Today it was announced that Splatoon, Nintendo's first attempt at a 'shooter', has sold over 1 million units. Generally, it's of little interest to me whether or not certain games are successful but, with Splatoon, I have to make an exception.
Why? For a number of reasons I think. Chief among them: Splatoon is one of the few moments where Nintendo has placed a decent-sized investment in a brand-new, big-budget video game unrelated to any of its major mascots. It represents a risk — the kind of risk Nintendo isn't usually willing to take. In an alternate dimension Splatoon is called Mario Paintball and the gang is taking a well-earned break from karting/golfing/tennising to blast at each other for a while. That's a sucky alternate universe. I'm glad I exist in the one where Splatoon is Splatoon and is populated by surprisingly fashionable squid with hip and happening 'tudes.
I'm also happy because Splatoon is a game that deserves success. It would truly suck if Splatoon was a big fat commercial failure because it represents Nintendo's one true attempt to peak out from its shell and create something cutting-edge and modern. That isn't to say that Nintendo isn't cutting-edge — perhaps that's the wrong term. Games like Mario Galaxy feel like they literally come from another planet. It's more that Splatoon is cool. It's cool in a truly unique way. It feels like a Nintendo game, but a game made by a different, more open-minded Nintendo. A Nintendo that actually paid attention to what was going on outside over the last decade and took notes. If Splatoon was an abject failure, I get the sense Nintendo would have pulled its collective head back into that shell, that they'd draw the curtains shut and be Nintendo for another decade.
Splatoon is an important game. It represents somewhat of a compromise. The compromise that I would like Nintendo to make. Splatoon is original, it's weird, it's uniquely Nintendo — but it's also culturally relevant in a good way. In a way Nintendo hasn't been in decades and, arguably, has never been. Splatoon is — gasp — almost fashionable.
It's also really, really good.