Today is a special occasion for me here at Toy-Too Much Awesome. Today is my 300th post (according to my backend stats), so I wanted to celebrate by writing something very near to me as both an interest and part of my identity. For my last milestone I talked all about my greatest Pokemon accomplishments ever, but today we’re thinking bigger and broader. Nintendo’s been taking a lot of flack this week and last as a result of cutting the 3DS’ price from $250 to $170 starting August 12th, and the more I hear the more I become bothered. I haven’t had the chance to Think Deep for a while, so what better time than now? I’m now going to explain Nintendo as the jaded fanboy that I am. Let’s Think Deep.
It has never been a secret around here that I am very attached to Nintendo and generally prefer their systems and games over any other systems or games. For full history (and I’ll try to keep this short), we go back to when I was only 2-years-old, roughly. It was my dad’s birthday, so my mom decided it would be fun to get him a Nintendo Entertainment System. Neither he nor I knew that the system would really turn out to be for me. I sat and played Super Mario Bros endlessly. I’d rent and borrow any games that people would loan me. I played as much as possible (somehow avoiding most of the games the AVGN hates to much, except TMNT, which is awesome if you know how to play it).
When it came time for the next generation of consoles, back then being something completely new, there was the choice of the Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo. I couldn’t afford either, so I waited and waited and waited. Finally, probably half way through the SNES’ life, my cousin decided to sell his SNES to me, a system that he had modified to play Super Famicom games (who knew I’d eventually want to play Dragonball Z games on the system?).
I received a Game Boy not long before that as an amazing birthday gift, and then a Game Boy Color when my cousin decided he needed to get rid of that, too. From there came the N64, another system that I had to wait painfully long to finally buy, eventually snagging one when Mario Kart 64 came out, bucking the trend of buying my cousin’s hand-me-down systems. He would taunt me about purchasing Ocarina of Time Day One, implying how much better he was than I. It pained me but my parents refused to let me blow the entirety of my money on the one game. They forced me to rent it instead, then borrow it from a friend under the assumption I might not like it. Little would any of us know that it would become my favorite game ever, regardless of how clichéd that is to say.
That was the final straw for me before I had a steady flow of disposable income to call my own, so the GameCube was a purchase I made as soon as it was available. The Game Boy Advance was bought a little later just because I felt like it and had some money that was burning a hole in my pocket. That system lead to a number of impulse buys such as Advance Wars and Golden Sun, risks that definitely paid off. My GameCube would get the most love of just about any system in my house over the next few years as Super Smash Bros Melee brought about a competitive streak/pettiness inside of me that no game since has matched.
Flash ahead to the DS cropping up, a system I wouldn’t have the money for just yet, only to be rewarded for my patience with a system under the Christmas tree that same launch year. The Wii, however, I bought instantly and never looked back. That was my blow-by-blow for Nintendo systems. I never owned a Virtual Boy, didn’t buy a Game Boy Pocket or Advance SP (until only a few months ago for my wife) or a DS Lite. Each and every system has been played to the point that the money spent was well worth it.
That should set the stage for where I am now with Nintendo. I’ve been through it all. I was there in the early stages, the rough patches, and the recent successes. I’ve seen how the company handles itself in good times and bad and most importantly I’ve seen the progression of gaming, not just small snippets here and there. All of this leads me to say as follows: Nintendo has a history of people just plain not getting them.
I can point to this very much during the GameCube era. I was labeled as “Nintendo Boy” by my drama teacher in high school, a hardcore Xbox/Halo fan. I was never really sure what to do with that, whether I was supposed to feel guilty (as it as always meant to be hurtful when shouted by my teacher and his followers), or rather if I should feel proud of my loyalty through the roughest times.
And the GameCube era really was the roughest of times for Nintendo, at least in the public’s eye. Nintendo and its system were labeled as “kiddie,” a completely pointless and just blatantly ignorant observation based on the fact that the GameCube did not have Halo or some such pew pew shooter. To explain the kiddie moniker, Nintendo, especially during the GameCube lifetime, were all about fun and accessibility over something adult for the sake of adult. Games were becoming more realistic and trying to prove that graphics were absolutely everything, whereas Nintendo was making games with as many vibrant colors as possible. Guess who loved Super Mario Sunshine? This guy right here.
