The Trouble With The Never-Satisfied Gamer

Near the end of our interview earlier this month, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime jokingly asked me for harder questions. We'd mostly been talking about the ins and outs of the Wii U, but on this final day of the big E3 show, an event that included a big showing by Nintendo's new console, he wanted to joust.

What follows is our exchange, which turned into something unexpected: a consideration of the hardcore gamer, who, in Fils-Aime's mind, is a tough customer to please. Too tough?

You judge...

Me: Why do you think your press conference got a negative response among a lot of our readers who felt there wasn't a lot that was new there, that was that different from what had been shown last year [on Wii U] in demo form?

Fils-Aime: One of the things that, on one hand, I love and, on the other hand, that troubles me tremendously about not only our fanbase but about the gaming community at large is that, whenever you share information, the perspective is, "Thank you, but I want more." "Thank you, but give me more." I mean, it is insatiable.

And so for years this community has been asking, "Where's Pikmin?" "Where's Pikmin?" "Where's Pikmin?" We give them Pikmin. And then they say, "What else?"

For years, this community have said, "Damnit Reggie, when you launch, you better launch with a Mario game." So we launch with a Mario game, and they say, "So what's more?"

I have heard people say, "You know, you've got these fantastic franchises, beyond what you're doing in Smash Bros., isn't there a way to leverage all these franchises?" So we create Nintendo Land and they say, "Ho-hum, give me more." So it's an interesting challenge.

Me: I think part of it is your fans expect genius from the company. And they got used to Nintendogs, Brain Age, Wii Sports -- not all of them necessarily launch games -- but you're a hit-driven company that can create phenomenons, and when you guys launch a console, people expect -- I expect -- to see software that doesn't feel like stuff I necessarily saw the year before, but an evolution and new shocking ideas.

Fils-Aime: Time out. Time out. Again two different issues. When we show a game like Brain Age or when we show a game like Nintendogs, what's the fan-based community reaction? "Ho-hum." Until it sells millions of copies. When we showed Wii Fit on stage... go back and read your blogs, what was the reaction?

Me: You've said this one before. I disagree specifically about Wii Fit. You're right on the other ones. Wii Fit people understood right away.

Fils-Aime: It's not a question of understanding. I think people understood what we showed. It's the question of, as a gamer, "Is this for me and something I can get excited about?" And Wii Fit did not get that reaction. And yet 43 million copies around the world, it's a phenomenon. And so I would argue that the gaming community actually is unable to differentiate between a phenomenon and something that is "ho-hum."

Me: Until they play it.

Reggie: Until they play it. Until they experience it. Until their friends and their non-gaming associates say, "Hey, have you seen X?"

This exchange occurred after Nintendo ran four press conferences for E3, one of them online and the other three in LA Four press conferences came and went with lots of Nintendo news, but, seemingly, things missing. Was it the dissatisfaction of gamers? Could Nintendo possibly have done more? Two weeks after E3 -- just last night -- Nintendo held another press conference. This one was full of news for the insatiable appetites of gaming fans.


    It is not just with games. It is the same with anything technology related these days.

    Apart from the Die hard apple fans, people say ho-hum to apple releases too. Same with movie franchises as well. Anything that has drummed up a following will forever be the target of "tall poppy syndrome".

      I disagree with the Tall Poppy view... the tech world moves so fast that the prevailing view tends to be more "so what have you done lately?". You can't just sir back and bask in your past success anymore and expect to keep having the same level of success (see: Sony in 2006, arguably Nintendo and Apple now)

        Sir = sit, of course. Typing on a phone FTL

        See, the problem with people wanting revolution, or even just notable improvements, is twofold.

        The first is that no-one will ever see improvements or revolutions until they actually happen. They're impossible to predict. Who thought the Wii would have such a huge impact on casual gaming market? Who knew that iPhones would set a precedent for how we change using our mobile phones? No-one, and anyone who said they predicted it before it actually happened were false prophets who just got lucky with their guesses. Revolution and change happens almost organically, it can't be forced.

        The second is an even bigger problem, and that's the modern market doesn't like taking risks, especially in our volatile financial situation. You could be developing the biggest, most revolutionary gaming franchise ever, or have a new gadget that will change the world, but no-one will invest in them. Why? Because they're not a sure thing. Why do you think we have so many crappy rehashed game series like CoD? Why do you think people are all jumping on board the smart phone and tablet markets after Apple already has a foothold in them? Because they're safe markets, and that's what companies want at the moment: something safe that will earn them money.

        I'm not saying it's right. Far from it; in fact, the 'safe market' mentality is stiffing creativity, which is horrible for a creative medium. But that's what's happening at the moment. We need to accept this before we solve that problem.

