For Our Consideration

Steamboat Willie

Night At The Museum

Nintendo would do well to learn from Disney Animation’s rise and fall.

By Anthony John Agnello • November 6, 2013

I’ll take Entertainment Dynasties for $1,000, Alex. The answer is: This company rose to prominence with the creation of charming, memorable cartoon characters that established it as a multi-billion-dollar international corporate empire. For decades, an army of talented artists created yet more characters to star in hits that enraptured audiences’ hearts. As these artists aged, though, they increasingly relied on their old works to carry the company forward, their relevance waning as the years went on.

Dicey one, Jeopardy! viewers. Trebek would probably have to accept two answers. “What is Walt Disney Animation Studios?” is just as valid as “What is Nintendo?” Nintendo’s evolution over nearly four decades of video game making mirrors the way Disney matured over a similar period in animation. The latter’s history holds important lessons for Nintendo about how to stay artistically potent after gaining success on a global scale.

In the 1920s, Walt Disney’s “Steamboat Willie” and its star, Mickey Mouse, helped animation grow into an internationally adored entertainment. Winsor McKay’s experiments in animation like “Gertie the Dinosaur” and other early cartoons were sensations, not unlike early game icons like Pac-man and Space Invaders, but Mickey Mouse became the face of animation for many people after his debut in 1928. Shigeru Miyamoto’s Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. gave video games their star in much the same way. Mickey and Mario begot new characters like Donald Duck and Link. Those characters begot new cartoons and games, which in turn spawned thousands of lucrative tie-in products, from theme parks to television series and more. The two companies’ similar trajectories haven’t been lost on Nintendo. It surveyed American children in 1997 and found that Mario had become more recognizable than Mickey.

That wasn’t Mickey’s fault. Disney Animation simply was no longer in the business of creating icons by 1997, and Nintendo was. In the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, Disney producer Don Hahn chronicled how Disney Animation attempted to claw its way out of irrelevance in 1984. It had been 17 years since the studio produced The Jungle Book. The Nine Old Men—Walt’s dream team behind Snow White, Pinocchio, and the other classics made between 1937 and the late ’60s—had ceded control to young animators who struggled to maintain the classic Disney quality and prolificacy.

By the early ’80s, the studio was over budget and past schedule trying to finish its adaptation of The Black Cauldron, and the company’s board of directors was considering a plan to break up the company and sell off the pieces, including the storied animation division. Roy Disney—Walt’s nephew and a former Disney executive—led a group of investors who installed Michael Eisner as the company’s new CEO in order to save the company, and specifically the animation studio. Roy believed that animation was the heart and soul of Disney as both a business and an artistic force, while outsiders argued that animation had outlived its usefulness. Disney already had the characters it needed to sell toys and T-shirts, the classic movies to resell on video, and a booming live-action film business. New animation wasn’t needed. “If you really think that way,” said Roy Disney in Waking Sleeping Beauty, “then what you’re doing is running a museum.”

The Nintendo of 2013 faces a predicament similar to the Disney Animation of 1984. Nintendo is still a financially viable company, sitting on billions of dollars in liquid assets, but its shareholders are nervous. The lucrative Super Mario Bros. and Pokémon games that fuel the company’s profits are shackled to machines like the Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo 3DS that are sold to just a fraction of the mass audience playing games on smartphones. Those investors aren’t calling for the company to be broken up as Disney’s were, but they are calling for the company to chase profits elsewhere using its familiar characters.

The profitability of Nintendo’s hardware business isn’t the biggest threat to the company’s future. Nintendo is, sadly, behaving as though it’s running a museum. It has been seven years since Nintendo introduced a new game series that really connected with its audience, and while Wii Sports and its sequel, Wii Sports Resort, sold a collective 111 million copies (when you count all the copies of Wii Sports packed in with Wii consoles), those games didn’t add a new character to Nintendo’s pantheon of stars. You have to go back to 2001 and 2002, when Nintendo introduced the world to Pikmin and Animal Crossing respectively, to find a moment when the company created new characters that introduced players to new types of games.

Pikmin

Released in 2001, Pikmin was one of Nintendo’s last attempts at introducing new characters, namely the titular species of helpful plant creatures.

Even the lack of new mascots doesn’t get to the worm in Nintendo’s core, though. The company has seemingly lost all willingness to experiment freely with its characters. Mickey Mouse and his pals were useful for Disney because they let the animation team tell so many different stories with varied artistic styles. The vibrant, musical Fantasia was quite different from the seven-minute slapstick-fest “Haunted House.” Until recently, Nintendo took a similar approach with Mario and its other regular characters. The muted palette of Super Mario Bros. 3 gave way to the thick-lined primary colors of Super Mario World, which morphed into the crayon wash of Yoshi’s Island. The staid look of The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time gave way to the hallucinatory Majora’s Mask. The lifeblood of Nintendo’s internal development was a willingness to take artistic risks.

Today, Nintendo has settled into a factory-style production of new games starring those old characters. There have five games in the New Super Mario Bros. series of run and jumpers, and all of those games, while fun in their own right, are indistinguishable from each other. No experimentation, just repetition, a familiar product that can be pumped out to keep the profit machine running. Nintendo has been explicit about its shift to factory production. New Super Mario Bros. 2, the most sterile of the lot, was actually made by developers fresh out of what the company calls “Mario Cram School”—an internal program designed to teach Nintendo’s non-Mario developers how to make levels in the classic series. In the same Nintendo-approved developer chat linked to above, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata boasts that this program “made it possible to achieve what we never had before—making two New Super Mario Bros. games at once!” Mario as Ford Model-T.

How did Disney save itself? Ultimately, it didn’t. The animation studio came under the control of Roy Disney and other executives like Jeffrey Katzenberg, and the crew ran itself ragged making new animated features based on classic children’s stories just like the Nine Old Men did. The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty And The Beast (1991), thanks in large part to the Broadway musical duo Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, gave the studio its first major hits in ages. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) injected some of that wild, experimental spirit back into the studio. Disney followed these up with even bigger successes like Aladdin and the commercial gamble The Lion King, but the magic didn’t last. As the ’90s went on, Disney Animation’s productions played second fiddle to animated features made by an independent studio, Pixar, that was later acquired by Disney in 2006. After that, Pixar’s creative executives essentially took over the company’s animation wing. The post-acquisition Disney Animation makes some decent stuff. Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph (which even has a cameo appearance by Mario’s nemesis, Bowser) are pretty good. Still, while the studio may not be a museum, it’s not also no longer a force to be reckoned with.

Nintendo would do well to follow Roy Disney’s ethos from back in 1984. It doesn’t necessarily need to suffer the same fate as Disney Animation as a result. Beautiful, fun video games starring strange, visually appealing characters are what made the company once upon a time, and it cannot be afraid to let its own developers express themselves. Nintendo’s R&D 4 studio, the crew behind Super Mario Bros., was so successful designing games for the old NES that it drove the competitive spirit in the team at Nintendo R&D 1 to create strange stuff like Metroid and Kid Icarus. By recommitting to internal development of new ideas as well as classically styled games—Who Framed Roger Rabbit? next to The Little Mermaid, if you will—Nintendo can recapture the creative fire it used to have and win back some of that audience it’s lost in the process.

No institution can stay creatively potent forever. The hope for institutions like Disney and Nintendo isn’t that they remain revolutionary in perpetuity, but that they don’t descend into rank consumerism, using great art to hock empty entertainment. Nintendo is under pressure right now to get people buying the Wii U and, to a lesser degree, the Nintendo 3DS. If the company wants people to care about those machines, it has to make games that are more than historical artifacts.

