Nintendo must be confused about Metroid. People keep saying they want more Metroid, yet the game never sells strongly. Metroid Prime 1 is the best selling Metroid game ever and that is possibly because many gamers thought it was Nintendo’s answer to Halo. In many ways, the Metroid gameplay, just like other pre-Internet games, won’t work today. Metroid relied heavily on secrets which is blown away with the Internet. (No more calling the Nintendo Hotline.) Yet, people keep asking for more Metroid even going so far to say they will buy the console to get to that Metroid. What’s going on here?
I’m going to put forward a theory that will be controversial. It is based on my observations on how adult males interact with Nintendo. I ask that you hold off on the hate mail until once I conclude the theory. Here we go.
Look at these images of soup lines and bread lines from the Great Depression.
These are supposed to be poor people yet they are extremely well dressed. They are all wearing ties, black shoes, and nice jackets.
The following image is representative how most men dress today:
If you took Doc Brown’s DeLoreon and took people from the Great Depression to our current depression, they would be shocked at how all the men dress like little boys (or they walked from a carnival). And don’t get me started on how the women dress. We’ll keep this to the men.
Back during the Great Depression, men knew they should dress as well as they could. But if you try to get an adult male to dress well everyday, you will meet resistance. And should an adult male be dressed nice be walking about, he’ll be criticized for being dressed nice or asked about where he is applying for a new job. In other places of the world, this is not the reaction. It is just in the United States and/or similar countries. As a Russian woman whispered in my ear, “American men all dress like little boys.” I cannot deny that.
The theory is that men are dressing more and more like slobs as a type of ‘protest’ against ‘the ghey’. I don’t mean homosexual itself, but ‘teh gay’ meaning something extraordinarily lame. I’m not sure how to express it in words. It’s like men don’t think they are men when they are dressed up. It is as if they are in ‘monkey suits’ or whatever.
This unconscious protest against ‘teh gayness’ (let’s just call it the ‘lameness’ for this post), something that has been increasing in the last few decades as more men become separated from masculine trades, is something I believe is highly prevalent in consumer reactions in the gaming market. It is highly probable why certain games go hyper-violence to levels of parody.
Games made in the West don’t have problems with ‘teh lameness’ because the games are automatically calibrated to differentiate themselves from ‘teh lameness’. The player most often is the super-cool-macho space marine which is extremely different than the gamers in real life.
Thinking back on my experience of the past, Nintendo has always had a problem with ‘the lameness’. There is a reason why the Famicom’s design never came over. The issue wasn’t that the Famicom looked like a toy, it is that it looked like ‘the lameness’. To compensate, Nintendo had to totally redesign the console. In order to fight ‘the lameness’, the commercials were totally over-the-top with focusing on PLAYING WITH POWER.
While the above compilation has some non-Western commercials and third party commercials in it, it is a good example of showing off the ‘anti-lameness’ marketing the Japanese Nintendo was heavily employing in order to sell their Japanese products. When you look at how other console companies market, they do the same thing. The golden days of SEGA’s marketing was ‘anti-lameness’ as was the PlayStation and even the Xbox.
There were a large number of NES Japanese games that were never localized in the United States because of ‘the lameness’. The Japanese games were so lame that the Western audience would not like them.
Miyamoto’s first game, Donkey Kong, was based on an international movie: King Kong. Had Miyamoto relied on a Japanese intensive character, it is doubtful that Donkey Kong would have become popular. Mario and Zelda are also ‘anti-lame’. Perhaps it is because Mario is based on the idea of a plumber from New York (Mario is not a nerd in an office) and Zelda is based on western RPGs.
Look at the popular NES games of the time. Games like Contra and Double Dragon screamed ‘anti-lame’. During the 80s, many Americans had no idea that most NES games were made by the Japanese. The anti-lame in them passed their test. Look at the American TV shows out during that time. Bart Simpson was incredibly popular among the youth (and he got several video games). What did Bart Simpson personify? Anti-lameness. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were also extremely popular. They personified wise-cracking, ass-kicking fighters. Anti-lame. (At least, to the kids back then.) Transformers? Anti-Lame.
Take a look at Sega’s marketing.
In all these examples (as well as the rest of Sega’s brilliant 16-bit marketing), it is not so much as the commercials saying that Sega is cool, it is saying that Nintendo is ‘teh lameness’. The marketing worked big time. It worked so spectacularly well, SNES owning kids were afraid to identify themselves as SNES owners in public.
Sony emulated the Sega marketing when it came to the original PlayStation. At that point, Nintendo was busy shooting themselves in the foot as their games, consoles, and marketing became lamer and lamer.
Mario became seen as the symbol for lame. Nintendo didn’t help by making his voice acting sound like a castrati. So while Mario was now ‘teh lame’, the N64 Nintendo crowd rallied around Zelda. Ocarina of Time was not lame. Zelda was anti-lame.
Then came Wind Waker.