    Its nice that Reggie speaks so candidly

      I'm surprised, Reggie usually seems to speak pretty PR-like in his interviews.

      I'm very impressed by his willingness to challenge the consumers in this one.

    And Wii Fit wasn't targeted at the gaming community. Girls I worked with bought it, but none of my gamer friends did.

    Reggie deserves to be commended for his terrific PR spin. Having said that if Nintendo can't change their image as a casual platform his job is only going to get more difficult

    Didn't Nintendo say they we're returning their focus to their much neglected hardcore fan base? I think they set themselves up for critisims by courting the hobbyist gamer in the build up to E3 and then revealing very little for that group to latch on to, I'm thinking of first party titles of course. I'm still up for Wii U but I'd love to see Nintendo developing and investing in fesh IP that was aimed at
    core gamers.

      Ah, but you see, Nintendo were selling themselves to the enthusiast gamer, and those gamers were saying "Nintendo had better have strong third-party support, including lots of the multiplatform titles". So Wii U is getting Assassin's Creed 3, it's getting Mass Effect 3, it's getting Darksiders II, it's getting Aliens: Colonial Marines, it's getting Tekken Tag Tournament, it's getting Batman: Arkham City, it's getting Ninja Gaiden 3 (published by Nintendo themselves, to make sure). Those third-party launch titles got more focus than usual, and Nintendo held back on later first-party titles to avoid overshadowing. And they made it clear that it wasn't a complete list.

      And the enthusiast gamer said "thank you, but I want more". Reggie's right. Nintendo focus on showing people the very things that they've been calling for, and those people respond with "thank you, but I want more". When Nintendo focuses on leveraging their current IP, people complain about the lack of new IP. When they show off new IP, people complain about the absence of their big existing IPs. When they try to show off heaps of their own games, people complain about the lack of third-party. When they put the focus on third-party, people complain about the missing first-party titles. People demand the big franchises, but when they provide them, people complain about the focus on mainstream games and not "hardcore" games. They get lambasted for focusing on NintendoLand, which is their demonstration of the hardware capability, as "it's no Wii Sports"... but that's exactly how people reacted to Wii Sports, too. And people were clamouring for Wii U information, so Nintendo focused on Wii U, and people complained about the lack of 3DS news.

      Everyone thinks back to E3 2006, and how great Nintendo's conference was, then. What they forget is that Nintendo was going into that conference with very, VERY low expectations. They were last in the previous generation, analysts were predicting that this would be Nintendo's last console, that they'd be lucky to sell 10 million units, etc, etc. And even then, there was a lot of negativity about the conference itself, at the time.

      The thing with launch games is that they have to be done at certain point during the /development/ of the new console if they want to actually be done by the launch date. However, at that point they still don't know exactly how capable the console is going to be: they can set certain goals, talk about numbers and technology, but until the final thing is done and tested the real results are mere speculation.

      With this in mind, launch titles have to be somewhat conservative in both their scope and magnitude, lest they find themselves in a situation were the console is not actually able to fulfill its requirements or there was a change of plans, the addition of a technical implementation or a long list of etc. that simply don't accommodate what the game was aiming for.

    What a cool little interview. Seriously.

    Both guys did their job so well and while I never expect anyone from any particular company to bash themselves (I can't believe some expect even this, would you do it?), Reggie did a fantastic case of actually listening and addressing even difficult questions.

    Great interview, but wow, that is some impressive head/sand action, Nintendo - nice work.

    As a member of (what I can only assume is) their target audience, I'm thrilled - FUCKING THRILLED!! - that there's a new Pikmin game coming, but after the Wii, those guys need to bring a shitload more than one long-requested game to convince people that the Wii-U isn't going to be another casual-focused mini-game whore. A 'new mario game'? Fuck off - its a barely updated version of a mediocre Wii game that was a pale shadow of its forebears. Seriously - go play Super Mario World, then try playing NSMBWii - its mind blowing how far backwards they went with that one. Nintendoland?? Yet another bunch of mildly amusing minigames that get boring after a few plays (and that have little-to-no relevence to the franchises they're themed for) is most definitely NOT what people mean when they say 'bring back your old beloved franchises'!! (Hands up everyone who wanted Donkey Kong to make its long-awaited return as a simplistic tilt-based physics car/puzzle game! Anyone?)

