Talking Point: An Open Letter To Nintendo
Posted by Damien McFerran
A Wii U owner's plea to the company they love
Even the most dedicated Nintendo fan will admit that the Wii U hasn't had the best of starts. The console has struggled to shift units in the way that Nintendo expected, and although we've seen some quality software of late — including Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, LEGO City: Undercover and Need for Speed: Most Wanted — the system is crying out for more games.
Clearly a lot of Wii U owners are frustrated with this situation, and it should come as no great shock to learn that we get several emails a week from dedicated fans voicing their concerns. However, a message we received recently made quite an impact on us, and we're therefore posting it here for your perusal. We can't say we agree with everything in this email, but the passion behind the words goes beyond the typical fan-boy ranting — although the author has asked that we keep their identity a secret, we can reveal that they work in the development community.
The email below is the same one that dropped into our inbox, and is supplied without any edits — aside from censoring some bad language. Once you've read and digested the piece, please feel free to post a comment to share your own opinion. Do you agree with what has been written, or do you take issue with the what has been said? Does Nintendo need to listen to this kind of advice, or do you feel that the Wii U will bounce back regardless? As ever, we're keen to hear what you think.
An Open Letter to Nintendo
Dear sir or madam,
I'm an early WiiU adopter. On January 13, I purchased the Deluxe console with a pair of games. On that day, I was elated - there were new games to play, and literally infinite possibilities running through my mind as I brought the system home. Nintendoland appeared to offer just a taste of what was to be, and Ninja Gaiden was the update to the franchise I had been craving since the second game. And Mario - Mario was just a masterpiece... truly what I asked for in a Super Mario game (aside from the music... but thank you for passing up the 3D!) Rayman was just around the corner, and both Monster Hunter and Lego city seemed like they couldn't come fast enough! I felt happy with my purchase - I was confident that we'd get games that couldn't be found elsewhere, and that a small slow-down was something that could be dismissed by "launch window issues." The system, with its line-up of games new and current, seemed like it would be a perfect solution to somebody who would want to play as much as possible.
Then, as February rolled in, I started seeing the news roll in. Rayman was delayed twenty days before release (leading to a lost pre-order, and a lost sale on Ubisoft's part), Ninja Gaiden got ported elsewhere (which left me somewhat annoyed that I spent $60 on a game that would be available for far less in April), and game announcements started coming through with truly peculiar asterisks attached: "This won't run on WiiU" or "It's not WORTH releasing this on WiiU", despite developer claims otherwise (Dead Island, Crysis 3), sales data that points to contrary realities (ZombiU being the best-selling third party game on the platform, and Dead Island), and an INCREDIBLY vocal community asking for content (various Miiverse boards, websites, and blogs).
Instead, we're receiving received half-hearted ports, some of which up to TWO YEARS late to the party (Deus Ex: Human Revolution), while developers say they don't "want" to make games for the platform. Yesterday's Battlefield announcement was the biggest, most egregious offender of this - where we have XBox360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Next XBox versions in development - there's no reason this SHOULD NOT be on the platform.
But it won't be.
And seriously, this is where my argument is coming in. As a customer, I feel as if I've been lied to. Nintendo, who trotted developers onstage over the past two years to proclaim "unprecedented support", who gave promised a steady stream of incredible content for the platform, is delivering nothing. They've given total radio silence on the platform, with no real advertisement, no real commentary, and no real push to even SELL the thing! We've had FIVE games release in two months. Sales are in the toilet, retailers are talking about ditching the thing. And, more and more, we are left feeling like we bought the proverbial "bridge in Brooklyn."
I'm not going to get angry and cry "MAKE MORE GAMES!" as if it'll do something to fix anything. I'm a software developer by trade - I know that, more than anything, good content takes time. And I know that third party relations don't work like some crazy Willy Wonka contraption where one pushes a button and a game pops out. I'm just asking, BEGGING your company to acknowledge us, and to grow a pair of proverbial testicles in content acquistion. The 3DS is on an upswing. And, while it needs help still, the WiiU is simply in dire straits. It's not selling, developers are abandoning ship, and, let's face it, the system is a running joke among industry circles.
