You can fault Nintendo for plenty of things, but half-baked annualized releases is certainly not one of them. The house of Mario is focused on quality over quantity, being careful not to run its franchises into the ground by oversaturating the market.
Just look at the Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. series. Nintendo only releases one entry per console generation. Plus, each new installment is markedly different than the last, be it mechanically, technically, or otherwise. And now, with the rise in popularity of DLC, Nintendo is able to serve up new content to its fans on a regular basis without having to release a brand-new entry every year.
Speaking to this strategy, Nintendo of America's Scott Moffitt told Examiner: "We tend not to annualize our franchises, there's not a new Mario Kart every year. What we've tried to do with the Wii U is first, create a fully-featured, really enjoyable game that has something for everybody, has surprises that you'll discover as you play through levels, and it gives you a good amount of quality entertainment.
"For fans who love [Mario Kart], we've released extra content over time so that it keeps the game fresh and allows them to experience more than they could when they originally bought the game," he continued. "That's the approach we take, rather than annualizing the franchise, we are periodically releasing new courses, levels, and features that keep people playing. We see a huge surge in gameplay hours on Mario Kart when we [release new content]."
However, it's a different story for some of its other franchises, especially Pokémon, which sees multiple new installments within a hardware generation. "If you look at the Pokémon franchise, we have released multiple core games for the 3DS," Moffitt added. "We like to give fans something every year, but something like Mario Kart or Smash Bros., there may only be one version of that franchise in the whole console cycle." When you consider the slew of Pokémon spin-offs as well, the series sometimes sees multiple games released within a given year.
As one would suspect, Nintendo takes its release approach on a franchise-by-franchise basis. Moffitt summed up the company's strategy by saying: "It all depends on the franchise, the developer and what new ideas they can bring to the franchise to move the gameplay forward and keep the franchise fresh. I think we always need to innovate and we need to always bring new ideas and new thoughts, but they have to be sufficient enough to justify the next release. Small, incremental changes may not be worth a whole new release."
What do you think of Nintendo's approach to game releases? Do you think we should see multiple Mario Kart games in a generation? Should we see less Pokémon installments in favor of greater leaps of innovation?