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132 Responses to “Night At The Museum”

  1. Great great article, linking Disney to Nintendo is such an obvious connection I’m surprised I never thought of it before. Just one thing: unlike 80s Disney, I feel as if Nintendo’s M.O. isn’t that different from that of the video game industry as a whole. In the 80s, Disney found a new competitor in Don Bluth and Amblin animations, who came up with new lucrative hits such as An American Tale and The Land Before Time while Disney was still wallowing in it’s pre-Little Mermaid stage. Disney was tepidly stepping towards the future with movies like Oliver and Company and The Great Mouse Detective, but both of those seemed rooted in that same Disney mentality, and the studio ultimately wouldn’t recognize the next stage of it’s development until it looked towards Broadway and realized it should move it’s movies more towards classic musicals then half-assed pop ballads.

    Current Nintendo, on the other hand, seems to be in the same boat as most of the popular video game industry at the moment, relying on their franchises for their newest hits instead of expanding beyond and looking towards new properties. Between Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty and the like, the video game industry is still for the most part stuck in the past, and their isn’t a Don Bluth type who is making new popular franchise ideas on their own. Therefore, I would say Nintendo is currently more like 70s Disney, in which they were also shamelessly preserving their legacy while refusing to move forward (just look at the animation recycling in Robin Hood and The Aristocats alone) but were also in a position where they had no competition. The stagnancy is real and here, but I don’t think the need for innovation has arrived yet.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      I’ve personally seen it too many times, but the comparison is usually facile. Anthony nailed this iteration by hanging lots of things on the parallels.

      However, you raise an obvious point that didn’t come to me. As much as I’d like adult short films to be the commercial, not just the artistic, dominant form, kids animated films are the commercial powerhouses the world over. Disney lost creatively but won financially when the 1990s shift to kid culture completed.

      In video games, Mario Kart is just as likely a “time killer” purchase as Finding Nemo Once Again, but so are Grand Theft Auto 5 and FIFA 2014. The question for Nintendo is, “What is the next cultural shift?” I get that personal mobile games with online sharing tied to other companies’ hardware is big now, but isn’t the shift to that (in the 1st world, at least) over? That can’t be the answer.

      I think they’ve come up with as many hardware tricks as they can and can’t do anything but match their competition there. Like Anthony put it, the answer is somewhere in software. Hopefully, then can experiment while still remaining fiscally responsible.

    • Kevin Johnson says:

      Well, to be fair, Don Bluth as a legit competitor was somewhat short-lived, especially since his films after Tale and Time were of diminishing returns.

      There’s a book called “Game Over” that tells the whole story of Nintendo up until the intro of the N64. It’s pretty good and makes some minor comparisons to Disney as well, so I can see the connection. It’s a lot more clearer if you look at their TV Animation division, which made wildly creative content (if pulling from their already established characters) before gradually coasting on their TV adaptations of their films, which strangely worked up until CGI dropped on it.

      I think at the very least, even with established properties, Nintendo and Disney were given the kind of freedom to take things in crazy directions, which gave ups Seven Stars and Emperor’s New Groove. Then there was a conscious decision for the future – Nintendo focused on “everyone is a gamer,” which is fine but stifles creativity since you can’t make a game too complex for Mom and Dad. Disney switched up to pro-Princess/young girl type entertainment, with Princess and the Frog/Tangled, then Kim Possible/Proud Family, which, again, stifles creativity.

      It’s disappointing that both companies don’t push the envelope anymore, although Disney is kinda getting into it again (Gravity Falls, Wonder Over Yonder, Phineas and Ferb). Nintendo could get back into it with a clever Star Fox or Metroid again.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        I’m of the “GIVE ME F-0 BY SEGA” crowd, but I agree that old Nintendo is passed. The Disney television you mentioned is very much post-1990s-Cal-Arts-Disney, but they use those templates successfully. Nintendo should do the same.

        I think Sega All-Stars Racing is a brilliant example of this thinking. Sumo Digital is bulletproof, Sega let them be creative with old concepts, and they dominated sales and criticism.

  2. Citric says:

    For a home console, was the last time Nintendo was legitimately exciting back on the Gamecube? Wind Waker, Pikmin, Animal Crossing, the second Paper Mario all sorts of good stuff. Then the Wii had a gimmick but honestly wasn’t that interesting, though Mario Galaxy was kinda neat, and the Wii U’s got nuffing.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      I think the gimmick is sort-of interesting, and it can be good, but the execution had its problems.

      One, the idea outpaced the reality by a wide margin; the Wii Motion Plus came out three years after the Wii did, and it’s still a ways away from the kind of motion controls people imagined when the Wii first came out.

      Two, the controls often weren’t very good. Even when accuracy isn’t an issue, motion controls were usually a one-to-one substitute for conventional controls rather than something unique in its own right.

      Personally, for all the game’s flaws, I like how a game like No More Heroes used its motion controls. Normal attacks were just button presses, but finishing attacks took a single, decisive stroke of the Wii Remote; punctuation instead of noise.

      Compare something like Twilight Princess, which used waggle for every attack. I played it on both the Wii (in part) and the Gamecube (in full) and I had very little reason to prefer the Wii’s control scheme.

      • rvb1023 says:

        The Gamecube version of Twilight Princess was undoubtedly better, given the Wii port was rushed to finish mostly so there would be a game that could hold people’s attention for longer than 20 minutes at a time at the Wii’s launch.

        No More Heroes is still my personal favorite game on the Wii but that was more due to Suda51 than anyone at Nintendo. He realized long before anyone else developing for the Wii did that the motion controls just didn’t work so he made them almost an afterthought, they were used for more silly things than anything substantial.

        Game Republic did something similar for Folklore, which remains the only game on the PS3 with decent Six-Axis controls.

      • The_Misanthrope says:

        A recent edition of “The Digest” reviewing Wonderful 101 saw Teti pining for the simplicity of button-input and that struck a cord with me. I think when the Wii became an unexpected launch success, Nintendo decided to that committing fully to these gimmicks–motion control, 3D, a second portable screen– was the only way they could compete on the console market (Sony and Microsoft would follow suit, but they had a fallback position). True, all of these gimmicks have the potential for great, unique games, but it is rarely the case. Quick question: How many games can you think of fully used the unique properties of the Wii, in a way where any port of the game to another platform would be sub-optimal? Off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful, all of them so-called “party” games like Wii Sports or Just Dance. If you aren’t surrounded by a gaggle of your friends and you want to play a game–it’s pretty depressing to play Just Dance solo–then I guess you’re playing a game with a awkward, unresponsive control scheme.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Spinoff thought thanks to the way you framed your question: with the shift to mobile games, Nintendo’s demonstrated sales, the price benefits of handhelds, and their natural comfort in that space, it’s amazing to me that Nintendo has not marketed the DS/3DS as their default devices.

      “Consoles = main game devices” seems like the sort of thing that only makes sense within the context of the video game industry, and it runs against the trends in more mature art and technology industries. So, it seems like that’s a rule ready to be broken.

      If Nintendo treated that as their main space and captured the talented floating around the crumbling industry, could they start a permanent shift in that direction? “We can only realize our vision on televisions,” has always sounded more like excuse-making than fact.

