It’s pretty crazy to think about it, but E3, with all its Wii Music-induced Nintendo-is-the-end-of-gaming paranoia, was about two months ago now. And, as predicted, the cacophony of rhetoric and vocal minority-driven criticism has subsided, only to be replaced with cold, hard facts.
Facts like Wario Land: Shake It and Mega Man 9, which will no doubt revolutionize and modernize 2-D platform gaming when they launch this fall. Or the fact that Disaster: Day of Crisisâ€”perpetually delayed, canceled, and then revived for a rumored October release (in Europe)â€”is actually alive and ready for release, thank you very much. And then there’s The Conduit, now on the cusp of being published and heralded by respected tech blog ars technica as an impressive feather in Wii’s cap.
Hell, even Sadness, like the drunk uncle that shows up at Easter and Christmas, made an appearance in August with admittedly suspect “game play” footage. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the next great vaporware title (behind Duke Nukem Forever, of course), but at least it was something.
The bigger picture in all this (and my point), bigger in fact than whatever “negativity” arose from Nintendo’s kooky E3 keynote, is that each of these titles is pretty mature. They’re also all pretty exclusive, and none of them are technically Nintendo first party IP. Again, I renew my criticism to those who incorrectly belittled Nintendo for treating E3 as the clown-driven, yesterday’s news circus that it was. What’s the deal? It’s time to fess up, grow up, or shut up. Personally, I’d prefer a mashup of all three.
First stage? Fess up. Why the angst? Why the cries of abandonment when the platter is so full–and looking even more full as we prepare to enter the holiday season and beyond? Forgive me for being so logical (aced it in college, sorry), but I fail to see the life benefit of complaining about a title like Wii Music, especially when Pokemon, a title more geared towards children than anything, is far larger, more far reaching and (I quote the hardcore here) “threatening” to the video game way of life than some harmless music simulator. Why the wasted effort? From the belly-aching that pretty much gripped July and August, one would have thought Nintendo, Gestapo style, was marching through the streets of the U.S., breaking down doors and forcing consumers to plop down $50 to play Miyamoto’s take on rhythm games. I have yet to see the news reports of Nintendo employees, jack boots and all, breaking anything but sales records. Maybe I missed them.
Is it because it’s cool? Are the forum lurkers, with their gift of putting together a carefully crafted and substance-free sentence that happens to include the word Nintendo, so inspirational that you cannot resist taking the easy route to the hate wagon?
Again, I only ask such questions after carefully surveying the long-term landscape. There’s 1:1 motion control on the horizon on only one system; there’s relatively inexpensive touch-based portable gaming only only one system; and the games aboveâ€”all exclusivesâ€”are only available on one system. That these systems also include a brain dead music sim in Wii Music, or a game that trains your brain with number puzzles and IQ tests, is largely irrelevant to the overall success of those very systems, just as it is with any other medium (like movies, for example). Need proof? Did Hannah Montana prevent you from seeing the Dark Knight this summer? Does the fact that there’s a Bratz movie vying for marquee space during the warmer months mean Hell Boy 2 failed the hardcore test? Comedian Ricky Gervais is making a corny ghost flick, set to release later this month–does that mean the original Office spontaneously became a suck-fest? Of course not, and yet these kind of illogical arguments and belly-aching pervade the video game discussion like a plague.
What’s also ignored, either by choice or by ignorance, is the fact (again with the word fact…) that the past year and a half has seen Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3 (a genre-defining FPS, on the Wii?! Really?!), Super Mario Strikers, Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii.
Again, I think the vocal minority, with its insatiable multi-games-per-month mentality (which is entirely their right), has hijacked the conversation. A game that continually posts a top 10 finish month-over-month across the entire frickin’ globe (Mario Kart DS, a-hem), is deemed irrelevant. How sad. And how sad that one little non-game, like Wii Music, can so easily distract a group of people from all the fun games that have hit Nintendo systems over the past two years. And, in doing so, it’s effectively overshadowed what’s set to arrive in the next six months. At least in the hardcore forums, anyway. The rest of the world has snatched up Wii’s and DS’s in record numbers throughout 2007 and 2008 in spite of this apparent outcry against Nintendo’s current strategy.
