We need to work even more closely with the U.S. team,” to make sure preferences in the U.S. are reflected at the development stage, Iwata said. The U.S. historically has comprised 40% to 50% of Nintendo’s sales, he noted.
I didn’t know about that story with Pikachu. Back then though, we are talking about the graphics capability of the Gameboy. Everything had to be more iconic then. Everything has to be more ‘concentrated coolness’.
It’s not so much that I want Nintendo devs to get in touch with American views (whatever that means), I want Nintendo devs to get in touch with gamers’ views. Even the Japanese gamers enjoy playing Western video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. I want there to be more of a connection, less of a wall, between the world of gamers and the world of Nintendo developers. A good example of this divide is Metroid: Other M. The game offered a vision of Metroid that was in sharp contrast to how gamers view Metroid. The reason why Metroid Prime was successful was because that divide was not there. Retro people understood how gamers saw Metroid. No one saw Metroid Prime as a sharp contrast to what Metroid is. Some people didn’t like the 3d gameplay, but no one said, “This doesn’t feel like Metroid.” When a game company uses an established franchise, they need to know the expectations of gamers for that franchise. We have certain definitions for a game like Mario, Zelda, or Metroid. If a Mario game started acting like Zelda (such as lighting four torches to open a door), people will notice and knock the game for it (as Eurogamer did in their review of Super Mario Galaxy).
If Nintendo devs want total freedom with definition, they should make new IPs. Looking back, I think one of the reasons why NES Era was so exciting was because EVERY Nintendo game was a new IP. There was no Donkey Kong 4 or Mario Brothers 2. It was SUPER Mario Brothers or Zelda or Metroid. I even appreciate Super Mario World’s new Dinosaur Land over re-visiting Mushroom Kingdom. Dinosaur Land was fun to explore.
I don’t think this is an East vs. West problem as it is an Isolation problem. Consider Ultima 9. Ultima fans had expectations for what an Ultima game was. Richard Garriot was determined to push 3d. This was a big problem because Origin used 3dfx for development when everything was going Direct X. 3d technology hadn’t been stabilized (and let’s not talk about all of Ultima 9’s bugs).
What Ultima fans wanted was a more isometric type Ultima with huge exploration and having a party. More like Ultima 7, less like Ultima 8. Richard Garriot was obsessed over 3d and wanted Ultima 9 to be ‘omg 3d’. Ultima 9 was an impressive 3d game when it came out. However, today no one cares about the ‘omg 3d’ in that game as it has been soundly surpassed by every other game that has come out. Yet, the unique qualities of games like Ultima 7 or Ultima 4 are fondly remembered.
The problem was that Richard Garriot or his team got isolated. Maybe the success of Ultima Online went to their heads. They were moving Ultima in a direction its fans did not want it to go. While fans shouldn’t hold a game franchise hostage, this was a case of the franchise losing its integrity, losing its ID. It would be like Metroid with dialogue and narrative action. It would be like Zelda with trains. It would be like Mario flying through the cosmos on a starship. It just doesn’t fit the game experience. Ultima 8 was hated because of the platforming. Ultima fans are not opposed to platforming. They are opposed to platforming in Ultima which is not the reason why they play the franchise. Platforming is associated with Mario. But role playing is not associated with Mario.
Warcraft 3 and Starcraft 2 are interesting examples of this phenomenon. Did Warcraft 2 players balk at Warcraft 3’s vast gameplay changes with hero based gameplay and turning the orcs noble? Yes. But Warcraft 3 brought a ton of new stuff to the table such as the Undead, the Night Elves, and the building blocks of the universe that would become World of Warcraft. Starcraft 2, in comparison, felt like a betrayal with the game’s universe due to how the campaign was performed. Why did Raynor suddenly love Kerrigan? That doesn’t make sense since he vowed to kill her in Starcraft 1. Offering one race’s single player campaign at a time really cheapened the RTS experience as RTS players have the expectation of multiple perspectives in a single player campaign. Note how Warcraft 3 had four campaigns for each race all without the expansion. It is interesting how Warcraft 3 fulfilled gamers’ expectations of the single player while Starcraft 2 didn’t.
My hate at Aonuma isn’t because he is being ‘Japanese’ with Zelda. My hate at Aonuma is that he does things with Zelda which is not what Zelda is. Is Zelda about trains? NO! But the isolated Aonuma put trains in because he read a train book to his son. It’s like he was so isolated.
I don’t think game developers and gamers should be talking different languages.