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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

E3 2010: Nintendo Reaches Out

Your reaction to 2010's E3 was probably one of two options:

1. Nintendo Ruled!
2. Meh.

Judging by a lot of magazines and online writers, the first reaction was the most common one.  This E3 was viewed as Nintendo's call to the core, where it came back to the games that "we" wanted to play and cool new tech to play with.  No Vitality Sensor, no Wii Fit Extra Plus, no Little Slinky Kitty Goes To Happytown.  Most everyone was happy with this.


The select few that weren't okay with what Nintendo did were left more unimpressed than anything.  Reaction to Kinect was fair to middling and Microsoft seemed more interested in showing that the 360 could do anything but games. Sony's press conference wasn't anything special.  Sure, they showed off some Move titles, but they looked like upgraded Wii titles that we've already played before.  There was no amazing new showstopping game that brought the house down, and nothing really jumped out at most gamers from them.

However, if Nintendo stole the show, why are some unimpressed?  There's a very good reason.

When we discuss "Core" audiences, who are we talking about?  Are we discussing males 18-35 who've played video games for 10 years?  There are certainly loyal female gamers as well.  Are they included in this group?  What about people who've played for five years?  What about preteens and teens who have more buying power than ever?  What about-

Et cetera, et cetera.

See, for most gamers, a "Core" gamer specifically means "Me."  Try reading blog posts and comments from disaffected "Core Gamers" and replace their words with personal pronouns.  It's eye-opening.

"Nintendo has to work to get core gamers back" becomes "Nintendo has to work to get me back."  "Sony and Microsoft's strategy to go after casual gaming will disenfranchise core gamers" becomes "Sony and Microsoft's strategy to go after casual gaming will disenfranchise me" and so on.

There's this odd sense of entitlement in gaming culture.  For instance, we demand a sequel to Beyond Good & Evil, but it sold very poorly.  Why do they absolutely need to make one?  We demand that Nintendo return to their roots, but Nintendo is making more money than ever.  We demand that Sony and Microsoft stick to making games that please us, but they're both hemorrhaging money from their gaming divisions.  Why should they work to please us?

Nintendo made overtures to their longest-running audience, which is people who grew up playing Nintendo games.  Some of those people fell away in time and started playing other systems, while other people stayed on as die-hards and gritted their teeth through the Gamecube years only to be ignored during the Wii years.  Others still stand by Nintendo and keep on playing regardless.

Nintendo reached out to all of those audiences by offering games for everyone.  "You want the little-known and little-played Kid Icarus series back?  Here you go.  You want more of Donkey Kong Country?  Enjoy.  Hey, a new Metroid game is out in a month, even though no one buys Metroid games."

There are many who still aren't satisfied by this.  Even though Nintendo is specifically saying, "Hey, we made ourselves some money and created some new fans by making ourselves more family-friendly.  Come on back," many gamers now sniff at Nintendo's offerings like spurned lovers.

Lighten up, guys!  Nintendo is a company.  They're not your buddies, they're not your parents, and they only exist to make money.  However, the fact that they're even trying to reach out to you should tell you something about how important you are to them.

If I spent a lot of time talking about Nintendo in this review, it's because Nintendo was clearly the winner in this E3.  There's now a buzz about Nintendo's products that didn't exist beforehand, while Microsoft and Sony look a little lost, like they're trying to co-opt Nintendo's ideas about three years too late.  We'll cover more of their problems in a later article.