Opinion: It's not about expectations, Reggie, it's about emotions
One of the great benefits of being Nintendo is the passion of its fan base -- the emotional attachment they have with the brand. Even after all these years, even after Nintendo's slavish affair with the mainstream casual gamer during the Wii years, Nintendo's loyal diehards remain a force to be reckoned with.
And so it's curious to hear Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime expressing frustration at the very people who hang on just about every word he says.
Kotaku recently interviewed
Fils-Aime shortly after Nintendo's E3 conference this month: "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. 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?'"
Clearly Nintendo is feeling the pressure from those of us who see a large amount of (dare we use the phrase), 'blue ocean,' between our own expectations for Wii U and Nintendo's actual delivery.
Because there is a palpable sense of disappointment, at least in the media. Sure we are being offered a 2D Mario
game and there's NintendoLand
using various Nintendo franchises and there's Pikmin 3
. But there is no Metroid
, nor Zelda
nor ground-breaking Mario
What Fils-Aime doesn't seem to understand is this: For Nintendo fans, the reaction isn't about a shortfall in expectations -- it's about an inability by Nintendo to really address those all-important emotional needs.
These guys do love Nintendo, and so they are well aware that the company has a habit of under-delivering on big-ticket launch-titles, is super-conservative about its internal resources, and tends to address mass-market Wii Sports
-type content before it turns to Zelda
This emotional commitment is stretched when Nintendo expects a big emotional response to a set of announcements that don't really merit any such thing.
Fils-Aime has often turned to this subject in the past, blandly praising the fans for their commitment, calling for patience. But this is perhaps the first time he has used a word like "insatiable," suggesting as it does, that nothing Nintendo does can satisfy the beast.
Nintendo could and should have "won" E3 as well as the hearts and minds of its core consumers, and those of the fence-sitters, with some fairly obvious tactical announcements following hot on the heels of some bold strategic moves. The first-party line-up for Wii U looks good, but it doesn't look good enough to get people visibly shaking with excitement.
And yet, loyalty remains. I recently wrote an editorial
on this subject for IGN and was surprised at how many fans rushed to the defense of Nintendo, pointing out that the firm needs to spread its magic over the whole life of Wii U, that too many great games at launch will be a bad thing, that the titles we have seen are just fine, than-you-very much.
There was a general agreement with Fils-Aime that today's consumer is whiny and entitled. Perversely, the very fans who Fils-Aime says are insatiable, the vocal ones, are actually unbelievably reasonable. Possibly it's the media, rather than the fans, who are doing the most whining.
However, Nintendo is entering its most perilous adventure yet. Wii U is nowhere near as interesting as Wii was back in 2006 and, as yet, does not have its Wii Sports
to carry the day. It will require a much greater amount of explanation to non-hardcore consumers, especially those confused by the second screen.
Nintendo fans, and core games players as a whole, need to be fully on board for word to spread. And Nintendo cannot rely on the love and loyalty of its fans forever.
[Colin Campbell writes for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @colincampbellx