One of the most frustrating things about the Nintendo of 2014 is how shallow the company’s decision-making has become. Last week I implored Nintendo to take a break from the Mario, Mario, Mario, but it goes beyond that — these days when it comes time for the company to make a new game, the only thing they seem to ask themselves is “How did the last game in the series sell?”
This one-note, sales number obsessed strategy has led to some disastrous moves. It caused them to launch the 3DS with a new Nintendogs because hey, the last one sold 25 million copies! Unfortunately Nintendogs was ultimately a passing fad, and they almost sunk their handheld business by launching their latest machine with a dog washing sim. They launched the Wii U with New Super Mario Bros. U, because hey, the last one sold almost 30 million! Unfortunately a 2D, nostalgia-heavy platformer is not what people wanted to play on Nintendo’s hot new HD console. The Wii U has yet to recover.
Look at all those coins! Clearly the Wii U is a next-gen powerhouse!
This kind of stunted decision-making has also had a depressing detrimental effect on some of Nintendo’s slightly more obscure franchises, most notably Metroid. Ever since the relative failure of Metroid: Other M (it still sold over a million copies) the company has been dead silent on the franchise. While Nintendo spent all of 2013 (and some of 2014) fawning in embarrassing fashion over Mario’s dorky brother Luigi, they completely ignored Metroid’s 25th anniversary in 2011 and give non-committal, “Oh, Metroid is great, but we have no plans” answers when asked about the series. Most hoped Retro Studios, the guys behind the Metroid Prime games, were working on a new Metroid for the Wii U, but it turned out they were making another Donkey Kong game.
But hey, the last Donkey Kong sold four times the copies of the last Metroid, so aren’t Nintendo right to make another DK game? Not neccessarily. Tastes change. Trends shift. The game that worked five years ago might not work today. Hell, the game that worked one year ago might not work today.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a fun game, but I don’t expect Wii U sales to take off.
A winning company manages to stay ahead of the winds of change, adjusting their strategy appropriately. Look at Activision — yes, I know they’re evil at all, but they’re also damn successful. For years Guitar Hero made them obscene amounts of cash, but as soon as that trend started to wane, they dropped it like a hot potato and now they’re making obscene amounts of cash on Spyro, a series that was all but dead less than five years ago. If Activision ran their business the way Nintendo currently does, they’d still be trying to sell the world plastic guitars and wondering where it all went wrong.
So, with all that said, I think the time for an amazing new Metroid game is now.