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Does Nintendo Really Care About The Core Gamer?

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There’s been controversy for quite some time over whether the Wii is being catered too much to new gamers or not. Critics have argued that the flood of pick-up and play games for Nintendo’s new console are in fact dragging it down and leaving core gamers angry. The opposite side argues that games for core gamers are out there, just not as easily visible.

I’ve been on the fence, as I can see both some great games that are getting overshadowed, as well as the flood of games for casual and new gamers that have hit the Wii. But it only took one bit of news to get me off the fence and seriously debating how much core gamers, like myself, have to look forward to on the Wii.

In their newest issue, Famitsu will announce that Project H.A.M.M.E.R., a game I was really looking forward to that had been put on hold, is dead. Permanently dead. Shot out of a cannon into the sun dead. Rumors originally stated the game was delayed for *gasp* a game more slanted toward casual gamers! What a surprise!

Wii Play, Rayman Raving Rabbids and Wii Sports are not the end of the world, and in fact, they’re all fun games in their own right. But their success is causing so many similar games to appear that the Wii is quickly being turned into what it wasn’t intended to be: a console for newbies only. Yes, we’ve got Metroid Prime 3 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl among other games that still appeal to the core, but third parties are increasingly treating the Wii’s user base as if they were toddlers and old ladies. I went out and bought an Xbox 360 because I wanted the kinds of games we haven’t gotten on the Wii yet. Sim racers like Forza 2, RTS titles like Mass Effect and games like Ace Combat 6 and Crackdown that not only have some appeal to newer gamers, but have enough depth and challenge to satisfy core gamers, too.

On one hand, it’s easy to blame Nintendo since it’s their console, but take a look at the list of games they’ve put out or are developing. It’s a pretty fair balance of games that appeal to both core gamers and both casual and new gamers. Sure, they could do more to tell third parties what kind of games to be made, but third parties might react badly to that and just decide to give a “bossy and pushy” Nintendo the shaft when it comes to developing games.

Unfortunately, as gamers, there’s little we can do. Not buying those pick-up-and-play games either splits the Wii user base in two or makes third parties think that the Wii isn’t so hot anymore, and they just might cut development to focus on the Xbox 360 or PS3. On the other hand, buying every single one that comes out will only lead to more lame cash-in games that the Wii really doesn’t need.

It’s up to Nintendo to take the initiative. Super Mario Galaxy looks like a great start, and other Nintendo-produced titles like Battalion Wars II should only help in the effort. And remember, both the DS and Xbox 360 had shoddy selections of titles for their first year, but they now both have very strong libraries.

So maybe it’s not time to hit that panic button yet, fellow Wii core gamers. Yes, I’m still going to be very bitter about H.A.M.M.E.R.‘s cancellation for quite some time, but don’t let it ruin your expectations for the future. The games core gamers want will come in time.

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About Brian Szabelski

  • Hey great article! My sentiments exactly. Do you think Nintendo will see the error in their ways before its too late?

  • I don’t see it as an error of their ways. They’re making tons of cash on the hardware. It’s the start of a shift towards making the core gamer the casual gamer. At this rate, it will happen.

    I don’t think it’s hard to see a split coming ala the movie industry. You have the casual movie goer, enjoying fluff like romantic comedies or special effects romps. Then you have the die-hard film fanatic who loves the film festival circuit, foreign releases, etc.

    That split either isn’t far off or is already here in a smaller form.

  • I think the new control interfaces are going to keep hardcore 3rd-party games off the Wii for a while. Developers who create really solid gaming experiences are accustomed to building games for the classic console control scheme… thumb and index-finger buttons, analog control sticks, 2-D cardinal directions.

    Obviously, Nintendo itself is going to buy into its new invention 100%, taking some big risks (Smooth Moves? Amazing game, but WTF?!?) and creating some rock-solid, challenging gaming experiences that can definitely be described as “core” (all the big Nintendo franchises are great examples of this). But it’s going to be a while before the 3rd-party developers, who have been developing control-intensive games within their console comfort zones, decide to start experimenting with the Wii’s control technology.

    What we need are innovative 3rd-parties, companies like Atlus and TGC, taking risks and building games specifically for the Wiimote. But that’s not gonna happen right away. For now, it’s up to Nintendo to prove their new paradigm, out in the battlefield of our living rooms.

  • Justin Case

    If I were Nintendo, I wouldn’t be trying to develop games for the core gamer. They are making lots of money, and pleasing tons of people with their current strategy, so why change. Besides, their hardware isn’t designed to compete with the XBox or PS3.

    If I were a core gamer, I would be enjoying the XBox or PS3, and forget about the Wii … except if I get to play it at someone else’s crib.

  • Extinction

    “I don’t see it as an error of their ways. They’re making tons of cash on the hardware”

    That’s like saying it’s ok for a company to pollute the environment as long as they make tons of money on it.

    Polluting the game market might be good for them, but not us. Hence it’s a mistake.

  • Sol

    Wow…way to compare there.
    The environment and the gaming industry cannot be compariable. Nintendo has hit something BIG here, and plus with SSBB, SMG, and other upcoming titles, Nintendo will please the “hardcore” market easier – but the biggest thing should be to get NEW gamers, that way, they have them in their grasp and can develop them into core gamers, and with word of mouth being the BEST advertising tool, Nintendo should hit over 50 million units worldwide before 2010.

  • First – We are talking about the best selling console in the world. Pollution? Try cash infusion.

    Second – If the market demands it, the companies will build the games, I really don’t think it is Nintendo’s issue, as Jesse says, its up to other companies to innovate. Hard core gamers are starting to sound like hard core fogies.

  • I was going to write this op-ed. But I was not going to be so nice. Good point about third party developers putting out a ton of fluff.

    I am not sure if the Wii will ever live up to the expectations of the once core Nintendo audience. I just hope the console does not crash and burn, but right now it needs a better balance between fluff and games core gamers want to play.

    The have met this balance well on the DS. I hold hope that it will happen on the Wii. But I seriously doubt it right now.