Thursday, 8 November 2007

Nintendo and the Videogames renaissance

For all of its mainstream success, the Nintendo Wii has also seen more than it's fair share of backlash. Whilst it isn't exactly the kind of backlash that will realistically damage sales, Nintendo's fanboy stock continues to fall each time they pander to the casual market. With the casual market currently tearing their hair out in order to get their hands on Wii's, its no wonder that Nintendo are going to stay firmly where the money is.

At either Leipzig or E3 this year, I remember hearing several reports of just how Nintendo seems to have 'shunned' it's core audience. With Nintendo fans doing so much to keep the company afloat throughout the mediocre 'successes' of the N64 and the Gamecube, you can understand why so many of them would feel bitter after having to endure maximum promotion of Wii Fit and a comparatively meagre showing of Super Mario Galaxy.

Whichever side of the fence you fall on, it is undeniable that Nintendo's Wii has the potential to forever change the Videogames market. Microsoft's attempt to steal a slice of the 'family' pie by offering up Scene It and Party Animals this Christmas, clearly shows us how seriously this 'casual sector' is taken. No doubt Sony sees their new iterations of Singstar as their opportunity to at least pick up some crumbs from Nintendo's well-stocked banquet table.

This increased focus upon appealing to casual gamers is one that will divide opinion across the board. As games like Bioshock, Mass Effect, The Orange Box and the promises of Grand Theft Auto IV continue to push boundaries and expand possibilities in this current generation, much of the success and fame is awarded to Wii Sports, for example. Interface aside, Wii Sports and indeed many of the Wii's more successful titles, are incredibly backwards-thinking and primitive games. It would seem that as far as the maturity of the genre goes, expanding audiences requires sacrifices and thinking retrospectively, something which more passionate or 'hardcore' gamers may frown upon.

However, I see great potential for the medium as a whole. I am fascinated by the idea that the Wii will provide videogames with some sort of renaissance. Effectively, I view the current situation, post-Wii as 'wiping the slate clean'. Despite its primitive nature, much of the more successful Wii software appeals because of its simplicity and ease of use, these are not daunting or involving games. But with an expanded market, there is great potential. There is the possibility that this new wave of gamers will have tastes that will develop and needs that will change over time. The Wii could merely be their introduction and as they begin to seek new and more rewarding experiences, the may begin to discover other consoles and more mature titles, those with intriguing and well thought out storylines, characters and aesthetics.

Whilst constant comparisons with cinema continue to hinder the development of Videogames as a 'true medium', in this case, cinema provides a strong example to illustrate my point. A child begins by watching quite basic cinema, say Disney movies for example. As their interest grows, they may take a particular liking towards animation as a medium. They may then go on to explore and come across Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. As they grow, they may go on to seek out more of Tim Burton's films. Becoming fully engrossed in his aesthetic they may begin to trace the roots of his style, arriving at German Expressionist cinema of the 1920's. Although Disney movies did not have the responsibility of expanding a medium's audience, they would have still opened the door to many a fan of cinema. Whilst there is a greater responsibility upon Nintendo's shoulders, they are unwittingly, opening the door for masses of potential gamers whose tastes will mature and grow.

Combine an expanding market with increasingly sophisticated tastes and you may see a very fruitful future for Videogames as a whole.

The Faux-Bot

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