Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-05-23 17:26:14
In Defence of Nintendo
Nintendo are getting a lot of stick from pissed off gamers at the moment because of the Wii U. While it's difficult to deny that the Wii U is, at the time of writing, a struggling console in the software department, I think things will pick up in time. The console is still fairly new, and so players should be willing to wait at least a little bit longer before proclaiming it as the new Dreamcast. However, this article isn't here to discuss whether or not the Wii U is a good system; instead, I would like to talk a bit about why I like Nintendo, and why I think they are a necessary presence in gaming, despite what some people are arguing at the moment about their questionable business decisions.
Nintendo gaming systems are considered to be 'kid-friendly', and I personally think that's a good thing. If you look at the upcoming PS4 launch titles, the biggest first-party games are a new Killzone and a new Infamous, with third-party titles like a new Assassin's Creed and Watch Dogs topping them off. While these games are certainly going to be of a high quality, they all have something in common - they are designed with older gamers in mind. I certainly wouldn't be giving my seven year old daughter (or son) a copy of Killzone. And while the games available on the system will naturally grow in variety, I have a strong feeling that both the next-gen Playstation and the next-gen Xbox will be favouring games like God of War, Uncharted, Gears of War and Halo over games made for younger players.
While Nintendo are branching out with their third-party support with the Wii U, they have a different business ethnic than Sony and Microsoft when it comes to making video games. Nintendo's first-party games are franchises like Mario, Kirby, Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda and Pikmin. These are but a few of the high-quality games that you would be happy letting a young child play. That is what motivates Nintendo, and it is what has motivated them for quite some time. I often see people complaining that Nintendo are pandering to a young audience, but these same people, in many cases, grew up playing the SNES and the N64. It makes perfect sense that those same people would now want more 'mature' gaming experiences, but to criticise Nintendo for still accommodating younger gamers is a bit silly to me - everyone was a young gamer at one point, and thus we need the games Nintendo provides to bring the next generation of gamers into the gaming world.
I'm not suggesting that only kids can enjoy Nintendo games. Games such as Super Mario Galaxy appeal to everyone, and Nintendo can certainly deliver on the hardcore experiences when they need to. I do, however, see Nintendo as being a company who deliver first-party titles (and exclusives) aimed at all ages that Sony and Microsoft do not. Microsoft exclusives include games like Castle Crashers, Alan Wake and Lost Odyssey. Sony exclusives are games like Twisted Metal, Tokyo Jungle and MotorStorm. There are some games that younger gamers could enjoy, such as LittleBigPlanet and Flower, but whether or not they'd appreciate them is a different matter. Of course, Microsoft also has the Kinect, but I've yet to see many kids enjoying it, or any truly decent software come out for it.
You look at Nintendo, and you see exclusives like Animal Crossing, Mario Kart and games in the Wario series. All of these games are kid-friendly without necessarily being 'kiddy'. Despite the fact that I'm in my twenties, I like the fact that Nintendo have services like Nintendo Direct, Nintendo TV and the Nintendo Treehouse; I like that they maintain a universal likeability and don't favour older gamers over younger gamer; and I like that they build their games to satisfy all age groups, often including easy modes in their first-party games for new players and harder modes for more accomplished gamers.
To the people who argue that Nintendo are somehow becoming obsolete, I have to wonder what a gaming climate would be like without them. Some people have argued that Nintendo should move away from hardware and focus on developing software for Sony or Microsoft. While that isn't necessarily a terrible idea, with Nintendo systems I like to know that I'm getting a system that will have a lot of first-party support put into it from development teams that you know have the interests of your kids at heart. While video games are maturing, and many players have grown up, we have to remember that kids still need a company that is looking out for them, and who can consistently deliver cute, fun and innovative gaming experiences without sacrificing their universal appeal. Nintendo fulfils that role, and I cannot fault them for that.