Class Acts, Self Sells

31 Oct

As one of the mathematically challenged, I was urged by my university adviser to fulfill my final three math hours with a new class being taught on campus this semester. Math 117, contemporary math and quantitative analysis, is less about numbers and more about logic. My teacher is a rather eccentric math nut who actually manages to make math interesting to the unenthused, such as myself. He does so by relaying tales of his work as a professional mathematician.

Anyone sitting in our class for the first time would probably think they were in the middle of a biology or marketing class as we’re always talking about blood cells or the different business models of gas stations. Today, the professor went on the longest tangent yet, this time reaching the familiar topic of the console wars.

I didn’t expect much from my classmates, but rather than throwing out opinions, some of the students felt they would add to the commentary with “facts”, the most glaring of which that the PS3 was dominating the market while the Wii was left behind long ago.

Factual errors aside, I came to an interesting conclusion that never really occurred to me before. Part of it probably has to do with my complaints that Nintendo didn’t market Wii Music properly, but my classmates discussing the kiddie image of the Wii really put things in perspective for me.

While I’m willing to bet that a significant portion of people never give Nintendo the chance to prove that they’re more than a kid’s console, that’s not really their fault. To some extent, we all offer at least some amount of time to trying to understand something, even if it isn’t a conscious effort. When it comes to selling a product, it’s important to take advantage of those windows, no matter how small they may be.

Nintendo has a kiddie image whether they’re trying for that or not. It’s not the casual crowd’s fault they feel that way. I think it has to do with how young the game industry is. Many of us grew up with Nintendo. The PlayStation came along as we were maturing. Now that we’ve grown up, we have two consoles that appeal significantly to an older demographic.

Decades from now, I doubt the kiddie image will remain as even the young adults will have had so many choices since they were born. For now, though, I think the outrage some core Nintendo fans are experiencing is a result of Nintendo not adjusting their image to their growing fanbase.

I’ve read arguments stating that people are blowing the situation out of proportion by focusing on just a few titles like Wii Fit and Wii Music, and that Nintendo is still catering to the core audience with games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Wario Land: Shake It!. Maybe that’s true for some, but as a lifelong Nintendo fan, I’m no longer satisfied.

It’d be one thing if it was only the new things they’re trying like Wii Fit that I didn’t like, but when games like Mario Galaxy, Twilight Princess, and Smash Bros. Brawl are almost entirely formulaic while representing the system’s core titles, something’s wrong. At some point, Nintendo stopped and decided that, instead of catering to the crowd that supported them in the beginning, they would just find a new crowd and continue churning out the same games over and over.

Nintendo only themselves to blame for their image problems. Whether or not they care, as they’re making an ungodly amount of money, isn’t entirely evident.

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