Why Madden Doesn’t Sell on Nintendo

Today is the biggest football day of the year. I choose not to care. But I did decide to post some thoughts on why,  I think, that Madden NFL does not sell as well on Nintendo consoles as it does on other consoles. For that matter, this applies to sports titles, Call of Duty, and other franchises that send out a new title on a yearly basis.

And right there, I kind of hit the nail on the head. See, the average user of a Nintendo console has been conditioned by Nintendo themselves to not like this type of release schedule. Nintendo generally doesn’t believe in putting out more than one of their main franchises per console release. Let alone put a new version of such titles on a yearly basis. Super Smash Brothers is a great example. We just saw one come out on the Wii U and 3DS. Don’t expect another until next gen. Smash Bros. has only previously had a single entry on every other console.

It hasn’t been this way for every series however. I’m pointing my finger at you Mario Party. Unlike a lot of Nlntendo titles… Mario Party was an especially easy and cheap game to put out new versions of. In addition, they  tended to sell really well without major new additions. There was 3 Mario parties on the N64 and 4 on the Gamecube.

But then I think something happened. First, sales started to dwindle with each iteration. But I think during the Gamecube days, Nintendo made a very large mistake. They started putting out too many generic Mario titles. In addition to Mario Party and Smash Bros., we also had Mario Kart, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Super Mario Strikers (Soccer), and Mario Baseball (sure I am missing a few). I think at this point, Nintendo began to notice that all of these titles, many of which started up on the N64, started to decrease in sales. Even though they were fun to play, it became too much. It was around this time during the early years of the Wii that they stopped pushing yearly Mario Party and many of the sports titles ceased getting updates at all. My belief is that Nintendo took a step back and realized that over saturating the market with these types of titles was actually damaging their brand. And so they began the philosophy of only one per console.

Now, in general, we will only see one Primary Mario Platformer, One “New” Mario Platformer, perhaps a “3D” Mario game, a Mario Kart, a Smash Brothers, a Donkey Kong Returns, a Zelda, etc. But likely no more than one. This isn’t always going to be true, I think. We did get treated with a second Primary Mario Platformer on the Wii, but I think this will be more the exception than the rule.

And this turns to other companies who do over-saturate the market and ruin their brand. By and large, I do think that the market on Nintendo platforms will allow for multiple releases of a single title on a single platform, but known yearly commodities Nintendo consumers are more hesitant about. Madden for example… I for one enjoy having a Madden game. I bought one of the Maddens on the Gamecube and played it  for hours on end. I wanted to get a Madden on the Wii, thinking that the platform was perfect for sports games but early reports were that the game was not very good and so I waited for a later release. Later in the Wii lifecycle, EA decided to changeup Madden on the Wii, likely because sales were soft because other consumers like myself wanted to wait for a good Madden rather than just blindly buy crappy ones, so they made a “kiddy” Madden. This had almost no interest for me so I didn’t buy any Madden at all for the Wii, I imagine others had the same issues. Finally  for the Wii U, EA decided to make a straight port, not the kiddy version of Madden, but like early Wii games, reports were that it was a pretty bad port. So again, I was choosing to wait a generation or two until they could figure it out. But by then EA had squandered 7 years of crappy  Madden ports that weren’t selling and decided to stop making Madden entirely. Personally, I’d rather have no port than what they were giving us, but it is sad that they  aren’t even trying anymore.

Still, you see what was happening? I was holding out for a playable copy of the game because I didn’t want to get a second version of Madden. Contrast this to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 owners who seem to blindly buy every single edition of Madden, FIFA, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and so forth, just based on name brand alone despite offering nothing new to the series and it is a wonder that they don’t seem to sell when in addition to offering nothing new, they also do bad ports.