    The Wii demonstrated that Nintendo has become more interested in shallow, gimmicky minigames and weak rehashes of their former superstars, than any kind of actual game design. Motion control has shown itself to be a waste of everyone's time, yet now they follow it up with yet another gimmick peripheral rather than actual games. They gleefully burnt their bridges with core gamers to make a quick buck with Wii, now they think showing one niche title and couple of shallow cash-in titles that ride on nostalgia is going to make people forget about the ridiculous tablet gimmick and take them seriously again??

    Nintendo needs to decide who the Wii-U is for - the casual market that grabbed a Wii for Wii Sports and is not going to see why they need to buy a whole new console for more of the same? Or the core gamers who all got fed up with shitty motion controls being forced into every game whether it worked or not?

    At this point, I can't tell if Nintendo are just trying to PR spin their way out of their godawful E3 showing, or if they actually really do not understand why their 'core gamer' fans aren't happy...

      "The Wii demonstrated that Nintendo has become more interested in shallow, gimmicky minigames and weak rehashes of their former superstar"

      I cannot agree with this, (this may seem bias) but I think out of every game developer for the past generation Nintendo released the most hardcore and unique experiences, the list follows; Two amazing Kirby games, Two home console Zelda's (including twilight), Super Mario Galaxy 1 + 2 arguably the two best games of the recent generation, Metroid prime 3 + other M = criminally underrated, Donkey kong country returns, Wario Land: Shake it, A Fantastic 2.5D Mario Platformer, Pokemon Black + white and a plethora of other great titles. Some casual, yes, but they are still very appealing games!

        Well I would disagree with your disagreement Tom.
        We're talking about Nintendo's showcase here as games made in-house. MP3 and DKCR are made by Retro and Other M (while shockingly bad anyway) was made by Team Ninja, so that rules them out. Twilight Princess was technically a Gamecube game and Skyward Sword definitively split the Zelda fans with its controls and help system. Neither Wario Land, nor NSMBWii were core focused games and Pokemon is on the DS. The only thing left you mention is Mario and Kirby.
        I'm not saying any of these games were bad (except for Othe M) I'm just pointing out that Nintendo themselves were not doing much at all to cater for the core audience. What were they working on instead? Wii Sports, Fit, Music, etc, etc.

          Good Points, but the comment I am referring to is; “The Wii demonstrated that Nintendo has become more interested in shallow, gimmicky minigames and weak rehashes of their former superstars” and with that said, all the games mentioned above are very highly (bar Other M) acclaimed by critics (whether or not the fans cant get used to intuitive motion controls for a Zelda game ). I also must mention that retro is a company that makes games exclusively for nintendo (second party), I disagree with your argument that NSMBWii was not aimed at the core fan base once again many reviews said it harks back to the old days of playing Super Mario Bros. 3 while retaining a fresh feel, emphasizing Nintendo's Hardcore/Casual approach.
          I do believe that Nintendo are aiming at a different demographic but I can say with utmost confidence, us old gamers will never forget the good days of blowing in a cartridge and sticking it in the 'Nintendo' just like how nintendo will never forget about why they are 'here' in the first place! Because of us.

    I love Nintendo, no matter what they do. launch day for me!

    Quite amusing all the angst from people like Random who have not actually even touched or played Wii U games and they are dissing it already. I am a total fanboy and would probably just pre-order anything they release

    I love Reggie and I do enjoy my Wii from time to time, but I do have to say that Reggie did a good job at spinning this. The truth to the manner is gamers aren't "Never-Satisfied" like the gaming media and video game companies want us to believe. The truth is, we're tired of playing ring-around-the-rosie.

    The Mario game coming out day and day with the Wii-U is a must, but a 2D mario game is just showing they are cutting corners to get A MARIO game out. The Nintendoland will be like Wii Sports. You'll play it for a few days. Maybe show it to your girlfriend so you guys can play a game together. It isn't a real "game" it's a boxed in party game.

    Wii Balance Board / Wii Fit. Now this is where I had the MOST issue with . I do not recall one hardcore game that required and or used the Balance Board for core gameplay. I believe it was either a Sonic game or Super Monkey Balls that had the option, but it was plagued by terrible controls and wasn't even worth it. For Nintendo to say that this was shown to gamers and they are unhappy with it is absolutely correct. Microsoft biggest games on the Kinect is dancing games / Fitness games. Do you know why? Because it's away to get a workout and have fun at the same time. Is that a bad thing? No, that's actually really AMAZING that people can do something they love and do something good for themselves. Here's the problem though: this wasn't marketed towards the hardcore. It was targeted at the casual.