      • Matt Gerardi says:

        I’m of two minds on the whole “Which of their platforms is Nintendo’s prime focus?” question. On one hand, I think Nintendo has already shifted focus toward the 3DS (or is on the cusp of doing so). Of the games to enrapture huge swaths of the cultural hivemind this year, at least two of them have been 3DS exclusives (Pokemon and Animal Crossing). And that’s just in the west. Let’s not forget that the 3DS has Monster Hunter 4 as an exclusive in Japan.

        At the same time, all of these successes have fallen into place, and the 3DS has turned the corner from being a failure to a much needed boon. At this point, why wouldn’t Nintendo try to shift the focus toward the Wii U? It’s in need of some serious TLC.

        But, as you alluded to, I’ve been anticipating a future where Nintendo all but abandons the home console game in favor of absolute portable market dominance.

        • Girard says:

          And in the previous generation, the whole world heard Japan utter a collective gasp when Dragon Quest was a DS exclusive. I think the portable systems are increasingly becoming Nintendo’s de facto main platforms, whether they like to rhetorically frame it that way or not.

          • GhaleonQ says:

            @mattgerardi:disqus You know how we feel like we hear 1 thing from Nintendo Japan and 1 thing from Nintendo America? I feel like that really happens with whether the handheld or console is the main device.

        • CrabNaga says:

          I’m OK with Nintendo remaining in the portable market, but it would be amazing if they still developed games for console/PC, and just acted as a third party developer in that area. Although I’m unsure as to whether or not that’s even possible (past the company’s pride).

          • Carlton_Hungus says:

            I think it would be great if Nintendo (while maintaining its portable market hardware) began developing games for Microsoft/Sony.

            Fairly or not, the rift between PS/Xbox systems and the Wii systems in terms of audience has become close to too big to bridge. The Wii is seen as the family/kid friendly casual gamer machine (Mario, Wii Sports, Just Dance, etc…) while PS/Xbox are the hardcore gamer crowd (GTA, COD, etc…). Obviously these are generalizations, there are “hardcore games” for the Wii and Wii U just as there are kid/family focused games for the PS/Xbox but the perceptions of these systems seems to drive the type of game development for them, and the majority seem to fall into these categories. Nintendo seems to reinforce this divide by limiting game content even by third party developers (not to mention its bizarrely overprotective online systems).

            If I could play GTAV on my PS3 then switch over to Zelda to play with my son (who I invented for this post), without having to buy two systems, and taking advantage of the PS3’s better processing power I’d be all for it.

            Like many people in their early late 20s early 30s, I grew up with the Nintendo classics. Mapping out Legend of Zelda and Metroid, knowing where warp pipes were and how to find warp whistles. But the last Nintendo system I owned was the N64. I want to be able to play the new Metroids/Marios/Zeldas but I can’t justify buying a console I’ll use for three series of games (plus maybe Wii sports party game) when the majority of games I’d want to play come out for PS.

            All this is a long post to say at this point I wish Nintendo would get out of the console market and become a third party developer. It can and should still focus on the DS which I am far more likely to buy than a Vita, but then again, I play mobile games on my phone/iPad…

      • Citric says:

        It was rather deliberate, that framing, since the DS is definitely an essential console and the 3DS is damn near one.

        • M North says:

          I’m not sure about that. It seems to me that for every good game on the 3DS there is a bigger brother out there which betters it. The DS has a lot of pretty original titles but the 3DS doesn’t seem to have this. Don’t get me wrong, I wish it did and were an essential console. Kid Icarus might be the only game I can think of that doesn’t.

          I suppose there are a lot of parallels between what the article implies about Nintendo’s output and the form that 3DS games take. It is largely a better console than the Wii U at this point but it doesn’t seem to hold a candle to any of Ninty’s earlier consoles (both home and handheld).

          • Citric says:

            That’s why I said damn near. The 3DS has a ton of continuations of great handheld series, and it does have a few games I absolutely adore but it doesn’t quite have a console defining title yet – it’s kind of stuck in this DS, only moreso trap. But it’s such a nice system to play games on, especially in XL form, I kind of want it to succeed.

      • caspiancomic says:

        It would be a pretty bold move on Nintendo’s part to prioritize handhelds over home consoles, but it might actually sort of work. I don’t know much about the economics that separate the two, though. I remember that Nintendo was making bank on the Wii because they were selling every console at a profit, while Sony and Microsoft sell consoles at a deficit and recoup costs in software. I’m not sure if Nintendo makes a profit on every 3DS it sells, but I think they launched the 2DS recently in an attempt to keep production costs down, so they might be trying to steer the company in that direction.

        As a consumer, though, what’s really interesting to me is the difference between the experience of using one of the DS family versus something from the Wii family. Lots of people have already mentioned in these comments that the Wii had a whole universe of design opportunities in front of it, but quickly resigned itself to rote franchizing, substitutions of good honest button presses with insubstantial remote waggling, and endless shovelware. Games on the DS and 3DS, though, tend to be designed in interesting and compelling ways that take advantage of the systems’ unique hardware without feeling gimmicky. Touchscreen driven gameplay is one thing, but I’ve played games that comfortably incorporated the system’s microphone, or its hinged design, or its cameras, or its wireless internet capabilities all naturally into gameplay.

        • SamPlays says:

          If you look at its history of product development and units sold, there’s a pretty strong argument that handheld systems have always been a top priority for Nintendo, at least equal to their consoles. The ratio of handhelds to console units sold is 1.5:1. Compare this to Sony (.23:1) and the difference is pretty remarkable. As for Microsoft, they haven’t bothered with the handheld market. IMO, it would be a bold move for Nintendo to prioritize consoles over its handheld systems.

    • Girard says:

      I’ll stand by the Galaxy games as thoroughly fantastic, top-tier entries in the Mario series, and the first 3-D Mario games I enjoyed from beginning to end without reservation. They were worth the Wii price of admission for me. However, it’s notable that those games barely used the Wiimote (though the “little brother mode” was a pretty ingenious 2-player innovation). And as usual, the Wario Ware game capitalized mightily on the hardware ‘gimmick.’

      I’m trying to think of a game that made excellent use of the WiiMote beyond the obvious Sports pack-in. It seems wrong to me to ding the Wii as a ‘gimmick’ when the widely lauded DS was just as much of an odd-duck, hardware-wise, on release (Me, circa 2005: “Two screens? A touch screen? A microphone? Wi-fi? What are they smoking over there – that sounds totally bonkers!”), but isn’t similarly lumped in as a ‘gimmick’ console.

      Maybe the difference is in the software – DS’s wide third-party support leveraged its special qualities in a variety of inventive ways, while the Wii was largely devoid of high-quality third-party titles and instead mired in shovelware which didn’t creatively explore the system’s potential.

      • Crusty Old Dean says:

        Yeah, I thought we were all in agreement that Super Mario Galaxy was one of the towering achievements of the last decade (“kinda neat”!).

        I thought Metroid Prime 3 made very good use of the wiimote (some silly twisting doorknob-mechanics aside). I am also one of the people (one of the few?) who dug the controllers in Skyward Sword, but that was so late in the console’s life cycle, it didn’t have much of an impact.

        • Girard says:

          I would have loved Skyward Sword if its controls didn’t fail about 75% of the time. I actually found the lower-tech Twilight Princess controls far more responsive.

          • Simon21-lufc says:

            I had absolutely no problems with Skyward Sword’s controls. I wonder if the handful of people I’ve seen saying they had issues had some other kind of problem somewhere.

