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Late to the Game(s): Nintendo’s twisting road

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

Nintendo fans are a unique breed. That’s a good thing, I suppose, because Nintendo is a unique company. They’ve always done just fine following their own path. 

Up through the GameCube this included supporting and hosting the same sort of AAA titles from other publishers that could be found on their competitor’s consoles, as well as their own intellectual properties like the Mario and Zelda franchises. After the GameCube, though, Nintendo’s focus shifted. While you could still find some titles from other publishers on the Wii and WiiU, those console’s focus on motion controls, as well as slower processors than those found in the Xbox and PlayStation consoles, meant that a lot of the big third-party titles found on those consoles never came to Nintendo. Sometimes they came up with alternate games exclusively for the console, or went with scaled down versions, but mostly big publishers began to ignore the console. This left Nintendo and a few partners to fill out the library, which they did with no problem. 

Nintendo bet on the fact that their fans were more interested in their established franchises and gameplay styles than in online play and high resolution graphics. And, their core fans agreed. They also bet on gameplay being more important than chasing trophies or achievements that could be compared against a friend’s progress and – at least for their core fans – they were again correct. 

While Nintendo is drifting back closer to the mainstream with their Switch console, which is getting publishers to release Nintendo versions of some of their biggest hits from the last couple of console generations, they are still marching to the beat of their own drum. They still haven’t initiated any sort of achievement or trophy system, something that appeals to a lot of “hardcore” gamers. They also haven’t made it an especially easy process to connect with your friends online. It’s easier to connect with friends on Switch than it was on the Wii and WiiU, which required generating a complicated user code that you then had to share with friends, but it still isn’t as intuitive as just sharing your gamertag on Xbox. Despite all this, Nintendo fans love the console manufacturer and their original IPs like Mario and Link. 

This isn’t to say that Nintendo hasn’t made fans angry. There have been some serious issues with controller drift on the Switch. This drift, which causes the controller to register movement when the player isn’t touching it, has led to class action lawsuits and a program from Nintendo to replace or repair the Joy-Con controllers – though some of them continue to experience the problem even after repairs. 

They also upset a lot of classic game aficionados by suing those who provided backup copies of their game ROMs for the NES, SNES and older handheld consoles like Gameboy. Though it’s legal to make backups, or to download backups, of games that you already own, these ROM distribution sites were utilized for piracy by those who played the games through emulators. For Nintendo, with a vested interest in selling new versions of games some of their fans already owned, it made perfect sense to take these sites down. For fans who couldn’t find copies of rare games from third-party publishers it was a serious blow, and one that they felt wasn’t fan friendly.

Nintendo is notoriously touchy about their IPs in other areas too, going after those who share patterns for using their character’s likenesses on homemade items or who sell unauthorized fan made items like t-shirts and cases for game systems and cartridges.

They sell their own licensed toys and figurines, but unless you wanted to pay the Nintendo price, it’s been hard to get Nintendo collectibles. 

Despite all of this, fans are still eager to snatch up Nintendo gear (obviously, otherwise folks wouldn’t make unauthorized items). All of this is just to say, fans of Nintendo now have a new option for getting their hands on some toys and figures based on the company’s games. 

Nintendo, for the first time in years, has made a deal with a fast food place to put Nintendo toys into kids’ meals. Burger King will be featuring one of six different Nintendo toys in their kids’ meals through March. The Mario, Luigi, Splatoon, Animal Crossing and Legend of Zelda toys will be available at restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. Nintendo is also offering a sweepstakes for those who purchase a Mario Meal online or through the BK app. Sweepstakes winners can get games, or a Switch console, and all purchasers earn “platinum points” that can be redeemed for online gear. 

Maybe not worth going out of your way for unless you’re a super Nintendo fan. But if you play games on the Switch anyway, and like a Whopper every now and then (the Mario Meal consists of a Whopper with a small fries and drink), it might be worth checking out. 

The sweepstakes runs from February 8 through February 22, while the figures are available through mid-March, or while supplies last. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes. com 

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