    The casual people do not watch E3 coverage. It's the diehard fans who do. That goes for ALL publishers now of days. They are all guilty of this. Sony had a book game.... I don't even want to know. Microsoft had some woman with tattoos show us the power of the Kinect and how to deflect stuff ... or something, It's for the journalist from New York times, CNN, and any other main stream media to pick the story up because WII -whatever- is very popular. So fans of said media site will click the page to read up what they should be buying next. Which, again, each click is ad revenue.

    This is why the hardcore is unhappy and they deserve to be. Every publisher is re-purposing the same idea. (CoD, GearsoW, GodoW, AC, any sports game,, and the list goes on and on. For me, I was hoping the Wii U would deliver on new original ideas and or bringing back old IP's with a new flavor. (When I saw a new flavor, I would like you to direct the life span of Mario. Mario 1 > Mario 3 > Super Mario > Mario64 > Mario Sunshine > Mario Galaxy. All of them took the same idea and added on to it to make it even better.

    I have to say I have little to no hope that Nintendo will bring back the love they once had for the hardcore. I am really glad they are bringing back Pikman. (even though I have no interest in it, but I am happy for the fact they did listen to the fans) If they do make new "hardcore titles" like they did with before. It will be 1 or 2 at E3 and rest will be casual games, The best Nintendo conference was the year they showed Mario Galaxy 2, Metriod other M, Donkey Kong, and Kirby's Epic Yarn, 3DS, Skyward Sword, Kid Icarus back in 2010. That was the year of the hardcore. It's like waiting for Christmas when you're younger. It feels like it takes forever to come, but when it does, it's the best thing in the world at the time.

    Show of hands, how many of you actually tried the wii u? I understand where a lot of people are coming from. As a gamer I would love to see that new game retro is working on. Or an update on eternal darkness. However there is a difference between being enthusiastic and being a brat. Relax guys, and like th song says "you can't always get what you want". I partially blame the media which raises the stakes of damn near every article to defcon 5. I'll be testing the wii u soon, so ill let you know.

    Haha wow I guess I went on a bit of a rant there - should know better than to comment on articles after not having slept :P - but seriously, we're less than 6 months from launch and the only core games Ninty's showing are Pikmin 3 (awesome, but pretty niche in terms of popularity), SNMBW2 (a simple rehash of a game that was not that great to start with), and a bunch of 3rd party titles (and the biggest problem with 3rd party titles is that once the new Xbox and Playstation launch a year or so later, it'll be just like its been with the Wii, where the Nintendo version is a half-assed afterthought because its nowhere near powerful enough to do a straight port).

    In light of this, what is the point in blaming gamers for being 'unsatisfied'? Its either arrogance or ignorance, and neither are going to endear you to your customers. If he'd said something like "I know people were disappointed that so few 1st-party core games were shown, but rest assured we'll be revealing more surprises as we get closer to launch", then people would be perfectly happy with that. But to act like gamers are 'ungrateful' because your flagship title is another shallow mini game collection is just crazy.

    But I still feel that what I said before still stands - Nintendo doesn't seem to know who they're making a console for anymore: The hardcore crowd is mostly just going to wait the extra year for the next Xbox or Playstation, and the casual crowd isn't likely to shell out another $400~$500 for 'another Wii' just to get the tablet, so the only target left is the long time Nintendo fans that they largely abandoned with the Wii - and they're acting like its not worth making an effort for them.

    We all know they're working on a 'proper' Mario game somewhere in there, that Smash Bros. is coming (although moving to Namco raises a bit of a question mark), and I'm guessing we'll see Star Fox and F-Zero return too - I'm sure I'll eventually buy a Wii-U for the 1st-party franchises, as usual, but so far there's nothing compelling a launch day purchase, and blaming the gamers for that seems rather foolish...

    Another issue no one has touched upon is that a lot of people ask for sequels, yet want something new; and if the sequel is too much like the original they complain. But look, games like CoD sell bigger and bigger numbers year over year despite being the same game over and over. Pokemon Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, Silver, Crystal, Ruby, Saphhire, Emerald, Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, Fire Red, Leaf Green, Heart Gold, Soul Silver, Black, White and no doubt Black 2 and White 2 are all the same game made over and over, remade, over and over and yet each year they sell bigger and bigger numbers and there's still demand for it.

    The simple fact is that there's the fan base who loves the games without a doubt, and then there's the cynical fanbase who says "Eh, what else?" but then still goes out and buys the game anyway and loves it and then says "Moar pl0x naooo1!!111111111" and then when a new game is announced they say "Eh, what else?"

    And this is sort of where taking risks comes into play. If Activision and Nintendo can make the same game every year and each year that same game makes more and more sales, then why shouldn't they just make the same game with a few new things and call it a day?

      p.s. I am a different person to ^"Random"

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