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

            It wasn’t that the controls were unreliable, but that the game seemed to assume that they were 100% perfect. Enemies switched their stances so rapidly that I was constantly getting shocked or bouncing off because of the slight difference between registering the change, executing the move, and the wiimote registering the move.

          • Girard says:

            I did SO MANY forward rolls into Girahim when I tried to stab him in the heart. So annoying. But even mundane motions, like moving the cursor on a menu, felt sluggish and molasses-ey when compared with the IR pointer.

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

        Red Steel 2 was utterly fantastic. I enjoyed it so much it made my arms sore. Of course, nobody played it.

        The Wii version of Dawn of Discovery–while visually crude–was a pretty good little strategy game. Nobody played it, either.

        • JamesJournal says:

          Red Steel 2 /Skyward Sword illustrate one of my primary issues with the Wii. SOMEONE PEOPLE ARE LEFT HANDED!

          And not all games realize this

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

            Did that matter in those two game? I’m right-handed, so I don’t know.

            I remember they changed Link from a lefty to a righty for no good reason in Twilight Princess despite direction not mattering at all for swordplay.

          • JamesJournal says:

            It is pointlessly awkward to do the specific one-to-one movements when everything is happening on the opposite side.

            A simple “switch hands” option like in Wii-Fit would have made the game playable.

      • Citric says:

        I ding the Wii as a gimmick because so little really used the motion control scheme effectively, and top flight games often kind of dropped it or relegated it to the odd waggle or a side role. The DS could have been a gimmick, and there were certainly many games that had kind of a “arbitrary touch screen nonsense!” moment, but the systems many different capabilities were effectively used by most of the library – though the shout into the mic portions of Phantom Hourglass can go [string of expletives deleted]. The Wii’s motion system didn’t quite justify itself as much, and there were many games where it felt like a hinderance rather than a help.

        • Girard says:

          Yeah, that’s sort of what I was getting at with the rumination that the difference was in the software. More folks – especially third parties – capitalized on the DS, while the Wii kind of languished. I don’t know if that’s because its hardware was inherently more flawed, or a symptom of marketplace realities (the expense of console development conditions against console exclusives for third parties, as well as against experimentation, while DS development had neither of those mitigating factors).

      • mad says:

        Sin and Punishment: Star Successor made good use of the Wii Remote, I thought. And it was damn fun, as well.

      • Pgoodso says:

        Hands down, the best use of the Wiimote was the Wii version of Resident Evil 4. It never bugged out, actually put some much needed physical tension into its quicktime events (you can bet your ass shaking that Wiimote to the right as hard as I could to escape that boulder was much more stressful than jamming on the big green A button of the Gamecube). It also, as I remember, could be played left handed, since for the most part, you were aiming the Wiimote’s IR sensor at the screen (why more games couldn’t adequately support this game style was beyond me). AND it included all the extra content that was in the PS2 port.

        That it was an adaptation of a Gamecube game from a 3rd party is the sad part.

    • Newton Gimmick says:

      I think the innovation of Mario Galaxy is often understated. I almost wish they had released the game with a new main character rather than Mario.

    • Matthew Wesley says:

      The gamecube was the lowest selling console in the companies history… so you’re asking them to lose money to satisfy your desires.

  3. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    Sometimes, I wonder why the articles themselves don’t have a “Like” button.

    Do you hear me, Agnello? I’m liking this as hard as I can!

  4. Matt Gerardi says:

    And despite the change of heart the internet has seemed to have had regarding The Wind Waker‘s art style, the initial backlash seems to still be a thorn in Nintendo’s side. Eiji Aonuma, who is basically Mr. Zelda at this point, recently said the team will be more careful in regard to Zelda art styles in the future, which I interpret as “less experimental.” That’s a shame.

    • The change of opinion of Wind Waker from being a baby game for babies into arguably the most beloved of the Legend of Zelda series is one of the best things I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. I remember when I was the lone, young voice of approval for that game and now it seems like everyone and their mother thinks it’s the best. Personally I agree and think that Nintendo should take more of a chance with their properties and be willing to get all Wind Waker and Metroid Prime and, what the hell, Mario 64 with their main titles.

      • PaganPoet says:

        I’ve always wanted a Metroid that really ups the horror aspect. Not in a blood and gore way, mind you, just in a “it’s dark and creepy and I’m all alone in a giant planet filled with creatures who want me dead” kind of way.

        • Girard says:

          I feel like the Prime games did that at some points, especially 2, but I’m also a big scaredy-cat.

        • Brian says:

          Hell, the Zelda series does that for me just fine, what with the giant hands that descend upon you from the ceiling in the midst of a spiralling hallway, and split into three when you attack them.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Did you not play Fusion? I’m admittedly not a huge Metroid fan, but Fusion is my favorite for that reason. And, yeah, Echoes was creepy if not scary.

          • PaganPoet says:

            Nah. I’ve missed out on Nintendo handheld games in general ever since the GameBoy. When I visit my sister, I toy around on her kids’ DS and 3DS, but nothing more than that.

          • Girard says:

            Ooh, yeah, ‘evil Samus’ in Fusion was bone-chilling, especially for a 2-D sprite. I’d recommend playing that game, even if it is a little linear for a Metroid.

          • GhaleonQ says:

            Like @paraclete_pizza:disqus (edit: ha, Disqus, using old names) wrote, it’s more of a action-horror game (don’t read too much into this, but Resident Evil 4) than an adventure-action game, but it’s well worth it.
            It’s available on the GBA, DS, and 3DS, so if you ever get the chance, try it out. I’m looking at the GameRankings scores, and, geez, I feel people were not that positive about it at the time. It is great, though.

      • caspiancomic says:

        What’s especially interesting/sad depending on your outlook is how even the wacky, experimental titles eventually get homogenized and franchised. A cursory glance at Mario’s various adventures might turn up titles as aesthetically diverse as Mario Galaxy, the Paper Mario series, the handheld Mario RPGs, etc, but even these deviations eventually get standardized. The Paper Mario series, rather than being an anarchic splinter series off the main Mario branch, has become another franchise in its own right with a corporatized uniform appearance. The once revolutionary Wind Waker aesthetic became “Toon Link,” an exploitable sub-Link who could be inserted into handheld titles that didn’t have the budget or time to develop their own unique conception of the character.

        I don’t mean to necessarily frame this as a purely negative thing- it’s refreshing to see any amount of deviation from a canonical model from a company as monolithic as Nintendo- but it is a little tragic seeing a company exhibiting a slightly broader than usual comfort zone with its characters, only to very rarely explore new territory.

      • long_dong_donkey_kong says:

        I love your phrasing of it being “a baby game for babies” because the company as a whole gets dismissed by some for making “kiddie” games because their games are family-friendly. There are some levels on New Super Mario U/Luigi U that are pretty damn hard for gamers of any level. Some later green star levels in Galaxy 2 had me embarrassing myself with how frustrated I was getting. Good games are good games regardless of whether you are blowing up meth labs or jumping on little cartoon mushroom men.

        I just played Wind Waker HD on the Wii U. I was on-board with the GameCube version, but now that sailing is less cumbersome, the game goes from good to amazing. I grabbed this, The Last of Us, and GTA V within two weeks of each other, and Wind Waker got the most attention.

    • Girard says:

      Yeah, like Anthony mentions, one of the great strengths of Nintendo properties was that they were aesthetically divergent with each main entry, even on the same platform (Link looks totally different in Zelda I and II, Mario looks different in Mario 1, 2(US), and 3 – and as noted above once the move was made to SNES, things got more ambitious). Zelda seems to have stagnated, rehashing Windwaker’s aesthetic on handhelds and making the latest iteration simply split the difference between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess styles, resulting (unintentionally) in a thoroughly generic Disney-esque style resembling a third-string adventure like Aragorn’s Quest or Dawn of Mana.

