Thursday, September 22, 2005

Nintendo Genre Innovation Strategy: Comments and Follow up

Well, that was an exciting moment in the history of this website. In the spirit of my old demo days, greetz go out to all the readers from Penny Arcade, Slashdot, Kotaku, 4ColorRebellion, Joystiq, GameGirlAdvance, Dvorak(?), and more. I apologize for any disruption of service for folks who were visiting the site. Everything should be back to normal, comments are back on, and I'm on a new server with 10x the bandwidth. Post away. :-)

I want to thank everyone for keeping their comments civil and insightful. It is a strange thing, but your intelligent commentary seems to spark more intelligent commentary. Shocking.

There are a couple questions about the previous article that I thought I'd take a brief amount of time to highlight here.

Source of "genre king" and "genre life cycle"
The terms "Genre king" and "genre life cycle" come about from several essays that I've written over the past couple of years. If you are interested in the theoretical background, I recommend you check them out.
  • Evolutionary Design: This was the source of many of the concepts behind my current definition of genre. Unfortunately the same title as a rather popular essay by Chris Crawford that I didn't know about until after this was published.

  • Genre Addiction: This is where 'king of the genre' was used that I subsequently shortened to 'genre king'. Some folks get turned off the use of the word 'addiction', but really I'm talking about basic market segment creation activities.
  • Genre Life Cycle: There are 4 short essays here where I explored the genre life cycle in more detail. Though honestly, I think the topic was so obscure and rambling that very few folks made it through all of them. :-) They also talk about genre death in more detail and clarify some of the wild-assed statements made in the genre addiction article.
Where are the numbers on title costs coming from?
I do need to report my sources a bit more clearly. That tidbit comes from the Japanese Computer Entertainment Suppliers Association. Here's a link to one report on it.

There have been reports that the study was flawed because it only relied on self reported information. However, the numbers are inline with my personal experiences talking to game companies on a daily basis, so I am inclined to believe them. Note of course, that these are averages. There will be Gamecube titles that cost more than certain Xbox titles. The basic concepts still stand.

Nintendo still makes hardcore games
You'll notice Nintendo walking a line in their PR where they say 'games for everyone.' The fact of the matter is that genre king titles remain very profitable for them if a company can get a lock on the genre. And for several genres, Nintendo has that lock.
  • Action RPG: Zelda
  • Multiplayer Casual Racing: Mario Kart
  • Creature trading RPG: Pokemon
  • Party games: Mario Party
The games in these categories are nearly synonymous with the genre and it is unlikely that Nintendo will simply stop making them. So what you'll find is that Nintendo will likely continue to promote hardcore gaming within the genres that they dominate. This is still in keeping with an innovation strategy.

There is also a strong platform component to the console industry that I didn't explore fully in the essay due to already packed space constraints. Each console is what is known as a 'walled garden'. Consumers experience the delightful content rich experience that is available on that console, but unless they make expensive additional investments (like buying a new console) they are locked out from using other company's content. Each console creates micro market segments. For example, Metroid Prime 2 sold less than Halo 2. However, it still managed to be the market leader within the FPS Gamecube market segment.

So you'll also find Nintendo creating genre kings within the protected marketplace created by their ownership of a walled off hardware platform. Again, competition is lower and profits are higher. Typically they'll leverage an existing brand to give their offering even more competitive punch.

What is the rational behind Nintendo leaving some customers behind?
If you like genres where Nintendo does not dominate, then you'll likely have to go to another platform. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to profitably be all things to all people in the business world. Every company makes a strategic choice on what customers they want to serve. Often that means 'firing' fringe customers that do not fit what is best for the company. Banks do it. Stores do it. Enterprise organizations do it. The benefit is employee focus, increased profits, and superior ability to provide value to your target market. It also takes a lot of balls to give up a paying customers.

Typically firing a customer takes a very simple form "Hey, we appreciate you wanting to work with us, but we think it is in your best interest to go to our competitor X." So the worst customer happily trots along to competitor X and starts demanding bigger production values, additional sequels, etc. The competitor sells more, but they lose money doing it. Who is the winner here?

1st party vs 3rd party
This topic is an entire essay on its own. Historically, Nintendo has reaped the vast majority of its profits from first title releases. They make a small amount from each game sold on their platform, but by being a publisher they a much higher percentage of the revenue on a title.

In this viewpoint, it makes sense to promote a large 1st and 2nd party developer network that are published through Nintendo and focus on innovative titles and genre kings in low competition areas. The result is a smaller number of highly profitable titles.

However, this profitable and logical strategy alienates the 3rd party developers. They naturally take their innovations to other publishers. In the worst case scenario, other platforms become the home of new highly profitable genres that lure potential Nintendo customers over to the competing platforms.

There are lots of ways for Nintendo to get out of this situation. They've tried using character licensing, but they risk tiring out their brand. I'd like to see them start up a new Nintendo second party network that supports smaller companies. They would reap the following benefits:
  • A bigger chunk of the revenue by being the publisher instead of merely being the platform owner.
  • A steady stream of new titles that help guarantee leadership in attaching new genres to their platform.
  • A stage gate style development pipeline where they can then convert into successful second party titles into larger scale 1st party genre kings.
Enough rambling. I'll be back to my regularly scheduled essays soon. :-)

take care


  1. Excellent essays/posts.

    I found it interesting that Nintendo basically solved part of the issue that you addressed in your July 31 post ("A short interview with a lady friend: Why video games are pointless").

    It looks like they're right on target to succeed with acheiving their goal: incorporating entirely new demographics into the definition of "gamer".

    As an aside, I came across a great line at Arstechnica:

    "Nintendo will win the next-gen console wars, because the Revolution is the only next-gen console being made."

  2. You should put in an easily-accessible link on your index page to your Nintendogs article!

  3. Nintendo has been working a lot with small second parties for a few years now. They've been working with Fuse Games on making pinball games, and n-Space for FPSs. The results are the innovative, but not entirely successful games Mario Pinball Land and Geist. They've gotten a tremendous amount of hype from Nintendo, most of it undeserved. More recently, Nintendo published Kuju's game Battalion Wars. In all these examples, Nintendo took a company with potential but a lack of experience, and worked with them very closely to make a game which is a tiny bit closer to Nintendo's standards. If they stick with these companies for another decade or so, these companies might get good enough that they can actually help Nintendo get the diversity in quality games they're looking for.

