In the last 12 months, I’ve taken issue with Nintendo on multiple occasions. Historically speaking, no one is more important to the industry than they are, but investors and consumers alike won’t support a company off of fond memories alone. So, due to grim financial numbers and a lack of good will among fans, Nintendo were compelled to ‘fall on the sword’, meaning they both apologized and promised major changes were coming.
And boy, did they.
Many would argue Nintendo’s largest fault was their lack of marketing, a fact which has blown my mind for a number of years. In the 80’s and 90’s, their brands were plastered everywhere, from cereal boxes to shoelaces. When I turned the television on, I was treated to various Mario shows and Captain-N: The Game Master, the latter of which starred the likes of Kid Icarus, Simon Belmont, Megaman, and even the iconic Zapper and Power-Glove peripherals. Needless to say, these guys were the masters of brand recognition… and then POOF, the marketing machine came to a grinding halt.
To Nintendo’s credit, they’ve finally stopped being so stingy with licensing. As soon as their ‘change’ speech was over, the floodgates were opened.
Zelda, for example, has received the board game treatment… twice. If you love to laugh in the faces of friends and family as they go bankrupt, there’s a Monopoly board with Link’s mug on it. If, however, you’d rather pick up a small treasure chest loaded with everything you’d need for a game that’s equal parts luck and strategy, Yahtzee! is on the horizon. If board games aren’t your thing and you’d rather veg out on the couch, keep an eye on Netflix, as a live action Zelda series is allegedly in the works. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of operation ‘Recapture Brand Mastery’.
But that’s where my excitement of Nintendo’s shakeup ends.
One thing that differentiated Nintendo from the competition was that their games had no DLC. When a game hit retail, it was complete… but that all changed in 2014. When I complain about this on Reddit or the like, people stick up for Nintendo and say their DLC is fairly priced and doesn’t change the core game, but as Gabriel Galliani pointed out in our most recent podcast, those folks are missing the point.
Without question, DLC affects game design. Once upon a time, developers had to prove their worth by putting all their best ideas and designs forward at once… but not anymore.
Nowadays, people like to argue whether DLC was hidden on-disc, or if that content was produced after the core game was finished, etc. But really, those conversations amount to little more than smoke which shrouds the core complaint: Content is being intentionally withheld from gamers. As soon as the prospect of DLC enters the equation, a developer has to consider what stuff they’ll put in the game, or what they’ll sell and/or develop after the fact, and I’m extremely disappointed in Nintendo for resorting to this business model.
Worse than that, Nintendo have also adopted the microtransaction model, as evidenced by Pokémon Shuffle. Again, Nintendo loyalists have pointed out that you don’t HAVE to spend money on this title, but again, these people are missing the point: These games are not designed merely for the sake of providing ‘free’ games. It’s not a good will service. No, freemium titles are designed to take advantage of consumers with weak minds and dangerous compulsory habits. You might laugh as I liken this to drug addiction, but the analogy fits, and that makes Nintendo the pusher. If you ARE laughing, I urge you to research how the freemium model has cultivated serious gaming addiction in Eastern countries. And coupling freemium with Pokémon? That’s like bringing Walter White and Vic Mackey together.
But after all was said and done, there was one thing I could still count on from Nintendo: That their games would continue to release in perfect working order on day 1. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play some Majora’s Mask 3D on my New 3DS.
Crap. Well, so much for that.
One game hardly establishes a pattern, but it’s uncharacteristic for ANY Nintendo game to have bugs, let alone such a major release. An extreme minority have reported an ‘Error! Error!’ pop up during gameplay, while others complained of the C-Stick failing to work at random, and there’s even been a few reports of lost saves. The software update allegedly fixes most of the reported bugs, but that’s beside the point.
I’ve come to expect this sort of thing from various third party publishers, but from a first party Nintendo offering? A port of an N64 title, at that? I sincerely hope this was a one-off situation, and that future Nintendo titles don’t come to rely on patches to function properly. And, if you’ll allow me to go all ‘slippery slope’ for a minute: Keep in mind that if this becomes a regular occurrence for the big N, they haven’t been too generous with internal storage. Take the Wii-U, for example. Even for those of us with 32GB of storage, a 1GB update is going to hurt. Again, I realize this is speculative and may amount to nothing, but we’ve already seen how this sort of thing has snowballed on competing platforms.
You might say, “Yeah, but Nintendo is different than the competition.”
But… are they? Really?
With DLC and microtransactions in full swing, and software updates finally creeping into the mix, we should all reevaluate how true that statement can be in 2015. I think Nintendo will continue to differentiate themselves with ‘innovative’ hardware, but everything else? They seem to emulate their competition more and more, albeit with a much higher emphasis on limited stock, which is yet another model that’s not consumer friendly.