When did this idea of reselling the same game on a yearly basis really take hold anyway? I remember in the NES and SNES days, you did get sports games more frequently, but I don’t remember them being yearly. I think on the NES RBI Baseball was the most frequent series at 3 editions, and the NES was out for what 8 or 9 years? I feel like it wasn’t until 3D became a thing that we started seeing yearly updates. The big thing people seem to enjoy is having stats and players updated, but why is this a thing? Does it really enhance the game to have Johnny Manzel in the series? If the game is good, it shouldn’t matter that rosters are a little out of date. And really rosters don’t really change that drastically year in and year out anyway. I know EA has mentioned in the past that they were working on adding downloadable roster updates in the future, but if they do that they risk losing their cash cow. Even if they charge $10 per year of roster updates, that still is going to pale in comparison to the yearly $60 they get now. The yearly update also protects them from shoddy work. They don’t have to care as much each year if one game is bad, there’s always next year right?

We as consumers really need to stop allowing this to happen. Having a new Madden, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or Mario Party is not good for the games industry. Quite the contrary, this type of marketing has the potential to crash the industry again. Over-saturation of a product is not good. Just ask Harmonix and Activision how that worked out with Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

Why Nintendo Should Leave Optical Media Behind

I recently was watching a Youtube video of people playing Little Big Planet 3 on the PS4. First of all the game, looks awesome and is one of the bigger reasons to get a PS4 in my eyes.1 But the thing that astonished me most was the loading screens of the game… it would take a good minute or two to load the game up, reminding me of PSX load times that always made me glad that I had an N64 instead of a Playstation. Load times, unfortunately, are the negative that come with optical media, however in recent times that has been negated a bit by having faster optical drives in the system.2

Enter the new competitor which Nintendo has embraced on its portable systems for years now… the SD card. SD cards do not suffer from the speed problems of optical media, they also are a more durable media format, and can write onto the disk. In fact, SD cards very much remind me of the old media that Nintendo prized for so long… the cartridge.

The main problems from the cartridge was the size constraint vs. cost. But let’s look at the size first of all… PS4’s Blu-ray drive can hold 50GB of space. Honestly, compared to the jump in size that the CD gave, this isn’t a whole lot of space anymore. A quick look at amazon.com and I can find 64GB SD card today for about $30. Which isn’t a bad price for retail, though yes is a lot more expensive than what you can get for Blu-ray which runs about $25 for 10 50GB discs. That is .05 per GB of Blu-Ray to .45 per GB of SD. Of course, the hidden truth about these sizes is that games today are rarely over 25GB. For 25GB discs, the price increases to about .06 per GB and for 32GB SD cards, the price decreases to about .12 per GB.

This brings me to scaling. There are essentially two options with Blu-Ray… there is 25 and 50 GB. With SD, there is a lot bigger of a range. Are you making a smaller game? Use a 4GB card, making a bigger game? Use a 64GB card. Not only that, prices change as times progress. 64GB is kind of pricey today, but a year from now they may be fairly affordable. Price of a Blu-Ray disc aren’t likely to deviate much, yeah even at the cheap range, the Blu-ray may still hold an advantage in per GB price, but you are also paying for GB you don’t need and thus you might actually be able to pay less for a 4GB SD card than a 25GB disc even if you are paying more per GB what does it matter if you are only using 2? SD also scales better towards the future in size. PS4 will always only handle 50GB, but the 3DS for example is capable of holding a 128GB SD card and that system is 3 years old. No game requires that amount of space yet, but the ability is there if needed down the line. With Nintendo next console… I would not be surprised if 256 or 512GB might be easily tops.

The rumor for Nintendo’s next console is that they will be merging their portable system with their handheld system. Largely this is the rumor due to the working name of Fusion. The assumption I guess would be a system that might be similar to what we have with the Wii U, except the tablet has processing power similar to an advanced version of the 3DS within its shell that would allow you to take the system with you and play on the go. I think this would be a welcome addition and also feel like a natural evolution. I, along with many others I’m sure, would love to be able to just walk away from my TV and bring my gamepad to work or on vacation, even if the graphics aren’t quite as good as if they were on the TV and even if the games that supported such functionality were somewhat limited. After all, maybe Wii Sports just wouldn’t make sense without the Wii Remotes. The intriguing part of this to me is how to deal with the game media. And this is where SD card could become the next form factor for Nintendo.

