Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 2, 2017

Email: 20-year longevity and the “Final Fantasy”

Hey Master Malstrom,

You’ve spoken quite a bit recently about game quality and value (like “How Do You Determine the Value of Games?”) and I think — as folks watch the Switch arrive — this is on everyone’s mind. How can we tell which games will have value? How can we tell which games will harken back to “arcade values” and which ones will be Trojan Horses for Modern Nintendo’s obsessions? I have my own thoughts (below) but I’d love to hear more insight from you on how you try to spot “20-year value” in games and how you sniff out “valueless” games.

In the past, you’ve talked about how game development should not be fun for the developers. You’ve also pointed out that many “last ditch efforts” from game developers ended up reviving the company or being their best title (Squaresoft and Final Fantasy, for instance). And on the flip side, you’ve openly shown disdain for “Modern AAA gaming” which simply churns out sequel after sequel.

Nintendo is guilty of this, even recently. Fire Emblem: Awakening in 2012 single-handedly saved and also popularized that series — a series that was over 20 years old at the time — and it was the studio’s “last chance” or else the franchise would be shelved for a while. But what does Nintendo do on the heels of that success? They go full “Modern AAA gaming” and pump out a three-episode Fire Emblem set all at once (Birthright, Conquest, and Revelation, three full-length titles), and shortly thereafter we’ll have a remake of the old Fire Emblem Gaiden title (the upcoming FE: Echoes). Just a whiff of success and Nintendo knee-jerks into “how can we milk this IP?” mode.

Nioh is another example: I was excited for that game for a while. Even played and enjoyed the Alpha and Beta tests. Fun and challenging game, and I think you’re being too harsh on the Eastern-trying-to-be-AAA-Western “strangeness”. That said, I skipped buying it at launch. Why? Because leading up to release, all the developers talked about was “how they worked so hard to lay the foundation for a franchise”. A franchise? But what about this game here? Guess I’ll just wait for the next one instead of being the guinea pig on this one. Developers are so out of touch with their customers that they say things that any amateur salesperson or entertainer would never say. “Yeah, I’m really proud of my new album, because it gave me a chance to practice some stuff that I’ll be putting in my next album!” No one does that!

With Switch, games to watch will be the ones that won’t likely get a sequel. I’m not interested in Arms or 1-2 Switch or Splatoon 2 or any other titles that will almost certainly get a sequel (or two) during the system’s lifespan. Bomberman R? Puyo Puyo Tetris? These probably won’t get follow ups so grab them now. Disgaea 5, Skyrim, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe aren’t going to get “Deluxe Plus” version, so it’s safe to get those, too. Breath of the Wild is safe to skip at launch. Why? We know it’s getting at least one DLC, maybe more. Why not wait until the “complete” edition since we know Nintendo is going to tweak and retconn this game anyway?

RPGs like Project Octopath or Has Been Heroes are good bets because — even if there’s a sequel — the RPG market is so unforgiving on “low content” RPGs that it’s pretty safe to blind-buy an RPG nowadays (as long as you enjoy the subject matter or style). Overall I think Switch will be an RPG gamer’s paradise because handhelds are where RPGs thrive in this era.

Anyway, hope the Switch will be an enjoyable console with a TON of games on cartridges.


I would snap up indie carts (they are likely limited run), any Atlus game (limited run), and some of the more obscure third party games.

Game developers aren’t really interested in making games anymore. They are more interested in being game developers. A ‘franchise’ means you get to churn out sequel after sequel, have a safe, secure job, and get the perks and quirkiness of being a game developer. This is what everyone wants. They do not want to risk.

This is why AAA gaming must be destroyed. The only thing carrying AAA gaming is the ridiculous marketing converting low IQ gamers to think the AAA game is ‘adult’ and ‘hardcore’ as well as the graphics.But as AAA games become less profitable due to escalating costs, more original games will have to be made.

I get the idea of a company focusing only on one game, to put all their resources into that one game, instead of spreading it around to fifteen other titles.

Western AAA gaming is production based gaming. What we want is design based gaming.

Why is Super Mario Brothers 1, 2, 3, 4 so different from each other? Why is Zelda 1, 2, 3 so different from each other? It is because the games were design based gaming. If Nintendo thought in a AAA way, then Super Mario Brothers 2 would be just like the first game but with better graphics (OK, maybe the Lost Levels was this). Super Mario Brothers 3 would not have a new design.

People want new designs on games, not just the same games with new gimmicks and coat of paint.



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