Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 25, 2014

Splatoon is how Nintendo games used to be

Nintendo thinks that by making constant sequels but “with new gameplay mechanics” ‘inspired’ by ‘the unique Nintendo hardware’ that it is putting its best bet forward for installing an install base. Sequels, however, don’t become big phenomenons unless the sequel is a complete re-invention of the series (GTA 3, Ocarina of Time, World of Warcraft, Ultima Online). The ‘one-game-per-genreation’ does sell but only to the existing install base. People will buy the new Mario Kart only if they had another reason to buy the console in the first place. This is why Mario Kart Wii and DS sold so much. People would buy the Wii for Wii Sports or DS for something else and then buy the Mario Kart. People don’t have much incentive to buy a console for yet another Mario Kart which they’ve already bought and played half a dozen times over.

It is always the new games that really excite people. It is Donkey Kong, not Donkey Kong Jr that excites. It is Super Mario Brothers, not Mario 2, 3, or World that drove the phenomenon (though the Mario phenomenon was so huge that the sequels were phenomenons on their own). It was Legend of Zelda, not Zelda 2, LTTP, or Link’s Awakening that was the phenomenon. It was Metroid, not Metroid 2 or Super Metroid, that was the phenomenon then. It was Tetris, not the Tetris sequels, that made that game a phenomenon. It was Minecraft, not Minecraft 2, 3, 4, 5 or the Live Action Minecraft Movie (assuming this will be the future) that was the phenomenon. It is Wii Sports and Wii Fit, not Wii sports Resort or Wii Sports Club or Wii Fit Plus or Wii Fit U that was the phenomenons.

Everyone is tired of Nintendo’s hypocrisy when they say they are ‘creative’ and want to do ‘new things’ but only give us sequels. I think the constant sequels display cowardice and laziness on Nintendo’s part. Nintendo’s market share has never increased with sequels, it has always decreased.

Check out how the Old School gamers are embracing Splatoon:

What’s going on here? Splatoon is a NEW game. Why is it bringing up nostalgia to even the 8-bit and 16-bit days? The simplest answer is because the 8-bit and 16-bit days are the last time Nintendo made new IPs. When you think of Nintendo making a new IP, you have to go back to the NES or SNES. “What about Wii Sports and Wii Fit? What about Animal Crossing? They were new IPs.” Technically, yes. But they weren’t new universes. I know Nintendo says they don’t make universes, but gamers and non-gamers do buy based on universes. Splatoon would be yawned at if Nintendo used Mario characters instead of coming up with new characters.

I think one important trend going on in game making that no one wants to talk about is that game making really is a young people’s job. Splatoon has a ton of youthful energy from the young developers which makes it fresh and interesting. Old developers make old type of games. Old developers make their games full of dull things such as puzzles, talking to NPCs all day, and doing ‘community service’ with in a game- all these are things for someone ripe for the nursing home. The games feel old and gray because the game makers are old and gray.

What is the average age of the developers for Mega Man 2? What about Super Mario Brothers? Or Legend of Zelda? Or Metroid? I bet the average age of the developers was younger than 30. Because of the existence of the ‘Game Industry’, the old farts stick around in leadership positions saying their ‘experience’ is why they should be leaders in all things. But the early game makers had no ‘experienced leaders’ guiding them.

As Miyamoto once said, gaming is about rock and roll. Gaming is about youthful passion. That doesn’t mean older games cannot exist. There are aircraft simulators and strategy war games on the PC for the old geezers. But the console business is a  youthful energetic one.

It’s difficult to describe what it is like when a new non-sports, non-fitness Nintendo IP comes out. I remember when each year, most games were new ones like Splatoon with only a few sequels (them being Mario, Zelda, and Metroid). It does feel nostalgic for that reason.

Here is the Japanese trailer for Splatoon. Did you know that Splatoon has more views on it in Japanese side than any other Wii U trailer? The reason is because people want something new.

I’m glad to see Splatoon embrace environments even like an oil rig.

As an aside, have you noticed how entertainment has become more and more yuppie? For example, take the original Transformers TV show episodes of the 1980s. In the very first episode, what did they fight over? An oil rig. Who were the friends of the Autobots? Oil rig workers. Back in the Arcade Era, game developers understood the blue collared workers. The bizarre dialogue and plot of Ultima: Martian Dreams was lifted directly from experience in oil rigs. I’ve noticed that as time passed, game developers would not have anything to do with understanding those blue collared workers as they, themselves, became more ‘yuppie’. I remember in the later 1990s how highly accomplished PC game developers were gobsmacked by how popular poorly graphic and coded hunting games were and how they were easily outselling anything. As time had gone on, game developers became more ‘Silicon Valley’ and disconnected from the rest of society. Cable TV show producers also became the same. They seem just as gobsmacked that a show about bearded duck hunters called ‘Duck Dynasty’ became so massively popular. Imagine if someone made a video game about hunting ducks. Remember that there was such a game made from the 1980s. Remember it? It was called Duck Hunt and came with Super Mario Brothers. The point is that Nintendo was connecting with an audience that today’s Game Industry, so Silicon Valley-ized, cannot even connect to anymore.

Now, I don’t know if Splatoon will do any of this. That was just a rant brought on by the picture of the oil rig stage. Splatoon recalls water gun fights made with Super Soaker water guns in the backyard (this time with paint and changing into octopuses).

I have two big worries for Splatoon which will destroy the game.

1) So many elements will be online or needing online players that the value of the game goes to shit once people get tired of playing it online or when Nintendo turns off the servers. The successor to E.T. games being buried in the desert will be online only games when their servers are turned off. (I know Splatoon won’t be online only, but if that is where most of the value of the game is coming from, Splatoon will not have long term success.)

2) There was an animated gif of a guy in Splatoon shooting a spot of paint on the ground, jumping on it, immediately submerging into squid mode, only to jump out to shoot more paint in midair, submerge, jump, submerge, jump, etc. The worry is that there will be a ‘bunny hop’ type thing like occurred in Unreal Tournament where you HAVE to play that way in order to remain competitive. I felt Mario Kart DS multiplayer was ruined by continuous drifting. The game stopped being fun at that point. Hopefully, Splatoon can be patched so these things don’t ruin the game.

 

Why does this game have such a great vibe? It’s clear that it is something you would never see on the PC. The game is full of bright colors and cartoony characters. I think people are tired of shooters that are ‘dark’ and ‘gritty’. Running around with a super soaker type gun is very recognizable to everyone. I love the art style in the game which is shocking since Nintendo keeps screwing up their art styles.  The game has that arcade energy in it.

Listen to the music. This is rock and roll. No orchestra. The music is very ‘in-your-face’ like 8-bit and 16-bit games used to be. No wonder it is giving off nostalgic vibes.


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