Nintendo game designer/producer/muse Shigeru MiyamotoI know the title of this blog post is a little strange when you consider that Nintendo is notorious in the game industry for having the most loyal and rabid fans that regularly worship at the house of Super Mario and affectionately/annoyingly refer to Nintendo's game designer/producer/muse Shigeru Miyamoto as "Shiggy." Since Nintendo defined the modern game console era, if you consider yourself a hardcore gamer, it's more than likely that you're a Nintendo fanboy (even if you don't want to admit it).

Yet, not too long ago, hardcore gamers started feeling a little uncomfortable with the release of the touch-screen based DS handheld system. They were skeptical of the touch-screen novelty and frustrated with the release schedule of games that seemed few and far between. Of the few games that were released, the ones that were considered high-profile successes by Nintendo were games like Nintendogs and Brain Age. This left gamers scratching their heads as these titles were radically different from what their expectations of what a videogame should look, feel and play like.

Handheld-gaming has long been the ugly stepchild of home consoles so perhaps many fans were able to shrug off the DS as an anomaly and thought that with release of the Wii, Nintendo would return to traditional form and reclaim its rightful throne that it had lost to Sony. Now months after the release of the Wii, hardcore gamers are feeling even more on outs with Nintendo and have similar complaints along the lines of DS about the lack of software, poor graphics compared to costlier competitors and questions to the validity and longevity of the Wii-mote as a functional controller.

To the hardcore, the Wii validates their fears that stem from the DS. Nintendo isn't in-touch with gamers, but rather out-of-touch and will subsequently fail for it. The funny thing is none of this should come as a surprise since Nintendo has a long history of eschewing the status quo and alienating hardcore gamers in favor of reaching a more family-orientated mass market.

R.O.B. (robotic operating buddy)

Starting with its very first game console NES, Nintendo put in the gimmicky R.O.B. (robotic operating buddy) accessory so that it could distance itself from the typical games of the day. R.O.B. was only good for two games, but its inclusion successfully got stores and buyers to lower their guard similarly to what the Wii-mote is doing today. The Super Scope (which incidentally uses a similar motion technology to that of the Wii), Mario Paint, Pokemon, Game Boy Camera, eCard Reader and Virtual Boy all represented out-of-the-box attempts by Nintendo to transcend traditional gaming conventions of the day.

It's also worth nothing that the GameCube console, which is one of Nintendo's biggest failures in recent times, was also one of its least unique systems. Nintendo executives consistently preached the same non-traditional mass market ideals that it does today, but mistakenly thought that presenting an oddly cube-shaped console with bright colors, a lunchbox handle and slightly modified controller would be enough for it to stand-out to the media and on-the-fence gamers. It didn't.

Cel shaded child-like LinkThe Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker also represented another effort by Nintendo to break away from the hardcore mindset. So much so that it literally defied what hardcore gamers demanded at the time and presented a cell-shaded child-like Link instead of the expected darker, more mature Link, but by then it was too late. PS2 had an insurmountable lead and software alone was not enough to convince non-gamers that the GameCube was truly different.

It's not difficult to infer that the failures of the GameCube and Wind Waker were strong factors that drove Nintendo to realize what they doing just wasn't enough and they really needed to do a drastic 180 in every respect—from graphics to the controller. Hardcore gamers may mistakenly think that with the more mature and darker Twilight Princess is signal that Nintendo will finally getting in line with making games that cater to their tastes, but those gamers would be wrong.

Twilight Princess is merely a bone (Nintendo occasionally does this) and doesn't represent any major shift of thinking on Nintendo's part, which has been pretty consistent since the NES. This is only becoming clear now because the success of the Wii and DS underscores the disparity between what the hardcore expect and what Nintendo has always strived for. For those to are devoted to Nintendo, this may be a hard pill to swallow, but the reality is Nintendo doesn't make games for you.

Chi Kong Lui

Chi Kong Lui

In the 1980s, Chi grew up in small town on the outskirts of New York City called Jackson Heights. Latino actor, John Leguizamo referred to the town as the "melting pot of the world," and while living there, Chi was exposed to many diverse cultures, as well as a bevy of arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Space Ace, Space Harrier and Double Dragon. Chi's love of videogames only seemed to grow as his parents finally caved and bought him an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (after being the only kid in the block without one). In the 1990s, Chi finagled his way into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.

Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers GameCritics.com his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that GameCritics.com will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
Chi Kong Lui

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28 Comments on "Nintendo doesn’t make games for hardcore gamers"

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Anonymous
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I have a wii and at first i thought it was a mistake to switch (i had a ps2) but now i see that it is the most enjoyeble thing i ever played so in my opinion ot doesnt really matter if it has hardcore games or not but if u enjoy the games that come out on it.

Clayfrd
Guest

My thoughts exactly! The Wii goes for gameplay. “Hardcore” is a defintion that is not set in stone and varies from person to person. Maybe some people still aren’t too cool to play a Mario game simply because Mario has excellent gameplay, be it gory and “hardcore” or not.

Anonymous
Guest

There is such a flimsy definition for hardcore and casual games. A game with cartoon-like graphics can be just as hardcore as a gory, violent FPS.

