home console to shore up support of the handheld console. The console space is not just PS4, Wii U, and Xbox One. The console space also includes Vita and 3DS.
When I look at ‘the console market’, I see absolute Nintendo domination of the handheld market with a sometimes-winning Nintendo in the home console market. I see an often-winning Sony in the home console market and a never-winning Sony in the handheld market. I see Microsoft as failing every time in the home console market and COMPLETELY NON-EXISTENT in the handheld market.
I can conclude nothing but Nintendo and Sony as strong console companies with Microsoft being an abject failure. Discussion of Nintendo going third party is absurd. The discussion needs to be on when Microsoft will go third party. I don’t see how Microsoft justifies its participation in the console market. Major investors also see it this way.
Analysts, commentators, and Game Message Forum Philosophers cannot get the above right. Asking them to look at Nintendo games as having differing flavors of quality which can be measured by market reaction and development/advertising costs seems like asking fourth-graders to do Trigonometry. These people devote their professional or free-time to the world of video games, yet they are unwilling or unable to scratch more behind the service. Making a market analysis by just uttering the words ‘casual’ or ‘hardcore’ is as NONSENSICAL as this ad:
‘Casuals and hardcore gamers’ should be made a mockery meme just like ‘tighten up those graphics on level 3’.
But getting back to point, why do people just make a box called ‘Nintendo games’ and insert all Nintendo games inside it as if they were all the same quality and performed the same job? Is Pokemon the same as Fire Emblem? Of course not. Pokemon actually sells the hardware.
Nintendo’s stumble in the 8th Generation will be used as a soapbox for every commentator/analyst/Gaming Message Forum Philosopher to air their personal grievance against Nintendo. Some will accuse me of doing the same and point to me railing against 3d Mario or Aonuma Zelda. While that may or may not be true, I am doing something very different: I am differentiating the quality levels of Nintendo games. No one else is.