posted in Games on Aug 3, 2006

A friend of mine made the comment yesteday: “When I hear you or Dan talk about Nintendo and the Wii you both are really excited, and it makes me excited for it to come out.” This is something that Nintendo is very good at, building excitement. In the video game world, Nintendo has brought it. The “it” that they are bringing is the idea that video games will be fun again. Forget having the highest poly count, forget targeting giant crabs for massive damage, Nintendo, like they did with the DS, is turning things around and just making them fun again. There are a million topics and blog posts about this exact thing, so I’m not going to focus entirely on it. What I will focus on, though, is how Nintendo illicits such strong devotion.

For a lot of people, it started when their first console was the NES. When there’s not much else to compete with what you have, it is easy to become loyal to a brand or company. In 1985, the Atari and Intellivision looked like crap compared to the 8-bit glory being spewed out of the NES left and right. For these kids, new opportunities in gameplay and graphics allowed for quick, loving relationships between kids and this company. Gameplay, specifically, would be something that Nintendo would be renowned for in the coming years, but for the time being, four buttons and a d-pad was just cooler than a joystick with one orange button or whatever that thing the Intellivision had.

Fast forward to today, where Nintendo has consistently brought the fun, albeit with some stumbles along the way. They were knocked down from being top dog, to playing second (or third) fiddle to other companies. They are consistantly labeled as being for “the kidz,” even though they have plenty of Mature rated games that are bloody brilliant (Resident Evil 4, I’m looking in your direction). At the start of 2005, even with the success of the DS, Nintendo looked like they would be hard pressed to bring the awesome with their next console. The public had a taste of the awesome at E3 that year, as they showed off a prototype of the Wii with the information that you would be able to download games from every past Nintendo console. It would not be until later in the year, when they showed what the controller could really do, that the awesome was starting to show again. It is this “awesome,” that illicits the “excitement.”

Nintendo just has some way of showing a product and selling it. People laughed at the Gamecube when it was shown for the first time, but it ended up being the profitable underdog party machine that people would play when they had friends over. I had friends today have a Super Smash Bros. party, five years after the game was released. You’ll be hard pressed to find games that on the current three major consoles that hold that much longevity. People also had doubts about the DS, which is currently unforgivingly stomping the PSP in the face. The mere mention of Mario, Zelda, and Metroid can bring about goosebumps on gamers who have followed these series. Generally these games can only be compared with themselves, similar to Pixar movies. Similarly to when people say, “I don’t like this Pixar movie compared to that Pixar movie,” people don’t compare these games to others because even the worst in their series are leaps and bounds over 90% of the rest of gaming.

So why does Nintendo illicit excitement? It’s a combination of brand loyality and the unrelenting quality of their top games and systems. This is why just discussing things like the Wii can bring about girlish glee in 20-something males. Their track record is so good, you don’t really have to worry about their decisions, which admittedly are strange from time to time. They just bring the fun, and they bring it so hard your head will slam against the wall.