  4. Is it right to say Nintendo has a 2nd party strategy? Camelot, Alpha Dream, Intelligent Systems, Game Freak, and many others, are creating Nintendo only games.

    By the way, it was good to read your (long) post about Revolution controller. (^_^) Hope to read your opinions about other gaming facts!

  5. Intelligent Systems, Game Freak, Retro Studios, and if I'm not mistaken Alpha Dream, are all owned by Nintendo- making them first-party developers like EAD or that new studio in Tokyo.

  6. I think it can be kind of awkward to know exactly when a second party publisher becomes a first party one. However -- Silicon Knights was definitly a second party, as were Rare, and both of those developers have went their own merry way.

    I think it's a fantastic, absolutly fantastic idea for Nintendo to start throwing some money around at smaller publishers. We need more small, weird, budget priced ($20, say) games for the Revolution. I think it's too bad they aren't going to put in a hard drive (I understand why, but it's still a shame). With the wifi link, can you imagine if Nintendo started cranking bizarre, small little games and releasing them over their network (a la Steam) for $10 a pop? Even if the game's not great, it's only ten bucks and you could end up with some real winners in the process (like "Katamari Damacy").

  7. Check out this funny comic on the revolution controller:

    The site owner quotes you as well.

  8. From the Pixel Junkies opinion piece: "Let me preface everything by saying that I love Nintendo, and want nothing more then to see them succeed."

    Ah--a variation of the ol' "I've been a fan for [x-number of years] now" opening, which never leads to anything good. (See also: "I've been a fan of [name of team] for over twenty years, and this 82-80 season is the worst!")

    It's not that people want to hear glowing praise; it's that the word gimmick has become so painfully overused that (like mature, niche and kiddy) it has virtually no real meaning.

  9. Amen to the quirky budget titles!
    Sheesh, a lot of Japanese companys wring their hands over the fact the market is shrinking then they still have the nerve to go charging $50 on the low, $70 on the high for a new game.

    I've heard Europe sells loads of $10-20 games at gas stations and newsstands. Japan's the vending machine capital of the world, it's amazing they haven't put cheap game vending machines around town.

    I'd be curious if Nintendo slaps the same stringent requirements on who gets Revolution SDKs as they did the Cube.

  10. I just want to say, this essay is great. I love the way you talk about game design, and, frankly, you just made a new fan and I will be visiting your site frequently.

    Great work, keep it up,
    - Keith

  11. Danc:Nintendo actually forged such an agreement this generation, so it's not out of the question. Capcom got an larger cut of the pie (and help with development costs), for their "Capcom five"..Viewtiful Joe, Resident Evil 4, P.E. 05, Killer 7, and the cancelled Dead Phoenix (Which is rumored to being morphed into a Revolution title..potentially with the Kid Icarus brand).

    Pharna and aaron:From what I've heard, Nintendo is going to be offering some sort of SDK to independant developers. It might not be full featured, but it'll be enough to do things that will get you noticed. And I wouldn't be surprised if such small games wern't offered for download off of Nintendo's network.

    I don't think it would be too strange, if for example, you'd start to see PopCap games being ported for the Revolution for download.

    One last thing. In the current generation, the PS2 has gotten most of the test games. The games that break the mold. Why? Because of the market share that the PS2 commands. It's not even close. If you're going to sell to a limited % of a market, you choose the biggest market you can.

    I don't think this is going to be the case so much with the next generation. The PS3 isn't getting a head start. In fact, it's starting kinda behind. As well, there are two very powerful competitors that are waiting to go, with a lot of oomph of their own. And if Sony does it's typical rest on their laurals approach to business, the PS3 could find itself floundering.

    I'll put it bluntly. I'm expecting the Revolution to fly off the shelves. A combination of the novel control method and relativly low price tag is going to give it a serious push..that whole media hype blitz. And if Nintendo gets a large installed base, right off the bat, expect that in about a year..summer 2007, you're going to see a lot of innovation and originality come Nintendo's way. And Sony could be in big trouble. (I think that Microsoft, launching first is in good shape. It's going to be the system of choice for the traditional hardcore game crowd.)

  12. I think that the price tag is one of, if not the, largest factor preventing new consumers entering into the gaming market. An individual may be interested in the idea of playing on a system, but not enough to pay $50 for each semi-alright experience. Another phenomenon that I have noticed is that new gamers have no means of discerning between well produced good games and poor low budget titles. My younger brother has a game cube and often gets lured into buying games such as "Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly," a game that sold only because it was a spyro title. My point is that the reason he bought the game was the price- around 10 or 15 dollars.
    If nintendo can flood the market with cheap, innovative, quirky games they stand a good chance of finding more new genres. A lower price tag means more people will be willing to try the game, but reduced content may even leave them wanting more of the same game. I can easily imagine a scenario where these lower priced games are just preludes to larger, more in depth versions of the same title. If the initial title didn't sell though, then the budget for the end experience can be slashed, if the project goes forward at all. It would be quality control by public perception. The best part being, if someone like my brother buys the first, cheap copy of a game and likes it, they would be so much more likely to invest that $50 in the full experience.

  13. I think what a lot of people miss about this controller is that it's revolutionary. You will very probably not be playing the same kinds of games as you do with traditional controllers - or at least, not in the same ways. It's like the joystick to D-Pad transition, or D-Pad to analog thumbstick, only bigger.

    For example, look at the video on 1-Up. Listen to what the critics are saying.

    "I really like racing games, and I'm playing Burnout Legends right now, and this is going to drive me crazy." You won't be playing Burnout Legends on the Revolution, or at least, not the same way.

    "Nintendo's going to get Nintendults, old people, and girls, and parents. But PS 3 and XBox 360 are going to gobble up all of the rest!" Who, exactly, is left?

    "I'm not sure I've ever met (a mainstream gamer)." Well, duh, that's because they aren't gamers because current systems have nothing to offer them.

    Of course, the real killer is the 1-Up guy, who gets it dead-on. He talks about friends of his that used to play the NES and SNES and adds: "These guys were just as avid gamers as I was. But somewhere along the line, they got lost."