      Mario, while he’s aesthetically settled quite a bit in his 3-D games – and those awful ‘New’ games are both insipid and ugly (as Tim Rogers noted, they look like a free-to-play Korean flash game) – there’s at least some experimentation and variety in Mario’s division into different franshises. The Mario & Luigi games have their own visual and gameplay aesthetics, as do the Paper Mario games. It’s still more homogeneous than it once was, but there’s at least some lifeblood there.

    • Dikachu says:

      I still think it looks like crap, but less like crap than I used to.

    • JamesJournal says:

      That is sad, I was never one of those people who had a problem with Wind Waker’s art style. But I’m am one of the people that gets bored with Nintendo

  5. rvb1023 says:

    Thank you for putting into words the exact way I have felt about Nintendo since the release of the Wii. For all the flack the Gamecube got around release, it was by far when Nintendo was most interesting. Even their failures on that system were incredibly endearing. Mediocre tripe like Geist and Donkey Konga felt like they had a niche to appeal to and Nintendo helped fund some of the generations most memorable games, namely Eternal Darkness.

    By comparison, the Wii was a dearth of fresh ideas outside their terrible control scheme, which they realized was terrible almost right away and stopped designing games in a forward-thinking manner, instead making almost nothing but modern updates of their 2D glory days, which easily adapted to a sideways Wiimote (Or sometimes, terribly, but god forbid we design a game with more than 2 immediately accessible buttons). For all it’s hype about changing the way we played games Nintendo did nothing but regress as designers. Even mainstream Mario games stagnated to the point where they literally just made Mario Galaxy 2 rather than attempt a different or unique setting and that games felt smaller in every way. Why did a 3D Mario game have a map screen and practically 2D levels? What happened to my hub worlds and the varying multiple objectives contained within each level?

    There refusal to try new IPs still infuriates me as well. Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a perfect example: I remember the director in an interview saying that the game was directionless and didn’t have a solid protagonist or even enemies, then they decided to mold the game to fit Kirby. Gee, I don’t know, maybe you could design some new ones? If Sony can manage to churn out a halfway decent, new-IP platformer every few years than certainly you guys can too, you’re better at it after all.

    The Wii U initially seemed to be going in the right direction: Fund Platinum to cover your bases where you can’t, give more money to Monolith to start filling out your RPGs, etc. But their big games for the next few months are a DK sequel, another Mario Kart, and Super Mario World 3D, which almost looks as though you could squish it into a 2D game and not a lot would change.

    • To be fair, Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Mario Galaxy (the first one, at least) are both beautiful, innovative, and fun games in their own right. But I do see your point, and though I love a lot of games on the Wii I think you’re right in that it’s content ultimately doesn’t feel as experimental and boundary pushing as a lot of Gamecube games.

      • rvb1023 says:

        Agreed entirely, in fact Kirby and DK are the only Nintendo franchises I don’t think got worse during the Wii’s lifetime, as Mario, Metroid, Zelda, and Pokemon’s newer entries all soured on me in some way.

        Hell, I even liked Galaxy 2, just kind of nonplussed that was the direction the 3D Mario games took.

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

          Mario Galaxy 2 is great, and it’s quickie-sequelness gets a pass for strong level design.

          But Pokemon? I’ve put over 70 hours into X so far, and I think it’s better than ever (the last one I played was Gold, however). What’s so terrible about it?

          • rvb1023 says:

            I was referring to Diamond/Pearl and Black/White, Pokemon games released during the Wii’s heyday. This is also from a Wii perspective and there were barely any Pokemon games for it outside of the bare bones Battle Network. I think there was a forgettable WiiWare title.

            I do have X and I am enjoying it.

      • Girard says:

        I was extremely skeptical of Mario Galaxy 2, but wound up picking it up because I loved the first so much. It was totally fantastic, and more than justified itself, in my eyes. Those games are just gorgeous, pure, unadulterated video game fun.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Well, don’t forget that almost all of the games they published that were new properties didn’t leave Japan. Skip’s and Vanpool’s art games, Cing’s games, Kiki Trick, Tomodachi Collection 1 and 2, and a few others that weren’t good never showed up worldwide.

      That said, as much as I love Yoshi, Luigi, and Kirby Of The Star, it’s crazy that Next Level (the next generation of greats, clearly capable of independent thought), Retro (even with some staff leaving), Good-Feel (Konami veterans with more experience than most of Nintendo’s employees at this point), and Skip/Vanpool/Onion (arthouse greats) aren’t doing new mascots or properties. It’s 1 thing to be wary of handing over the keys to Star Fox again, but these guys have proved themselves time and time again.

      How can Nintendo take risks when they aren’t picking up the gimmes?

      • rvb1023 says:

        I’ll admit a lot of my frustrations with Nintendo stem from NoA, but the fact Retro Studios is for the time being stuck making Donkey Kong Country sequels (Again, great games, but a total waste of your best talent) when you could have asked them to, at the very least, transition DK to 3D like they did with that other franchise everyone thought would be impossible to translate into 3D.

        I guess I am just a little disappointed that Nintendo is trying to win me over in the year 2013 with better looking SNES games.

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

          Wasn’t there already a 3D Donkey Kong game back on the 64?

          • rvb1023 says:

            Yes, but it wasn’t a particularly great game and could definitely been improved upon or refined.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Vanpool, which has my favorite developer of all-time leading it, did the fun little tower defence games that were downloadable. I mean, they’re good, but, like you wrote, that’s a misallocation of resources.

    • zpoccc says:

      except mario galaxy 2 is the best mario game, and perhaps best game period, that nintendo has made yet

      • rvb1023 says:

        I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one, maybe the best Wii game but it certainly didn’t have a lot of competition in that regard.

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

          So what’s your beef with Mario Galaxy 2? I’ll concede that it was a cash-in, but the levels are well designed and the game just as much fun to play as the original.

    • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

      I think the problem was that they were trying to make Epic Yarn it’s own thing and were failing. They had a visual style but couldn’t figure out how to give it character. By using Kirby as the base, they were able to build up and out to get a nicely unified experience.

      • rvb1023 says:

        That just reeks of a lame excuse to me, sorry. We had this cool idea of how a game would look but couldn’t make it work until we threw Kirby at it. Now it’s just another visual style we can throw at our B-tier mascots if Yoshi’s Epic Yarn is anything to go by.

        • Girard says:

          Kirby’s a versatile character who gets used in a lot of experimental games by Nintendo, though. That seems like his role, primarily, at this point, as his platformer potential has largely been fully explored. Instead we get cool little weird things like Canvas Curse and Mass Attack.

          • rvb1023 says:

            If his platformer potential has been explored then put him to rest. Each of those games could have been a new IP themselves, instead Nintendo is worried to try and market a game that may not have an immediately recognizable character on the front.

            This whole thing is making me look like I hate Nintendo, which I definitely do not. I just think they got lazy.

          • Girard says:

            I honestly don’t see how a mechanically identical game skinned with a new IP would make it inherently more original. Would Kirby Mass Attack be a better game if it involved a cluster of cute little raccoons or something?