Nintendo already has many  years of experience with working with the SD form factor.  SD holds with it many advantages that were lost with the optical media that I am sure Nintendo has long missed (Writability, expanadibility, speed, durability). And perhaps in 3 or 4 years, the size vs. cost has finally advanced to the stage that optical’s only real advantage is no where nearly as large. After all, say what you will about the cheapness of optical media… an expensive game on the 3DS is $40 where a normal priced game on the PS4 and the Xboned is $60. Surely, the price differential isn’t as big as people might assume.3

The reality is that despite the fact that Microsoft got slaughtered for trying to go with no media with the Xboned, with Valve possibly officially launching Steam machines in the next couple of years, I feel like the next gen of consoles won’t have media anyway. I mean think about it… 1TB hard drives are fairly cheap, media is expensive, most countries have good internet even if ours doesn’t, and you generally can redownload games as much as possible. One of the largest complaints I’ve heard of going no media is that not everyone has an internet connection… that argument doesn’t make sense to me after living through the Gamecube era where Nintendo got killed for not having internet support and that was 14 years ago. I agree with the sentiment, but feel that it is really an argument being used by people who don’t have the problem and I would rather them put out real arguments. Personally I like physical media cause I can resell it (valid, though game makers don’t want you to) and I am a collector and don’t like the idea that 10 years from now my game won’t be usable and honestly digital doesn’t really make for good collecting anyway. Really game makers don’t think either argument is valid outside of the fact that they are valid feelings we the consumer has. The other argument that people latch onto even though it doesn’t affect them, that not everyone has internet… it’s only valid to a certain point. In Japan and Korea, it is not. Do remember that Sony & Nintendo care about Japan first.  And while Americans like to think we are more important than everyone else, we are not. We certainly matter in the video game market, but we aren’t the majority. What’s more those without internet are not the majority of the video game market. Actually far from. The number of people who can afford a $600 (Console + 1 or 2 games + a controller) investment and DO NOT HAVE INTERNET is a VERY small percentage. Those people who don’t have internet are often the ones who this year decided to buy an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 for Christmas… a full year after the next gen has been out just to save money, so you are literally talking about people who are a full generation behind which means these people won’t be affected by a no media decision until 2022 at the earliest (Assuming Nintendo launches their next console in 2017 on a 5 year cycle which is the absolute earliest that they will, and then another 5 years until the next gen after that launches.) By that point, if people are really without internet… it isn’t Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft you should be angry at… it is the United States Government because that would be ridiculous…

Decathlon of Gaming

Last week I watched the championship match for Pokemon just to check it out. While I was at it I decided to watch the match for 2012 as well as I never saw that one either. I gotta say it was kind of interesting to watch professional players go at it like that. I’ve also watched a little Twitch, but much when it comes to competitions. But this whole championship thing got me thinking… Why isn’t there some sort of competition for best all around gamer?

If you think about it, it makes sense. I remember when Fatal1ty was in his prime and was touting all the time that he was the best gamer. And then you get some people who claim it just because. But really there isn’t a way to establish it. Fatal1ty thought he was just because he won a bunch of FPS tourneys in his day… but realistically FPS is such a small portion of the games out there.1 How good was Fatal1ty at the latest Mario? Or Tetris? Or in today’s terms… Angry Birds? My guess is he sucked at those games but those games are pretty easy to figure out… Continue reading “Decathlon of Gaming”

Steamy Summers

Now that Steam’s yearly summer sale has come and gone, I wanted to share my thoughts on it as this year it felt slightly worse than blah. It’s hard to explain it, in previous big sales Steam is the place to go to get all the best deals. I’ve mentioned before, part of the reason that you deal with Steam’s craptastic DRM is because they give you the games at bargain basement prices. Well I never really felt it for this year’s summer sale. Continue reading “Steamy Summers”

Games and Fairs

I went to Brat Fest this weekend with my daughter and some friends, it was a good time all in all. I was watching my daughter and the number of other kids riding around the Carousel smiling in delight and I couldn’t help but think of the age of this type of entertainment. I mean this has got to be one of the older types of amusement rides and perusing Wikipedia on the subject seems to verify this.

Continue reading “Games and Fairs”