    A lot of people just don't seem to get that a console can be targeted at anyone but "gamers".

    As for titles, I don't think Nintendo has to do cheap. I think they have to do must-buy for an unexplored demographic. Nintendogs is an excellent example of this, as were Pokemon and Super Mario Bros back in the day. Heck, Nintendogs got a Fox Trot storyline. It's the first actual game (as opposed to munged-together pseudogame) that I can think of that's gotten one in ages.

  14. Apparently, Nintendo is going to sell cheap games. They said games wount have different price tags depending on the scope of the game.

  15. First, this isn't a post to prove my gaming cred. There's a point to this, trust me...

    I've been gaming since I was 4. I started on the mechanical arcade games on the New Jersey boardwalk. The first big transition was to the CRT. Frankly, It wasn't all good. I remember old arcade games using projection, light guns, mechanical helicopters, you name it.

    All of a sudden arcade games (the cabinets, anyway) looked the same. Let's call that "cabinet standardization". Then, there were a slew of great, original games that defined the "golden age" of arcade games. Home consoles and JAMMA started to standardize the controller setups, limiting design possibilities. Let's call that "controller standardization" (remember the 2600? That sucker had Joysticks, Paddle and Driving Controllers... not to mention the numpad...).

    The current generation of consoles have defined the pinnacle of sameness. The controllers are the same, the games are all ports of one another, and there is a handful of genres to choose from.

    What Nintendo is attempting here is a revolution. They are attempting to reverse the controller standardization by providing designers with options for control.

    Sadly, not all proponents of custom control (see Shiny Entertainment's CEO) recognize or support what Nintendo's trying to do here. If you truly support innovation, and don't just talk about it, I say vote with your dollars and buy a Revolution. Or two.

  16. pharma:

    Nintendo has already gone through the vending machine and downloadable content route during the Super Famicom era. During the period after Nintendo essentially stopped producing cartridges for the system, at least one magazine distributed a rewriteable cartridge that could be plugged into a vending machine where you could buy a game, or where you could download the game using the modem attachment to the cartridge.

    Didn't catch on though.

  17. As a long time gamer, my favourite types of games have always been the 3D Mario64, Banjo and Donky Kong 64 exploration\puzzle solving games, also fighting and Racing games.

    First time I played Mario64, it blew me away, Mario on the Cube was enjoyable but didn't have the Wow factor. The water cannon was a bit fiddly, but I could imagine using the new controller to spray water around with more precision. I just thought of the perfect fire fighting game.

    Played Project Gotham Racing, thought this was a cool game, played PG2 and thought nice but just more of the same and not different enough, am I interested PG3, yes, will I be bothered to buy a 360 to play it, no. Love Burnout, just bought Revenge, played it over the weekend and love it but what next, what can they do to make it worth playing again next gen, better graphics ?, that won't impress me.

    The first 3D fighting games that came out were brilliant but after Tekken 3 and Virtual Fighter 2, found it hard to see anything about the follow ups to merit buying them except maybe picking them up in the bargain bin a year later. More of the same on next gen, hardly innovative is it.

    GTA series, loved them all, but where do you go from San Andreas, The PSP version doesn't interest me enough to buy it and I already own the innovative NDS.

    Am I an example of the growing disinterest and apathy that gaming in general is leading to, if so, then thank you Nintendo for opening up a new gaming horizon to me and sparking my fading interest. I await this new gaming experience with anticipation.

  18. I wish there was another way for me to publish my thoughts on Revolution; I have much to say but not a great venue to say it in; it's like telling a big story with hardly anyone around to hear it. Anyway, here goes...

    A bit of a statement is in order; I think that people who hate the Revolution's controller are narrow minded. Almost all of the things that I have heard the naysayers say is either petty 10 year old playground attacks (witness IGN's refererence to the controller as a fishing rod) to close minded thoughts, and sometimes strangely bizarre hatred (check out forum boards).

    The Pixel Junkies opinion piece wasn't funny. But they did get their facts straight on the Revolution's 'remote control':

    1) it doesn't turn your TV off or on,

    2) it doesn't change the channels on your TV or satellite,

    3) it doesn't turn up or turn down the volume on your TV,

    4) it has nothing to do with controlling your TV.

    Other than that it's a great TV remote.

    I think that this post might be long, so for the ten or so people who are going to read it, bear with me..

    I've been playing games since I was seven years old (and now I'm.. well, a weeee bit older than that). Since the NES, to the old Commodore 64, to the Genesis to pretty much everything after (even terrible machines like Jaguar) I've been playing games.

    I'm getting kind of bored of playing the same stuff.

    Every time a new game comes out, I hear about how it's going to 'change gaming' forever; when it does, it often has far superior graphics and a sometimes engaging story, but it plays the same.

    Hardware makers and gamers alike keep hearing about how a machine is going to change gaming forever; after all, this machine has X processor, which will be immensely powerful and allow new expressions to be made.

    Of course gamers everywhere buy it; I know I did. If only we had something more powerful, we could finally create a game that really changes the way we play. And this is partly true; some merits of game design are based on processing power and abilities.

    But they (and I) missed the giant elephant standing the room: you can't change the core experience of the game without changing the UI (user interface).

    Imagine if Sony released the PS3 with a NES controller attached to it. Everyone would be (rightly) outraged over this bumble. Yet the same people who understand why NES controllers are limiting in today's age don't understand why we are being limited by controls today.

    We are entering an age where graphics really don't matter. The new machines have more than enough power to display nearly photo-realistic imagery. Naughty Dog's Jason Rubin, before he left ND, had a speech at a Game Developers conference called 'Better Graphics: Who cares?' As one of Sony's best 2nd party studios, and being quite some time ago, I do not think that he was being biased to either Nintendo or it's Revolution. Other developers have been saying similar things.

    I was reading an article posted by a PlayStation fan about the PS3's power to 'open up' videogames. He said that this article, to him, was more exciting than Revolution's new controller.

    The article talked about a lot of things in terms of physics processing and animation. The poster of the article beckoned me to think about the possibilities; imagine a football players' fingers wrapping around a football differently 'each time he caught the ball'.

