Nintendo’s Questionable Streak

“Nintendo is Doomed” articles have become the silly cat videos of the gaming world. So many pieces proclaiming the death of, arguably, the most iconic gaming company are floating around the internet that they have all but lost their significance. The common theme of these pieces is sensationalism. Reading through Nintendo doom-and-gloom editorials has become a chore, as facts often take a back seat to deep feelings of disdain. I certainly do not want to appear to be a “Nintendo-hater,” but their recent decisions have left me confused, to say the least.

Nintendo will always hold a special place in the hearts of many. Many of my favorite games of all time would not exist without their brilliance. My third favorite game of all time, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, is an N64 exclusive. My first shooter experience, Goldeneye 007, was on the Nintendo 64. My second favorite game of all time, Halo 2, may not have had as much success had Goldeneye not paved the way for console shooters. In my previous editorial, I mentioned that The Last of Us is my all-time favorite game. Would third-person games, such as Naughty Dog’s award-winning title, be half as prevalent if Mario 64 had not laid down a phenomenal foundation for them?

Where would games be today without Mario?

Where would games be today without Mario?

To see them continuously making bizarre decisions is painful, as a healthy Nintendo is phenomenal for the industry . The success of the 3DS has proven the market for dedicated handheld gaming devices still exists. The Wii introduced millions to the wonders of gaming, effectively creating the term “casual gamer.” Animal Crossing: New Leaf has outsold The Last of Us by over one million units, proving novel ideas are often extremely successful. Make no mistake, Nintendo is not dead; however, their actions over the past few months indicate that they may have lost their way.

I was inspired to write this article while watching the latest Nintendo Direct, a 39-minute illustration of how Nintendo continues to be confounding. In it, Super Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai revealed a ton of new details about the highly-anticipated brawler for the Wii U and 3DS. Within thirty seconds, I went from completely forgetting about its existence to wishing I owned it yesterday. IGN’s Tim Getty’s described this phenomenon perfectly in a March podcast, saying, “When you put good Nintendo games in front of gamers, they freak out.” I was completely captivated by what I was watching…and then the release dates were announced.

The announcement of Super Smash Bros. timed 3DS exclusivity is certainly baffling.

The announcement of timed 3DS exclusivity for Super Smash Bros. is certainly baffling.

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS comes out this Summer, while the Wii U version is being released this Winter. We all know the Wii U is struggling, as its lifetime sales total of roughly six million units was recently eclipsed by those of the brand-new PlayStation 4. The Wii U needs system sellers; for the Wii U to generate higher sales, there needs to be such an abundance of phenomenal Nintendo games that gamers simply cannot hold off any longer. Mario Kart 8 looks to sell a great deal of systems, with an amazing Super Smash Bros. game hopefully further illustrating the need to own a Wii U. The fact that the 3DS version is coming out months before its home console counterpart creates a conundrum  — no, I will not apologize for the cheesy alliteration — Will the sales of 3DS version completely undercut those of the Wii U?

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is not a watered down version of its Wii U contemporary. While the graphics are obviously significantly less impressive on the handheld, the selection of characters is identical between the two versions. Although the Wii U version boasts the popular local multiplayer mode, the 3DS contains a unique exclusive multiplayer mode. “Smash Run” has up to four players running around various levels collecting power-ups for use in a battle after five-minutes of dungeon-crawling. Curiously absent in the Wii U version, “Smash Run” potentially makes Super Smash Bros. for 3DS the definitive edition of the game. Why would I purchase a Wii U to play a potentially inferior version of game that I have already been playing for months? Furthermore, is this the quickest HD-remake release of all time?

Nintendo can learn a lot from Microsoft's Titanfall release strategy.

Nintendo can learn a lot from Microsoft’s Titanfall release strategy.

Perhaps Nintendo could have learned something from Titanfall, which was just released on Xbox 360. Titanfall had nearly a month of Xbox One and PC exclusivity, meaning that buying a new console became a serious debate for some. The Xbox 360 obviously has a much higher userbase, so this version will almost certainly sell more in the long run. I know that myself and two other friends of mine bought an Xbox One specifically for this game, meaning that Microsoft’s strategy worked on us. If Super Smash Bros. had a period of Wii U exclusivity, rather than 3DS exclusivity, home console sales could skyrocket (relatively speaking). Time will certainly tell if Nintendo should have delayed Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, as it appears they are crippling themselves.

While Nintendo’s potential Super Smash Bros. kerfuffle is troublesome, their absence from PAX East, the largest gaming convention on the American East coast, is outright baffling. While this was more than likely a cost-cutting measure, the potential sales benefits from this convention appear greater than any savings gained by Nintendo’s absence. As someone who will spend 37 hours over the next three days at the popular consumer event, I would have certainly waited in line to play some new Nintendo games. The line for Mario Kart 8  would be longer than that of any Disney World attraction. I am of the mindset that Nintendo should take any and every chance they get to show off the Wii U. A good showing at this convention could possibly mean a couple million Wii U consoles sold, numbers Nintendo desperately needs.

Mario Kart 8 could have won PAX East. Instead it will be completely absent from the popular gaming convention.

Mario Kart 8 could have won PAX East. Instead it will be completely absent from the popular gaming convention.

My biggest qualm with Nintendo’s recent moves comes from a recently released title. To me, Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball illustrates everything that is wrong with modern gaming. I am completely fine with the presence of microtransactions in games, although I personally choose to abstain from them. As long as I do not have to think about money during my playtime, I can handle their inclusion. What bothers me (and makes many mobile games so unappealing to me) is when microtransactions are constantly thrust into my face, as it completely breaks any immersion I may have had. I fully understand that the “freemium” model earns developers a great deal of money, as it turns those who would not have purchased the title into potential spenders. These games simply are not for me, as I absolutely detest the common practice of progression being halted in order to induce real-world spending. Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball‘s key feature is the ability to haggle with an in-game shopkeeper in order to reduce baseball-themed mini-game prices. That’s right, Nintendo essentially made microtransactions into a game.

Nintendo’s greatest strength is producing charming content, so it pains me to see them engaging in such a traditionally shady business model. When I first heard of Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, I thought it was a prank. Why hide the true perceived value of a mini-game behind convoluted mechanics? Clearly Nintendo knows the lowest price it would be willing to accept for one of these games, yet it gives the consumer the ability to pay more for them. Without haggling, the full game would cost $40, while the cheapest the full game can cost is $16.

The dialogue shown above illustrates the inherent shadiness of Rusty's Real Deal Baseball.

The dialogue shown above illustrates the inherent shadiness of Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball.

The potential for children, presumably the target audience, to unknowingly pay full price for this title is high. At 22, I still am struggling with the concept of a what a dollar is worth. I can only imagine what I would do as an eight-year-old with access to a parent’s credit card and zero knowledge of how small purchases can quickly add up to a substantial amount of money spent. The idea of Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball is certainly interesting, but does its novelty outweigh its potential to profit off of naivete?

I hope that these events do not foreshadow the future of the company, I really do. I absolutely love Nintendo games (I am currently enjoying The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds) but it seems as though the company has recently lost its way. Gamers go crazy for good Nintendo games, of which there are absolutely still plenty. Nintendo is absolutely not doomed, but they cannot continue down this slippery slope. My main concern is that Nintendo is getting in its own way, perhaps to the detriment of future titles. Hopefully we are simply witnessing an aberration, and not the start of a troublesome trend.

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