Op-Ed: The Old Man Nintendo Paradox

Is Nintendo as out of touch as many think?

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 06/10/2015 07:00 4 Comments     ShareThis

Nintendo is one of the oldest video game companies around, creating some of our favorite titles since the 1980s. While its legacy is certainly impressive, the age of the company has served as a punching bag for gamers in the modern era. For example, the lack of voice chat in Splatoon‘s online multiplayer has caused a bunch of people to claim that Nintendo is simply out of touch with what gamers expect in video games these days. In the minds of many people, Nintendo is like an old man that fails to catch up with the times. But is that really true?

There was a time when I would totally agree with these sentiments. During the sixth generation of consoles, the GameCube was the only system that didn’t have robust online features. When Nintendo finally did support online functionality fully on Nintendo DS and Wii, the experience was still watered down. If we wanted to play with our friends, we had to input a friend code that was tedious due to its length. Because no universal friends list existed, you also had to input multiple friend codes for the same person in different games.

Nintendo’s online store on the Wii Shop Channel had a few gems that were worth playing, but the service itself could have been much better. You could only fill your balance with a preset amount of points to make purchases and the games were organized in a manner that made it hard to discover new titles without prior research. Did you ever wonder why there weren’t many WiiWare games? Allegedly, Nintendo restricted developers with a 40MB size limitation, didn’t pay them until they hit a certain sales threshold, and had a lengthy certification process. While other online shops thrived with interesting games to play, developers remained cautious of WiiWare, which caused its library of games to be small.

Iwata? Is that you?

In those years, I could understand why people criticized Nintendo for acting like an old man that was behind the times. However, Nintendo has made plenty of strides recently that have fixed plenty of its previous issues. Friend codes are a thing of the past and we finally have a friends list that tracks the people we add across all Nintendo games. We have an improved online infrastructure and cool applications like Miiverse, which allows Nintendo fans to communicate to each other in ways that they’ve never been able to do before. We’re getting DLC in our games and it’s actually done in a tasteful manner.

The eShop is also miles better than the Wii Shop Channel ever was. The point system no longer exists on the eShop and it allows you to purchase a game for the exact price it costs instead of adding a preset amount of cash to your account. Games are presented beautifully in different categories, making everything a pleasure to browse. Also, thanks to folks like Dan Adelman, getting indie games on the eShop is now incredibly easy due to a lack of overbearing limitations.

Of course, Nintendo isn’t completely perfect. For instance, even though Nintendo Network IDs can share a balance between a Wii U and 3DS, I would love to have a unified account system that doesn’t tie my purchases to the hardware itself. However, after seeing the immense progress that Nintendo has made over the years, I would struggle to say that it doesn’t understand what gamers want. To me, it’s pretty clear that the company knows exactly what we want and it has been doing a pretty good job of providing that to us in the past few years.

The user interface of the eShop is much better than the Wii Shop Channel.

Nintendo’s refusal to add voice chat in Splatoon wasn’t a sign that the company is stuck in its old values. Nintendo has done voice chat before in games like Animal Crossing: City Folk and even had lobby-only chat in Mario Kart 8, so it’s not like it never utilized this feature before. The developers of Splatoon even thought about including voice chat in the game, but they decided against it. Even though this is something that I don’t completely agree with, it was ultimately a business decision that Nintendo made to appeal to Splatoon‘s target demographic and keep the game family friendly.

But honestly, after seeing all the progress Nintendo has made, the idea that the company is still behind the times is ridiculous to me. What are your thoughts on the topic? Are you Team Old Man Nintendo or Team Young and Hip Nintendo? Take a side and let us know in the comments!

4 Responses to “Op-Ed: The Old Man Nintendo Paradox”

  • 1561 points
    penduin says...

    There are certainly some old-fashioned sensibilities at play with Nintendo. Things like polish and replay value, and also reluctance to include voice chat or tweeting or whatever else simply because other popular games do it.

    A developer who once had to squeeze every last pixel out of very limited hardware is better trained to evaluate “what will this feature add to the gameplay?” and “what will be sacrificed in order to do this?” Would Splatoon feel like its own beautiful little world with (even optional) homophobic swearing all over it?

    There are tons of M-rated games out there, but I would say many of Nintendo’s E-rated offerings display a great deal more actual maturity. Let the trendy adolescents get their fill of because-we-can features elsewhere; big N will always be here if and when they decide they just want to have some real fun.

    …Also, the PS2 had “robust online features”? Must have missed that. ;^)

  • 0 points

    Well, yes and no. I think most Nintendo fans know what the pluses and minuses are about Nintendo already. They do need to improve in a LOT of areas, but their games still rule.

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