Anonymous
Guest

graphics are not the only reasons for playing a game nintendo has the best gameplay and the best first-party games

Enduro
Guest
Well done, Chi. I’ve been saying for years that Nintendo needed to eschew the “hardcore” trappings and become the “Fisher-Price of Videogames” and that is exactly what they are doing. Nobody is saying that the Wii is unsucessful, only that the Wii and the DS aren’t necessarily all that important to the typical gamer. I see nothing on the Wii that interests me, but that doesn’t make the console less of a success. I don’t need to own a Wii in order to be a gamer and, similarly, Nintendo doesn’t need every gamer to own a Wii to be successful.… Read more »
Iggy
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Of course you have to be objective but as I read it (of course, leave it up to both of our interpretations) you just abandoned Nintendo. I do apologize for the selling out comment as it was not geared towards you and I did not mean it to sound that way. It was geared to the people that possibly would have replied Nintendo sold out. Of course every company has their target audience but a bigger target would be everyone. You have to start off small before you can get large. Nintendo (Imagine) first targeted the fan boys (like you… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
Guest
1. Thank you for the Clarification but if you were to re-read your article one can only assume that you no longer would associate yourself as a Nintendo player. I may be a Nintendo fan at heart, but as a writer, I try to be as objective as possible. What surprises me is that if you reread the article, I do not make any judgements (positive or negative) towards Nintendo or the Wii. Intelligent business decision I think. You have to apeall to both hardcore gamers and non hardcore gamers to stay in business and no, thats not called selling… Read more »
legendarypegasu
Guest
Chi, some thoughtful commentary as usual. I think that you are right to an extent. I would also argue that Nintendo as a developer has lost touch with the “hardcore”/”traditional” gamer to an extent. Most of the games Nintendo themselves has developed in the past 2-3 years has been geared towards the more “casual” crowd. For example, thhe Brain Age series, the Warioware series, Animal Crossing and ther Kirby series. There have been games geared towards the more “hardcore” crowd such as Custom Robo, Twilight Princess, and Pikmin 2, but again there are the exception and not the rule. However,… Read more »
Iggy
Guest
1. Thank you for the Clarification but if you were to re-read your article one can only assume that you no longer would associate yourself as a Nintendo player. 2. You are right, nintendo does have a long history of making gimmicky hardware and mass apeal games but as a company would you want to do the same to stay in business appeal to the masses? Intelligent business decision I think. You have to apeall to both hardcore gamers and non hardcore gamers to stay in business and no, thats not called selling out, thats called staying in business. 3.… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
Guest
Hi everyone, I just wanted to clarify a few points. 1) I am a Nintendo fanboy at heart. The NES is the system that made me into a life-long gamer and I currently enjoy the Wii and DS very much. 2) For a little background info, I wrote this article because I noticed that since the launch of the DS, there has a growing discontent from hardcore gamers over the kinds of games that they are use to playing and the kinds of games Nintendo has always made (most of this was observed at my own site). People seemed to… Read more »
Iggy
Guest
For no games to play they are sure rocking in the sales. You know like when I buy my car and don’t get wheels with it, it needs wheels to drive on and the Wii needs games to play on. I got the system with Zelda and am still playing it, since then I have bought Wii Play, Mario Kart (for the gamecube) Excite Truck, Red Steel and a few other games and sure some games are not that great you have plenty of other games to fall back on and if not wii games for right now (since the… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

Oh come on. What a naked attempt to stir a little controversy and get yourself a little reader action. Hoping to get someone, anyone interested in your blog.

What would have been an interesting aspect of this story is what makes the recent Nintendo offerings such a success when compared to what Sony and Microsoft are currently offering. I’m not a Ninteno Fanboy, in point of fact, I own an Xbox 360, but I can read sales reports. Something you neglected to cover in your article.

So give Nintendo their due while they are enjoying some success.

Anonymous
Guest

Amen

Mr Ev
Guest
Lets get one thing cleared up from the start! The definition of a Hardcore gamer is a gamer who takes gaming seriously. The definition of a Casual gamer is a gamer that likes playing games but doesn’t play often or likes games to be simpler (as too get through the game quickly). The definition of a Non gamer is someone who either had no interest in games or gave up playing games. What you are trying to define is a core gamer which although sounds similar, does not mean hardcore gamer. Core gamers are those who like segmented games and… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
Everyone calling the Wii “innovative” is insane. if anything the silly wand is restrictive, as if the underpowered system wasn’t restrictive enough. I don’t know when suddenly sony turned into the big evil corporation with blind fanboys, and I dont know when microsoft turned into the little company that could. I also dotn know when people started thinking nintendo did anything original (i cant wait to play mario water polo), but the insanity has to stop. A year or two down the line, the 360 and ps3 will still be the only systems with games worth playing, the 80 year… Read more »
Christopher Bence
Guest

This guy is right, nintendo has forgotten about the hardcore gamers. I think this has to do with the fact that in terms of hardware, they just can’t compete with sony and microsoft due to lack of resources. Its too bad everybody has fallen under the spell of the Wii, despite it having no games worth playing. I assume its a novelty that will wear off

