It's what everyone is talking about this E3: companies beginning to cater to the market of casual, or family-friendly gaming. Is the industry starting to twist to this new but potentially temporary demographic of complete "n00b" gamers?
I think when it comes to Nintendo, I'm not at all surprised at their marketing strategy. After all, Nintendo began with the "Family Computer" (Famicom) and has always been about family-friendly games. Even their franchises aimed at "hardcore" gamers had humble beginnings that can still be recognized: Mario is one of the most recognized video game mascots of all time. Even non-gamers know who Mario is.
So why the big surprise that Wii is continuing to cater to this market? Yes I'm sure we all wish there were more gamer-centric games out. However, most gamers have more than one system and can simply grab a game for 360 or PS3 and wait a little longer for the next big title. For me, the Wii is more of a party box than a good single player system. It's portable and has some really fun, inexpensive multi-player games that pretty much anyone can pick up. You may think back on your SNES experiences as being more for true gamers, but how hard is it for anyone to pick up Super Mario and make it through a level or two? Wii Music and Wii Sports Resort just follow this age-old trend of Nintendo games that you can just pick up and play and have fun with. Seriously, are any of you NOT going to die laughing when you try beatboxing on Wii Music? I know that, drunk or sober, it's going to be embarrassingly fun.
Yes, embarrassingly. It's actually frustrating to me that having fun on a Nintendo console now constitutes as embarrassing. It shouldn't be. But since I am a gamer who enjoys silly games, I'm going to get a world of hate from other gamers who are too cool to be caught giggling like crazy while throwing an imaginary frisbee.
However, my feelings were somewhat swayed to the negative side after watching the GameTrailers.com interview with Cammie Dunaway
. First of all, that woman's smile throughout the interview is frightening. She looks like she's on Prozac or something; her repeated usage of the word 'delight' was also slightly unnerving. When asked about the lack of "hardcore" games on the system, she simply smiled and responded that hardcore gamers should "keep playing Mariokart, keep playing Smash Brothers...and check out Animal Crossing!" And apparently, playing drums in WiiMusic will be "a challenge to even the most hardcore."
Um, what? I love Animal Crossing, but it's about as hardcore as playing The Sims (since it's pretty much the same concept only cuter). And anyone who's played Rock Band drums will not find Wii Music drums as a challenge in the least. Games like the upcoming Wario and Pikmin titles were more of an afterthought than anything else. That disturbs me because games like these are what turn people from casual gaming to long-time fans. I was a casual gamer until I found a well made game that made me realize there was more to video games than Mario (as seen in the monthy musings of many in June).
I understand the need to market to a specific audience, however just because a game isn't filled with motion gimmicks doesn't mean it should be downplayed. The idea that these titles were barely mentioned throughout the conference makes me uneasy. It makes me feel like Nintendo is trying to hide the fact that it has a hardcore fan base, which doesn't even make sense to me. These games are what are going to make the system worth buying for their now second place demographic of actual gamers.
Cammie finishes this part of the interview saying that gamers should look towards 3rd party developers for the hardcore titles. This is outright insulting. This to me is saying that Nintendo no longer cares about the long-time fans of the company, and is throwing the responsibility of good, in-depth games onto the 3rd party market. Unfortunately, third party development for the Wii is very hit-or-miss, where the person shooting is both drunk and
These comments actually make me angry. Nintendo is throwing the responsibility of in-depth games onto other publishers so they can make cheaper, mass-market games at an alarming rate. Nintendo seems so frightened of another failure like Gamecube. Here they have found the key to "family gaming," and now they're running with it like mad, afraid to look back at the rest of the fans left behind in the dust.
Despite this apparent abandonment of their loyal fan base, I think Nintendo is actually playing things a bit smart from a business standpoint. They are not going to invest large amounts of time and money into IPs that are going to flop. So any future IP games they put out are sure to make good use of Wiimote controls and have good, in-depth gameplay. If you look at all of the successful first party games: Twilight Princess, Super Paper Mario, Mario Galaxy, etc., you can see that a lot of thought and careful planning was put into not only the game itself but also the game play mechanics. I would rather Nintendo hold off development on new IPs if they have yet to refine game play mechanics. As we all know, a great game concept can easily be ruined with messy Wiimote controls (see: Cooking Mama for Wii).
I have a lot of negative feelings in general about this conference. Third party developers seemed to have stolen the spotlight this year, simply because the Big Three let them. I truly hope Nintendo doesn't begin to dumb down all of their games, since they were a company that helped begin the age of video games as a form of art. I am a long time fan of Nintendo as a company, but their showing at E3 is beginning to shake my faith.