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Sefrix Blog

Is Nintendo Too Old?

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Nintendo and nostalgia seem to go hand in hand as of late. If it is not a direct sequel to one of their immensely popular IP's such as Mario or Zelda then it is a spin off that features the characters. This seems to always be the case. They might put New in front of the title much like they put Super in front of sequels on the SNES. The point is that they are doing the exact same thing they did almost three decades ago.

This is not the only thing Nintendo used to do in the mid 80's that they are still doing now. Since Mario was such a hit Nintendo decided early on to put Mario into any game to help sell it. Even other companies could do this. A prime example of Mario placement in games that don't need him.

This practice was done constantly. For every one authentic Mario game there was Famicom Grand Prix: F-1 Race or Mario Paint. Instead of just simply making a racing game, or a paint game Mario was slapped on the cover and in the game so it would sell more. The only  purpose mario has in these games is to help sales. Nintendo still does this today. Here is some food for thought. Would Super Mario Sunshine have been a lesser game if Mario was not in it? If, instead of Mario there was a new character that they created with the same gameplay and visual style. A platformer with a squirt gun thingy, why not make it a new character? Simple, Mario sells more. That is the only reason.

Or how about Super Mario Galaxy? A fantastic game, but why Mario? Could this great game not have been a perfect opportunity to introduce a new character and world? Does anyone honestly believe that the game improved because it was Mario, that it would have been a lesser game had the character not wore the red hat?

Finally it seems that Nintendo will even borrow levels in their future releases. I recently saw this image posted and feel it does a very good job of showing the recycled material. 

Reuse Reduce Recycle

This practice of reusing levels has been done since VS. Super Mario Bros. reused levels in 1986 and here is Nintendo still doing the exact same thing. Reusing levels and characters is not done to save money but instead done to reduce risk. By rehashing a great game that everyone enjoyed there is little risk that it will not be liked a second time around. This is no different than the yearly sequels we see today from other companies. It's very risky to put millions of dollars into a game that might flop from a business standpoint but it must be done or the short term goals will prevent any long term viability

The fact is that Galaxy and Sunshine were great games and would have sold well without Mario. It is commonly understood that the quality of Nintendo products is top notch but they are simply too afraid of trying something new when they can just stick Mario on the cover. This fear is why there have been over 10 Mario Parties. This is why they are reusing levels from old games decades later. Nintendo is too old and stuck in its ways to change. Once faced with financial hardships they do the opposite of what is needed. They slink back even farther into the mindset of sticking with what sells instead of innovating. They begin to tell scary camp fire stories of creating new experiences with new characters. It's not too late for them, but they need a bigger wake up call than one bad year.

I Am Forgotten

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destiny%20splash%20PSU.jpg

Bungie just unveiled their first real glimpse about Destiny and have finally started talking about it. The takeaway? I have been forgotten. Destiny is described as:

"an always online experience"

which means the game will require an internet connection to experience.

See, I live on campus and so on any given day my internet goes from acceptable to bad to gone. Bungie's (or Activision's) decision to force a social experience by not implementing an offline single player has made it to where I cannot physically play their game. People who do not have consistent internet are not considered, are overlooked and are forgotten. I am no longer part of any equation they run. They do not care about me. Why should they when there is the potential to completely control their player base? Used games no longer concern them as they will have an online pass. They couldn't be bothered with allowing a single player option of their game so more gamers like myself can experience their work and hand them our money.

The problem of being forgotten to developers and publishers goes farther than just a cleverly hidden DRM like always online. Bungie gave another perfect example of how detached they are from players such as myself (or am I the one detached? I'll have to ask my wife about that). Project director Jason Jones claims that: 

"Destiny knows you're tired, impatient, and distracted. [Players] don't want to work hard. They don't want to read. They don't want to go to the Internet to figure out our bullsh@#."

 This doesn't describe me, or what I want from their video game at all. I spent hours reading everything in DE:HR. I grew up reading books and all the text in the many RPG's I've played. I enjoy reading. I am also not tired, impatient, or distracted and I find pride in working hard. I don't want things handed to me, enjoy challenges, and like most of my games with plenty of complexity, sophistication, and things to figure out. It seems that the more they say the more I feel like this game is not for me. I couldn't be farther from it.

