Tuesday, July 6, 2010

E3'10 Rambles: Nintendo Press Conf

Nintendo couldn't have started their press conference with a message better-suited to me -- that the experience is most important -- but as a fan of games, I feel trapped by Nintendo's vision. Their success means continuing things the Nintendo way, and in ways important to me, they just aren't that progressive.

Nintendo amazes me for so often mastering a difficult combination of novel technology, strong gameplay, addictive rewards, and accessible themes. When all four elements appear on a new or forgotten property like Kirby, they intrigue me perhaps more than any other game at E3. When all four elements converge on an older property like Zelda, I look forward to the experience, even when updates are awesome-slash-boring. But a big part of the Nintendo experience is addiction. Collect the coins, complete the stage, pass the boss, 100% everything. It's true on Mario, true on Yoshi, true on Metroid, true on Donkey Kong, largely true on Zelda, and probably true on Kirby.

And I long for more. More than I want to have fun and feel compelled to complete a Metroid or Zelda game, I want to have fun and become Samus or Link, and feel what they feel! Immersion before addiction. I wish, selfishly, that the most successful console manufacturer cared more about that.

I was sad when Nintendo equated their "experience" with novel technology. At first blush, I couldn't see how 3D would change that core experience (although friends later described an impressive tech demo that used the camera to put the 3D into the real world). A cynical thought entered my head, that the "Nintendo experience" was now showing off glasses-less tech and taking 3D pictures even though I know better, and look forward to their new product.

Nintendo games -- with accessible themes, fun, and addiction -- feel like family movies, romantic comedies, or action flicks. Microsoft games -- with cutting edge graphics and scripted events -- feel like big, dumb, summer movies that only rarely transcend spectacle and provide powerful emotions beyond "supernatural skill" or "fear." And Sony games -- supporting things like Last Guardian, Heavy Rain, and Uncharted -- feel like pricey art house films (even Uncharted, despite being built like a summer blockbuster). I wish games had something like the Academy Awards that drove sales on critical darlings.

Third parties, indies, and the "other consoles" are the future that interests me; not of sales success but the art form. Unfortunately, Microsoft seems to be fumbling for Nintendo's audience and filling the blanks on summer blockbusters, and I only hope that developers find ways to push the immersive limits of that framework. Unfortunately, though Sony seems to be more invested in immersive experiences, I wonder whether they can keep leveraging these endeavors. Unfortunately, third parties are unsure of themselves, with habits steeped in risky blockbusters instead of the mass market product they forgot how to make. And despite my selfish interests, I deeply admire Nintendo for delivering great games to everyone.

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