Thank God for Nintendo. My next system I buy (while waiting to figure out the easiest way to get a RetroN 5) will be a Wii U. I am completely sold on the console. Me, who back in the 90’s was honest to god planning on buying a SATURN I was that much of a Sega fanboy. Nintendo have now proven how they won that war. In a world populated with grey, overly violent shooty bang bang games, Nintendo reminded us that while they are an important and vital but still forming artistic medium, video GAMES should be fun.
What, in this atmosphere of near 90’s comic book levels of pseudo maturity, in an industry and art form determined to no longer be seen as a child’s play thing, do Nintendo bring to the party? Why, little action figures, of course. The Amiibo system (think Skylanders or Disney Infinity but with Nintendo characters) could very well be an attempt to get back to their humble toy making beginnings.
These small plastic statuettes are integrated into gameplay through a chip in their base, that the games also write to, saving unique data based on the user. This adds a uniqueness to an already very collectable product. It’s an interesting social and business strategy. I can see schoolyard trades going down for different figures for different boosts. This is why Nintendo wins. The company is making money before I even talk about the games that are coming out. They are THAT good at this.
It’s almost refreshing to see the unbridled enthusiasm the developers bring to their games. They aren’t making games that their public demands (ok aside from the new Zelda and Hyrule Warriors, those seemed a little phoned in because the fans demanded them). They are making games they think will be fun. They understand that it would be fun to see Pac Man, Sonic, and Megaman all take on Mario in a Battle Royale Tour de Force. they get why gamers in their early 30’s might be glad to see Toad get his own game.
For me though, the most exciting thing is Nintendo trying to bring the excitement of making a game to the end user. Mario Maker could very well be the future of the games industry. The game, if you can call it that, shows that Nintendo has been paying attention to the internet.
It’s essentially a little tool that lets you build your own Mario levels. The internet is already filled with RomHacks and Let’s Plays thereof, but of course nothing official has ever come from Nintendo. The studio knows it can be fun to build your own games. The developers want you to! They know that if you have fun making a Mario level, you might make more. You might turn into a game developer. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Games staying alive because kids loved making levels so much they made it their job?
Probably the purest demonstration of this fun philosophy was Splatoon. It’s almost like Nintendo heard that shooters were going to be big this year and knew they couldn’t show up without one. But at the same time, they’d never actually SEEN a shooter, only heard one described by an enthusiastic fan. The result is a wierd paintball-esque fusion of cephalopods and laughter. It is essentially The Anti Shooter – and I can’t wait to see more.
The Nintendo Booth at any gaming convention could easily be equated to a theme park. Reality doesn’t exist there. Time has no meaning. The lights, sounds and even the smells evoke a sense of wonder. This is gaming distilled into its purest form. The games themselves seem to be lauging. Not at the player, but with them. As if to say “Yes! I DID see that and it WAS awesome!” Nintendo, by FAR the oldest warrior on the console field, knows what it’s good at: It still sells fun far better than anyone else in the mainstream games scene.