Friday, April 20, 2007

Do You Like Facial Hair On Your Plumber?

Maybe it's the fact that Mario is their mascot. Then again, it could have more to do with the various incarnations of Pokemon that are the culprit. Oh I got it…. Kirby is responsible for the way in which we view Nintendo as the "kid friendly" name in gaming. Whatever the reason may be, Nintendo appears to be branching out even more, in an attempt to broaden their image a bit.

Maybe some of you have forgotten already, but this isn't the first time the Big "N" has gone out on a limb with a mature rated game. Besides the obvious Resident Evil games that found their way onto the Gamecube's excellent hardware, there was an equally satisfying, yet less welcomed game by the name of Eternal Darkness that somehow managed to sell fewer copies than it should have. With the way that customers seem to look towards competing game consoles for their mature gaming fix, I can't help but wonder where Nintendo went wrong.

After all, the Gamecube hardware was easily superior to the PS2's. Heck, it was able to go head to head with my beloved Xbox, even if it was blue, and shaped like a little girl's purse. The truth of the matter was that Nintendo promised us something decent, and they delivered on that promise. As history shows once again, that wasn't nearly enough. Nintendo choked in the one deal breaker that really matters….games. It didn't matter that they had a couple mature rated first party games on the Gamecube. What mattered is the third party support just wasn't there. The million dollar question is why?

Some would blame it on their constant excuses for avoiding the online world. Others would point to the look of the hardware itself. I guess it was a little of each, and more. Nintendo just wasn't able to convince the masses that they were much more than a family friendly console. You know, the kind that parents wouldn't be afraid to leave their kids alone for a few minutes playing, while they went next door to chat with the neighbors. Now this would seem like a perfect selling point. After all, who doesn't enjoy the images conjured up by the catch phrase "kid friendly", or "parent approved?" As it turned out, pretty much everyone. Sure, everyone gave the typical lip service of saying that the concept is the greatest thing next to apple pie and Little Debbie snack cakes, but the sales of the cube show otherwise. It seems that maybe Joe video gamer is a bit more complicated than that.

So now we fast forward to Nintendo's newest (and quite successful) console, the Wii. It seems to have followed the same failed blueprint as before, yet this time it's flying off the shelves like milk, bread, and cat food right after a potential hurricane announcement. This is a bit puzzling. After all, the Wii doesn't have a real online service yet. I mean real, in the sense that you can't go head to head against players online in multiplayer matches. Yes you can download a few select games in Nintendo's vault for a fee, but that's taking into considering that you have a high speed wireless internet connection in the first place. Many households still don't have that yet.

Much like last generation, Nintendo is still cranking out those kid friendly games. Yes, it's worth mentioning that the Wii has that new pseudo remote control looking, point and click controller that can be pretty neat at times. Is this the deciding factor that drives the Wii sales? I'd say price, but the Gamecube was one of the most affordable gaming consoles ever to sit on a store shelf. Towards the end of it's life cycle, you could find one and a game for under a hundred dollars. Now that's my definition of a value.

So what is it? I'm completely perplexed. Now we have word that Nintendo is ready to embrace some more Mature titles, like Scarface and Manhunt, and I have to wonder somewhere in the back of my mind if this is really what Nintendo's fans want. Sure I want it, but what about everyone else? Once again, we will have to take the wait and see approach to find out how kind father time has been to Nintendo in the long term. If you would have asked me the last time around, I would have told you that Nintendo really had a good shot and closing the gap with the PS2. Well what do you know….Maybe I should be an analyst after all ;-)

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