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I think Nintendo has long lost their fanboy status, so there is no purpose in telling people to calm down before further reading. There is, however, a need to call to attention their tactics in changing the way the gaming industry is unfolding. Nintendo has long since abandoned the likes of the hardcore market, as their first-party titles have revealed this. Yes, there are exceptions such as Super Mario Galaxy and Smash Bros. Brawl but those are the exceptions.
Before anyone starts talking about how Nintendo has been supporting the hardcore market with a series of different games, you have to really think about how well those “hardcore” games have done in today’s market – again, with the exception of Mario games. But let’s take a look back in time to when there was Metroid Prime 3, and Battalion Wars 2, two games that had a lot of potential, which were never fully realized.
Now we already know about the failure of Battalion Wars 2, so there is no sense in repeating how badly that game did. But in the case of Metroid Prime 3, the game was made to look like a hot seller, but barely managed to pass the one million mark. Now some of you will be quick to point out that a million units being sold is a heck of a lot. But consider that Super Smash Bros. Brawl – one of Nintendo’s golden kids – easily surpassed the five million mark within just a couple of months. However, there were completely different tactics used to promote both games. In fact, Nintendo has been using antipodal marketing schemes for a very direct purpose: to justify a redirection in the video game market.
All along gamers have been questioning, gesturing and complaining about Nintendo’s goals for the hardcore market. Well, aside from their own first-party endeavors – though, this usually only includes Mario and Zelda games – Nintendo’s prime focus is on the anti-promotion of hardcore games. Purposefully, they are not releasing screenshots, trailers or crazy marketing schemes like Microsoft, for the hardcore market. However, Nintendo had been amply setting up a lot of momentum for products like Wii Fit and Wii-Sports. Despite the games’ short attention-appeal to many hardcore gamers, such titles easily found their way into the popular culture of the casual market.
Games geared toward the hardcore market become a liability of the company’s focus, because it means they would have to compete with Sony and Microsoft within that market. So Nintendo intentionally failed to promote – or in some cases, properly promote – hardcore games within the Wii’s library so that they could use it as an excuse to focus even more on casual gaming. It is almost as if Nintendo is setting up for a press statement that will officially take them out of the hardcore market all together.
Just recently, on NintenDeals, there was a list of some of the most anticipated Wii games coming out this fall. The sad part about it is that the most hardcore game on that list, aside from Guitar Hero, was the King of Fighters, which ranked right near the bottom. This coincides with The King of Fighters: The Orochi Saga rank on Amazon, which is 8,071, while Wii Fit is ranked in the number 5 spot. Two other games high up on on Nintendeals list, Boogie Superstar and Iron Chef, for the Nintendo Wii, also rank in the 2,340 spot and 1,457 spot (e.g.,, so they are higher than KoF on Amazon, but much lower in comparison to hardcore games on other consoles). However, on Gamespot Boogie Superstar ranks 5,647 in total, and rank 384 for the Wii, while KoF: Orochi Saga ranks in at 4,191 in total, and rank 301 for the Wii. Simply put, since Gamespot caters to hardcore gamers, a hardcore game like KoF will garner more attention than a casual game like Boogie Superstar or Iron Chef. So despite the small voting numbers on the fore-mentioned site, it actually does reflect some consistency with the Wii's gaming market appeal. And the list speaks volumes for KoF (to be a long running series for almost twenty years) when it is out-ranked on Amazon by games that have received little or no promotion in the hardcore gaming circuits.
Now I know many readers will jump to the conclusion that if a game is not first-party, Nintendo has no reason to stand behind it, which is true. But if the console maker does not encourage for a certain kind of gaming, then many of its consumers will only buy what is primarily available. And what has become primarily available for the Wii is casual gaming. Hence, they are weeding out the hardcore market any and every which way possible while pursuing casual consumers. Wii-play, one of the worst games released in 2007, stayed at the top of the NPD charts longer than Halo 3 and Gears of War. But it was not because of amazing gameplay or unique gaming innovation. It simply came with a Wii-mote; Nintendo's way of encouraging all gamers to buy the product. The same tactic was used to promote Wii-sports, Link's Crossbow Training and the new Mario Kart.
By enforcing a higher availability with their casual games (and less promotion of hardcore games), Nintendo has swayed the market away from hardcore gaming – or the requirement of hardcore gaming – for the Wii. Simply put, regarding the hardcore market for the Wii: Nintendo does not want you to play their games. Otherwise, Metroid Prime 3, Battalion Wars 2 or even Sega's Ghost Squad would have included a free Wii-mote like Wii Play or Link’s Crossbow Training. And Baja Mania, MX vs ATV Untamed or NitroBike would have included a Wii steering wheel like Mario Kart, despite being second or third party software titles. How many hardcore gamers would have been inclined to purchase the fore-mentioned items if they did include an extra peripheral? Sort of how the new SOCOM comes with the new PS3 headset, or how Ace Combat (a non-first party game) came bundled with a flight stick for the Xbox 360. Of course, this is considering that Nintendo cared at all about maintaining dominance in both the casual and hardcore markets. But that is not their goal.
Nintendo has basically gone full-casual, with the occasional toss-in of a third-party hardcore title every once in a while. But do not expect to see any chart topping games exclusively on the Wii that will rival the innovation and gameplay likes of Gears of War 2, KillZone 2, Resistance 2, Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo. It looks as if those days are long gone.
If you feel you have something to add to the discussion, feel free to drop by the Blend Games Forum or post a comment below.
Nintendo and hardcore gaming