Posted on October 24 2010 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Nintendo is unquestionably my favorite game developer. Others such as Bioware and Blizzard come close, but with such wings as Retro Studios and Mr. Miyamoto under their banner, Nintendo takes the cake. Over the current hand held and console generation Nintendo has become known as the great innovator in the industry. With the introduction of motion controls becoming more than simply a fad, and adding dual screens with a touch pad to hand helds, there is plenty of evidence both in hardware and hardware sales that Nintendo is extremely creative, and people love their stuff. It’s an easy argument and debate to win. However, even with all the new bells and whistles for control innovation, is Nintendo actually changing up their software to be as innovative as the hardware?
For starters, lets just get it out there. Touch controls and motion controls simply replace button presses. It’s not necessarily easier, or even that much more entertaining for a majority of games. Yes, sports games, fitness, and dance titles benefit greatly, but in general the controls never lend themselves to actual game play improvements. Now, beyond this, Nintendo doesn’t seem to be “expanding” in the software realm.
Mario Galaxy and Mario Galaxy 2 were indeed brilliant entries. It turned the entire Mario universe upside down and was a lot of fun along the way. Mario has done this in the past, and I am positive he will do it again in the future. These games are great, arguably some of the best ever crafted. The real issue? It’s Mario. We’ve come to expect this over the years.
What that last couple lines is getting at is Nintendo is not creating new core franchises. Some franchises, they completely abandon, bring back, and think “see, we do care!”. Take Donkey Kong Country Returns. I am sure the game will be great, but lets be realistic. I’ve seen the game play, it’s hardly innovative. It’s a nostalgic kick back to the original Country series and it will sell very well, but it’s hardly innovative. They’ve done this before.
The same is true, in general, with the Zelda series. I love the series, it’s my favorite of all time. But sometimes I sit back and need to ask myself… why? I hate on other series like Halo for not really changing over the years, yet I praise Zelda as a god when it is one of the worst culprits of not changing? Talk about being a hypocrite. Zelda is lovely, and sure the “art” style has varied some, but overall it’s the same game over and over again with every release. It has just as many differences in each title as Halo does, so I have no ground to stand on to bash another franchise over being the same thing.
Here in lies the problem: Nintendo, once the leader in innovative creativity, is starting to drop the ball. I am not saying they need to stop making Mario, Metroid, Zelda, Kirby, Donkey Kong, and the like. I am simply wondering when they are going to let their creative juices flow again. The last “new” core franchise we got was Pikmin. Where is Pikmin 3? They obviously thought so little of the overall sales that they don’t think it’s worth bringing back anytime soon. Okay, so they swung on that one and didn’t get a home run. So, why stop trying?
Nintendo has a lot of platforming games. Mario, Kirby, Kid Icarus, Metroid, and the like. They have one true adventure game in Zelda. Why not come up with a 2nd complimentary adventure title? They have Fire Emblem and Pikmin for strategy games, but why not introduce a new entry that is fresh and unlike anything you’ve seen before? Where is my innovation, Nintendo?
Miyamoto has recognized this issue as recently as E3. He stated that he realized that it has been a long time since Nintendo introduced a new core IP, and that he has a plan he is working on for a brand new character for a new series. I believe him, but at some point, is the creativity going to come from someone other than Miyamoto? I love the guy, he is possibly the greatest game creator and innovator in the world, but we need to see promise for Nintendo of tomorrow.
Miyamoto wont be around forever. While he has slowly worked his core creations, and other core franchises, into being handled by certain studios, or in the case of Zelda, certain people, bottom line is we need to see a positive sign of innovation from other sources that are not Miyamoto. Until I see this, how can I feel safe when he retires? How is Nintendo going to stay innovative, something they haven’t really been in the software realm for awhile to begin with?
Everyone in the western realm loves to talk about how awesome Retro Studios is. After all, they created the Metroid Prime series. Well, instead of using already licensed creations, why not give them freedom to create there own, unique, in house franchise? Let them go crazy with what they would call the perfect game, naturally with the full support of Nintendo at their backs, being they are a Nintendo owned studio. Nintendo has always struggled capturing some of the western gamers, so why not let their premier western studio take a fresh crack at it?
Nintendo is so heavily reliant on Miyamoto, that I am actually scared what my future teenage kids are going to be forced to play. I may have grown up on Mario, Zelda, and the like, but the teenagers and such of today and tomorrow need some franchises they can call their own. Without Miyamoto, I am not sure Nintendo can do it. I am not sure they think they can do it either. Let me know when a new, innovative, franchise comes from Nintendo that isn’t from the mind of Miyamoto, and then maybe I’ll feel safer about gaming in the future.
Hey Nintendo, while you still have one of the great gaming minds in history, why not use the spare time to look for some new idea folk? You are arguably the biggest game company in the world – you can create much more than just what comes from one mans head. Oh, and in case people forget, Miyamoto was the key idea man behind the Wii and DS. I have no doubt he was also the key person behind the 3DS as well. He is definitely a gaming legend, but who’s next for the big N?