Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 18, 2014

Nintendo’s problems are all due to one thing: making bad games

This one thing will cut all the crap you’re hearing about Nintendo currently (and there is quite a ton of crap): Nintendo has been making poor quality games.

Is it not amazing how no one ever mentions this? I remember being a bystander during the N64 and Gamecube days and hearing everyone assume the games are ‘great’ yet some demon-spawn in marketing or business side was preventing the sales.

Everyone admits that software sales cause console sales. When Nintendo consoles sell, Nintendo declares this is due to their incredible software. Yet, when Nintendo consoles don’t sell, Nintendo never admits it is due to mediocre software. No, no, the problem is in the marketing, in the ‘business strategy’, or something else. Shigeru Miyamoto still blames the failure of the Virtual Boy to be on the marketing. Could it not be that the games and their experience was something people didn’t want to buy?

Are Nintendo developers so psychotic that they believe every video game they make is something everyone wants?

I’ve been around the block. Donkey Kong was a fantastic game. This is why it sold well. Donkey Kong Junior was also great. Donkey Kong III, on the other hand, was not that good of a game.

The NES did not sell due to ‘business strategy’ or ‘marketing’. It sold due to quality games. Without quality games such as Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda, the NES would not have sold no matter what ‘business strategy’ or ‘marketing’ was deployed. Quality games create sales. Mediocre games create losses. The Sega console was no threat until quality games began to appear on it such as Sonic the Hedgehog.

When the Atari Jaguar collapsed, no one thought it was because of ‘poor business strategy’ and ‘bad marketing’. Everyone knew it was due to mediocre games.

When the PSP failed to continue momentum, everyone knew the answer was that the PSP games were mediocre to the handheld experience people wanted. The ‘business strategy’ and ‘marketing’ were just fine. It’s the games. It is always the games. High quality games, despite poor business handling and marketing, still find a way to succeed much of the time. But a bad game can never fully succeed even if the marketing and business handling were sent from heaven. All marketing does is just bring attention to the product. If the product is bad, the marketing isn’t going to work.

Some might say it is a coincidence that Nintendo’s woes began when their consoles began focusing on 3d. With the handheld facing troubles when it began to focus on 3d, we know this is not a coincidence.

During the Gamecube Era, no one, not Nintendo fan, game journalist, Pachter-esque analyst, ever criticized the games. In fact, EVERYONE praised the games! The problem was always *something else*. It was the marketing. It was the brand. It was the perception. It was business strategy. In order to find anyone critical of the games, you had to go back to the Old School Gamers who were the ones responsible for Nintendo’s initial rise.

Unknown to many, there has been a type of hidden war between Nintendo developers and their original fans. Any business analyst, who actually played video games, would curiously note that Super Mario Brothers series was discontinued in 1991 with the release of Super Mario World only to be replaced by a 3d adventure game starring Mario. It would be like saying Pac-Man II was the actual continuation of Pac-Man. Any business analyst, who actually played video games, would also curiously note the radical shift in Zelda games to go from arcade RPG to puzzle quests. Any business analyst, who actually played video games, would be dumbfounded that while computers and all of video games were embracing the Internet, Nintendo games kept pursuing 3d technology as if stuck in a mid 1990 time-loop.

And why is it that the so-called Nintendo fans rarely play Nintendo games? Why don’t they play the original Nintendo games or show any curiosity about how they came about? All they do is replay N64 and Gamecube games and are shocked, shocked I tell you, that someone like me would suggest that Zelda is not about ‘puzzles’, that Mario is not about ‘collecting things’, and Metroid is not about ‘maternal instincts’. And, of course, anything Nintendo says is like utterances from an Oracle. I recall wondering here on this site about the characterization of the Super Mario Br0thers universe was remarkably like Alice in Wonderland. Miyamoto then publicly said how Mario did not come from Alice. The Nintendo fans echoed what Miyamoto said with no curiosity or fact-checking of their own. I had to link to a business interview Miyamoto gave a few years earlier where he stated, as master of fact, that ‘we began to look at Alice’ when they made Super Mario Brothers. Just this holiday, I ran into an old school gamer who said he heard Miyamoto give an interview saying that he thought Zelda II was the ‘Black Sheep’ of the series (which gave the gamer confusion as he loved the game). Never once did the gamer consider that Miyamoto was full-of-shit as sales records will indicate (black sheep indeed…). My point is that Nintendo developers, especially ones like Miyamoto, have been inoculated from any and all criticism. Every game they make is supposedly ‘high quality’ and if it doesn’t sell, then we apparently didn’t “understand” its high quality. I believe this mentality of thinking is what has delivered Nintendo to where it is today.