            I have no problem with Nintendo making inventive, innovative games involving their established IPs (they’ve been doing that since the beginning). What I take issue with is Nintendo milking their IPs by releasing uninspired, samey crap. NSMB Wii and Spirit Tracks is lame Nintendo. Kirby Canvas Curse and Bowser’s Inside Story is some great Nintendo.

            I would even venture that some of the more inventive branches of Nintendo benefit from their association with their established IPs. The Mario & Luigi games are some of the most entertaining games Nintendo is putting out, and a large part of that is the way it plays with the established Mario characters in an often gently subversive way.

          • rvb1023 says:

            And I would agree, Epic Yarn in particular just highlights as a relatively lazy design process to me. I made a post somewhere saying Kirby and DK were the only Nintendo franchises that didn’t lower in quality during the Wii lifetime.

            My initial point has been lost in the jumble somewhere but I don’t think games like Canvas Curse would have been better with a different protagonist or whatever, merely annoyed at Nintendo and the Wii in general.

  6. Sam L says:

    Your MOM would do well to learn from Disney Animation’s rise and fall!

    …I didn’t read the article.

  7. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    What’s irksome to me is that the kind of games Nintendo makes -the bright, inclusive themes and play style- is, sadly, unique enough to them that I’d be very interested in new ip’s they may introduce.
    While their games are very derivative to each other, they are still pretty much singular in relation to most other kinds of games being made today.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      This is pretty much my opinion on Nintendo these days too. I love playing games that are just fucking videogames. I’m playing Mario 3D Land now and it’s just so charming I can’t help but grin at each level. The “hardcore gamer” games that are currently in vogue generally bore me.

      I’d love to see some new stuff from Nintendo though. I forgot how long it has been since Pikmin and Animal Crossing came out. I remember Nintendogs came from Miyamoto’s family getting a dog, and Pikmin came from him gardening. I wonder what he’s up to these days…

      • printthelegends says:

        Apparently, Miyamoto’s been working on some top secret, brand new IP for a few years, but no one at Nintendo will drop any clues. It’s never surfaced at E3, and whenever it comes up, they’re always just like “he’s working on it.” I mean, the man gave them Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda and (kind of) Star Fox, I guess he can take his time if he wants.

        • DL says:

          His “Wii Music” was a bit of a flop, but at least he’s being given complete freedom to take risks and make bold steps into what games are and how people have fun with electronics. It’s odd how Nintendo always takes huge risks on hardware, but rarely takes those risks in software…releasing Wii Music would have been daring.

  8. oldtaku says:

    It seems like the Disney lesson would be to switch from focusing on content to focusing on buying off legislators. Disney no longer needs to be an awesome force because its US copyrights are protected for the life of the universe, and the NSA, US military, and various rapacious treaties will arrest or kill anyone who violates those.

    • Girard says:

      Another Disney strategy would be to so thoroughly crush the competition so that your name and corporate style become synonymous with your product and automatically casts your competitors as inferior interlopers, forcing others to artless ape your style to try to compete rather than trying something new, ultimately leading to the decades-long stagnation of the medium across and entire country.

      While I think there was a time when ‘Nintendo’ was synonymous with ‘Video Games,’ they are no longer the sole dominating voice in the cultural conversation, so I don’t really see that happening.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Oh man, Nintendo used to be the Coke of videogames. “You want to play Nintendo?”

        There’s some weird nostalgia I don’t get every day.

        • George_Liquor says:

          That reminds me of the time when every video game console was called an Atari, regardless of who actually made it.

          Nintendo’s not getting mismanaged into the ground like Atari did, but there are some definite parallels between Atari in the mid 80s and Nintendo today. Atari relied heavily on old, established IPs (arcade games in its case) and gimmickry too, while at the same time falling behind in terms of its consoles’ raw performance and capabilities, and losing nearly all 3rd party developer support.

    • Enkidum says:

      Disney’s impact on copyright law is so depressing I don’t even want to go into it, although I think they’ve only managed to extend it to what, 75 years now?

      The idea that a company can exist and support thousands of people primarily because some guy in the 1950’s had some clever ideas for cartoons is so fucking ass backwards and contrary to the supposed American system of innovation that it makes me want to revolt. By, uh, illegally downloading all the good Disney cartoons, or something. That’ll teach ’em!

  9. CNightwing says:

    Wasn’t there some news recently about Nintendo launching their own in-house animation studio? They’re going to make online-only cartoons based on their properties, I suppose a bit like the 90s Saturday morning stuff that was churned out. It’s like innovation, but not quite..

  10. Stealth says:

    This article makes zero sense

  11. Stealth says:

    3ds is the top selling game device in the world. Putting games on mobile would kill the quality

    • SamPlays says:

      The original DS is the best selling handheld ever, a close second behind the PS2. If you’re referring to the current market, yes, the 3DS absolutely crushes the Vita in terms of sales (roughly 16 3DS’s for every Vita).

    • bradwestness says:

      Yeah I think a big part of the problem is that the problem doesn’t really exist to some extent… sure a lot of people play games on smartphones now, but if Nintendo is still making huge profits on handheld consoles, why should they stop?

      Just because you’re not #1 in every market doesn’t mean you can’t still turn a tidy profit and continue chugging along year after year. It’s like saying Dr. Pepper should just give up and start bottling Coke at all their plants because they get outsold by Coke and Pepsi products every year.

  12. Dwigt says:

    One correction about Who Framed Roger Rabbit: it has little to do with Disney Animation. It was animated in England, as Richard Williams had zero trust for the Disney animators, and Spielberg was the driving force for the production.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Framed_Roger_Rabbit#Filming

    But it was instrumental into renewing interest for animated features.

  13. i mean ok i cant really disagree with any of this but a big problem i have with these types of discussions about ‘innovation’ is that these choices dont exist in a vacuum? nintendo is a company, and companies have to make money (unfortunately) and its been proven time and time again that innovation and experimentation dont sell. at a certain point this all becomes circular and the snake eats its tail: i dont buy original IPs bc there arent any but there arent any bc u didnt buy any original IPs.

    with nintendo it seems all instances of experimentation get hand waved as either ‘gimmicks’ or not being fleshed out enough (the former is a personal opinion, the latter an unrealistic expectation). how many cool wii IPs like zack and wiki or elebits or Opoona or even stuff back in the GCN era like chibi robo and baten kaidos could have become huge franchises if ppl decided to take a chance on them (and yes i know that none of these are developed by nintendo, but its dumb to point at market leaders like zelda or mario and decry lack of ‘innovation’ when they are market leaders BC of it. NSMB is the platonic ideal of mario, innovating or experimentation isnt the point).

    nintendo doesnt make new star fox or metroid games bc it ‘doesnt feel like it’ either, they dont bc its been proven that those games dont sell as well as mario or zelda (remember how nobody bought Star Fox 64 3D when it was obvious that nintendo was gauging interest with it, or how everyone reviled metroid other m even tho it had interesting gameplay mechanics with the switching from 2d to 3d first person?).

    also handhelds arent dying and nintendo is fine jeez http://ignorethecode.net/blog/2013/08/29/nintendo/

    idk basically every copy of the wonderful 101 u dont buy tells nintendo ‘i want a new super mario bros wiiU 2’

    also hi.

    • rocketman says:

      hi!

    • Enkidum says:

      Hi!

      Your point about innovation not making money can’t possibly be right. Up until roughly 10-12 years ago, Nintendo made incredibly innovative games virtually every year, and made a huge amount of money off of them. Indeed, it’s one of the “big three” because it has this stable of characters and properties that it developed… innovatively.