    Who cares?

    It means nothing to have immersive worlds if you cannot interact with them. Your game becomes little more than a more fluid MYST.

    The fact that people like Ivan Sulic from question how they are going to control Link with the Revolution's controller using two buttons and a D-pad shows not only ignorance, but close mindedness.

    Games will be different in play; simpler in many respects, but not necessarily less deep, and everyone won't be on the same playing level. Imagine someone who drove a car using ten levers and six pedals. When you ask this fellow why he doesn't use the (lets assume 'new') steering wheel and gas and brake pedals, he laughs at you, makes fun or your sillyness, and continues driving on (though not as easily as you are, with your silly steering wheel and pedals).

    Everyone can see how much easier it would be to use a steering wheel and two pedals to drive a car. It's very easy and everyone does it, including old people and yes, women. But that doesn't mean that we don't have race car drivers.

    It looks different for sure, but calling the Revolution's controller a simple laser pointer or a 'remote control' because it can behave like one is like calling the Dual Shock 2 a steering wheel because you can use it to play Gran Turismo.

    Having cleared up some things about Revolution's controller, I will say that the possibiliies for core gamers like myself is enormous. Matt Cass has made an article on the possibilities of Revolution's controller, and reading it should make every gamer look forward to Revolution games; there is something here for everyone to be excited about.

    If all of this can't stop the negative opinions on this machine, I wouldn't bother commenting. But, how about this for an 'agree to disagree' clause; those of us who are tired of playing the same games with the same controllers can try Revolution, and find something new, fresh, and (hopefully) very fun.

    The Pixel Junkies of this world can continue playing the same games with the same controllers for another twenty years.

    Who knows? Maybe they can make a cartoon about how funny it is.

  19. The opinion piece from Pixel Junkies also states that anyone who doesn't know how to use a six (or eight) button controller is "mentally retarded, seriously.."

    So what is the level of cognitive thinking of people who don't know how to use a pointer?

    Of course traditional games will have a hard time adjusting to this new control system - but this is the way it has always been with innovation. No one plays Street Fighter 2 or Virtua Fighter 4, and IKARUGA with an analogue controller.

    Revolution's controller will be limiting if developers don't open up their games and design them to play with the machine, but it's safe to say that it will, at the very least, make certain games like FPS and RTS much easier to play on consoles. Even traditional RPG's could be assisted with stat managing by simple pointing and clicking.

    I think the extent to which the Revolution's controller will be limiting to today's games compared to traditional controllers is offset by the fact of it's increased functionality in many areas over traditional controllers.

    It's good to be wisely cautious about the Revolution's possibilities, but the extent of the many complaints about the machine are becoming silly (I really don't think you're going to pass out from using a 'laser pointer', you wont accidentallly turn it off just because it has a power button on it, etc).

    He does offer up some interesting ideas about how the controller is going to work for those of us who are sitting in different areas, who move around a lot, etc. But these are logistical problems of gameplay, to (hopefully) be worked out in the development process.

    It'll ultimately be up to Nintendo to provide the software to show off Revolution's new controller and it's increased functionality. I have some faith in the company, as they know how big this gamble of theirs' is; if they cannot deliver the software, at launch, that shows the machine's capabilities, the naysayers will gleefully pronounce it DOA, and gamers will go elsewhere.

    Then again, this could all be just a flash in the pan. That would be bad, but I have a feeling that some people would be happy to see this attempt at innovation and fun fail so they could be proven right.

    In my opinion this is very close minded.

  20. Laterx:

    In my opinion, you are oversimplifying. I could point out the irony of the close-mindedness of not appreciating, or even trying to appreciate, what others are so excited about. While I agree with you completely that prettier graphics and faster processors are overrated, they are not completely worthless. Better CPUs will allow for more complex AI programs, which can certainly make a game more interesting. And better graphics can help lessen the player's sense of disbelief. Is it worth the money or the hype, in my opinion? Certainly not. But I can certainly see the appeal to those who have already become fans of certain genres, and are looking only for more refinement. Who cares? Not you or me, but many more intelligent people with valid opinions than you'd care to admit.

    While a good deal of the skepticism toward Revolution is based only on the fact that Nintendo is not currently "in fashion", there is also much which is deserved. The fact is, very few of us gamers have actually picked up this controller, and there have been no commercial games shown. There are still many unanswered questions, most notably: Will this controller distract from the game itself? Will it be intuitive enough to surpass the game pad, or will it just be a fun little gimmick? While I believe motion sensors have amazing potential, I can't know for sure, nor can you until you've had a chance to play the final games.

    We should also not take for granted that the controller's potential will be realized. Most of Cassamasina's examples are the sort of thing I'm afraid will happen. Little gimmicks which are attached onto existing types of gameplay, which do not significantly enhance the experience but only allow the developer to stick a bullet-point on the back of the box saying "innovative usage of Revolution's features". We are seeing much too much of this on the DS- games exactly like every game to come before them, but with a few touchscreen mini-games so that the press won't get too angry at them. The touchscreen actually has a tremendous amount of potential to revolutionize established genres on the most fundamental level, as I have pointed out many times in the past, but we are seeing very little of this in practice. There are plenty of excuses given: lack of budget, lack of time, lack of money, sheer laziness; but the end result is nothing like the rosy picture I had before the system was released. Nintendo said to imagine the possibilities, and I did. While I may not agree with the outcome, this is what Cassamasina has tried to do with the remote. But we should not be so naive as to assume that anything good that can be done on this new hardware will.

    The most striking evidence of close-mindedness in your post, for me at least, is the casual dismissal of Myst. While this is hardly a major part of your argument, I can't stand around while you make the assumption that Myst is worthless. Myst happens to be one of my favorite series, and I will happily explain why I love it so much, not despite but because of the lack of gameplay, in private. (This is not the place. IM me, if you like.) But my point is that it is wrong to examine all types of games with one perspective. You can't say "Gameplay is good- therefore all games which do not focus on innovative gameplay are bad" without ignoring the virtues of certain types of games. Likewise, you cannot make the generalization "Games don't need so many buttons" without ignoring many types of games which do. For example, the question has been raised of how football games will play on the Revolution without losing all the functionality assigned to the many buttons of today's game pads. It is a good question, which has not yet been answered. (On a sidenote, I'm betting the developers of these sports games aren't going to "waste" too much time trying to figure out a completely new control scheme for the games they churn out year after year.) There is the question of how Zelda will play, without confusing the player as to exactly what the remote is supposed to represent at any one point. While gamers may have the answers to these questions, we have not yet been shown that developers have come up with any. So there is very good reason to be skeptical of the Revolution, even when you accept that it is incredible in concept.