If quality games sell consoles, what should we make of Wii Sports and Wii Fit? Are they not, indeed, quality games? By bizarrely, everyone, analysts, Nintendo fans, and game journalists, consider Wii Sports and Wii Fit to be low quality video games and games like Wind Waker and Super Mario Galaxy to be high quality video games. We all know that Wii Sports is responsible for much of Wii’s success. Yet, we keep hearing about Wii’s success being a ‘gimmick’, a ‘marketing trick’, or something else. Wii apparently wasn’t successful due to high quality video games. It is this type of intellectual dishonesty flooding the gaming-sphere that makes Nintendo hard to understand to people. Nintendo is not hard to understand when you are honest about things.

In the entertainment business, honesty matters most of all. The writer who wants to write based on his or her ‘tingles’ is not going to succeed based on someone who writes based on trying to write a book people want to read.

Are Nintendo developers interested in making games people want to play? Or are they interested in their own tingles? Everything is showing that they see making games people want to play as ‘chores’ and following their own tingles to be ‘the way things ought to be’. The examples are numerous from Sakamoto and ‘Metroid: Other M’ to Miyamoto trying to force every Mario fan to like 3d Mario to Aonuma declaring everyone now accepts Wind Waker as he keeps making sequels to it. (I bet that Zelda Wii U will be made in the Wind Waker style. Aonuma already said the Zelda Wii U trailer will NOT be what Zelda is like and the re-release of Wind Waker for Wii U was to prepare people for a similar game to follow.)

Nintendo’s behavior is quite curious during the Wii U. Nintendo didn’t seem upset or panicked at all during Wii U’s collapse early on. After all, the Nintendo games on the system were games Nintendo didn’t want to make such as NSMB U (which is why it was scheduled as a launch game to get it out of the way). Bizarrely, Nintendo was saying to everyone how they thought Wii U would explode later on to sell 9 million units. What were the games Nintendo was basing this on? It was games they wanted to make such as Mario in 3d World which got an INSANE amount of advertising. On some gaming forums I was looking at (just to keep track of what the hardcore are saying), they were cheering the ‘genius’ of 3d World combining 2d Mario and 3d Mario and how any sales of NSMB U was due to it being a pack-in, that everyone just wanted 3d World. In this psychotic universe, these people actually thought 3d World was a quality video game that would sell the hardware. It did not. We must consider that it is not a quality video game.

When an entertainer says ‘find a new business model’, that is code for ‘find a financial way to do what we want’. What Iwata is signalling is not that Nintendo will change its ways but that Nintendo will continue on the same failing obsessions their developers have been stuck on.

I’ve been cheering the Nintendo collapse with the 3DS and Wii U because business reality would discipline Nintendo developers to make games that people want, that even I want. It would force Nintendo to return to their Wii or NES like ways and forever abandon the Gamecube-esque ways.

Nintendo’s level of stubbornness is at a level that even I underestimated. Nintendo has no intention of abandoning their Gamecube-esque ways. They are interested in it no matter what. In fact, Nintendo probably wouldn’t even mind not making consoles since that meant they wouldn’t have to make games they don’t like such as 2d Mario or Wii Sports.

Remember how I was saying the next shoe to drop would be when Sony and Microsoft consoles would outsell or be on the course to outselling the Nintendo console? Nintendo doesn’t accept ‘failure’ as not selling but as in other people outselling them. Iwata just said Nintendo is interested in ‘winning’. REALLY? What was all that talk about ‘non-competing’? As everyone knows now, Iwata is full of it. Nintendo is interested in their own prestige.

What is considered to be ‘winning’? If we meant by consoles sold, then Iwata’s statement makes no sense. Nintendo is ‘winning’ in the handheld market and has always won in the handheld market. Nintendo ‘won’ last generation with the Wii. So what if they screwed up one generation? Yet, Iwata’s response is like a child who’s upset and wants to take his ball home. His reaction is totally over-the-top. Folks, they are PISSED, PISSED, PISSED that 3d World was a dud.

My reaction to all this is that I can’t stop laughing. I’ve never seen a large business behave in such a manner. Imagine if Sony’s response to people not buying the PS3 for Blu-Ray was ‘Well, we’ll just stop making game players then! GRRRRR….’ We’d all be laughing our asses off at Sony. So we should feel free to laugh our ass off at Nintendo’s childish response.


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