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Facing Changes, Choosing None
Posted on Tuesday, July 21 2009 @ 15:28:24 PST

They say that you are often harsher on the ones you love. When a family member did something stupid, or a girlfriend said something nasty, people push back because they have a deep affection for them, and eventually work out their problems through various means. True love and passion comes from solving differences, and accepting changes and compromises from others.

But, sometimes it is very hard to accept change. Hell, it is natural almost to reject it after you become comfortable in your routines. And it is also hard to compromise and stay true to those compromises, something many have attempted to and failed to do over the years, from politicians to athletes, entertainers to editors.

Why all of this sentimental stuff? As a long time gamer, one company has often stood out over the rest due to their innovation and their quality of work, and that company was Nintendo. The Japanese giant not only saved video games, but is arguably the pioneers of commercial video game playing today, thanks in part of the Nintendo Entertainment System, or the Famicon in Japan. With the help of visionaries such as Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Ioki, Nintendo created some the most memorable franchises in video game history, from the Legendary Zelda series to the iconic Mario Bros. series. It goes without question that Nintendo is the most celebrated and adored video game publisher in the world.

But that was then. For all of Nintendo’s achievements, therein lies one, fundamental problem, and that is Nintendo’s adversary to change. Nintendo as a company has been a leader in video game consoles since 1984, but it was during the past decade, in the onset of the 3-D era, that the golden age of video game makers began to falter, leading to both positive and negative innovations in today’s video game market.

Nintendo’s problem is that with each new generation of consoles, there is a major adherence to do things their own way. While commendable, negative aspects often emerge and prove somewhat fatal to the consoles created. The 64 bit era brought Nintendo’s final cartridge console, the Nintendo 64. While the console was powerful, small, and very efficient, the limitations of cartridges were showing, thanks to poor musical qualities, use of static pictures, and graphical slowdown (until the expansion pack came out, which became required for some high-end games like Perfect Dark and Donkey Kong 64.) plagued many games on the system. While most of these are aesthetic problems, the hardware unable to match the larger capacity for disc and DVD games being put forth by the Playstation and Playstation 2, created by Sony.

It is worth mentioning that Nintendo had a deal with Sony to create a system that would have been produced by the company, but the deal fell flat in 1995. This lead to Sony going solo, creating the Playstation one system and the rest is basically history. While it is still unclear why Nintendo refused to use discs, the overall impact of that decision changed the landscape of video games forever.

While the Nintendo 64 was still a successful system, it was the lack of conformity that doomed the next project, the Nintendo Gamecube. A system again, was at best mediocre in graphics but had some astonishing gameplay advances, put forth some great products. The problems again were the formats of the discs, which Nintendo embraced, in a mini format. These discs lead to a lack of DVD usage again, and more importantly online support and connectivity, which was experimented on in the Playstation 2 and fully implemented on the Microsoft X-Box, the new competitor in the market. Once again, Nintendo offered connectivity between their hand-held games and the Gamecube only, using game link cables as the connector to consoles. While Nintendo-published games essentially pimped this idea, 3rd party support, already waning, was almost non-existent on the console.

With the advent of the 7th generation, Nintendo’s trump card was the Nintendo Wii, a console which uses the motion control scheme to play games. While innovative, charming, and capable of taking games to new territory, once again Nintendo drops the ball on many aspects that would solidify their position today. For one, online connectivity is available, but through the use of friend codes, instead of a service that connects all such as X-box Live or the Playstation Network. These cumbersome codes make friend making on the system very difficult and at best offer short, quick online matches for specific games only.

Nintendo, in an attempt to focus on their new control scheme with the Nintendo Wii, decided to change their market strategy, one that has proved to be successful if only initially. Casual gaming is a mainstream industry, thanks to cheap flash games like Peggle and Bejeweled, “casual” gamers have drifted towards the console for quick fixes and simple minded fun. Also thanks to this market, however, are rampant shovelware titles that are created for quick cash in’s, flooding the Wii’s market with game after game filled with poor control implementation, mini-games and cheap gameplay value. This also leaves good games in Nintendo’s library, such as Capcom’s “Zack and Wiki”, or THQ’s “De Blob”, with low sales despite utilizing the controls of the system to their benefit.

 The problems with shovelware aside, the technical capabilities of the Nintendo Wii are blown out of the water by the two major competitors’, this time the X-Box 360 and the Playstation 3. Both boost a stronger game library, more third party support options that do not fit a “casual” market only, and arguably better first party game experiences. Nintendo, in an attempt to focus on the non-gamers, has alienated the gamers themselves, and what’s more, Microsoft and Sony are now attempting to cash into the “casual” crowd their motion controller schemes and emerging casual gaming markets.

So where does this leave Nintendo? Many fanboys would let the big N go on these missed opportunities out of support for their great franchises, despite great titles by Mario and Zelda every now and then, it seems that Nintendo is quick to embrace nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Their primary first party games, while often the best games created, as many would attest to, are based off of their previous achievements. The only new franchises that can be considered a success for gamers is the Pikmin series, developed for the Nintendo Gamecube, while other series such as Nintendogs, and the Wii series, are viewed as by-products of the “casual” push by many hardcore gamers. Even major series, such as Mario and Metroid, have suffered a bit due to the lack of innovation put forth from previous efforts by Nintendo, and sometimes rightfully so.

But this is just the tip of the iceburg for the company. With the eventual onset of digital downloads, where can Nintendo go from here? The world of video games is changing again after almost twelve years of using discs and 3-D graphics. Nintendo has shown it is ardent to follow its own path, but the choices made along the way have been at best questionable, and at worst disastrous. While the Nintendo Wii is the top selling console right now, many believe that it has reached it’s peak in sales, and will suffer a major decline in the coming two years. The casual market is becoming stagnant and now it’s competitors plan to one-up what Nintendo has essentially pioneered, and chances are they will create a better overall experience for the video game population.

It is hard to be a fan of a company like Nintendo and notice the faults that have held it back for years, but only a true fan would acknowledge these faults in the end. Nintendo is facing a questionable future by not letting go of its past, by blazing a new trail that, for every positive aspect that is brought out from it, several negatives one easily counter. The future of games will change again, and for Nintendo to survive it must not choose to do nothing.

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