Anonymous
Guest
To say that Nintendo is the king of rehashing is really to miss the point. They may take franchises from one system to the next, preserving the name as a consequence, but each iteration of zelda, mario, metroid, etc. is unique and different from the previous. Compare original Super Mario Bros. to Paper Mario, or Mario Sunshine, and you’ll see that the games are similar in decor and name only. The fundamental gameplay is always changing. The same can be said for all of the other franchises. Rehashing is what has consistently happened with the Steet Fighter series. Same game,… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

… with a thoughtful, articulate, well reasoned response, as CLEARLY no thought or reason went into the authorship of this blog. I will say that is quite possibly the DUMBEST, most asinine bullshit I’ve ever read, and I’m sorry for having wasted the five minutes of my life it took to read it.

Anonymous
Guest

Yepp, thats try.. Nintendo uses all their old titels just to be sure that the Machine will sell. But hey, im not complaining, they can do how many Zeldas as they want. Nintendo always produces fun games. I love all my Nintendo consoles. I regret that i bought the Ps3, its was such a disappointment. Nintedo for life!

samfish
Guest

If you think a “hardcore gamer” is someone who only plays violent “mature” games, then you’re right. Nintendo is not a hardcore company, by and large.

…but if that’s your definition of a “hardcore gamer”, you’re kind of a short sighted twit, to be honest. No offense…
They regularly release 20 hour+ games like Mario, Metroid and Zelda. Mario Kart and Smash Bros. are pretty ‘hardcore’, too, I’d say.

Someone who only enjoys “mature”, violent games does not a hardcore gamer make.

Anonymous
Guest

Are you kidding me? Nintendo doesn’t rehash?

We are on how many versions of Mario, Mario Party, Mario Kart, Zelda, WarioWare, Animal Crossing, etc, etc.

While MS and Sony are guilty of this as well, Nintendo is King of rehashes.

Anonymous
Guest

nintendo is hardcore as they come, while other systems crap out the same old rehash nintendo is taking risks and innovating!

wii , ds? = innovation.

psx3, xbox 2 (no i wont call it 360 b/c thats just a dumb name)
= rehash.

pc = hardcore.

Iggy
Guest
I have owned every single Nintendo System and will continue to own I am sure the future systems. Nintendo has been making and supporting great entertaining games and system for years. Before they centered around consoles they would sell playing cards and entertainment of that nature, gaming before consoles is pretty hardcore to me. Sure the past of Nintendo has been not centered to much around violence but is that what makes a game a game or a gamer hardcore, if you think that them maybe you in fact are not the gamer. A hardcore gamer is a person that… Read more »
Mig
Guest
You seem to have an odd and very conservative definition of hard core games and what a hard core gamer is. Why must all hardcore games be traditional genres with traditional interfaces? Shouldn’t hard core gamers be exactly the one’s seeking out the new game experiences that the Wii and DS represent? I don’t think anyone calls someone a hardcore film person if all they watch are Hollywood action films. You call them a hardcore film person when they actively seek out odd and unusual films, films that try to redefine what films are about and what they can do.… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
I would define a “Hardcore Gamer” as someone who is principally concerned with games rather than the company or system purveying them. I’ve been playing games for over 25 years, and this year I am looking forward to games from Sega, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Konami, Capcom, and Namco all on various formats. Does this mean I’m not a “hardcore Gamer”? I personally think that to single out a company as you have is very short-sighted. Ultimately if anyone who is a true gamer listens to your advice then they will be able to experience less great games, which is surely… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
No, Nintendo does not produce the most violent/adult-themed games out there. So if that is how you define hardcore gaming then perhaps you are right. But when it comes to pure unadultered gameplay, Nintendo reigns supreme. Nintendo doesn’t play it safe, the Wii and DS are great examples of this. When everybody though that next-gen meant overpriced consoles that can produce, arguably, photo-realistic graphics, Nintendo decided to go in different directions with those two consoles. When it comes to games Nintendo is still capable of coming up with fresh and innovative intellectual property, unlike the other guys that think hardcore… Read more »
Yousef
Guest
You are horribly wrong. Sure, the DS and Wii aren’t centered around hardcore gamers. In fact, they are aimed at non-gamers (hint: that’s why they’re succeeding), but they made many hardcore games already for both systems and they have much more on the way. Wii: Zelda TP, Super Paper Mario, Wario Ware Smooth Moves, Fire Emblem, Metroid Prime 3, Disaster, Battalion Wars, Project HAMMER, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Mario Galaxy. DS: New SMB, Tetris DS, Yoshi’s Island DS, Advance Wars DS, Electroplankton, Elite Beat Agents, Hotel Dusk, Kirby: Canvas Curse, Zelda PH, Mario & Luigi, Mario Kart DS,… Read more »
Hargrada
Guest

I see the DS as a pretty “Hardcore” system, and I thought Wind Waker was a “Hardcore” game(At least it had a much more mature story then Twilight Princess in my opinion). The problem is my hardcore might be different then your hardcore and both of ours might be different then others.

How do you define Hardcore?

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