Of late, Nintendo have become an entirely predictable and frankly lazy company. Like a home owner standing over their failed DIY as water spews mercilessly into the kitchen, I blame the plumber. It’s true that not all of it is Mario’s fault, Link and Pikachu, among others, could also be held accountable, but as Nintendo’s poster boy, Mario should really know better.
In the late ’90s I had a Playstation and after that a Playstation 2 so it was with wonder and excitement that I purchased a Wii having heard tales of the joys offered by the N64 and the Gamecube. But I was to be disappointed. While I enjoyed Twilight Princess and had fun with Mario Galaxy, the console never seemed to progress and in the end I gave up waiting for something special and went crawling back to Sony. I feel like I have missed out on Nintendo’s prime years but Nintendo seem to be doing little to change their current form. Go to the Nintendo category on any games website and I guarantee that the new instalment of an established franchise will be under discussion. People will be commenting on how exciting it is, how new innovations are being used and how the systems are being pushed to their limits, all the while ignoring (or perhaps embracing) the fact that nothing has really changed. So while Sony can discuss new exclusives and franchises, Nintendo relies on the old guard, a small group of franchises that it knows will make money. And we reward them for this behaviour. Every year we flock to the shops to see what the little Italian has been up to now, so every year Nintendo see no reason to branch out into something new; it’s a viscous cycle.
At this point I realise that perhaps I’m being a bit of a hypocrite. Sequels, prequels and remakes are a staple of gaming across all platforms and, unlike films, game sequels often improve on their predecessors. I buy, enjoy and get excited about such games, from Civilization to Hitman. So maybe I’m being harsh on Nintendo. The difference, however, is that no other platforms rely entirely on such franchises for their success; Sony and Microsoft have franchises but they could survive without them and they continue to welcome new ones.
Getting rid of Mario and chums is probably not the answer; after all, they make money and we still love them. A focus shift is what needs to happen. Nintendo have decided to avoid competing with other platforms in terms of graphics and online content by offering what they see as fun and innovative gaming; that’s all well and good but these things have to be used to better effect. By making a bigger deal about new games and third party creations Nintendo will attract more current gamers to their platform and they can continue to sweeten the deal with old franchises. Adopt this strategy Nintendo and maybe, just maybe I’ll take Mario off the dart board and consider your next console (probably the one after the Wii U).