In which I tell Nintendo fans to calm down(!)

Every year brings another E3 and every year Nintendo fans freak out about what Nintendo showed (usually what they didn’t show). Sony had a solid E3 and their fans golf-clapped appropriately. Microsoft had a good E3 and their fans nodded and raised a glass in approval. Nintendo had a good E3…

NINTENDO HAD A GOOD E3

and Nintendo fans went absolutely bananas, claiming the company that is on the highest high they’ve had since Peak-Wii days is somehow signing their own death warrant thanks to what they perceived as a mediocre E3 showing.

Why do Nintendo fans do this? More than any other video game fanbase, Nintendo fans are the most defensive, protective and prone to hand-wringing of the bunch. I suppose it’s because we see Nintendo as the little engine that could. They’re not tethered to some big multimedia conglomerate like Sony or Microsoft; they’re a pure video game company. Microsoft makes software and video games. Sony makes electronics and video games. What does Nintendo make? Games. What else? No else, just games. Because of that and because they have a very Japanocentric charm, it’s easy to root for them. It’s easy to see them as the little guy (despite the fact that they have more money to burn than Sony by a country mile).

As the video game industry becomes more soulless, corporate-minded and “mainstream,” a lot of the old video game masters have fallen by the wayside. Sega is a shell of its former self, as are Konami and Capcom. The era of simple arcade-like video games that you can switch on and play (offline) for a few hours are fading fast, replaced by “games” that value aesthetics over fun, online chaos over the simple joys of you and a controller on a Saturday morning. Video Games used to be Bump-N-Jump. Now they’re…whatever half-baked trash EA is pumping out.

With Nintendo we have the stubborn relic of that past generation, who refuse to compromise. They keep pushing against the tide, making the games for gamers at heart, not what suits in a boardroom and focus group results say to make. But as Sega’s star fades and old hands like Konami and Capcom slip into irrelevance, Nintendo is seen as the standard bearer for old farts like me who remember playing the NES till my thumbs bled.

So every E3, when all the big hitters whip out their big guns, Nintendo fans want their home team to drop a megaton and (almost) every year they just shrug and do what they want, much to the chagrin of their fans.

What about this year?

Was there a big F-Zero announcement? Was Metroid Prime 4 revealed? Did we get a new Star Fox announced? Was the successor to Virtual Console finally shown off?

sigh

Smash Bros, Pokemon Let’s Go, Mario Tennis, Mario Party, a handful of third-party titles (for games that have already been announced) and a slew of expansion packs to existing games. Other than Smash, there’s not a lot of wow there. Other than Smash it’s a lot of steak but not a lot of sizzle.

And the fans flipped.

Every year it’s the same thing. It doesn’t matter if Nintendo is riding high on a hot streak of big-selling titles and sold-out merch or if they are stumbling along, barely able to string together two months of positive momentum; whatever state the Big N is in you can be sure that E3 will see them have some kind of a presence and that it will be preceded by Nintendo’s biggest fans assuming way more than they ought.

If the company is struggling the fans expect the moon and then some: “They have to bring out the big guns, A REAL Home Console Pokemon, Metroid, Star Fox, F-Zero! They gotta; they’re struggling! They need a home run!” And then what does Nintendo offer: Animal Crossing, Mario Party and six hours of some Kirby-themed puzzle game no one asked for.

If the company is soaring with success, the fans will expect the moon and then some: “They’ve got to keep the momentum going! All the big big name-games are already out. It’s too soon for another Zelda or 3D Mario, we need A REAL Home Console Pokemon, Metroid, Star Fox, F-Zero!” And then what does Nintendo offer: Mario Tennis, some third-party games that have already been released on other consoles, and a Pokemon casual game.

And to that you say, “But Matthew, you’re not being fair: What about Smash?”

Fair point: Smash is one of the big big marquee titles Nintendo has left, having already given us Mario, Zelda and Mario Kart (albeit two of those three are glorified WiiU ports). Smash is their second wave Ace in the hole and by all accounts it looks stellar. You don’t have to convince me. I’m not talking about me; I’m talking about the fans who expect too much. To them, Smash was already a known quantity; they wanted to see something else, something new.

Instead the new was small potatoes.

Let’s have a little perspective here. Nintendo has always done things differently from their two major competitors. In fact, that right there is a big difference: Nintendo doesn’t see anyone but their own ambitions and imagination as their competition. They do their own thing no matter what anyone else does. Nevertheless, fans see Sony and M$ as their competition so there you go. Sony and Microsoft basically store up all their eggs until E3. Nintendo doles out news and reveals all year long.

Sony and M$ announce titles and drop new info about those titles years before the game is released. Nintendo doesn’t do that. They show off the games that are out, almost out, or maybe coming out this year. If they give you anything it’s “_____ game is coming, but not this year.” That’s what we got regarding Metroid Prime. They showed nothing because they wanted to keep the focus on the here and now.

So what about Smash? Everything is about Smash! That’s the big game coming so that’s the game that got the spotlight. Fans want a proper Pokemon game; it’s coming, but not till next year. This year it’s a Let’s Go game to tide us over. That’s just how Nintendo does it. There’s no need to freak out.

But that’s just how Nintendo fans do it, I suppose.

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