In no way do I mean to claim I am too sophisticated to just have a little fun, and I firmly believe that the prime factor for whether a game is good or not is if it is fun (though things like a very good story can make up for lacking gameplay). What I am saying is that when developers/publishers make design decisions like this they are alienating a group of gamers that they don't need to. How can I get excited about a game I cannot play, and not because I don't own the system it's on but because they have chosen to leave and forget about me for something else. Destiny is just the most recent example of how detached developers/publishers have become from certain player bases. Diablo 3, Sim City, Dead Island's statue, Rayman's delay. The list goes on and grows all the time. It used to be that anyone could enjoy a game as long as they had the console. In a time when the industry claims games should be played by everyone they consistently force barriers that turn potential gamers away. They have forgotten whole audiences and they have forgotten me.

The Business of Video Games.

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Time for another one of my rants. This time I'll be talking a bit about the business side of making video games and where I see the industry going.

In case you haven't noticed, in recent years video game developers are starting to kind of adopt a different mindset to how they make and release their games. Obviously the most obvious culprit here would be publishers. You see two things have changed in this generation of games that have also changed how games are made. First is games have become a great business. Even when the economy is slumping, video game revenue is still in the billions of dollars. As with any highly profitable business, it is run by business men. These men know nothing about making a video game, but know how to spin their profit margins every quarter to their shareholders. Most of the publishing companies around today are run by business men, not gamers.

This would not be a big deal if publishers weren't really needed but they are. See the other part of making video games recently is that it's really expensive. Way too expensive for a company to fund on their own. Because of this, and the length it takes to make a video game, developers have to work very closely with publishers. Now because these publishers are funding millions of dollars to make this game, and have to report their earning every quarter, they want to make sure they don't waste it all on a flop.

Okay now keep that in mind as I shift gears slightly. As you may have noticed free to play is all the rage now. The reason this is the case is because it's good business. Alright so these publishers love making a profit, and have already realized that FTP is a wonderful way of doing that, but they can't apply that business practice to AAA blockbuster titles right?

Sorry to break it to you but they can, with one minor difference. To make sure everyone stays happy they let you believe you're $60 game is the same it would have been just a few short years ago, but it's not. It's turning into FTP with a $60 entry fee. Just look at the recent news over the last few years. Downloadable content of items, map packs, levels, missions, anything you would purchase in a FTP game can also be purchased on a AAA game, they just call it something different. On top of that in years past they have actually made part of the game, and then withheld it from you, just like a FTP game. Now they are even starting to cut out parts of the game (Diablo 3) and promising to patch it in later. How long do you suppose, knowing what I just mentioned above, until they start charging for a "patch that adds pvp content". LOTRO did this and guess what, yup, it's FTP.

To sum up in case you didn't catch all that, the games we are currently playing are the exact same thing as a FTP game with more money to start playing and disguised under a different name. I'd love to hear what everyone has to say, and I'm sorry if this was hard to read, I don't really have the time to organize my thoughts and write a proper blog about it.

Next Gen Gaming, You're Doing It Wrong.

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I believe the mentality towards next gen gaming has somehow derailed and then promptly crashed into a building. What I mean by this is what we think constitutes a console or handheld as next gen. Is it features? Specs? Controls? Or maybe even a combination or all of those things. Even then does it have to be an improvement or completely different, and who's to say how much is needed then to make something next gen.

The term revolutionary has been thrown around almost every E3 for the past few years and I think it's getting into gamers heads (props to the speech writers for that one). The problem is that the word revolutionary is just a marketing term that seems to work exceptional well. I'm here to tell you that there is not a gaming system out right now that is revolutionary. What the gaming systems do is improve on what has already been done. The PS3 is just an improved PS2, the 360 is just an improved Xbox. Now what about the 3Ds, Vita, and Wii? Well the Wii didn't really improve much in specs but changed how you play the games on it by combing the idea of motion control from smartphones and games like Time Crisis into the control scheme. The Vita, while an upgrade like the rest in specs also changes how you play the games by being more like a smartphone with the touch screens and even 3G. The 3Ds took the idea of touch screen smart phones and the virtual boy type 3D gaming and improved on that while also improving the specs from the DS, just like the Vita.

As you can see nothing here is revolutionary or even a new idea. So why are we as gamers only concerned about the next revolutionary idea for gaming. All gaming has ever been, since they went from 8 bit to 16 bits on an SNES has been one of improvements in technology, taking ideas from other technology fields, and in general just improving on what came before.

On a side note you can argue that the hardware is only as good as the software on it and that's understandable. The problem then is no one can truly judge it as unlike specs, the quality of software is up to the person using it as is completely based on opinion. Because of this software was not discussed in this blog.

Instead of being concerned with which gaming system we like or don't like shouldn't we be more concerned with what really matters when some new hardware comes out and that's better games, if not for you then someone else who enjoys them.