  21. We should both state that viewpoints do have merit on game design; if you do down the road that it seems you are going down, i.e., we don't know what's good or bad, or right or wrong, in videogame design or viewpoints, then we might as well not bother talking about this, since both of us either very wrong or right (and if opinions are just that, then there's no way of coming to a logical, reasonable conclusion about game design either).

    Also, if this is going to continue anymore, you are going o have to read my posts and stop putting words in my mouth. I did not say that games are all about gameplay. I also did not say that graphics and CPU's did not matter to gameplay.

    This is what I said:

    "Of course gamers everywhere buy it; I know I did. If only we had something more powerful, we could finally create a game that really changes the way we play. And this is partly true; some merits of game design are based on processing power and abilities."

    Not liking Myst does not make me close minded. Myst was boring to me, and was lazy in it's application of gameplay. Who thinks this? To quote you: "many more intelligent people with valid opinions than you'd care to admit."

    I am sorry that I seemed to offend you with this point, however.

    "I could point out the irony of the close-mindedness of not appreciating, or even trying to appreciate, what others are so excited about."

    Did you read much of my post? I did say that I was a part of the group of people who enjoyed and looked forward having more powerful machines. And not appreciating something (like Myst) doesn't make you close minded Mory; it means you have different taste.

    For practical purposes, MYST was a good example of very limited gameplay interaction with game worlds coupled with very beautiful artwork and some stirring soundtracks. It was a good marriage to my arguement that while graphics are getting much better in games, our ways of interacting with the game world have hit a virtual barrier due to the controller interface we are currently using.

    I believe it is close minded to dismiss the machine without seeing games being played - as I said in an earlier post, it's wise to be cautiously optimistic, but calling it a fishing rod (with the LOL!!! pastered everywhere) to calling it a TV remote, and finally, in the case of Pixel Junkies, a vibrator is quite childish, and really not very funny (of course it looks like a remote; it was designed to look that way).

    Not being able to understand how a game can be played with anything other than a regular, traditional controller is close minded to me; it implies that you cannot grasp using another UI to interact with a game world, even when some examples have been given.

    "Likewise, you cannot make the generalization "Games don't need so many buttons" without ignoring many types of games which do."

    The whole point of the article that I was trying to convey with my unfunny talk about cars, levers, and steering wheels and brakes and gas pedals, is that one of the reasons why we have more buttons in games is because we do not have a different UI that would replace these button functions. Swinging a sword left, right, or stabbing or guarding can be done with a motion, instead of four different buttons. Do you see what I'm talking about?

    "(On a sidenote, I'm betting the developers of these sports games aren't going to "waste" too much time trying to figure out a completely new control scheme for the games they churn out year after year.) "

    Revolution's controller is so different that they have no real choice. They could find a 'core' gameplay system, and stick with this, much as Madden has done, year after year, but the point is they cannot use the same control method that they were using before.

    Basically my points are these:

    1) all games are starting to become more and more the same,

    2) having gorgeous game worlds means little if interaction with these game worlds is limited; players want more realism not in just graphics, but also in gameplay to more fully immerse themselves in the game world,

    3) we don't need as many buttons to do things if we can represent them with motions,

    4) if games continue to merely become more beautiful to look at, and do not offer any original gameplay experiences, gamers will soon become bored with them (as I believe I am becoming) and

    5) while technology has gone onto incoporate more and more on the processing side, it has remained relatively archiac for the entire other half of the gameplay side; the controller.

    Those are my points, and I think that I have made them well.

    As I have said before in my last post, it is good to cautiously optimistic of Revolution, but to wait for the games. But at the very least, if nothing else, it will improve some genre's of gameplay - such as menu's in RPG games, and RTS, which can be controlled entire with mere pointing and clicking, as they are done on the PC.

    The purpose of games isn't great gameplay, or great graphics, or great dialogue or story, or great soundtracks. It is something else.

    The purprose of games is to have fun.

    It is not being close minded to not "[appreciate] or even [try] to appreciate, what others are so excited about." I have appreciated it and been excited about it for nearly twenty years. There is nothing close minded about getting tired of playing the same games over and over again.

    I am eager to try out the Revolution because I think that playing different games will be fun.

    We will have to wait and see what machine can offer gamers in terms of actual playable software, but just because we have not played these games doesn't mean we can't make some reasonable assumptions; these assumptions being that it will be different, will force game developers to think differently, and will at the very least it will likely make a lot of RPG and RTS work easier (including MYST type games that you might enjoy.)

    I suppose that is it for this sermon...

  22. Okay, I apologize. It's just that your statement that a bad "game becomes little more than a more fluid MYST" got me on the defensive. In your follow-up post it is even more clear that you assume that gameplay is necessarily the most important feature of any game. But the most important feature in Myst and other exploration games is not the gameplay, nor the graphics, but the world design. Because you came into the game expecting a lot of gameplay, you misunderstood its use of gameplay as laziness, when in fact it just has a different set of priorities than you are willing to recognize.

    Apart from this, I agreed with most of what you had to say. It was the way you said it that bothered me, but I can get over that. I too have stated that I am tired of the graphical improvements in games. Have you played Zelda: The Wind Waker? That game is as graphically advanced as it would ever need to be- its graphics will still hold up in fifty years. As a matter of fact, 2D graphics still hold up today. And I doubt anyone will mind that Super Mario 64's graphics are so outdated when they're having so much fun. I am glad Nintendo is taking this route. Now we just need to see how it works.

    Oh, and for the record, Myst would work on the Revolution better than on a PC. :)

  23. There are some nice posters on this board, unlike others.

    I'm sorry if I made you defensive with my comments on MYST. I really do not hate or despise the game at all, and it doesn't bother me that other people enjoy it. In fact it is excellent.

