Nintendo Didn't Turn its Back on its Loyal Fans; Loyal Fans Turned Their Backs on Nintendo (and That's Okay)

This is a blog post originally published on May, 15th 2012 on my IGN.com blog.  

Well E3 is almost upon us.  Reggie Fils-Aime's body is hard at work making itself ready, Microsoft is polishing off some more useless crap for the Kinect and Sony is (hopefully) putting together an awesome presentation to showcase the (hopefully) awesome lineup for the Vita.  It's going to be epic as it always is.  But this E3 is going to be extra epic, after all it's not every year a new home console is fully and properly revealed.  Yes the Wii U; it's the big question mark in almost everybody's mind.

As we draw closer and closer to E3 talk about Nintendo has increased a great deal. I love Nintendo, always have, always will. I personally have had no problem with Nintendo's offerings in recent years.  But, alas my feeling is not shared by everybody. It seems that, as far as I can tell, ever since the Gamecube days certain people have begun to grow disgruntled with Nintendo.  This feeling of disgruntlement has increased exponentially as the DS, Wii and 3DS have come along.  What has Nintendo been doing? Why do they pander to little kids and old farts?  Doesn't Nintendo care about the hardcore gamers, the gamers who relished Nintendo's offerings in the 80's and 90's?  And why, for the love of all things holy does Nintendo insist on presenting gimmick after gimmick.  Why can't Nintendo be like they were in the SNES days?  In short many gamers feel like Nintendo has turned its back on them.  Kind of like an one of your best friends calling you up one day and saying "welp, screw you I've got cooler people to hang out with now."  The truth of the matter is Nintendo hasn't really changed its strategy in the roughly 30 years they've been on the video game scene.  It's the fans who have changed, and you know what? That's totally fine.

I'd like to address the issue people seem to have with Nintendo using so many gimmicks in their products recently.  From the two screens on the DS to the Motion Controls of the Wii and of course the glasses-free 3D of the 3DS.  I kind have to chuckle when people bring this up, especially when they say something to the effect of "I just want Nintendo to forget all their stupid gimmicks and focus on pure, hardcore games like they did in the NES, SNES and N64 days."

Here's why:

Yup the NES was initially marketed with a whole crap-load of gimmicks. This is just the beginning.

Ducks Killed: 10,256. Dogs Killed: 0...that son of a bitch (is not swearing because you know...)

Those are just some of the myriad of gimmicks Nintendo has employed over the past 30ish years it's been making video games.  That's what Nintendo has always done.  It's much different than Microsoft's and Sony's approach, but you have to understand where each of these companies were before they got into the console-making business.  Microsoft was making operating systems and computers.  Sony was, at the time PS1 came out, the mother-effing king of all things electronic. Microsoft is all about making a slick running, powerful machine, which is what you'd expect from a technology company.  Sony is all about making an entertainment hub, which is what you'd expect from a company who made their money from entertainment devices.

So what was Nintendo doing before they started making games and consoles?  Making toys.  Nintendo started as a playing card company in the 19th century, slowly evolved into a toy company and then finally settled on making electronics.  Though they no longer make toys, some of the spirit of a toy company lives on in their consoles. They are an electronic toy company.  Now many hardcore Nintendo fans take issue with people saying this but I honestly don't see it as a bad thing.

See that's the funny thing.  Nintendo has ALWAYS been about family entertainment.  I mean for heaven's sake, the only way they let Mortal Kombat grace the SNES was in a completely butchered, lame state.  No Blood, stupid fatalities, and absolutely no spirit.  Their franchises are almost all family friendly.  Nintendo has essentially become the "Disney" of the video game world.  When I was a kid games like "Super Mario Bros. 3," "Super Mario World," "Ocarina of Time" and "Pokémon" where the paragon of gaming goodness.

Nintendo games are targeted mainly to children, much like anything Disney/Pixar does.  Disney and Pixar are two of my favorite movie studios.  I love Lion King's tale of failure and redemption. Beauty and the Beast's ending always manages to get me to respond emotionally. And eight minutes of Up tells a love story far deeper and much more gripping than the 480 minutes of the Twilight Saga.

 I love Disney and Pixar and I always will.  The things they do in their movies resonate with kids and adults (although Disney's quality has definitely waned in recent years...good thing Pixar is there to fill the void).  As much as I love Disney and Pixar and as much as my whole family and most of my friends loves Disney and Pixar there are many other adults, and even kids for that matter, who either don't like the films put out by these companies or prefer other companies' movies.  That's their right.  Some people love Disney as kids and then grow out of it preferring darker, grittier movies.  Some simply never developed a taste for Disney in the first place.  And some, like myself, enjoy Disney's offerings as well as other, more mature movies.

Nintendo is the same way.  I think people forget that.  Nintendo has always been about family entertainment, which basically means Nintendo targets their products toward children.  Just like it would be nuts for Disney to produce an "R" rated feature, so too would it be crazy for Nintendo to throw away the image they created over twenty years by producing products aimed primarily at adults and core gamers.  I have never gone to a Disney or Pixar movie expecting to see a deep story that is plot-heavy.  I expect fun movies which teach moral lessons.  Sometimes one their movies will touch me on a deep level but I don't expect them to.  Nintendo is the same way.  I don't buy a Nintendo console expecting dark, story-driven first-party games.  I buy Nintendo consoles when I want to have complete and utter fun.  Sometimes their games touch me on a deep level like The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time did, but most of the time I get nothing more than a fun experience with an expertly crafted game. Nintendo sets out to make games with stories that children can understand and gameplay that engages gamers of all ages and, more often than not, they succeed.

So why did so many people lose faith in Nintendo in the Gamecube and Wii eras?  A decrease in the quality of Nintendo's products is not to blame.  The truth is many of the children and teens who spent the 80's and 90's playing the crap out of their Nintendo consoles had grown up by the time the Gamecube and Wii came around.  They grew up, but Nintendo did not.  Nintendo's strategy hasn't changed and why should it?   There will always be children, with parents who want them to play safe and age-appropriate games.  Everybody knows this is what Nintendo provides, so why ruin that image.

Now as for all you adult Nintendo fans...don't be ashamed!  Nintendo makes good games, which can be enjoyed by the entire family. Wanting to have whimsical romp through the Mushroom Kingdom makes you no less mature than those gamers who want an epic journey through Skyrim.  I personally don't like many games targeted at older players, but that's because only I view video games as a stress relieving and fun activity.  I like the whimsical. I love the uplifting tales of adventure where the hero always prevails.  Others prefer games that are more realistic, and that's their right so there's no need to get defensive when somebody says, in a respectful manner, that they prefer other companies.

Finally, a quick word to all those who complain about Nintendo pandering to children and using gimmicks: Shut. The. Hell. Up.  So you don't like what Nintendo has to offer?  Fine.  Buy a Sony or Microsoft console, they both make great machines.  Just because you have outgrown Nintendo does not mean that your gaming tastes are more mature, more enlightened or in any way superior to those who enjoy wielding fire flowers, missiles, barrels and legendary blades when they play games.

Nintendo is going to do what they do, just like Microsoft and Sony does what they do with their gaming consoles.  We live in what I believe to be the greatest time in video game history.  You have three major companies to choose from, each offering unique experiences!  That's the beauty of it all, if you don't like what one company has to offer you can get what you need from another.  Surely we can allow one of the three to make great systems that are economical and targeted to the whole family.

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