Saturday, August 23, 2008

Has Nintendo Run out of Steam?

E3 2005 - Nintendo creates world headlines and places its cajones on the line as it announces the Revolution. Skeptics run rampant, believers come to Christ, and the end seems nearer than ever. Though there are many schools of thought on the console, one thing is apparent - it's Nintendo's Final Fantasy. They will either do or die. After a series of carefully timed news releases in which we learn more about the console, we not only become impressed, but we get a sense that Nintendo has a firm roadmap in place and is in control of what its doing.

This sense of control is confirmed as Nintendo continues to ask the public to be patient for the things they want to hear - the new Marios, the Mario Karts, Smash Bros. After being asked for patience, the public is given the news over time for the things they want to hear. Sure, the console can't be found, but the games are just as awesome as we expected and the control scheme delivers.

Enter 2008. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is released after Super Mario Galaxy and is followed up with Mario Kart Wii. Then...silence. Nintendo has nothing of major interest to announce - no F-Zero title, no StarFox, no hint of a Zelda, not even a gimmie such as a Pilotwings title. To boot, no major DS releases were announced either (Where's my New Super Mario Bros 2?). We're left in the inky blackness that is quiet.

What happened Nintendo? One gets the feeling someone didn't think ahead this far. Has Nintendo become a victim of its own success? At this juncture, it's quite likely. Holiday 2008 is approaching and Nintendo has no major releases in the pipe for the first time in a long, long span. Super Mario Sluggers just isn't going to make the grade against titles such as Little Big Planet. Either way, the Big N has got to get it together - it's stock is down about $15/share from last quarter and is continuing in this trend, which does not bode well for gamers and investors alike. While Nintendo isn't going to coin heaven anytime soon, they're also not in coin heaven either.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Adults Are Gamers, Too

So, some time ago at work, I was looking at the box to Sega Rally Revo for the 360. As I get my snail mail on the way out of the house as I head to work, it was in my bag, work was dead, and I thought I would poke around the box and instructions to keep me busy for a bit.

A cow-orker comes into my office from wrapping his skids, sees the game on my desk, and he says to me, “You’re just a big kid,” smiling and chuckling in a friendly way. This backs up what I havee noticed for years now: Most people see gamers as being kids, or immature adults, and frankly, I wonder why more eyes haven’t opened up to the fact that the mainstream gamer - and target market - is a male of 34 years old. So, I am a few years younger, and slightly bumpier in the shirt then the average guy (Yeah, that means I'm a woman, kiddos) but I’m pretty close to that target. I’m just the one expected to be playing only puzzle games on her DS instead of beating someone up to steal their helicopter, then creating havoc in Liberty City.

Jack Thompson, self proclaimed savior of the gaming world and soon to be disbarred lawyer, has a few actual good points, but he perpetuates the idea that games are only for kids. I actually agree with him that games such as “Grand Theft Auto” should not be marketed towards children - but here’s the key fact: They aren’t, and they’re rated “M” (in the US) to show parents. The simple existence of the GTA series is proof that games are not only made for children, even if Thompson thinks the people at Take Two/Rockstar are twisted evil people bent on destroying the world. They know what they made, and they know they are not going to be handing over a copy to a 12 year old themselves. People like Thompson make my mother cringe when GTA is mentioned, and make it so she would never even give the game a glance, as I sit in my own home enjoying the well crafted and deep storyline.

I see this as a case of few people knowing where or how to treat videogames, and the people who play them.

So what do I see as a solution? It’s hard to say. It’s hard to change the public consciousness to accept adults as gamers, but it will come in time, even if a comic book created for adults still is seen as a child’s pastime, and therefore should not exist. I think I’ll always be older then what the public sees as a gamer, as will millions of others. I do see a few things that could be done to keep things in the right perspective, however. Parents should be interested in what their kids are playing, and just like TV and movies, realize that they don’t have total control outside of their household.

Games are not only for kids, as is the same with a movie or TV show. Many parents would not want their kids to be watching Family Guy or even Robot Chicken, even though those are animated programs. What we are seeing is that gaming is one of the newest popular forms of entertainment, and will be in the spotlight until something new comes around to take its place. The same thing happened with TV, comic books, and believe it or not, actual books.

So why all this talk of parental guidance and such? It is me asking most of the world to not take away Grand Theft Auto and other adult oriented games. There are many adults gaming, and we want content that is in line with other entertainment we enjoy. We can’t all enjoy Disney Princess games, can we?

Common, Niko. We’ll make them pay for what they did to Roman!