Ever since the recent birthday of the SNES I’ve been daydreaming about my classic memories with the system and with my old friend, Nintendo. It made me realize just how nearly flawless of a game Super Mario World really was and I couldn’t shake the urge to play the game. Luckily, the redeeming feature of the Wii came to mind and I jumped on the Wii Shop and quickly purchased a copy via the Virtual Console. I was excited because this was also a game my girlfriend grew up with and I knew we could play it together.
I loaded up the game and ran through a few levels before she sat down on the couch with me and agreed to join in for a 2 player game. I gave her the Wii Classic Controller and left to dig up one of my many Gamecube controllers since I have trouble throwing out old gaming devices. Nostalgia took over the both of us as our childhoods began running through our minds as she ran her Mario through the first level. Unfortunately this trip was short-lived. My turn was completely broken by the Gamecube controller experience, and I was confronted with the frustrating realities of the 2011 version of Nintendo. I want to still love my Nintendo games, but unnecessary complications get in the way of every experience they make these days. In a matter of seconds I once again went from idolizing Nintendo to cursing their name.
My reaction has been quite common ever since the newness of my Wii and DS wore off. As a fan and supporter of the company for 25 years now, it still surprises me that my gut reaction to their decisions that I deem to be poor is blinding anger. Why do I care so much? I’m not the only one, but my level of anger would not even show up on the scale of fanboy overreactions that have been occurring in the last few years. The most recent disdain for Nintendo aroused from the 3DS nub accessory have been particularly shocking. Not only do I think the rage is completely unfounded, but I fail to understand the intent of such strong emotions over a company trying to do right even if their efforts seem aimless and clumsy. While my anger stems from a desire for Nintendo to make holistically better product experiences for their fans, the unproductive hatred of some of their supporters seems to be leading down a path where I’m not sure if Nintendo can ever return to form.
Impassioned fanboys and fangirls exist for every major company and Nintendo’s competition has their share. Sony detractors had a field day with the PSN outages, and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 well forever be synonymous with the red ring of death. My perspective may be skewed, but I do not approach this topic from the Nintendo camp. For the entirety of this generation my feet have been planted in the 360’s corner while my Wii collects dust for months on end. When new ideas, good news, or bad news arises from any of the three major console manufacturers the amount of scrutiny and doubt created by Nintendo headlines dwarfs the combination of Sony and Microsoft’s worst days. That’s saying a lot since Sony recently put all of our personal information at risk to criminals, while Nintendo’s attempts to save the 3DS appear to somehow seem directly harm gamers who don’t even own one.
Everyone has a solution for Nintendo. Make iPhone games. Make a hardcore console. Reinvent a franchise for western audiences. Stop making handhelds. Stop making consoles all together. Outsource your core franchises. These solutions get echoed across forums, comments, and social networks every time Nintendo “offends” a fan with their decisions. In their attempts to fix Nintendo, the only solution these “mistreated” gamers can offer is to unrecognizably change Nintendo into a company they will probably only end up hating more, or worse, into a company they don’t care about at all.
When Nintendo announced the DS and the Wii, the outcry from fans was that Nintendo had lost its mind. I publicly doubted both products, but Nintendo pressed on and defied the critics, odds, and industry to lead a handheld revolution and bring in a whole new segment of gamers to the living room with their motion controlled experiences. The chances of repeating that level of success with the next batch of consoles is more improbable than the original success itself. Nintendo has swung and missed with the 3DS, and the Wii U is having rumored development troubles even before its release.
Uphill both ways
It reminds me of Nintendo’s initial rise with the NES and SNES when they partnered with Sony to develop their next disc based console. Nintendo was on top and in a position where no one could doubt their decisions. Instead, Nintendo ditches Sony at the last minute and decides to go their own with another cartridge based system. This not only started Nintendo’s decline throughout the N64 and Gamecube eras, but gave rise to the PlayStation and Sony’s journey to the top of the industry with the PS2. Who is to say that Nintendo’s misstep and Sony’s success upon entering the industry did not give Microsoft the confidence to enter the battle? Conjecture, sure, but Nintendo’s mistakes have led to the rise of better competition. Which at the end of the last battle saw Nintendo figure things out and get back on top of the industry.
The story this time is that mobile gaming has moved on and game consoles are finally taking over our living rooms. The lines between computers, tablets, phones, and consoles is blurring and Nintendo’s role in delivering us single purpose devices is looking a hell of a lot less stable. Doubt should be at an all time high, but do not expect Nintendo fall quietly or predictably.
Regardless of the hate out there, wishing failure upon Nintendo is misguided. Innovators should drive our industry and in an age where supporters seem to be blind to the small missteps of their favorite brands, mistakes are forgivable, inevitable, and ultimately harmless in most cases. The 3DS and the Wii U may both fail, and may have short life cycles because of it but they will have successors. Those successors may be safer bets and come quicker due to the need for Nintendo to stabilize, but a stable Nintendo will not stay dormant for long and they will try to change the game again. Regardless of that outcome, the journey there can only be good for the industry and for Nintendo.
What was my solution to my most recent Nintendo problem? A $15 purchase of yet another Nintendo accessory. I’m now able to relive the glory days of my video game memories alongside my best friend. The anger has subsided to a dull annoyance, but a great game always outshines those speed bumps. Sure Nintendo should have a better solution for keeping their classic games working with their most popular accessories, and there are dozens of little annoyances like this that keep me from playing their current systems more often. They will adapt or they will die, but I implore you all to keep calm and know what you are asking for out of one of the industry’s oldest and most loyal friends. Nintendo is out of touch, but they are not lost, nor should any of us wish to see them gone.