Nintendo has every reason to be confident. Let’s just take a look at some of their accomplishments… the Nintendo and Super Nintendo were the first really well known gaming systems. Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Samus are some of the most recognizable figures in gaming through the ages. The Wii is the second best selling gaming console of all time, the DS is the best selling handheld of all time, and the 3DS is starting to take off as well. They took an idea that people scoffed them for – the wii – and turned it into an unbelievable success. They have every reason to be absolutely and utterly confident in their success.
So why aren’t they?
You’re probably wondering what it is that makes me think they lack confidence… and it’s pretty simple: They still keep trying to ‘prove’ that the wii and ds/3ds work. I’m not talking about when they design a game from the ground up to work for that platform. Things like Skyward Sword and Bowser’s Inside Story prove that those consoles are a grand success. Nobody can deny the success of those titles, and they utilize the console’s features beautifully. However, it’s those other titles. Things like Mario Galaxy, Metroid: Other M, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and even the upcoming Icarus: Uprising… these are the titles that make me feel Nintendo doesn’t have the confidence they should in what they’ve created. Not because of the quality of the games… but because of the design decisions they made.
If you have confidence in something, generally you’re willing to let it stand on it’s own merits. Nintendo’s created something that can. It is very obvious that games like Skyward Sword are a complete success. Sure the controller doesn’t appeal to everyone, but that’s fine. Just means those games designed to make use of it so completely will not be for them. But Nintendo seems to feel that that isn’t enough, that they need to make sure that every game they make use exclusively it – even those where it doesn’t make sense to do so. Games like Mario Galaxy – fantastic games that would work amazingly well with an alternate controller – are the perfect examples of this. Everything in Mario Galaxy would work perfectly with a classic controller pro. Except grabbing the stars. So essentially if you look at Mario Galaxy, it feels like somewhere during the design they were thinking to themselves ‘crap… people might be able to play this without the wii-mote… how can we change that?’. The same thing goes for most of the above titles. Donkey Kong Country Returns – would’ve worked perfectly with the classic controller pro, except that they added a ‘motion control sensitive’ mechanic to it. In many cases these mechanics even feel tacked on – such as DKCR. I’ve read a lot of places say that Metroid Other M would’ve been a lot better if they had used the classic controller pro, and that the wii-mote sideways was actually a detriment to the quality of the game.
On the DS, the same thing happens. On the one hand, they make these absolutely amazing games built for the system perfectly using the touch controls in a logical way. And on the other hand they make games that would work perfectly if the touch controls were just an option, but then fail to add any other way to play it. Things like Icarus: Uprising – which will be coming out after the second analog stick, but they have no plans to allow you to use that to actually control the game using it fully, just to switch which hand uses the stylus.
It feels like Nintendo is afraid that if they give people any choice, people will come to some epiphany that Nintendo’s design is really not that good – that the wii-mote really isn’t ideal or that the touch screen on the DS is a sub-par option. I don’t think that they need to fear that. My thought is that if they were to show true confidence in their product and allow people that choice – the option to use other methods of controlling the games that it makes sense for – that they would build a stronger fanbase and possibly begin to reconcile with the gamers they’ve alienated. Why? Firstly, because confidence is attractive. People love confidence. And secondly, because those gamers love choices. You just have to take 1 look at the game that received Game of the Year from nearly 9 out of 10 publications to see that. And the benefits of the above are easy to see. More sales, more user retention, more word of mouth, and in the end everyone wins.
So please Nintendo, if anyone from your company reads this little site, and this little plea – consider believing in your product as much as you should and give people options. I don’t think you’ll suffer for it.
Written by: Sean