Nintendo vs “Core Gamers” – Round 247. Ding ding.

You know, I haven’t been well recently so I needed a really good topic to rant over, and wow, did I get it!

Two things have prompted this rant;
(1) Nintendo have stated that they didn’t intend for the Wii to become a “casuals only” console, and they lament that core gamers abandoned it.
(2) The Umbrella Chronicles and The Darkside Chronicles are being ported to the PS3 with Move support.

Both have seem the internet respond in unison – HAHA…

… but I think people might want to be very careful on that high horse.

Let’s be frank here and face facts – “Core Gamers”, as we have come to term them, abandoned the Wii before it was even released. The internet at the time was very much alive with the whole kicking of Nintendo, proclaiming that Nintendo had “conceded” their position in the industry and would soon go broke. Gamers bought into this analysis of the Wii – which wasn’t HD, and had an odd and funny controller, and as a result many never bought a Wii.

Which makes it all the more hilariously ironic then that the Wii has sold over 90 million units, closing in on the 100 million and soon to break the sales record that the PS2 managed to achieve – the PS2 “shipped” 100 million units in five years, nine months. Nintendo are only now approaching the five year marker – and are about to steal that record right from under Sony’s nose. Neither Sony or Microsoft this generation have pushed more than 55 million units – and neither will have made as much profit as the Wii, which was profitable from day one and even survived being put UP in price.

Nintendo obviously sacrificed a few things to achieve this, most importantly in this is the respect of core gamers. But one has to ask, considering the success of the Wii – the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of profit made by it, which now accrues interest, is this such a bad thing?

Core Gamers seem to define themselves these days in a certain very narrow spectrum of gaming choice – we’re talking Gears of War, Halo, Resistance, Modern Warfare, Battlefield. And I find that, as a gamer, oddly disconcerting in a sense. These gamers, these very LOUD gamers, are dictating the industry for those of us who actually also like things like Tales of Symphonia, Pikmin, Zelda, Ico. My tastes are much broader, much more about experiences than merely being entertained. Sure, I don’t mind a bit of Assassin’s Creed – I even enjoy it – but I prefer to mix that up with a little bit of Alpha Protocol, a very underrated game.

Core Gamers, despite the noise they often make in the gaming press comments sections, aren’t interested in broadening their horizons, or games which don’t conform to their narrow spectrum of entertainment that involves guns, warfare and Americano-sci-fi bollocks.

So is it really a BAD thing that Nintendo didn’t listen to core gamers? Many of us who clearly aren’t “core gamers” (because we don’t bash Nintendo at every available opportunity, of course, so we must be “fanboys” – if only the irony of that wasn’t so unbearably delicious!) may argue that Nintendo probably dodged a fair few bullets this generation – sure, the Wii has lacked a bit of content for those of us who do enjoy expanding our horizons, but it’s had enough to sate my hunger – Xenoblade is the latest game wedged in my Wii, and has been for some time to be honest, and is only likely to be pulled out by Zelda: Skyward Sword. Especially when, owning all the consoles, you can pick and choose from the very best each machine has to offer. Despite the variety of content on the 360 and PS3, not all of it has been quality either – and seriously, have to ask again, if the most successful game series of this generation is Gears of War, there is something very seriously wrong with the industry.

Nintendo are known to march to the beat of their own drum, so it is worth reminding “core gamers” that both Sony and Microsoft have done everything in their power to copy Nintendo, with their own motion controllers and insistence on capturing the “casual gamer”. It is perhaps amusing at the amount of money that they have spent catching up with Nintendo, who have had four years of pretty astronomical profits. Core gamers are often very quick to ignore this reality, because it means that they have to acknowledge Nintendo may have done something, you know, right.

And the Wii U, I am a bit cautious of. It’s not that it doesn’t interest me – far from it, but I just want to see content on it. I’ve always loved the Wii Remote, I think it’s a great controller. and I love the look of the Wii U controller as well. Utter genius. But you know, I would like to see some games, not tech demos, especially for a console that’s supposedly due in a years time, you know? That’s my one criticism right now of Nintendo. E3 reveal is traditional, I know, but that may be cutting it rather fine.

However, let’s be honest here. Nintendo have lost some millions this year – Japan isn’t in great economic shape right now, we know – but it’s a far cry from the $3.2 billion Sony lost last year, and the projected losses they are going to make on the PS Vita – and the year-on-year loss that Microsoft makes on the Live service, which is run at an operational loss. It’s last posted X-Box division loss was $175 million. Nintendo haven’t posted a loss in at least 30 years of recorded finances, this is their first, and compared to the competition and the money they’ve made so far on the Wii, it’s a drop in the ocean (it’s estimated the Wii has made Nintendo well in excess of a billion dollars in pure profit, before you take into account the DS and all the software sales).

There is this belief that companies live to please us – this is a fallacy, they live to please their shareholders. We gamers get games made that cater to as broad a demographic as possible – and the Wii, the largest demographic was the newer breed of more casual gamer, so yeah, we more discerning gamers were shunted a bit. It happens. That’s often why we have all the consoles, you know, game genres tend to come in waves and phases. But as long as Nintendo know that, and don’t repeat it, I’m okay with letting them get back to the business of making games and machines to sell. That’s their business model, it is clear many at Nintendo love working there, so yeah. I think all is rosy in this neck of the woods actually.

As for The Resident Evil Chronicles games as some kind of “Core Gamer Victory”, can I ask…

Are you SERIOUS?!

The Chronicles games are… okay, I suppose, but horrendously clunky, quite average in truth and they lack the sparkle, humour and wit that the franchise is known for. They are perfectly servicable on-rails shooters, don’t get me wrong, but they’re nothing special either. Nothing that I would say Nintendo should be proud of, in any case.

Isn’t it quite funny that getting these two fairly average games is somehow a victory against the Wii? I find that rather cute, actually. D’aww, does the wikkle core gamer community not have any other games from the machine they want now that they have to plunder the average stuff too? How sweet.

The overall conclusion is that Nintendo should stop apologising.

Core Gamers are a very select demographic of people who have been given this tremendous power in the industry, they’ve been given a soapbox and they’ve dominated it for years, but at the same time for many of us – who are only gamers – we’ve been losing out on decent games and sequels to actually fantastic games because it somehow doesn’t fit into what has been termed as this core demographic.

Nintendo, to their credit, exploded this myth that a machine had to only cater to a particular audience. And boy, did Nintendo make a fortune on the back of it.

The challenge Nintendo has now is to make sure the Wii U re-balances their market, and caters to everyone as equally as is possible, and makes sure that third parties have as equal a footing as is possible. Nintendo are, as we know, guilty of delaying third-party games when it clashes with one of their own big names. That does, of course, have to stop. Fair play is fair Nintendo. You are big boys now. No need for that anymore. We’ll still buy Zelda, Metroid, Eternal Darkness, Pikmin, Donkey Kong etc.

But it would be a crying shame to see Nintendo pander to this “core gamer” demographic. If not terribly damaging.

Nintendo have expanded their potential audience – leave the tiny core gamer audience with the little bubble they’ve blown around themselves. The rest of us will be very happy to leave them to their very small little selection of shooters and wargames.

You wouldn’t have a position where there are nearly 45 million more customers with a Wii than another console if everyone wanted the usual fare. The trick now is to exploit that installed userbase, and reel them in.

And that means catering for all tastes, not just core gamers.

That’s the real challenge.

Only time will tell.

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