We need Nintendo to return to its days when Howard Lincoln was at the helm. We need an attack dog that will relentlessly chase content down and drag it into Nintendo owners' living rooms. We need to see investments in the future - new franchises, new content, and a fighting spirit that seems to be strangely absent from the company in more recent days.
But, more than anything, we need hope. We need assurance that our boxes won't be paperweights in six months, and that we'll have options to play that aren't limited to the odd Nintendo gem, and lackluster third party "tests." We need Nintendo franchises that kick ass and get people EXCITED again - and again, sorry but Zelda hasn't been exciting since Ocarina, and Metroid is dead to many of us unless a full reboot from a capable group occurs. We need games like StarTropics, old-school Zelda, and Excitebike. We need classics, timeless legends that show the real fighting spirit of the company and a willingness to shoulder some risks. But, more importantly, we need a company that will fight, argue, and negotiate with third parties until they get what the hell they want. We need a company that will act like a winner, not as the arrogant geek from high school. Someone who will say "the chips are down, but we have a solution", then TELL US the solution instead of just giving pleasantries.
We saw flashes of this last generation. Wii adhered to the Blue Ocean strategy, which emphasized the logic of "crappy products for crappy consumers." And, when this was the focus, things worked. Wii Sports showed a return to the NES Classics Sports series, and New Super Mario Bros. brought people who were thought to be lost from gaming forever back into the fold. We saw Metroid rise to its highest sales peaks with the Prime series! We saw Xenoblade - the little game that could - go from a write-off by Nintendo of America to one of the most talked about and most-sought-after role playing games in a decade! And, most shocking, we saw the market grow, to the point that a slow sales month for Nintendo was a disastrous event for the industry writ large.
But at the same time, we saw a strange combination of greed, and arrogance, and childishness arise. We saw developers, both inside Nintendo and out, move from products that customers wanted, to products that they wanted to make. We heard Sakamoto prattle on about "maternal instincts" and how we needed to know Samus "as a woman" (Bulls***! we wanted to kill aliens and feel badass for doing it!). We saw the Mario team put their most requested ideas, like Giant Land, and the like, get put into two Mario Galaxy games that, their sales combined, didn't come close to matching the sales of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. And, more and more, we heard the same Nintendo buzz about how "developers should be happy" arise. And again - as a software developer myself, I can sympathize... however, I also know that "being happy working on a product" and "making a product that sells" are two different things entirely. Sometimes, the products we want to make least are the ones that have the greatest sales of all.
But I digress.
Years ago, Hiroshi Yamauchi stated that "Nintendo was a box people bought to play Mario." And, really, he was right - Nintendo means a lot to people around the world - many of us grew up in a world where Super Mario Bros. 3 was a phenomenon, Zelda II sold out completely, and games, regardless of who made them, were "Nintendo Games." We grew up in an age when the brand wasn't some "lame" moniker, but something to respect and admire. It was, and still is for many of us, video gaming itself. However, without the games, it's just a box - a sad, empty box that hungers to be used, even though nothing draws people to it.
As a customer, I'm afraid that Nintendo, as a company, lost sight of what was important. That they'd rather make silly experiments and half-hearted sequels than return to their former glory. They'd rather be "the nice guy" that people smile at in person, but laugh at once he walks out of the room. The company's western support is a joke, and the company itself is a joke to the west (why are these developers tripping over themselves to make PS4 and 720 games, and why did they go to the point of bankruptcy in some cases to keep feeding the PS3 and XBox? Respect.), and a risk to the east. And, more and more, Nintendo is growing irrelevant to the consumer.
And, to me, you are also losing face. I fear that, unless the company can drastically turn things around, you will lose me, and many others as customers forever. And, if you recall your Blue Ocean literature, customers like me are the hardest to win back.
While I don't expect you to have all of the answers, whoever reads this, I do feel that this needed to be said. And, more important, needs to be addressed... not to me, not to the core consumer base, but to everybody watching. Take it as an open letter, and please, forward this as high as it can go.
I thank you for your time - all of your time - and hope you have a fantastic day.
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