      The Wii U has been selling like crap despite it having the promise of you being able to play the latest Mario, Zelda, etc etc etc that will be exactly the same as previous versions but with more polygons. So if they continue down this path, they could easily get into trouble.

      • ok thats a fair point, but lets get concrete with it. nintendo innovated how with those IPs? super mario world was basically a more stripped version of 3 (in terms of the map and powerups) and LttP basically laid down the style for all future zeldas. id say star fox using the super FX chip was really innovative for its time (if not that fun to actually play).

        as for the wii u, id say that its not doing well bc A) there really isnt any software for it and B) the innovations with the wii u are more conceptual than the wiis and harder to grasp at sight

        (and this may be total BS but i think part of it is the pack in with nintendoland. while wii sports was more of a blank slate and no prior knowledge was needed of nintendo IPs to have fun with it, NL was totally steeped in nintendo iconography and that may have put of some ppl)

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Whoa, I haven’t seen you post in years dude!

      And yeah, stuff like Chibi robo has shown that Nintendo can still make a new (albeit niche) franchise. I don’t think that they are fucking up as badly as people tend to think. I would like to see them try more new characters, but it’s not like the other giant videogame companies are doing much of that either.

      Videogames, man.

    • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

      Lots of people played Other M and just didn’t like it, in large part because of the narrative choices rather than the mechanical ones. Metroid Prime apparently did well enough to get 3 games, including one after MP2 (which many people weren’t that impressed with), so it’s really more about a stable–although yes, probably not blockbuster–franchise being handled poorly by the company rather than players not doing their part.

      As for Star Fox 64 3D, maybe people weren’t all that interested in the game? I picked it up when I got my 3DS and while it’s OK I’m finding it nowhere near as compelling as I did back in the 64 days. I can’t quite pin down why, but I think its time may be past.

      • Girard says:

        Yeah, I played Other M. And bought it, so as far as Nintendo knows through their balance sheet, it has my full support. However, I didn’t enjoy it much at all. It was a mechanical and narrative clusterfuck that I enjoyed much less than the Prime games despite generally being disposed against FPS mechanics.

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

          Well, I wanted to point out that narrative was a huge issue. Joshlike pointed out that it tried some interesting things mechanically, but it’s never as simple as “they’re trying something new, we should buy the game.”

          • Yr right, but the issue is the argument that ‘nintendo doesnt innovate’ not that ‘nintendo innovates with software and the innovation is bad’. other m isnt a particularly great game, but it was an instance of nintendo trying something new and thats at least worth something. the same argument can be made regarding most of the star fox games post SF 64.

  14. CrabNaga says:

    These days it seems like innovation exists purely in indie devs and small studios. I wonder if there will come a time when big studios like Nintendo will try to work with indies by partnering with them, providing some of their resources and funding, and letting them create what they can. Imagine what a Nintendo-backed FTL or Terraria might look like.

    • JamesJournal says:

      I love this unlikely little idea

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Oh god, that would be so cool. I would also love to see more experimental multiplayer type stuff. Maybe take some cues from the boardgame scene and make some asymmetrical multiplayer focused games that require social interaction somehow.

      I dunno, I’m not a game designer.

    • Girard says:

      Such collaborations aren’t unprecedented. Starfox came from Nintendo’s unlikely partnership with a weird little European hardware/software company that was wringing real 3-D graphics out of hardware like the original Gameboy.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      They already work with mid-tier studios, though, to great results. They just need to let them do more.

    • bradwestness says:

      Isn’t that pretty much what they’re already doing with the WiiWare/DSWare stuff?

  15. Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

    Don’t forget the role of the customer. The Wii had good third-party games–Red Steel 2 remains a highlight–but the only company that really did well was Nintendo itself. In the short-run that’s fine, but in the long-run it means that fewer people will buy their future consoles because there won’t be very many games (despite most people seemingly only wanting Nintendo products!), which means that future profits diminish for Nintendo and they are more reliant on cranking out their own games rather than getting some money from the console itself.

    Compare with the DS/3DS, which has very strong 3rd-party support; nobody who owns a 3DS owns only Nintendo-made games, and the console is a haven for unusual titles and genres that struggle on other platforms.

  16. Boonehams says:

    I will never forgive Nintendo for dropping Project H.A.M.M.E.R. as a potential new IP. I just…*sniff*… I’m sorry! *runs off crying*

  17. Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

    I am among those who want Nintendo to become a game developer for other consoles. Nintendo still comes up with good ideas, but not enough to make it worth it for me to pay for another console (or honestly for me to give it physical space on my already crowded TV center). Its early enough in the cycle that if they made the decision now, they could avoid wasting any money on the next-next generation. Might as well let the Wii U play out, keep a firm upper-lip about it, but really use this generation to make a name for yourself as a game developer to be envied (like Sega with Dreamcast). Then Nintendo can ditch its deadweight hardware and really focus on making the games it wants to make, but make them for xbox/sony. It can become THE name in family gaming without having to convince people to buy new gadgets. If it really wants to, it can still trot out the occasional periphery. But it won’t have to. I see it as a step that could be very freeing both to its financial statement and its culture. Sometimes less is more.

  18. long_dong_donkey_kong says:

    Wasn’t Nintendo’s “Roger Rabbit” moment “Super Smash Bros?”

    I remember reading that the original Super Mario Kart was mostly an accident. They were working on a Mode 7 racer for the SNES, and they decided to pop Mario sprites on the generic characters and things took off from there. Smash Bros wasn’t even supposed to be released in the U.S. Now, both games sell millions.

    I agree that sometimes, Nintendo needs to look at their stuff and say, eh, why the fuck not? If they’re experimental and it fails, then so be it. Metroid Other M was poorly received, but that doesn’t make Super Metroid any less brilliant, it just makes Other M like one of the forgettable sequels to The Little Mermaid or Cinderella. On the flip side, The Wind Waker was initially unpopular with many Zelda fans, and now it’s considered one of the top 3 games in the franchise.

  19. Kevin King says:

    The problem I have with this article, and ones like it, is the complete lack of context and understanding of the gaming industry business. Innovation does not sell as well in gaming. Very few games are huge mega-hits on their first try anymore. And by mega-hits, I mean something close to the 25 million copies of GTA IV sold; and not say the 2 million sales for Super Meat Boy (considered a huge indie hit).

    What people buy, en masse, in gaming is familiarity. That’s why sequels sell better than originals. It’s why CoD 15 (or whatever) is being made, as well as GTA V, even though both games are about as innovative as toast at this point.

    NIntendo is in this impossible position of having to be this 20+ million mega-seller AND being innovative on every new game they make. That’s why they make games like Super Mario Galaxy, which is both a familiar face (Mario) with a completely bold new playstyle (upside down fun!). Yet, the two Galaxy games COMBINED sold 10 million less copies than New Super Mario Wii on its own.

    Maybe the problem isn’t Nintendo. Maybe it’s the broader gaming public, with it’s complete lack of wanting original material.

    Also, game sales with new consoles are always slow (a fact that is spawning a lot of these “Nintendo should do this” articles). The big hits generally don’t come until a console’s second or third year, when the install base is 10+ million people. The Wii was the sole exception to all that and is a very rare case.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      I’ve talked about this on here before so I’m not adding anything new, but I think game companies might do well to make more “medium budget” games that won’t need millions and millions of sales to be considered successful. I guess this is what Nintendo already does, to an extent though?

