I have a bad feeling

It’s funny how Nintendo is always able to trick the other two console manufacturers. Four years ago, while Sony and Microsoft were struggling to out-hardcore each other, Nintendo came in with a fundamental different strategy to leave it’s competitors in the dust. Now, as they are finally catching up, Nintendo avoids confrontation again by swinging the other way. The 2010 E3 Nintendo press conference was an astonishing example of giving the gaming community EXACTLY what they wanted. Like a retro game machine-gun Nintendo resurrected one popular franchise after another: Zelda, GoldenEye, Kirby, Kid Icarus, Donkey Kong, Pilotwings and the list goes on and on. Besides Wii Party, there was neither a fitness nor a dancing game in the conference.

Meanwhile Microsoft and Sony appear like they have abandoned their very own core audience by sacrificing good portion of their conferences to dubious Wii imitations. Next to them, Nintendo appears almost hardcore. I am excited to try almost every product the have shown, especially the 3DS. I think a portable device like the 3DS is not only the best but pretty much the ONLY viable way to introduce 3D technology into the market. TVs are just not there yet, sorry.

Yet among all that excitement there is a voice in the back on my head. Almost every game Nintendo has shown is based on an already established, popular franchise from the 80ies or 90ies. They did not show any new IP. This leaves me with the bad taste that we have been tricked by Nintendo. They understand the weak spot of gaming geeks very well by now. This conference was a full-on attack at this very weak spot. They hit it for MASSIVE DAMAGE again and again. We have been used.

I guess it’s OK at the moment but what about the future. Will this trick always work? Will Nintendo continue bringing out Zeldas, Marios and Metroids in eternity? It is clear that they have a huge amount of money and talent at their disposal. It would have been a little bit less scary if they had shown that they invest at least some of that resources in expanding their portfolio of narratives.

On the other hand, it’s not like innovation plays a role for the other publishers either. E3 always seems to reduce gaming culture to it’s worst.

But maybe I’m just being paranoid. But maybe I’m just jaded. Maybe I should just relax and look forward to the 3DS and all the cool titles. Maybe a big-ass press conference is just not the right spot to mess around with unproven ideas. What do you think?

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

10 responses to “I have a bad feeling”

  1. Gabe Glick

    Interesting point. Animal Crossing and Golden Sun come to mind as examples of relatively recent IP. Maybe there are others that we’re just overlooking because they’re not as well known?
    That said, pretty much all of Nintendo’s core competencies (for lack of a better term) are covered by their existing franchises; is there room for them to create brand-new IP on the level of their classics? Or necessity? Is there something they’re not doing that Sony and Microsoft aren’t covering with their shooters (http://i46.tinypic.com/2mz5vt.jpg) and other hardcore-oriented genres? I’m no game developer, but I can’t think of any. And I have a feeling that, should Nintendo’s core franchises fail to work for them anymore, that’s when they’ll start to create new ones. After all, that’s what they’ve done with gaming technology up to now.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Animal Crossing and Golden Sun are both good, new franchises but they are from one generation ago. Actually, in the Gamecube / GBA Period Nintendo seems to have been much more eager to experiment. Let us not forget Pikmin as well!

      I see A LOT of potential to expand to different IPs. Actually 3rd party developers have been more successful on Nintendo consoles in that regard: No More Heores, Another Code / Hotel Dusk, Muramasa, Red Steel – all examples of new franchises that offer something different to cuddly cartoon characters without necessarily stepping into Gears of War / Call of Duty / Uncharted territory.

      But I guess you are right, Nintendo won’t do it until it is necessary.

  2. Tellurian

    Nintendo tried introducing all new stuff on the cube.
    Remember Geist? That one didn’ work so well.
    What Nintendo does, is reinvent it’s core stuff every generation.
    Also, they’ve now come to re-heat pretty much every great game they ever had for every new generation.
    They sure could do with some more truly fresh titles.
    Even a really REALLY new approach to Zelda would be great.
    The only reason I’m actually a bit sad for having sold my Wii is Epic Mickey, since Spector is a genius.
    Okay. And the Raving Rabbids franchise.
    Both are not Nintendo.
    Oh and I *so* plan on getting a 3DS…

  3. Kimari

    The only new IP that was announced for the 3DS was a game called “Steel Diver” developed by them actually … there are screenshots and everything, though it wasn’t highlighted at the conference, that’s for sure.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Oh yeah I missed that one. Submarines! That hasn’t been done for quite some time. Interesting! Thanks for pointing it out!

  4. 020200

    Isn’t the Wii-Series a relative new IP? “Wii-Sports” etc…

    1. Krystian Majewski

      I’m struggling to call it franchise. It is quite generic and doesn’t contain any sort of narrative.

      But yeah, strictly speaking you could call it a Franchise.

  5. Zach

    I think to some extent nintendo is introducing completely new games all the time. They just cloak everything within an existing franchise so it’ll sell.

    Take Mario RPG series for example. Absolutly no reason that should be a Mario game. Totally innovative mechanics.

    Even the DS Zelda games are almost entirely unrelated to Zelda from a mechanics standpoint. Sure they’re not being conceptually or plot innovative, but I think what nintendo understands is that creating innovative mechanics results in games that feel more fresh and fun than rehashing someone elses mechanics with a new story. And I can get behind that.

    Of corse I’d prefer new mechanics + new story/concept, but those types of games aren’t well adopted by the lame mainstream (even wild successes like flower or demons souls still have fractions of the numbers of something like infamous)

  6. GhostLyrics

    Based on that information Prince of Persia might actually be a Nintendo franchise!

  7. Zach Gage

    hahaha, if only the mechanics were as good!


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


follow Krystian on Twitter
follow Yu-Chung on Twitter
follow Daniel on Twitter