    I'm not looking to destroy people's happyness with games; if you enjoy a game, that is great. What does it matter if someone else doesn't like it, or thinks that you should enjoy something else? They are not going to 'enjoy' the game for you in your abscence if you don't like it, and they are not going to 'dislike' the game for you if you do like it.

    In other words, what I say about MYST doesn't really matter. At least, it shouldn't matter to you. Views that people have on games are good up until the point until the gamer purchases the game; after that, perhaps negative opinions on it should be stiffled. It is never a good thing to make someone feel bad for playing a game that they enjoy, and it's a little egotistical and unwarranted to demand someone enjoy or hate the things that you hate or love.

    Looking at things from another view (yours) I can see that some of my favorite series have, in fact, had limited gameplay interactions (although many have the opposite).

    Final Fantasy, one of my favorite series, is actually not much deeper than MYST. It is really a one click affair. There are buttons that the game uses, but really these are only for bringing up menu's, to allow you to point (or rather, scroll) to manage stats, items, or actions in battle.

    While the battle system in FF games is ever evolving (perhaps the sphere grid system of X was the best) there are several reasons why I enjoy the series; characters, story, and world design. It is always interesting to see the worlds that you will explore or merely sight see in these games. Final Fantasy's 'world' is a greater part of immersion that helps place the setting for the characters and story. Though I am not sure how you would compare MYST's world design to Final Fantasy, I can see the point you make. The gameplay in Final Fantasy does take a different set of what you would probably call 'priorities'.

    Perhaps a MYST type game (or MYST itself) could function in some interesting ways on Revolution. Using the controller to highlight icons could be easy, and the 'wand' could function like a flashlight, to a magnifying glass (where pushing in or pulling back could zoom in or out). Adventure games like MYST could be more popular on Revolution.

  24. Remember too that the processing power isn't an either/or thing. The Revolution's got almost as much horsepower under that hood as the PS3 or 360. The way they're going to use it, however, is going to be radically different. They're not just going to do last-generation games with better graphics, physics, and AI.

  25. Mory, do you own a Nintendo DS? I have to say that your comments about it's lack of originality in software fell on some deaf ears over here.

    The Nintendo DS, being WiFi, is capable of interacting with other Nintendo DS' without a router or backbone of any type; it can even host games. In the case of Bomberman, you can send the game client to seven other DS (for an eight player game) and then play the game with them. When you need to set off a bomb, you can use the voice activation to say 'boom' to blow them up.

    Simply walking around, and wirelessly playing anyone with a maximum distance of up to 50-80 feet is incredible to me. Having some training in networking - and attempting to start a career in it - I can appreciate just how intuitive and easy instant wireless gaming is. It boggles my mind to think of two people, in a desert, playing Nintendogs or a multiplayer Metriod Prime game.

    Games like Lost in Blue have you use the Nintendo DS stylus to fish and spear, and when you rub two sticks together using the stylus, you then blow on the 'fire' in order to start one. You could also use the voice feature for yelling 'help' as well, if I'm correct.

    While some of this is what you might call 'gimmicky' (I really don't think that there such a thing as a gimmick unless it doesn't add to the overall game experience) as Danc has said, a gimmick is basically an underdeveloped gameplay mechanism or system.

    While some games like the surgery game for the machine might not appeal to you, they sound very innovative and fun. Also, 'regular' action games like Castlevania and especially the new Viewtiful Joe use the sytlus and features in a wonderfully innovative, exciting way, at least in my opinion.

    While games like Nintendogs don't offer much in the way of a 'substance' in a game, remember that Nintendo is likely setting down core design precepts that it will use to develop their own genre kings, much like the article that Danc has placed on his site.

    The fact that Nintendo is doing so much in terms of innovating on the DS with games like Nintendogs and Elecktroplankton is good, but the picture becomes more excellent when one thinks of games like Lost in Blue and Viewtiful Joe that really take advantage of the functionalities of this machine, because they are third party games.

    It's also interesting to notice that all of this has occured in the span of only one year. In my opinion, the DS has taken off in terms of innovative and fun games to play - and a lower price point for hardware and software doesn't hurt either.

    Games that both you and I enjoy could be done marvelously on the Nintendo DS. Imagine a Final Fantasy Tactics style game, where much of all of the gameplay is done with a touch pad (with the four face pads being used as sort of 'hotkeys' for the game, like PC gaming). A traditional RPG could also benefit enormously with this technoloy, as menu selection could be done with simple pointing and clicking. You could use the voice activation to control party members in the heat of battle, freeing you up in some ways. Commands like 'guard', 'move away', or 'use item' could help manage the flow of battle while allowing you to continue playing, offering a more seamless experience, as these commands are some of the most repeated commands given.

    Adventure games, for obvious reasons as well, would be a shoe in for the Nintendo DS. MYST on the go could become a possibility. Multiplayer MYST could also be interesting, with each player working together wirelessly from other sides of the game world to work out puzzles, communicating with the pictochat to send clues to others on how to progress.

    Really, if you don't have a DS, you should purchase one. It's a wonderful machine, but as great as it is, it also inspires the mind to think of what is possible on Revolution - a machine that could do the same things for consoles that DS is doing for handhelds right now, but even in a more pronounced way.

  26. I do not own the DS, because very few games have been released which justify the cost of the system for me. I know it's cheap, but there are so many games I already want for other systems. What substantial games are on the DS that haven't already been done as well or better on other systems? There's Kirby's Canvas Curse, and Pac and Roll looks interesting, and... and- um, that's pretty much it. Local wireless has no appeal to me because here in Israel no one else has a DS, and wireless internet is apparently going to be used only as an addition for games which are otherwise unchanged from earlier, better games.

    With DS, Nintendo has been putting a tremendous amount of time and effort into getting new gamers into the market, but very little effort into making anything substantial, any classics like Ocarina of Time or Pikmin. Nintendogs certainly doesn't count, regardless of how cute it is. If DS is an indication of their new long-term strategy, then I have no reason to be excited about Revolution. So while I have nothing but praise for the hardware, I am not especially optimistic that it will be used well.

