Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How Super Mario 3D World's Poor Japanese Sales Shed Light On A Disturbing Industry Trend

Sales of the Wii U are at a historic low for any big time video game console manufacturer. We've really never seen a major console by one of the big three fail so spectacularly. Nintendo is hoping to turn its fortunes around with the release of Super Mario 3D World. However, in Japan, this did not work as of yet, with the game selling around 100,000 units and shifting a mere 20,000 or so Wii U consoles last week. This opinion piece isn't so much about the sales (which may become better, as Nintendo games tend to have legs) but rather than the reaction from certain "gamers" regarding the low numbers.

Quite frankly, I just don't understand the mindset of people who are happy with a game as critically acclaimed as Super Mario 3D World not selling to its potential. Not just that people are happy, but people are reveling and are elated in Nintendo failing right now. For some it's like all those years when the Wii was outselling their system of choice made them especially bitter and angry with Nintendo, and now that it is doing poorly, they're enjoying it. (And don't even get me started on the "Wii was a fluke" nonsense.) Perhaps some are even wanting to see Nintendo do so bad that it will eventually leave the hardware space and go third-party. Then it's a matter of having all those "rehashes" and "remakes" being available for them to play on their favorite company's systems, despite fooling themselves that they didn't care or like Nintendo's games when they would have otherwise been forced to buy Nintendo hardware to play Nintendo software.

It's not just console warrior-ism at work here, either. There are certain Nintendo fans who wish the company and its games to do so poorly that Nintendo will change its current course. Whether you agree or not that Nintendo needs to change, having Nintendo's flagship Wii U game for the holidays not do well sales-wise would most likely not send the right message to Nintendo.

Then there are some that argue that Super Mario 3D World isn't ambitious, thus it doesn't deserve sales. I've seen someone go as far as to say that all 3D World added to the series was the Cat Suit. The willful ignorance here astounds me. Some state that Super Mario 3D World isn't deserving of sales because it's not as ambitious as, say, Super Mario 64. Well, Super Mario 64 was only one of the most revolutionary games of all time by being one of the first truly 3D gaming experiences. Super Mario 3D World offers ambition in its level design and creativity, the former being of the utmost importance in creating a compelling platformer. It offers ambition in being one of the first truly great multiplayer 3D platformer experiences, having levels so well crafted that they're suitable for solo and cooperative play.

The fact of the matter is that Super Mario 3D World selling less than expected in Japan is not a good message for the industry. To me, it says that one of the most recognizable characters in the gaming world with one of the most critically acclaimed games of the year isn't deserving enough to receive sales. What does that say about this industry if that is the attitude of a good chunk of vocal gamers? Does it mean that we don't deserve special games like Super Mario 3D World and should be stuck with being "entertained" by yearly releases of Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed?

Nintendo is one of the few publishers who doesn't just market to the 18-35 year-old demographic, and seeing it struggle is disheartening to me. Some of us in our hobby don't want every game to be all guns and/or gore. That's not to say Sony, Microsoft, and others only churn out these types of games. However, Nintendo gives more to those gamers who prefer strong mechanics, interesting gameplay, and a pleasant aesthetic that can be marketed to everyone and not just a small microcosm of the industry. By only making and marketing your games to the 18-25/35 demographic, you leave out a whole slew of potential gamers that would expand the market, regardless of whether they're playing Call of Duty, Wii Sports, or Angry Birds.

Then, what is that "disturbing industry trend" I'm alluding to? Well, if it isn't already obvious, The trend I'm referring to is the enjoyment people get out of great games doing poorly in sales because they're so involved with console war politics or have their heads so far up their hind parts, or hate a game for all the wrong reasons. We should be rooting for excellent games to get excellent sales so our industry and hobby thrive and don't rely on annualized series. That is why the reaction to Super Mario 3D World's less than expected sales from certain gamers bums me out so badly.

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