I 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.
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.
The 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.
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