March 6th, 2008
As of writing it is only a couple of short days until the release of the hotly anticipated, fan-service title; Super Smash Bros Brawl for the Wii. Among the Nintendo crowd this is huge news as it as a celebration of all things Nintendo and then some. Unfortunately I must admit my own interest in this title has been dampened considerably by what has been an almost uncontrollable fan fare, infact it is something which as a Nintendo fan I am very concerned about.
You see even though I am, have and probably always will be a fan of the big N, the fan following that this game has garnered is beyond fanatical. Now don’t read me wrong here, this series is a strong, respectable franchise in itself and just like everyone else I will undoubtedly enjoy it to it’s fullest. Smash Bros definetly deserves a large fan fare but it is the side effects of this fan fare that have me quite worried.
I recently posted an article for the Retro Gaming with RacketBoy blog where I looked at key forgotten Nintendo franchises. The reason why I chose to write about that particular subject matter was to push a stronger message out to a larger readership. Too many great games are dying at the expense of other games. All of the games that I listed have sacrificed themselves to other, sometimes better sometimes worse but overall much more hyped games.
This is where Super Smash Bros Brawl fits in. Ironically, desite being essentially a celebration of everything Nintendo, the Smash Bros. fan base in a way destroys this spirit.
You see game publishers love hype and they want people to get carried away with the hype so that their game will see more exposure. For consumers I think that this is quite dangerous because it removes what I call ‘level headed’ thinking. It ensures that consumers make choices based on preconcieved ideas instead of product research or through sampling the game before purchase. In all in what this means is that not all games are created equal hence, as a result we have a selection of forgotten, niche titles which are great games crying out for a purchase.
This is a problem within all mediums I think. Unfortunately by nature as long as we have some preconcieved ideas or experiences with games then we will always be biased in our selective choices. We trust franchises (read: brands) that have earnt our trust, we buy a game which we was on the side of a bus or on TV or the game that our friends told us is cool. This is natural and this is fine. It is okay to anticipate a new game. It is only when this hype clouds our judgement that we have a problem, something which I feel Smash Bros has done for a lot of people.
I do want to stress that Smash Bros is not alone here, it is one of many, many titles under the same umbrella. I chose Super Smash Bros Brawl though obviously because of it’s relevance but also because it is probably most guilty for creating such an uncontrollable degree of hype. It was also a fitting choice for Nintendo in particular, to quote myself from the guest written article;
“This is truly a frustrating and sad situation. Nintendo has built up three of their strongest properties so much so that these other great titles simply can’t stay afloat.”
There is simply too much irony, isn’t there? Nintendos franchise heavy fighter killing off other franchises.
To further expand upon this concept I want to use the recent example of Endless Ocean (more here). Despite this game’s unique, meditative perspective on our medium and despite all of it’s unique qualities, how many Smash Bros fans do you think will buy or even care about this game. I suspect very few and this is the unfortunate problem. I suspect that Endless Ocean will sell well enough due to Nintendo’s Blue Ocean marketing stratergy so to provide perhaps a better example think of Pilotwings 64 and Super Mario 64 at the time of the Nintendo 64’s launch. Yes, case in point. I am sure that you can think of other examples so please share them in the comments.
This is just the way it is though, it is just simple gaming economics. Nintendo as a publisher puts all of it’s releases for a certain release window aside and portions out the advertising budget according to what they believe will sell.
I have for a long time been concerned about this issue, it is not going to go away. Aligning ourselves with a brand is natural, it is human nature. We have all been a fanboy at one time or another and are probably in some ways biased even once we do get out of fanboy territory (for example myself and Metal Gear Solid). As long as we are aware that this is occuring and maintain a ‘level headed’ perspective then there is no reason for concern. As gamers, maintaining this ‘level headed’ perspective is important as it allows us to be more open to new play experiences.
So I want to set a challenge for you readers. I want you to celebrate the release of this game which in itself is a celebration of all things Nintendo by either: researching, honouring or even buying a forgotten, niche game from the past. It doesn’t even have to be Nintendo, thats fine. Do some research, look past the hype and tell me what you have learnt or what games you remember below.
That guest post might be a good start on some ideas, there are more games listed at the end of the article.