I argued with more people than I care to remember regarding the GameCube’s “kiddie” attribute, each time having to point out a short list of games geared toward older players such as Resident Evil 4, Eternal Darkness, and even Metroid Prime. Speaking of Resident Evil 4, it was supposed to be an exclusive, and I was proud to say it was exclusively on my system, as were Nintendo. Of course, Capcom being Capcom decided to do what they always do and said “Hell with it, let’s put this on the PS2 with more content.” In fact, one of Nintendo’s supposed biggest faults in this current generation is their lack of support toward 3rd party developers. I say that you can look to Capcom’s actions here for a solid explanation as to why Nintendo looks out for Number 1 more than the 3rd parties. They touted this exclusive title and Capcom broke their deal. Shame on Nintendo for basing things on the honor code.
Granted, Nintendo weren’t always the nice guys, as Sony can tell you regarding the PlayStation. The NES era, while packed full of classics, was also packed full of garbage. Overpriced garbage I might add. Back then Nintendo had zero competition and could decide on prices and quality, and they picked “high” and “whatever gets this out the door” as the only qualifiers.
Still, currently, Nintendo does have far less of a hand in promoting games on its system unless they’re 1st party titles like Mario and Zelda. I can argue here that this is all because Nintendo is only a game company, unlike Sony and Microsoft who just have relatively small game divisions compared to their massive size. They can take bigger risks and throw money at any situation. Nintendo, historically, has been unable to do that.
This doesn’t mean that Nintendo has been penniless though. A lot of people kept saying that Nintendo was about to go out of business and become the next Sega when it became clear that the GameCube wasn’t outselling the Xbox and PS2. However, “not outselling” and “failing to perform” are two very different things. During the GameCube/PS2/Xbox cycle, Nintendo was nowhere near flopping, even if the GameCube was a complete failure, which just wasn’t the case (a complete failure means discontinuing before the next console, not getting integrated into it). See, Nintendo’s always been more or less bulletproof thanks to their handheld market, which they’ve never lot a grip on.
That is until now. As soon as the 3DS was announced, fans were clambering to find out more. “What games will be on it?!” “When will it come out?!” “How much will it cost?!” That last part is what did a number of the usually eager fanbase. $250 is a lot to spend on a portable system. It’s one of two reasons I never had an interest in a PSP. The other was an entire lack of excitement for the games on the system, which the PSP and 3DS also have in common for me. Launching the 3DS without any immediately significant games is no good, but it’s once again not without precedence. More on that in a moment.
First, I want to talk about another aspect of Nintendo that a lot of people, specifically now, are feeling. There is the assumption that Nintendo does not like its fans, does not want their money, and does not want to learn. People got mad when the GameCube was released without a DVD player in it (awesome, it kept the price down and I already had a DVD player). Then the same thing happened with the Wii (awesome, kept the price down and I already had a DVD player, and ironically I watch Netflix on my Wii as I don’t have to pay for a Gold account to do so, which I had to do on my Xbox 360). Operation Rainfall is a great example of fans demanding something from Nintendo and getting, essentially, told to shove off.
The motivation behind Operation Rainfall is to get Nintendo of America to release three Japanese RPGs here in the United States, two of which have already been localized for the UK. Despite demands, despite petitions, despite being a generally great gathering of like-minded gamers, Nintendo has said the usual “We don’t have plans now, but wait and see someday.” A lot of people see this as Nintendo being just downright stupid as there are thousands of gamers wanting to give their money to Nintendo but being refused. Just hold on though, because there are two parts that make rational sense as to why Nintendo has hesitated here.
Let’s talk Earthbound. Why? Because I love Earthbound. You probably love Earthbound as well. A lot of people love Earthbound. Except most of us all loved it after the fact. It was a colossal failure on the SNES and has been the main game people can point to as to why Nintendo aren’t willing to try something new on the RPG front here in the US. Sure, we whine and complain a bunch, constantly wanting more games to be localized, but then comes the other half of the equation we always, ALWAYS seem to forget: Fans of geek culture never turn up when they’re supposed to.
Take a moment to think about Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Great movie, right? Oh yeah, I loved the hell out of it. I saw it in theaters twice and then bought the DVD. Guess what other fans forgot to do? Go see it and buy the DVD. Scott Pilgrim ended up getting completely trounced in the box office for no good reason as hundreds of thousands of geeks said they wanted to go see it. Kick Ass was the same deal. Simple fact: We’ve proven that we can’t be trusted to show up when companies take risks on us doing just that. Want some game-related anecdotal evidence? How about No More Heroes or Mad World or Zack and Wiki or A Boy and His Blob? All great games, all applauded for coming to the Wii, none sold enough to matter much. Oops.