    DS is a gold-mine, and developers are only mining dirt, and using it to coat their worthless rocks from outside. There is a very good reason for having two screens- one is for input, one is for output. Very few developers have taken this natural approach: Pac and Roll, and- there must be another one... maybe not. And Pac and Roll was just the tip of the iceberg. The bottom screen can simultaneously be more intuitive, more complex, more nuanced and infinitely more dynamic than a conventional interface. Instead of noticing this, developers make no distinction between the two screens, switching the gameplay between the two at random and by so doing pulling the player out of the game.

    What is the DS capable of, when you accept the top screen as the display and the bottom screen as the interface?
    -Platformers with direct control over the character's body
    -Music playing software for compositions with branching paths
    -Sports games with all the possible actions at any one point laid out clearly on the screen
    -Zelda with a static inventory leading to direct and deep control over items
    -Evolved adventure games played by selecting contextual actions which are constantly changing
    ...and so on.

    Instead, we have games like Viewtiful Joe, which retain old-fashioned control fundamentals but add touch-screen funcionality on top, leading to a gimmicky and unintuitive play experience. If they were to do Viewtiful Joe right, they'd put the action control on the bottom screen, and the game on the top. By using intuitive stylus gestures, you'd be able to pull off many more moves, with much more precision, much more easily. This is what I mean when I say that the DS's potential has not been realized.

    Oh, and by the way, there won't be any "multiplayer Metroid Prime" on the DS. Multiplayer Metroid was a bad idea to begin with, but the new "Metroid game" being released for DS seems to have abandoned all traces of exploration in favor of straight action. Certainly, exploration games could work very well with a touch screen -Myst was ported very easily to the Pocket PC- but there is no sign of any exploration on the horizon. Potential is great, but it doesn't mean much if it doesn't come to fruition.

  27. Mory, we will be in disagreement if you don't see the innovation of using the stylus in games like Viewtiful Joe as intuitive. I think that you're discription of 'gimmicky' goes so far as to exclude much of any innovative software. I have read you comment on how innovative Wind Waker is in another post on this site. Wind Waker, despite having a cel shaded graphical style (which was done first by Jet Set Radio on the Dreamcast) played exactly the same as Ocarine of Time, excluding the sailing, which could become redundant.

    As much as I enjoyed it, I believe that Wind Waker was, in fact, a prime example of not innovating in games. Nintendo stated that they did not like the fact that developers were merely updating graphics for their key 'MEGA GAME' (Nintendo's own reference at E3 2002), and proceeded to do exactly that for Wind Waker. The items that you collect, minus a hammer, the wand, and some other things, were much the same, and used in the same ways. The world design was different, but the gameplay was not. More or less, it was the same game with a new coat of paint. It was one of the most unexamined cases of Nintendo hypocrisy that no one talked about.

    Because of this it seems incorrect to hear you talk about what is intuitive and not in Nintendo DS games, especially when you have not played them.

    What is more intuitive than using a stylus for all game action? It would seem that someone who has played MYST could appreciate this type of interface. A lot of DS games use this.

    What is unoriginal by using the stylus to do special moves and splitting the screen in Viewtiful Joe on the DS? Have you at least read the previews on Viewtiful Joe DS? I cannot see someone playing that game with the stylus, and commenting on it being unoriginal. Come now. It seems to be a stretch to say that all this is unoriginal and gimmicky.

    Lost in Blue's use of the stylus to fish, and to even blow on sparks to start fires sounds wonderfully fun to me, and hardly gimmicky or unintuitive. What is more intuitive than using a stylus to spear fish? to blowing on a fire to cause it burn more brightly? to say commands to pets in Nintendogs?

    Much of the innovative software on the DS is coming from third parties, which is great, especially considering that the DS is merely a year old.

    And Nintendogs is so much more than merely a 'cute' game. The level of artificial intelligence, physics, and interaction with your pet is something I haven't seen on a handheld before.

    Castlevania for the DS is a game that demonstrates some of the design concepts you have for have for the machine; item selection and management (as well as map info and warping) and spell casting is done with stylus motions that make it easier to cast more powerful spells instead of using a combination of D-pad and button presses.

    While the DS has not come out with the type of deep exploration that you might crave, the machine is merely a year old, and developers are beginning to come up with some innovative new ways to use the features of the machine.

    Nintendo probably knows that for home entertainment, people want more immersive experiences. I can imagine that the new Zelda and Prime series on Revolution will use the controller in many ways to show off it's added functionality. Added gameplay could make the game more immersive and exciting to play.

    But, I'm not going to try to change your mind anymore on the Nintendo DS. If you don't like it, that's fine - but I happen to think that the machine has come a long way in a short amount of time. I think that it's future looks bright.

  28. Also, I should comment that your discription of music games is being done with ElectroPlankton; except voice commands, gestures, and mic inputs help alter and combine to music for added functionality. You should check this game out - it is a prime example of how DS is coming so far in such a short period or time.

  29. Isn't the Revolution supposed to be backward-compatible with GC?

    All I can say is, it would be mad-stylish to play Ikaruga one-handed. :D

  30. Laterx:

    I may have misunderstood, but from reading a preview of VJ/DS I got the impression that this was using more or less the same control scheme as the GCN version, but with touchscreen features added on top. It doesn't seem very intuitive to use buttons for some actions and the touchscreen for others, and keep in mind which is controlled with which. Using a stylus for all gameplay is obviously very intuitive indeed; Porting over an existing control scheme and adding touchscreen support on top is not. Of course this is all speculation as I have never touched the system.

    I stand by my statement that The Wind Waker is a reasonably good example of innovation within the confines of an established genre. It doesn't add on gimmicks (elements which are not integral to the core gameplay and in fact contradict it), but it does add in lots of twists. The two-character puzzles had never been done before. The platforming had never been done before in a Zelda game, and it is no small feat to fold that type of gameplay into such an established framework without it feeling out of place. The overall structure of the game was playfully messed with, to the point where it is more like a jazz riff on the established formula then it is following it. Is it anywhere near as innovative as Nintendogs or Electroplankton? Of course not; to say so would be nonsense. It is not even the most innovative within its series- the two N64 games both surpass it in that regard. But it is innovative, and not because it has pretty graphics.

