Skip to main content

Do Nintendo really need to bother making new characters?

Sites that cantranslate Japanese are reportingthat 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

Matt Cundy
I don't have the energy to really hate anything properly. Most things I think are OK or inoffensively average. I do love quite a lot of stuff as well, though.