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EarthBound's return means Nintendo cares about you again

If there’s one thing to take away from Nintendo’s recent announcement of EarthBound finally coming to Virtual Console, it’s that miracles do actually happen. But if there’s a second thing to take away, it’s that Nintendo is finally re-embracing the core gamers that made it a household name to begin with.

Despite Nintendo’s lip service to the contrary, core gamers have not been Nintendo’s focus for the last several years. Sure, there were plenty of games for enthusiasts to sink their teeth into, but the reality is that they--we--were an afterthought. Nintendo wanted fledgling gamers. Nintendo wanted lapsed gamers. Nintendo wanted your parents, and the elderly, and your friends who had never played a game before. They were an untapped audience, and Nintendo focused most of its efforts on bringing them into the fold with brain-training games, exercise games, puppy games, and the like. Not that those were bad games, or that new players are a bad thing--I’m all for more people enjoying this fantastic hobby of ours--but the result is that Nintendo was focusing less and less on the gamers that were already committed to the Nintendo way of life.

That plan worked for a while, and the Wii founds its way into every nursing home around the world, but unfortunately for the Big N, the “expanded audience” moved on, be it to casual smartphone games or to other consoles that had all the waggle-tastic gameplay of Wii but with far better graphics. Oh, Nintendo tried to hold onto those players by convincing them that the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U had must-have gimmicks that would be attractive to anybody, core gamer or not, but the fact of the matter is that the desire for stereoscopic 3D had peaked before the 3DS even hit store shelves, and the Wii U’s tablet-like GamePad just wasn’t the broadly appealing revolution that the Wii Remote was. Whether they like it or not, Nintendo’s current systems are ones that resonate primarily with core gamers.

So how does EarthBound tie into this? To me, it’s part of Nintendo’s acknowledgment that Wii U is indeed a core-gamer system. They may want everybody under the sun to own a Wii U, but perhaps they’re admitting that that isn’t realistic at this time; right now they need to focus not on gimmicks for short-term gain, but to appeal to the hardcore fans that will stick with them through thick and thin. 

Even the most die-hard Nintendo fans haven’t had much actual software to hang their red, M-emblazoned hats on over the past few months, but that looks set to change in the near future. After all, it doesn’t get much more hardcore than EarthBound (or a Link to the Past sequel, for that matter). Nintendo, it seems, is finally ready to listen to its most enthusiastic users, and by doing so it could position its hardware not as the end-all-be-all-everything-for-everybody machines of its competitors, but as an alternative that offers gaming fun in its purest form.

Now, I don’t expect Nintendo to give up on the expanded audience entirely--nor do I think they should--but if its recent announcements are any indication, it’s ready to pay a lot more attention to the needs of core gamers, and that’s a reassuring thought. Then again, maybe I’m reading too much into this and Nintendo just got sick of the constant whining and begging and complaining when it came to EarthBound; either way, I’m just glad it’s coming back.

Now that we've won that battle, we can start complaining about Mother 3 again.

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

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11 comments

  • Unoriginal - April 24, 2013 5:46 a.m.

    If only I could finally officially pay for this game I've loved so long some other way than to buy a Wii U.
  • codystovall - April 23, 2013 5:23 a.m.

    If nintendo cared about me, theyd be making pikmin 3ds not earthbound.
  • JarkayColt - April 23, 2013 3:40 a.m.

    I agree with this; Nintendo definitely seems to be getting its head together recently. But I really don't think EarthBound being re-released is all that telling. If Nintendo really did care, they'd have given us EarthBound way back, on the Wii's Virtual Console. It's not like people have only just started asking for it now; it looks like they only caved after Miiverse pressure following its release on the JPN VC. Yes, it might indicate they've had a change of heart, but really, the whole thing didn't require much effort by Nintendo, so it's stupid that we've had to beg so long for something so entirely reasonable. Could be a watershed moment; a release of MOTHER 3 will be a LOT more indicative of Nintendo's acknowledgment of its fans, but they need to strike while the iron is hot; EarthBound alone just seems more like appeasement by this point. But the MOTHER series aside...the direction the 3DS library has been taking is certainly gloriously hardcore.
  • shawksta - April 22, 2013 10:04 p.m.

    Im just happy its getting attention other than "Those guys from smash bros"
  • LBD_Nytetrayn - April 22, 2013 8:43 p.m.

    They're only releasing it because I bought the original for my wife as a Christmas gift last year. ;P
  • iluvpkmnmonday - April 22, 2013 6:07 p.m.

    I wanted this game to come out for the longest time, and now that It's actually coming I'm not as excited for it as I thought I'd be. Maybe it's because virtual console/PSN/XBLA games don't interest me as much as physical media games. Guess I'm just old fashioned. Maybe this will bring down the price of the SNES carts. *Fingers crossed*
  • Redeater - April 22, 2013 2:29 p.m.

    A cheap rom dump in order to appease people who invested heavily in the Wii U = embracing? I'm glad it's coming but we haven't even recieved the fucking update to cut load times yet. I haven't touched my Wii U since December and from the looks of it I will have to wait till late summer/fall to play it again!
  • thefreakysurgeon - April 22, 2013 3:53 p.m.

    Actually, I'm pretty sure the newest update has cut loading times...
  • Redeater - April 22, 2013 4:25 p.m.

    Is the newest update actually out though? That was what I was talking about. They said early April some time ago and there is only a few days left.....
  • Redeater - April 22, 2013 4:29 p.m.

    Er, make that week.
  • SomeOddGuy - April 22, 2013 5:01 p.m.

    From what I hear, the update is actually today with Virtual Console being integrated officially tomorrow. It's not out just yet since the store is said to undergo maintenance till 7 PM Pacific, but it's coming.

Showing 1-11 of 11 comments

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