      • Carlton_Hungus says:

        The problem for major studios making medium budget games is sort of summed up in this article. That middle market is being squeezed out by indie games on the bottom and super-ultra-mega expensive AAA titles above. Maybe this gets solved by the absorption of indie developers into big studios but then the pressure to sequalize and the demands of the bottom line will apply to them too.

        http://www.gamespot.com/articles/did-indies-kill-the-b-game/1100-6413934/

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          I think what he says is there terrible and stupid, but yes, it does illustrate the problem b-tier games face quite well, which more than anything is perception. He, and too many players and critics, don’t see medium budget games for what they are, but as failed AAA titles. Dress up Way of the Samurai 4 in some sort of pseudo 16-bit style and people would rave about its virtues. Leave it as it is and people complain it’s not as expansive as GTA.

      • Kevin King says:

        I completely agree. It might even help the perception of some games being cash-ins. For example, NSMB should probably be sold for something closer to $20-$30 rather then the $50-$60 it’s sold for today.

        It would also help sales, and I believe, help sell the Wii U (“Look at all these low-cost, high-value games!” I think Nintendo was testing that idea with the New Super Luigi Bros DLC, but we’ll see how they act moving forward.

        • Carlton_Hungus says:

          You may be on to something. I mid-range price point for certain games would preent them from being unfairly compared to AAA releases, but also have a cheap enough entry that would allow larger corporations to take risks on innovation and new IPs.

          • Kevin King says:

            I think we’re already starting to see it. Many indie and Kickstarter games (Shovel Knight, Trine 2, Super Meat Boy) come in at about this cost. If Nintendo adopts this strategy and goes into a game’s development with a lower budget in mind, it might give them the ability to take a few risks, just as you said.

      • bradwestness says:

        Yeah, that’s basically what Nintendo argued against when releasing the original Wii – the graphics processor wasn’t that much more powerful than the Gamecube, certainly much less so than the Xbox 360 and PS3, but they wanted to focus on creating innovative, new experiences rather than just spending 50 million dollars on HD textures and making Ocarina of Time over and over.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          Yeah, all these people clamoring for them to drop out of the hardware business and release games on PC are kind of missing the point I think. I like that nintendo still releases a machine that exists to play games on instead of a “multimedia device,” but that’s just me being curmudgeonly I think.

          This past gen I had a PC and a Wii and a DS. I’ll probably pick up a WiiU when some more games come out for the thing and after I buy a new computer, and I’m loving my 3DS so far. Blerg.

          • bradwestness says:

            I picked up a Wii U (first time I bought a console while it was “new” since N64 — they got me where I live with the special Zelda edition) and I’m digging it. The GamePad is neat, and the whole thing costs far less than the XBox + Kinect + SmartGlass scheme that Microsoft is pushing while accomplishing essentially the same thing.

            It’s basically a big DS for your living room. Nintendo Land is kind of a yawner, with wayyyyy too much handholding tutorial stuff, but New Super Mario Bros U and Luigi U are both great, challenging Mario games, and Wario Ware is exactly what Nintendo Land should have been, a fast paced collection of fun mini games that make innovative uses of the tablet/screen combo.

            I’m interested to see if/how Super Mario 3D World (and eventually Zelda) uses the tablet. It is pretty sweet how you can play on just the tablet while someone else watches TV too, so you’re not bogarting the whole living room all the time (though if you already own a 3DS that feature is kind of redundant).

            It actually does a pretty good job of being a multimedia center too, with the TVii thing providing a neat interactive channel guide (though it’s kind of redundant given most cable boxes already have a built-in guide), plus HD Netflix/Hulu Plus/Amazon Prime streaming. The browser is also WebKit based and supports HTML5 audio and video, so I’ve made a lot of use of that for streaming my own personal media to the living room.

            My main gripes are the Miiverse thing, which is kind of pointless since it tends to just throw random internet people’s posts in your face (after you see “This level sux! SOoooo hard!” in Super Luigi U roughly 1,000 times you just turn it off and never look back), and not knowing anyone else with a Wii U there’s not much value in the “friends” aspect. Plus the dearth of good games, though obviously that will get better with time (and doesn’t bother me all that much since I’m not about to buy a new game more often than once every couple months).

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Eh, I think this is more of the “superhero movies” situation. They didn’t sell well, but seeds were planted and sown until innovation, technology and otherwise, created the conditions for growth and the public recognized PARTS that were familiar (action movie tropes). Now, they’re licenses to print money. It’s the same concept here.
      And, believe me, as much as I’d like everyone to play games, I don’t respect the taste of people outside of the hardcore niche.

  20. Matthew Wesley says:

    I’ve got to disagree with this article on two fronts; first, the reason why Disney’s animation fell off is because the powers that be for the longest time stopped investing in the studio(s). Aside from the late disney classics like the little Mermaid and Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, there was nothing coming out from the animation studio before that to push the envelope- heck, Mickey Mouse, the face of Disney went from being a mischievous scamp to a vanilla character. On the second front, Nintendo has in fact released ton’s of new ip’s during the lifecycle of all of their consoles, but ”nintendo fan’s” don’t buy them. They clamor for new titles, get them, then won’t buy them… then complain about new ip’s. It get’s old really fast. Nintendo sticks with their stable of stable franchises because they sell (Mario is the most profitable first party ip in the video game industry- handsdown), this doesn’t occur overnight, it’s done through constant building up and nurturing and tweaking and aesthetic choices aside, every Mario Game is different.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Is that true, though? If you look at stuff like the -mo/Push-Pull series, Picross, and games like that, aren’t those minor successes? I know the (phenomenal) Mario Versus Donkey Kong series doesn’t sell, but I think Nintendo fans buy Nintendo games.
      If they don’t, I don’t know how Nintendo’s mid-to-late Wii strategy was supposed to win them over. 1 game every 5 months is not a way to stoke fires.

  21. Gentileman says:

    “And then Disney acquired Star Wars and Marvel Film Studios and made all the money ever after.”

    The End

  22. CM30 says:

    I’ve responsed to this article on my own site here:

    http://nintendo3dsdaily.com/nintendoarticles/response-gameologicals-nintendodisney-comparison-is-complete-nonsense/

    But to summarise, it’s completely ridiculous. For one thing, a look at the facts will tell you they didn’t not make any new series in that time, there’s actually a very long list of series made by Nintendo in the last five or ten years alone. It’s just none caught on as well as Mario or Pokemon or Zelda.

    And even for the series that aren’t all ‘new’, they did as many new and creative things as ever. Innovative art styles? What, like every Zelda game in the last few years? Almost every one has a unique art style.

    Or how about some other creative games in existing Nintendo series? Like Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon?

    They’re not just the New Super Mario Bros factory, they do work on a ton of original and creative things even nowadays, many of which are in new franchises (or at least what would be new franchises if they sold well).

    Finally, new universe/character does not equal more creative. The differences between say, Luigi’s Mansion 2 and New Super Mario Bros 2 are far greater than those between one fairly similar platformer based on one universe and another based on a different one.

  23. rameshjeansa says:

    Uncle Mason got a nine month old Infiniti G Coupe
    IPL just by part-time work from a home computer… why not look her…………

    w­w­w.J­o­b­s­47.c­o­m

  24. crakkie says:

    Over the past couple of years, Disney animation has been better than Pixar. Not sure how that fits into the narrative here.

    Also, the 3DS is doing very well, both in hardware sales and 1st and 3rd party support. They WiiU is doing shit, but as you pointed out, Nintendo can afford to lose a billion dollars a year for the next 15 years, and they’re doing better than that.