Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What is Maturity?

This is the second part of my last blog, and it is a very important subject. Afterall, software sales must drive the hardware sales. If games are undesirable the system by definition is itself undesirable. But before I continue I would like to state some facts that I didn't have time to put into part 1.
It is something that is very important to realize when you are considering Nintendo's upcoming hardware. When the original NES hit the market it was the most powerful console ever made. The SNES was more powerful than the Genesis in every way except the CPU. The N64 was much more powerful than the PS1 and the Gamecube falls between the Xbox and the PS2, leaning heavily toward the Xbox. The point here is that Nintendo has always had this same strategy of value and all of its systems have performed beautifully. The only possible exception being the N64 which was its most powerful system in relation to competition. Kinda funny no?
Now let me explain to you why most games on the Gamecube look as good as MOST of the games on the Xbox. The answer is simple. Most Xbox games are cross-platform titles meaning developers have to cater to the lower graphical power of the PS2 resulting in games without much difference between all 3 systems. On the other hand most of Nintendo's games are developed exclusivly for the system, taking advantage of the hardware to the utmost and resulting in a much cleaner, polished title. If you don't believe me look at pics of Twilight Princess. You would be hard pressed to find an Xbox game that looks as good visually. The next generation will be no different and everyone reports that all three systems will be comparable in terms of graphics if you are using a standard definition TV.
Let me draw another comparison. The Gamecube is not Dolby 5.1 capable, and Nintendo didn't include the support for it because it would have cost more money all around and because even though 5.1 has been around for years it is still not in many households. HDTV is the same way. It is an option, but has been an option for a handful of years already and penetration is like 15%. Sure that number will continue to rise. And they are phasing out regular TVs and putting full digital television out there but that is still 5 or so years away. Do you think everyone will have HDTV in 5 years? Even if penetration was up to 60 or 70% it will take all 5 years to get there. Don't you think it makes sense to save you alot of money now and 5 years down the road when the hardware is cheaper and the development tools for HD games are established to introduce HD videogames?
Think about the 360 for a moment. I have seen 360 titles selling for as high as $79.99! And while Microsoft is probably frantically trying to talk their developers into releasing at least the launch titles for $60 I gaurantee you that this price point will gradually rise. The reason being the added expense of developing HD games which also must be developed with different textures to support regular TVs as well. In contrast it wouldn'y surprise me if Nintendo released their 1st party titles (which represents a fair chunk of their lineup) at a price $10-15 LESS than what we view as the standard cost of a videogame ($50). If this happens the difference between a Nintendo game priced as low as $35-40 to a 360 or PS3 title selling as high as $75 will be pretty easy math for most people. Especially if they have a standard TV and can't see a difference in graphics between systems as has been reported will be the case.
Now to the maturity of video games. Its easy to look at a game like Doom 3 and say that it is mature when on a game mechanic level it is an extremly simple game, with a generic storyline, heaped with gore. The maturity obviously being the gore. In contrast a videogame like Sands of Time which pushes platforming mechanics to the limit and beyond, with a fairly complex storyline and interesting characters is also a 'mature' videogame. It has violence, but no gore. I would agree with the maturity of Sands of Time and disagree with the maturity of Doom 3. And when I say maturity here I am not talking about the ESRB rating, but rather a game that can engage and entertain an adult mind.
Alot of people see a Nintendo lineup and say "oh another Mario game." But in truth Nintendo has pushed the platforming mechanic with every Mario iteration, and the adventure mechanic with every Zelda title. The reason why Nintendo sticks to Mario is for 3 simple reasons. #1 A well established icon is the best and cheapest advertising. Everyone has heard of Mario. #2 The Mario character apeals to children. The lowkey and cartoony violence of Mario titles ensures that parents will be more willing to buy a Mario game for their child, meaning they will be more willing to buy a Nintendo console and will most likely protect their investment by purchasing additional titles in the future. #3 The Mario franchise appeals to adult gamers. The Mario franchise is one that a lot of older gamers have grown up with. They remember the fun they had as children when they play a current title. Most gamers who discredit the Mario franchise have never honestly played a game.
Another huge franchise for Nintendo is the Zelda franchise. This series has never been a 'kiddie' game. The storylines are usually very dark and what I would call mature. Many people point to Wind Waker as being childish but they base this judgement solely on the cartoon graphics of the title. The final fight ends with Link plunging his sword up to the hilt in Ganondorf's forehead. Some of the puzzles are so hard you will be proud of yourself for solving them, or you will break down and look online. The stoyline is very well thought out. And although I could have done without Tingle most of the characters were solid. On top of that there was so much you could collect and do that you could easily sink an extra 20 hours into the game just to do them all. Just like every other Zelda title.
There are many other games released for Nintendo that have maturity in spades if you look past Nintendos mascots and see the gameplay. Smash Brothers, Metroid Prime, Donkey Kong. The list goes on with each title pushing the mechanics of it's particular genre.
In addition Nintendo strives to innovate in their hardware. Constantly mixing things up with each new console. Giving developers new ideas and gamers new experiences. And this too has been one of their ideals from the beginning.
Well this is enough of this blog. The next blog is all about the NintendoDS and why it is smashing records across the board.
If you can think of a topic you would like to hear about, question you would like answered or a correction for me please feel free to comment.


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