    All these games sound like interesting concepts. Electroplankton looks really cool, in that it allows one to make music without even thinking about it too much. But I am looking for something which is more than just a concept- I am looking for art. In order to create art in music, it is necessary to have a more traditional control interface, and build the art on top of that. I am a musician by hobby, and the DS could do wonders for the evolution of the music Form for reasonably low development costs, but this will never happen, because the system is being used almost exclusively for mass-market entertainment.

    I don't doubt for a second that Nintendogs is a remarkable achievement- I would expect no less from Miyamoto. But Nintendogs is not art. It is a pleasant diversion designed to appeal to as many people as possible. I don't doubt for a second that I would enjoy Nintendogs. But entertainment is, in the end, just a simple waste of time. And to buy a system solely for entertainment would be a waste of money. Where is the art? DS has indeed come very far in its goal of entertaining the masses. But that is not good enough. Fun little time-wasters do not justify a system purchase.

    I was introduced to the Castlevania series a few years back and was not impressed. But if this DS iteration is as you say, I'd better look into it.

    On a side note, Nintendo's PR team lies all the time if they think it'll help them reach a bigger audience. Sometimes this helps sales, as when Nintendo pretended The Wind Waker was just a "Genre King" and not a unique and quirky piece in its own right. Other times it hurts sales, as when they tried to pretend Metroid Prime 2 was a "Halo-killer" -- and completely missed the market the game was made for. I have long said that NOA's marketing team is a bunch of morons.

  31. Amen to that....I have wished for a long, long, long time that all of Nintendo's marketing people would simultaneously explode. I haven't seen a Nintendo ad that got me excited about a game in a LONG time. Mostly because it seems their target marketing this generation was half MTV, which seems to have been a complete failure marketing-wise...the MTV kids are the guys who will tell you how funny it is to blow themselves up in Halo...or the description I heard of Melee where they said "You can throw bombs and make the character hit the screen, it's awesome" I am way off my original point - I love Nintendo, I want NOA's marketing guys to get a clue.

  32. Nintendo's marketing team is something of an enigma to me. It shouldn't be too hard for a company to come up with something at least half decent - Sony's ads make you want to buy a game that you already know is bad.

    I misunderstood where you were coming from on Wind Waker. You are right; it did innovate within the genre realm that it occupied. While it probably doesn't seem as such, I immensely enjoyed the game. I have been a Zelda player for a long, long time.

    I can see where you are coming from with Nintendogs. But I think that at bottom all games are made for entertainment. I believe Tetris to be not only one of the greatest games made, but one of the greatest examples of good game design. And it is a pure time waster, though I do believe it to be art.

    What are you reffering to as art? Do you mean more interactive, absorbing worlds, characters, story, etc?

    I also enjoyed Metroid Prime immensely (and it's bigger sequel). The act of exploration in the first person view appealed to me, and Samus' acquiring of new weapons and power ups reminded me of one of my favorite gameplay concepts from role playing games. The moody, memorable soundtrack was also excellent and absorbing. One of the reasons why I'm looking forward to Revolution is Metroid Prime 3. I can't wait to see what Retro Studios will do with the new controller, especially the more intuitive 'mouse' controls. While Revolution is not going to be as powerful as the Xbox 360 and PS3, it will be much more powerful than either the Gamecube or the Xbox. Greater power, RAM size, and the Revolution's support of dual layer DVD's could greatly open up Retro Studios artistic world vision for Prime 3.

    (On a side note, Metroid Prime 3 is the last of the trilogy, but likely not the last of the adventure style gameplay of Prime. Action/adventure has always been a part of Metroid's gameplay, and I don't think that Nintendo or Retro would change this.)

    Anon: as a long time IKARUGA player, the idea of playing it one handed is appealing to me. 'Bullet eating' in the game can wear my thumb out doing circular motions with a D-pad. Doing these motions with a wand by moving my wrist would be much easier. It's interesting to see that, despite the talks of heart attacks, sore arms, etc., Revolution could make some games less strenuous.

    Seeing a Treasure shooter built from the ground up for the Revolution would be a treat. I wonder what type of control system they would use..

    Gettng back to the topic at hand, I think that Revolution needs to do two things in order to be successful:

    1) establish core gameplay designs for each genre of gameplay. Nintendo needs to show, by example, how action role playing games (Zelda), platformers (Mario), and action adventure games (Metroid Prime) will control on the mcahine. Many developers will probably be daunted by the many possibilities of the controller; by copycating Nintendo's designs, it will make it easier for developers to develop games, and many of them will likely begin adding on to Nintendo's core design concepts (much in the same that many games today have a 'lock on' button after Ocarina of Time Z-trigger).

    2. have a high sell through to not only just people who are not gamers (say, your mom) but gamers themselves. It wont do much good for Revolution to sell well to people who are merely curious to the machine and are not typical gamers; big franchise games that offer more immersive experiences could be overblown by a glut of fun, but largely shallow Revolution 'mini-game' type games (I believe you mentioned this as a concern earlier Mory).

    While I would list exclusive console games as a third option, Revolution games will likely play so differently that porting them to other machines would be too much of a hassle for most developers, and the gameplay concepts that made the games interesting to Revolution owners would likely be watered down and difficult to do on a regular controller, and probably wouldn't appeal to the PS3/Xbox 360 crowd.

    Still, Nintendo needs to get good developers making games for their machine. Their track record is very abysmal in this regard, and this has tempered my excitement to own a Revolution. I'm beginning to see a market for Revolution owners based on innovative, but not very immersive games (much as you have stated, Mory). While innovation is fun and exciting, I want to see how it is applied to RPG's and other genre's that I enjoy.

    Judging from Nintendo's inability to develop games quickly, I also think that Revolution will probably suffer from the same drought of titles that plauged the Nintendo Gamecube.

    So, I am looking forward to the machine, but I don't think that Nintendo will be able to get enough quality third parties on board to provide immersive AAA titles on their machine after successful Xbox 360 and PS3 launches.

    As the saying goes, everyone knows what Nintendo needs to do except Nintendo.

  33. the pixel junkies thing has been taken down. does anyone have the post crititcal or the rev controller archived? It sounds interesting, I'd very much like to see it.

  34. I'd just like to say thanks for this site - there is some great material that has kept me reading for hours.