If someone asked me,
“Gee, Malstrom, if you were ‘summoned’ before the Board of Directors at Nintendo and had to tell them what was wrong, what would you say?”
Nintendo has a bad habit of thinking their games are amazing but the marketing is bad or the timing was bad or the NOA staff was bad or that Malstrom guy is bad. Yes, Nintendo needs to keep with modern technology, needs to have a real account system, and so on and so forth. As a longtime consumer of Nintendo, two very, very big changes have occurred.
The first is the removal of Sports Psychology from its games.
In the VERY FIRST GAMING GENERATION, the big game was…
PONG is a sports game. Arcade games at the time used high scores. Scores is a form of sports psychology. The best selling games have always been sports games. Football games, racing games, soccer games, you name it.
Duck Hunt is a sports game. Hunting ducks is a sport.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out is a sports game. Yes, it has an arcade nature to it, but boxing is a sport.
What people don’t realize is that sports games were HUGE on the NES. RBI Baseball. The early NES sports games (the crappy VC games they always try to sell you when a new console comes out). You can argue that Tetris and Dr. Mario are more like sports games. There are high scores and much competition. Also, you don’t go anywhere. No one would argue that Tetris is an ‘adventure game’. You don’t go anywhere in such a game. Neither do you go anywhere in baseball. They use Sports Psychology.
Even the original Mario Brothers had Sports Psychology in it. The mini-games in the 2d Mario games may seem silly but they do, within them, contain a sports psychology.
The success of Wii Sports is all anyone needs to know that sports psychology is very much in demand. Wii Fit was sports psychology too.
“But it was mini-games… blah blah blah…”
Many gamers do not see the sports psychology. The hardcore do not even play Madden. They just enjoy the adventure games and all which is fine. But they do not easily understand the sports psychology these games. They don’t understand why Grandma played Tetris every night.
I think modern Mario Kart has lost much of its sports psychology. Battle Mode is so sad now.
During the Fourth Generation, the Sega Genesis was kicking butt because it took over all the sports games. If you played sports games, you got a Genesis. Later on, those gamers drifted to the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and the Xbox.
Even within Nintendo’s adventure games, there was a sports psychology. There was a high score. The game was actually challenging. Nintendo Power would publish people’s high scores in the game as bragging rights.
Nintendo culture is not very ‘sporty’. So over time, all of this was lost. Nintendo cannot understand why old school Zelda players do not want to solve puzzles all day like in a Lolo game.
Smash Brothers succeeded because it contains a sports pscyhology within it. This is not hard to understand.
Being ‘hardcore’ is not the same as sports psychology. Hardcore is like those League of Legend players polluting my Heroes of the Storm games now because they ‘think they know it all’, start barking orders, and are never the reason why they lose. Sports Psychology means WINNERS AND LOSERS. ‘Game Over’ is nothing to be ashamed about. Losing at games used to be the norm because those old games were tough. There is a reason why Dark Souls gained popularity despite its obtuse difficulty.
Sports is still the dominant medium. People watch sports. Some people play sports. And everyone talks about sports. The absence of sports psychology in Nintendo games is really making the games dull. Even Minesweeper has more sports psychology than modern Nintendo games of today.
The second thing is that Nintendo adventure games used to sell a fantasy.
What does this mean? It means the games would immerse you. The music, the graphics, everything, was about the fantasy of you inside the game.
This map came with Zelda: Link to the Past. It says, “Enter the fantasy world of Hyrule.” Guys, I’m not making this up. THIS IS WHAT IT SAYS. The manuals and all would have nice artwork to help suck you into the fantasy. Link didn’t talk because it would ruin the fantasy. Why is this so hard for Nintendo to understand?
Mario used to be a fantasy too. You were in Mushroom Land. But Mario then got voice acting and Mushroom Land lost all consistency.
Metroid is about the fantasy too. We don’t give a shit about Samus. We want the fantasy of being inside a truly alien environment. The music brings us back.
Nintendo doesn’t even believe in ‘selling the fantasy’ anymore which gives me absolutely no reason to buy their games. My experience in, say, a 2d Mario was in the fantasy of being the Mario to topple Mushroom Kingdom. Today, my experience is a mechanical one of ‘level designs’. WTF!????
The fact that Zelda: Spirit Tracks was actually made and released shows that Nintendo has no idea that players want to play the fantasy. Trains are not part of the Zelda fantasy. Just like race cars are not part of the Little Mac fantasy.