It’s always a sad event when something from one’s childhood dies. Every kid is forced to face reality at some point, no matter how strongly they believe in something. Whether it’s realizing Santa and the Easter Bunny aren’t real, facing up to the fact that eating paste isn’t good for you or uncovering the truth behind professional wrestling, dreams are made to be smashed.
When my older brother first bought a Nintendo, I was convinced it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Anything that involves a fat Italian plumber jumping on things is bound to be amusing, but there were literally thousands of other games to choose from for Nintendo’s baby. By forking over a little bit of cash, people could fight Mike Tyson, slay an evil pig-man who kidnapped a princess and even hunt ducks. Nintendo made ridiculous amounts of money with the system, and everything was looking up for them.
As years passed, they were arguably at the forefront of every evolution in game consoles. They dropped the ball a few times (“Virtual Boy,” the Nintendo glove), but always recovered from any mistakes they made. Yes, things were good for Nintendo. The key word is “were.”
It hurts to admit it, but Nintendo is going down the tubes slowly and surely. The fall of this giant began with the Nintendo 64, when higher-ups thought it would be a wise choice to market their system to a younger core audience. Aside from a handful of gems produced by Nintendo itself, the system’s library was comprised of mostly lackluster kids’ games.
People who bought the system went into a sort of denial of its rather pitiful software lineup. Diverting the attention from the pile of crap to a few great games worked for a while, but as time passed, even the biggest Nintendo fan boys were left wondering what had happened to their old friend.
While the GameCube has enjoyed moderate success, Nintendo continues to ignore its unrelenting decline. The GameCube is host to a few amazing games which, sticking with tradition, are almost all produced by Nintendo. Their third-party support is pathetic, with their only big hits coming from the same few developers.
Developers have noticed the ship is sinking and are afraid to put their resources into games for Nintendo’s systems. While Sony and Microsoft realize success in this market is contingent on pulling in an older audience, Nintendo is too stubborn to admit they were wrong. Granted, they have put out a few more mature games in more recent times, but the bulk of their software continues to keep a kid-friendly feel.
Even developers who seemed determined to help revive the struggling company are realizing the hopelessness of the situation. Nintendo’s favorite lapdog, Capcom, has taken franchises that were originally “GameCube exclusives” and ported them over to the Playstation 2. “Viewtiful Joe” and “Resident Evil 4” are signs of the company’s loss of confidence in Nintendo. If Capcom were to stop producing games for the GameCube, things would be catastrophic. ‘Cube owners would be subjected to a constant barrage of horrid games, with a few periodic first-party releases to keep them drinking the Kool-Aid.
The sad thing about their current situation is that anytime they have a decent-selling game, Nintendo begins to whore it out in every way possible. This philosophy of beating a horse until people stop caring it’s dead is the basis of many of the company’s recent releases. Surely someone has noticed the sudden appearances of “Mario Tennis” and “Mario Baseball” after the mild success of “Mario Golf.” I, for one, wouldn’t be surprised to see “Mario Hockey” and “Mario Soccer” in the next few years.
Taking a game genre and slapping a mascot’s face on it does not qualify as being creative. The games may sell well, but sooner or later the novelty of seeing the same character in every single situation possible wears off.
Until something changes, Nintendo fans can continue to remind themselves that nobody else has Zelda or Metroid. It’s not exactly easy, however, for a company to do well with only a couple of big franchises — look at how Sega was doing a couple years back. Oh, yeah, they almost went bankrupt. Interesting.
The only thing left for Nintendo to do is acknowledge they were wrong about something once and for all. If they continue to alienate older gamers, developers won’t have the confidence in the company to develop for their platforms. Once Nintendo is able to show they have captured a broader audience, third-party support will begin to come back and the now-humbled company can reclaim its former glory.