CELda. “LAME!” people cried out. Wind Waker’s sales were not good. Zelda now became seen as ‘teh lame’. Western gamers ran away from it.
What was the ‘cool’ game most people rallied around with the Gamecube? (Or do you mean the ‘Gay Cube’? Or the ‘Purple Lunchbox’? Or the ‘kiddie console’? All of these sayings are meaning that the Gamecube was LAME.) It was Metroid Prime. Metroid was not lame. Metroid was cool.
When people wanted Nintendo to go a ‘darker’ path in their games, what they were really asking Nintendo to do was to stop being lame. When left to their own devices, Nintendo developers will act Japanese which is entirely lame in the West. This is why Japanese orientated games don’t sell in the West.
The Wii was not seen as ‘teh lame’. At least, not at first. Wii Sports or Wii Fit was not seen as ‘teh lame’. At least, not as first. Wii Sports Resort was seen as ‘teh lame’. Woohoo Island was LAME. There is something worse than boring in a video game: lameness. A game cannot be boring. It also cannot be lame.
If you applied a ‘teh lameness’ measuring device to the Wii U and its games, the lameness would be extremely high across all the games including the console.
This trailer really screams “TEH LAMENESS” for Nintendo Land. The super high lameness factor prevents the game from succeeding even if it had everything going for it.
NSMB U? Same thing. Back when Super Mario World was released, there was some disappointment over the game. Some of it was because Super Mario World was the first Mario game that seemed LAME. There’s no sense of evil in the game. Even Bowser is riding around in a clown car while living in a theme park vegas style area. The weakness of Super Mario World opened up the possibility for Sega to pin Nintendo to the wall on being ‘lame’, and Sega did.
Pikmin 3? LAME.
Wonderful 101? Super duper LAME.
Super Mario in 3d World? With that cat mario? LAME. LAME. LAME.
More Wii Fit? Lame.
The popularity of Retro Studios and even Next Level Games is because, as Western companies, they know to take the Lame out of their games. Retro’s games are never lame. That is why people love them so much.
Metroid: Other M essentially destroyed the Metroid franchise because it made Metroid LAME. There is nothing COOL in Other M. It is Lameness times a thousand!
The reason why I suspect people want more Metroid, especially non-Sakamoto Metroid, is because Metroid is still the only Nintendo franchise that hasn’t been ‘lame-ified’. Metroid is still cool.
Iwata disagrees because he says Yamauchi wanted to change Pikachu’s design so he will be more attractive to the Western audience. Iwata said Yamauchi was wrong because Pikachu has been accepted by the West. However, it is Iwata who is incorrect. Pikachu and Pokemon have never been accepted by the West. They have been accepted only with the West’s kids. Adults won’t touch Pokemon because of ‘teh lameness’.
Kirby is as lame as a video game character you can get. It is why American marketing has to turn Kirby into angry Kirby on the box. Message forum people mock this, but it was necessary in order to sell Kirby.
“Why you talking about Iwata, Malstrom? Why don’t you talk to NOA?” Iwata is the CEO of NOA currently. This is now Iwata’s problem.
I know that ‘teh lameness’ was a HUGE, HUGE issue for Nintendo in the 80s and 90s and even with the Wii. But since the Wii and DS’s success, it is clear that Nintendo no longer considers ‘teh lameness’ an issue. But it is an issue. It probably the biggest obstacle preventing Nintendo sales. If it was such a huge issue in the 80s and 90s and 2000s, why would it suddenly disappear today?
One of the reasons why it is easy to buy a Xbox One or PlayStation 4 is because there is no stink of ‘teh lameness’ on them. Say you own a Wii U publicly and observe how people look at you.
So, to conclude, when people say they want ‘more Metroid’ and how ‘it would make them buy the console’, what I think they are really saying is that they want Nintendo games to STOP BEING LAME. The West is not interested in Japanese culture. If Nintendo wants the West’s money, they need to make their games feel as if they were made locally. Retro has shown them the way. There is absolutely no advantage to going pro-Japanese culture anymore with Japan in a deflationary death spiral of an aging population, decreasing births, and radiation.
Before readers send the hate mail to me, know that I am only trying to describe reality around us as it is, not how it should be. You can see in the past how Nintendo went to great lengths in hardware design, game design, and marketing to avoid ‘teh lameness’. Today, they clearly aren’t going to any lengths at all. They even re-released Wind Waker and made more Pikmin!
The ‘lameness’ points to an uncomfortable truth Nintendo will be extremely reluctant to examine: that ‘Nintendo creativity’ is the primary liability to selling games. Before you guys spit on me, let me ask you the following:
Do you want more Sakamoto creativity with Metroid?
Do you want more Aonuma creativity with Zelda?
Why is it that the more excited the market gets for a Nintendo game, the LESS content creativity is shown? Wii Sports and Wii Fit sold better WITHOUT the Nintendo IPs, not with them. The lameness scares consumers away.