E3 09: Mario Galaxy 2 sums up Nintendo's wrongs

Token gestures to its original fan-base have become Nintendo’s calling card over recent years. We’ve been drip-fed a basic roster via an attitude of “Give them just enough and not a thing more”. Remember when Nintendo was “All about you!”? It couldn’t lavish enough upon its fans. But now it looks like even the mighty Mario may have succumbed to minimal effort syndrome too, with a retreadinstead of the customarymind-blowing new surprise we've come to expect after a two year gap.

If our worst fears are true, then it’s a massive indictment of the short-sighted management philosophy the current Nintendo employs. Even when being brutally objective, its perception of its customer base looks naïve. Fanboy outrage doesn’t even come into it. The company has made a packet off the casual market, but the factor that makes that market so appealing is also its greatest danger.

Above: Galaxy 2 will be awesome. But the familiarity is very worrying in context.

That type of consumer has the mindset of an entertainment magpie. It will eagerly jump on exciting new fads with wild enthusiasm (see also the iPod), but by nature of that easily-swayed outlook it has a total lack of brand loyalty. As soon as a cooler, newer toy comes along, fad-loving consumersare gone. With Microsoft’s amazing Project Natal and Sony’s ultra-responsive Wiimote equivalent on the way, Nintendo may soon regret putting its trust in that market.

Its solution to its possible impending consumer break-up? More token gestures. The company isn’t stupid. It is rapidly realising that casual buyers need to be fed with a steady stream of new stimulus. After the Wiimote, WiiFit captured the casual mindset perfectly. But now? A gadget that makes the Wiimote work like it was supposed to and bit ofheart ratepressure monitoring kit that can be found in any hospital.

Above: Nintendo looking tired?

The former is too little, too late, given the impending opposition. The latter just feels like a desperate attempt to keep the WiiFit-obsessed health market interested with anything new. Given that its barely-existent practical gameplay applications – as we see it - all revolve around doing as little as possible, it’s like Nintendo has lapsed into self-parody. Ironic or not, the company looks to have exhausted its current direction, and possibly soon its current audience.

The cause of it all? A similar willingness to jump onto exciting new fads as that exhibited by its audience. It’s just that Nintendo’s current fad is its audience. The runaway excitement of success and the runaway excitement of a new direction seem to have combined to make Nintendo complacent and hedonistic, thinking only in the immediate here-and-now while its competitors havecleverly anddynamically crept up on it. Maybe even beyond it by now. You get back what you give in the entertainment business, and Nintendo’s give/take ratio has just been out of whack for far too long.

Here's hoping it's not too late for a turnaround.

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