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Do Nintendo really need to bother making new characters?

Sites that can translate Japanese are reporting that Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto said the following words at a recent shareholder meeting: "It's about time for a new game character. Perhaps this can be delivered next year."

This is exciting news. Of course it is. Miyamoto is the man that made Mario, after all. And, if there's one criticism that gamers regularly fire at Nintendo it's that the company relies too heavily on its back-catalogue of games and characters from the last two and a bit decades. I've heard people joke that instead of development studios, Nintendo has dairies. Where it does the milking. I know. It's not a very funny joke.

But do Nintendo really need to bother? As much as I'd love to see what Nintendo (and specifically Miyamoto) might come up with, besides abating the milking jokes I really don’t see why a new character would be high on Nintendo's list of things-to-do. It's doing absolutely fine as it is.


Above: Recognise anyone? Of course you do

Just look at this year's E3. Game critics had a big group hug for Nintendo, agreeing with happy faces that it was Nintendo's best show in years. It created all the fuss and buzz and positive vibrations without a single major new character to speak of. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Kid Icarus, Starfox and on and on. It was like a family reunion for a family that never gets old. And we were all invited.

If Nintendo had been churning out stale bum biscuits for the last 20 odd years, then things might be different. But it hasn't been. Which is why the prospect of playing the new Zelda or the new Kirby or the new Donkey Kong Country isn’t greeted with sighs of gamer apathy. Far from it - these are the games treated with near orgasmic enthusiasm. Admittedly, the relentless pimping of Mario is hard to swallow, but still... Mario freekin' Galaxy!


Above: Another Mario game? Jeez, Nintendo, this business of regurgitating the same characters into 10 out of 10 games really must stop

And while Mario may be old to those of us that knew him when he was strictly 2D, there's an entirely new generation that are only just discovering him. Imagine that! I play a load of games with my kids, but it's Mario games (and Pokemon) that they naturally gravitate towards the most. They and their friends (who don't have a game-playing dad) can name pretty much any character from the Mushroom Kingdom. Dry Bones, Shy Guy, Boo, Chain Chomp... the lot. Sony and Microsoft characters? Not so much.

Nintendo has *the* most globally recognised line-up of video game characters. Even if Nintendo never made another game character ever, 20 years from now we - and plenty of new gamers - would still be playing Nintendo games. And would be having a good time doing it. There would be some jokes about milking, but we'd be happy.

July 1, 2010

23 comments

  • Spybreak8 - July 12, 2010 7:46 a.m.

    Yeah good read, one of the main reasons I focused gaming away from Nintendo, not entirely since I have the DS, is the fact that there are greener pastures on the 360/PS3. That said the only reason I'll be buying into their established IPs again is because of the 3DS.
  • GameManiac - July 4, 2010 10:16 p.m.

    I was almost thrown off at the grammar error of "Do Nintendo really need to bother making new characters?" That's tough to say, since they easily hold the award for most nostalgia. Whatever floats their boat, I guess.
  • AuthorityFigure - July 3, 2010 4:15 a.m.

    They need to make something more eccentric than a pumber in space...
  • philipshaw - July 2, 2010 11:39 a.m.

    Great article, but I think they do need to make new characters
  • Psylockerules - July 1, 2010 10:22 p.m.

    not really but they do tend to leave some characters/games behind, pilotwings, fzero, ice climbers, to name a few
  • enlargedhousecats - July 1, 2010 9:08 p.m.

    "Do Nintendo really need to bother making new characters?" A grammatical error in the title! I am deeply disappointed
  • 510BrotherPanda - July 1, 2010 8:22 p.m.

    I think they need to make a good Luigi game and not give him crap controls. He's just as good as Mario, but they consistently shove him into the hole of mediocrity. Also, I would like to see a different story other than "save Peach from Bowser". It's getting to the point of BDSM.
  • patriotfan09 - July 1, 2010 7:20 p.m.

    Shouldn't the title be "Does Nintendo really need to bother making new characters?" If not, why?
  • CH3BURASHKA - July 1, 2010 6:20 p.m.