Lastly, part of fessing up is being brutally honest about yourself. Do you want only epic, realistic, uncanny valley failing games with 40-hour play times and one-player adventures? Then stop expecting them from Nintendo en masse. You’ll get them occasionally, like with Disaster should it be as real as its appeared to be this week, but you’ll no longer get a 12-month stream of identical games as you’ve had on other systems in the past. Variety? Yes, please.
So the next step is just to shut up. Rude? Sure, but have you read some of the comments here on Infendo and abroad lately? When people aren’t being plain offensive, they’re being offensively obtuse; ignoring, as I’ve stated above, readily available facts (addressed, above) and trends about not just Nintendo, but the industry as a whole. Wii MotionPlus should have been available since the beginning just because people say so; in doing so, they are willfully ignoring the fact that by delaying MotionPlus on purpose, as they claim it did, Nintendo would have been voluntarily pissing away development dollars and potential mega-hits. Who needs to criticize clueless analysts like Michael Pachter when the ignorant masses can do just as good a job for free?
That leads to the next point… I think a lot of what’s going on today has everything to do with some of the other players in the industry. When your marketing arm is able to so deftly and successfully give a small, “core” group of video game players a label that sticks and personifies them so adequately, and on a medium–the Internet–where it’s so easy for even the dumbest of denizens to post their thoughts, they’ll more than gladly do a majority of your work for you. It helps when they already have 24/7 access to the Internet and a knack for Internet memes. In this light, consoles are no longer venues for playing all types of games, they are suddenly isolated silos of coolness, ready to play your mature games and serve as launching pads for close-minded, old world assaults on the Brain Ages of the world. If you didn’t know Sudoku was an imminent threat to the safety of Halo 3, you will after a trip to any “hardcore” video game blog.
Personally, I’d rather be challenged. I’d rather find out if a game is fun by playing it, and base my criticism off that. Was the Wii Music demo laughable? Sure it was. Watching it made many people, rightfully, uncomfortable. But so did Wii Sports when we all saw Reggie and company bowling like idiots at E3 2006. But it’s easier to forget that and join in the chorus, I suppose. It’s cooler. But it’s not challenging. It’s predictable. If Wi Music wants to be a mind-numbingly easy music “toy” as Miyamoto describes it, then that’s how I’ll evaluate it. I’m not going to go in, as so many have done so already, wanting it to be a Guitar Hero music rhythm game, and then cry about how disappointed I am afterward.
That leaves the last point to this, the latest Jack Nintendo tirade. I’ll keep it succinct, given the hour and the pile of 12 fun Wii games I have at my disposal right now (and 20+ DS, too): grow up. Too many people think video games are about them these days; that their limited boy’s toys world view is what’s going to drive gaming to new heights and lead to head-spinning new levels of innovation and fun. It’s not, and that’s an incredibly good thing. 2-D platformers are enjoyed by all ages and sexes to this day. Music rhythm games have been responsible for more 20- to 30-something age parties over the past year than I can count. My parents both play the Nintendo DS I got them last Christmas. My Abercrombie-influenced sister is mature and secure enough to get down with Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution. I started playing video games again after the dark days of the GameCube in 2006, and I haven’t looked back since. Ignoring these facts or pretending that they’re not cool enough to welcome into the fold, or that they somehow mean you’re not going to have any more fun on a Nintendo system isn’t going to affect one iota of the industry. What it will do is ensure that you’re probably in front of a computer screen, ranting against the man, when you could be enjoying a solid, growing, and diverse catalogue of Nintendo titles.
The average age of gamers today hovers around late 20’s all the way up to 35. It’s time to start acting like it.
Image from PA: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/