Nintendo’s games have almost become synonymous with creativity and innovation over the years. For the more quirky, off the wall and innovative gaming experiences, Nintendo was always going to be your best bet. But are they still? More than a few people are looking at the big name line ups for the 3DS and the WiiU and thinking that it is just the same line up of a few major franchises which are strangely familiar to the big titles on the Wii and DS; Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Pokémon…. Yawn. A friend of mine, upon my mentioning of the new Super Luigi U game, sniffed and bemoaned that the last thing we needed was another Mario world side scrolling game. This seems to be a view shared by others who believe that Nintendo has lost their creative spark; and that they are now only too happy to coast by producing updated versions of games which we have all played before and relying on the selling power of their big names. No longer do Nintendo seem willing to put the effort into making new and innovative gaming experiences.
There may be an element of truth to this but it seems to me that in general the comments are rather harsh. Of course Nintendo are going to keep releasing Mario, Zelda and Pokémon titles. The huge selling figures for these franchises would mean it would be ridiculous for them not to do so. There is more to it than that, however. The main reason that these games continue to be made is down to the fact that they are always high quality titles which are loved by millions of people, regardless of the familiar content. People love the continuing stories, settings and characters of these games so much that they want to continue playing new versions. Familiarity, in this sense, is a good thing. It’s what the customers want and expect from Nintendo. The added bonus of these titles is that they generate enough profit for Nintendo to invest in less mainstream titles. The success of unconventional games such as Pikmin and Animal Crossing show that Nintendo can still pull off innovative titles.
Games, however, are not the only product of innovation. Whereas Sony and Microsoft seem to be content to continue making consoles which offer roughly the same gaming experiences with every new release, Nintendo have been striving for a long time to innovate the way that we play games in general. In relative terms the leap from the GameCube to the Wii was a huge change in the way that games were going to be played. The idea of motion sensing controls was a hugely innovative idea at the time and proved that Nintendo were not happy to just continue on with the current way of gaming. The WiiU is an extension of this innovation. The problem seen by many is that not enough use is made of the special features of the consoles in games. This is most likely a result of developers not putting enough effort to making games which make full use of the consoles capabilities. The consoles themselves though are proof enough that Nintendo are not willing to idly sit by and coast off their big name titles. They will always strive to be innovative and creative when making both games and consoles. Even familiar titles played on consoles which create a new way of play will create new gaming experiences with characters that are over 30 years old. The slow start of the WiiU may even turn out to be an advantage, it will force Nintendo to make sure that its developers start making full use of the WiiU’s capabilities so that the full potential of this console can be realised.