So when Nintendo says kindly that they have no immediate plans to release certain games in the US, remember that there’s a precedence already set. Do I want the Operation Rainfall games to show up in the US? Absolutely. Will I buy them? Not a chance. Does that make me a bad gamer? I don’t really think so.
Now we’re back to the immediate state of Nintendo. The 3DS hasn’t been selling amazingly due to the high price and the lack of AAA games for the system, games that Nintendo has announced but hasn’t given us yet. Thus far we have Ocarina of Time 3D (I bought that one, in case you were wondering), and soon Star Fox 64’s remake, a new Kid Icarus, a new Mario game, a new Mario Kart, a new Paper Mario, and a new Luigi’s Mansion. And of course a new Smash Bros somewhere down the line. I couldn’t be happier with that line of promises. Best of all, those titles will be staggered just enough that even I will be able to afford them. Happy day indeed.
See, another thing to learn about me, I never understood the constant complaining of people saying that the Wii had no good games. I can disagree completely there. I can come up with at least 10 games on my immediate shelf that felt entirely worth the system’s existence, all released at a staggered pace. I got the most time out of Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 and Smash Bros Brawl, but Donkey Kong Country Returns, No More Heroes, Metroid Prime 3, and Super Paper Mario were all great to me as well. And the best part is, my collection isn’t done yet. There are still a handful of Wii games I’d love to own soon, like Masamura: The Demon Blade, A Boy and His Blob, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. I just haven’t had the money yet to buy any of them. Most of my games come secondhand from my Xbox 360 relatives, and from that system I can only count about 5 that I own and really loved with a handful of others that are on my “buy if they’re cheap” list. And I still have Skyward Sword to look forward to this year.
“But Chris! I don’t like Nintendo games!” Yeah, alright, what’s your point? Then don’t buy a Wii. I don’t like Modern Warfare and yet people everywhere love those games and flock to them like moths. And I can understand exactly why, but I don’t get mad because the Xbox 360 is flooded with similar titles. I just get happy playing what I feel like.
Back on the 3DS, the price suddenly drops by $80 and everyone rushes to point fingers and ridicule. By Nintendo dropping the price they’ve effectively signed a statement reading, “Yup, we’re getting desperate so please buy the system.” In all reality though, would we rather they slash the price of the system to encourage new buyers, or would we rather they acted too proud to see when something needed change. They’ve already announced the games we want, now the system costs something we can all get behind. And if you bought the system early, you get 20 free games from the Virtual Console as a thank you for supporting the initial launch.
I still don’t understand the hesitation behind the 3DS’ eventual library of games. Systems never launch with strong titles anymore. The Xbox 360 had pretty much nothing that made me want the system immediately and the PS3 still doesn’t have anything that can convince me I need the system right now. Remember, Nintendo is just one company, so they can only make so many games at one time. They didn’t make Capcom release crap like Resident Evil Mercenaries or watered-down versions of whole games like Street Fighter IV. And they didn’t tell Ubisoft to remake Rayman 2 and pump out more Rabbids games. Let other publishers take the blame for stupid and frankly lazy choices, not the company offering the platform. Do we applaud Apple for Angry Birds? Hell no. Do we boo them for flashlight apps? Hell no.
To refresh you, I got a DS the Christmas season it came out. I didn’t have a single game for it until Mario Kart DS came out. I bought that, Animal Crossing DS, and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time all within a month of each other nearly a year after actually getting the system. New Super Mario Bros would follow a bit later as well as Metroid Prime Hunters and Pokemon Diamond/Pearl. I just think it’s a shame they pushed Pokemon Black and White onto the DS instead of holding them back for the 3DS. That small move and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
My point is that I know the best is yet to come. I know the good games are on their way, even if Capcom doesn’t like Mega Man fans anymore. I know that Nintendo still knows what they’re doing. Cutting the price doesn’t look like a company getting desperate; it looks like a smart company being aggressive with their risks. Nintendo president Iwata doesn’t sound like someone who isn’t listening to fans. On the contrary, he sounds like he’s more than ready to work with them to make the 3DS a success.
I bought a 3DS today along with the Ocarina of Time remake. I’m ready to buy the next game that comes out on that short list of first-party games up there. And then the next. And so on. I’m excited for the Wii U. I’m optimistic about Nintendo’s future, even if so few people seem to remember where Nintendo’s come from. Here’s to you Nintendo, for all those years together. Let’s make it many, many more.