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Nintendo, Mario, and Milking

May 5, 2011

Mario is one of Nintendo’s most profitable franchises. For the world-renowned company, Mario has raked in billions of dollars for the franchise alone due to his popularity; in fact, Mario may be more popular than Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse himself! Lately, however, I’ve started to see that Mario has been receiving the absolute spotlight. This generation alone, Mario has been in over twenty titles for the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo DS. Though not all of them have been platformers and the majority of them were spin-offs, it shows how much Nintendo loves their plumbing mascot.

Perhaps a little too much.

Granted, I love the overall-wearing pipe-adventurer. According to Nintendo, he is a plumber, a doctor, an Olympian, a painter, and more recently an astronaut. At face value, Mario can do anything. But not everything. Can he jump inside an Arwing and shoot down spacecraft? Can he inhale enemies to take their special powers? Can he lead an army of talking carrots to gather treasure and destroy frog-beetle-like predators? No, and I fear that those abilities and skills will never be recognized, and that the “other” franchises will receive releases once per generation, if any.

And it’s not just Mario, but it’s also Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda. These popular, well-selling franchises, though good, often take the piece of the finite cake that the “other” franchises cannot get a hold of. It’s been 2004 since we’ve seen a release of a Pikmin game. Star Fox has not had an original game since 2006. Kirby continues to be the guinea pig of Nintendo, with traditional platforming becoming scarce. The last “true” Kirby game was Kirby’s Squeak Squad, and that is regarded as the worst Kirby game. The last “true,” good Kirby game was Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, released in 2004 for the Gameboy Advance.

I am aware of the untitled Kirby game coming out for the Nintendo Wii sometime this autumn. However, this is a trend: most of Nintendo’s “other” franchises see releases toward the end of the console, and in turn, see less sales than the plumber’s. These days, alas, a title’s sales determine any future publicity. That’s a problem. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the sequel to the original film, earned $836,297,228 yet Rotten Tomato has an average rating of 20% based on 230 reviews. That’s a pretty low review for a film that received almost one-billion dollars in sales.

I love Nintendo, and I will always support them, but I will not always support Zelda nor Pokémon; someday, if it comes to this, I may drop support for Mario — he can’t last forever. And I know the “lesser” franchises cannot continue forever either. Which brings me to my next point:

Nintendo needs to start new, original franchises if they wish to continue for these next many, many generations. I understand that creating a new franchise is a risky endeavor. Gaming is an expensive hobby, and not many people are willing to pay for a game they’ve never heard of before. The reason for this is due to the pricing of the productions: the more people have to spend, the more cautious they are about their money. This is especially true for Mario. Why release a new platformer when you can release that same game but with Mario in it? People will buy Mario regardless. Thus, Nintendo will not have to worry about the game selling.

However, this needs to stop. The problem with this is not in the economic, but rather in the creative. I would rather work with an original character with original concepts than work with a character I’m already aware of and I know. When someone is enthralled, they are inspired; they are willing to work hard on their creation and to see it come to life. But if they are forced to work on something, the inspiration is sacrificed in order to make way for the profits. I know business is business, but can it also be an art? Walter Disney proved that when his company was always in financial trouble, but he continued to produce many excellent, high-quality productions. Nowadays, Disney’s films are highly regarded and praised these days for their ingenuity and creativity. Money isn’t everything – it’s only a means to pave the way to create something even better.

And Nintendo doesn’t need to form franchises all the time. One of the things I love about Cave Story is that it has nowhere to go. The island was destroyed, the main antagonist (who depends on certain conditions) was killed, and Quote escaped safely. They could make a prequel, but that’s only one game. Sequelization only works when the gameplay and story (if any) concepts can be added onto. Because Cave Story‘s story ended definitely, the gameplay cannot continue since the first game included a rather involved plot. They could make a new game without a story, but after the original game included a story, it’s difficult to not add one without repercussions. The reason as to why TimeSplitters can return to not having a story is because the first game did not have one itself, so fans are already used to the gameplay-oriented franchise.

What I am trying to get at is Nintendo needs to allow their other franchises to come forth and create new experiences for their fans, to stop focusing on the profits of their games, allow new franchises to be formed, and to not make a sequel of every game they make. And this doesn’t just go for Nintendo. Other companies, video game or not, need to take chances and risks in order to allow new things to begin. Cave Story started off as a freeware, indie game, and now it’s a popular title that exceeded WiiWare sales for more than a week — even exceeding Pokémon. And I’m sure other indie titles can be successful; I mean, look at Minecraft.

I’m terrible at writing articles, but hopefully I made my point across and not necessarily what I used as examples.

Video Game Character Collage by SketchaMPM

Original by SketchaMPM


From → Rant, Video games

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