    Although Nintendo has a stable of characters (next to the dairies) big enough to keep a flow of games feeling fresh despite the same characters, I do believe new characters are a must to keep the industry itself alive and well. To say "Does Nintendo really need to bother" is incredibly ignorant: just because they have so many doesn't mean they are exempt from introducing new ones. I love Mario, Donkey Kong and Link, but I wouldn't want them to be the only recognizable Nintendo mascots in 20 years.
  • Defguru7777 - July 1, 2010 5 p.m.

    Do Golden Sun: Dark Dawn's new characters count? Sorry, but I love me some Golden Sun.
  • thor0997 - July 1, 2010 4:35 p.m.

    Nintendo does need new characters. They should keep the old, but after a while even the most tasty things get a little stale. Im shure that Nintendo's characters will still be quality but they will get the prefix of "another" if this is their line up every year.
  • Robusken - July 1, 2010 4:11 p.m.

    Perhaps it is a good idea, but a new character getting accepted with everyone who is already familiar with the old characters could take a while. "Does Nintendo" sounds better then "Do Nintendo"..im probably wrong though.
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - July 1, 2010 3:41 p.m.

    Its a weird thing, a lot of Nintendo's characters don't even speak and yet we still love playing with them. The common trend in today's games is for characters to speak and have a personality. Even then we tend to not really remember these characters as much as we do Nintendo's characters. Nintendo have a magical touch about them.
  • netlatnu - July 1, 2010 3:35 p.m.

    Ouch, the headline hurts my head, regardless of whether it's grammatically correct. Why does the media insist on making collective nouns plural? Anyway, I don't think new characters are necessary. Nintendo does a good job of creating new ideas, even if they combine them with old characters. If a familiar name is required to make innovation marketable, I'm fine with that.
  • MrDuracraft - July 1, 2010 3:27 p.m.

    I just can't even begin to imagine what kind of character or game this could be. They have almost every kind of game with separate characters, from side-scrollers to platformers to FPS's. But Miyamoto would give us an roundhouse kick of awesomeness in the face if he created a new character, cuz s/he would become as recognizable as Samus or Link or Mario.
  • SirDinkleman - July 1, 2010 3:26 p.m.

    Hell they have over 500 characters already with pokemon alone and as long as the littluns want more pokemon then nintendo is gonna give it to them.
  • Felixthecat - July 1, 2010 3:13 p.m.

    I can name pretty much every Mario character just like I can name every Pokemon. And there are A LOT of Mario characters. Just showin mah skillz. In all seriousness though, I would love a new IP from Miyamoto. If it was overseen by Miyamoto, but developed by a fresh development team, then it could be fantastic. However, the characters would probably have to be a main focus, as most of Nintendo's recognition obviously comes from it's characters.
  • Nanook - July 1, 2010 3:12 p.m.

    HAVE to create? Of course not. But Miyamoto seems like a fairly creative fellow, and if he feels the itch we should definitely let him scratch it. As an avid Marvel comics reader for many years now I can attest, 90% of the new characters they turn out each year generally disappear into the ether and no one misses them. But I'll also say that it is completely worth it for that 10%. For every dozen Maggots & Marrows, there's a Deadpool in there somewhere. And as you pointed out, one of Nintendo's biggest strengths is it's highly recognizable stable of characters (yes, yes, provided they're in quality games), so I think it would be pretty smart of them to expand that stable from time to time. Failures will fade away with minimal fanfare, but successes will only make them stronger.
  • FTW - July 1, 2010 2:02 p.m.

    I love playing new marios and LoZ's and all but what happens when Miyamoto and other people dies or just leaves to the company? Will the games still be good? don't have to worry about it for now but ya know, it'd be good to see some young developers making new IP's just for creative sake.
  • nighthawk205 - July 1, 2010 12:59 p.m.

    Great article. I very much agree that they don't have to create any more characters because the ones they're working with now are still going strong. If they really want to add more, they should also remove some from their "lineup." By remove, I don't mean they should act as if they've never created that character. I mean when something comes along like a new SSB, don't include characters like Dr. Mario or Ike when you already have Mario and Marth in the game. Obviously we don't want to cut down on the variety, but at the same time, throwing these characters in our faces all the time isn't allowing us to open up more room for even more new characters. I don't know about anyone else, but I frankly couldn't care less about Daisy or Baby Peach, so they need to drop the losers to make room before more newbies are given a shot.

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