OP-ED: Calling Gamers “Insatiable” Ignores Why Nintendo’s E3 Disappointed Them

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime feels gamers can’t be satisfied.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime thinks gamers are insatiable. He said as much in an interview conducted as this year’s E3 came to a close that has only just begun to make the rounds this week. He may have a point, and at times gamers undoubtedly are impossible to please. That being said, this can’t be a blanket excuse used any time gamers ask for more. There are times when their appetite is justified, and Nintendo’s E3 showing was arguably one of them.

“One of the things that, on one hand, I love and, on the other hand, that troubles me tremendously about not only our fanbase but about the gaming community at large is that, whenever you share information, the perspective is, ‘Thank you, but I want more.’ ‘Thank you, but give me more.’ I mean, it is insatiable,” he told Kotaku. “And so for years this community has been asking, ‘Where’s Pikmin?’ ‘Where’s Pikmin?’ ‘Where’s Pikmin?’ We give them Pikmin. And then they say, ‘What else?’ For years, this community have said, ‘Damnit Reggie, when you launch, you better launch with a Mario game.’ So we launch with a Mario game, and they say, ‘So what’s more?'”
He also went on to list Nintendo Land as something that received a “ho-hum” reaction this year despite some fans asking for Nintendo to leverage all of its franchises outside of Super Smash Bros. While he may have been speaking in general, his examples make it clear that at least some within Nintendo are interpreting the reaction to its showing at E3 2012 as being due to the belief that gamers can never be fully satisfied.

There is some truth in that, but there is a major distinction to be made between gamers who get some of what they want and are left wanting more, and those who were genuinely underwhelmed. Yes, showing a long-awaited Pikmin sequel and a Mario game (coming at the Wii U’s launch) is nice, yet ticking those boxes and expecting gamers to be pleased is the wrong way to approach the planning of a press conference.

Pikmin 3 is something we already knew about, which takes some of the edge off the excitement of it being shown (particularly when that showing makes it clear the game doesn’t rely on the Wii U’s key feature, the GamePad). New Super Mario Bros. U seems like a very iterative sequel lacking the originality many would like to see, albeit one that is in high definition and features GamePad touchscreen functionality. Nintendo fans might not be perceived as quite so insatiable had they been surprised with a Pikmin or Metroid we hadn’t heard about before and a 3D Mario game like 64 or Galaxy, which is where we tend to see more innovation than in the 2D games.

Part of the problem was also likely a lack of new games to compete with what was shown last year, which is what you’d expect to see considering we’re that much closer to the launch of the new console. Some of Nintendo Land’s minigames were tech demos at E3 2011. A 2D Mario game was playable on Wii U last year. Most notable of all, last year had the announcement of a new Super Smash Bros. and a Zelda HD demo; this year had no equivalents, as the show ended with a dud in the form of a Nintendo Land fireworks show rather than some sort of “one more thing”-style surprise.

Fils-Aime is right to note that this insatiable appetite for more is not an entirely bad thing. Gamers are passionate — they wouldn’t want to see more unless they cared in the first place, and when you look at it that way it is not such a terrible problem to have. And this doesn’t only apply to E3 press conferences; just look at the reaction to Diablo III’s art direction or Mass Effect 3’s endings. If either franchise lacked a passionate fanbase, the respective controversies would have been far less significant.

There is a debate to be had over whether gamers have a false sense of entitlement — that is, do they have any right to expect a game’s story to play out as they want or for exactly the games they want to be announced at E3? It’s in the interest of these companies to give gamers what they want to some extent, that last part being the key: Were gamers only ever given exactly what they asked for, we might not ever get anything unique. For a company like Nintendo this is an especially problematic situation as it has a large stable of franchises that fans would like to see new entries in; meanwhile it would like to be able to come out with new things like Brain Age, Wii Fit, and Nintendo Land, none of which are likely to garner a positive reaction when first announced.

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