Nintendo Needs No More Franchises; Why the Misconception of Nintendo as not Innovating is wrong

Apologies for the lengthy title there, but the point it makes is clear.  Despite many an internet article ranting about how Nintendo never tries anything new and always relies on its old franchises, you can clearly see the opposite in action all through their history.  Nintendo hasn’t been getting stale or not trying to create the next Mario or Zelda, it’s just not what people are looking for.

For one thing, they’ve been trying all sorts of new things on the 3DS.  Seen Pushmo or Dillon’s Rolling Western yet?  Both may only be download games, but they’re both possible new franchises for Nintendo and star new characters that could possibly end up in the next Super Smash Bros game.  That’s not all. Remember a certain submarine based game that came out at the 3DS launch, Steel Diver? That was a new ‘series’ for Nintendo. More to the point, it acts as a great illustration for why video game companies don’t ‘innovate’ more; the game bombed and failed miserably.  A sequel is at least guaranteed decent sales

To say Nintendo has no new franchises right when this game comes out is plain stupid.

But it’s not just with the 3DS that Nintendo has tried new series.  What series do you think Nintendo owns? Many people would probably remember these:

  • Mario
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Metroid
  • Pokemon
  • Kirby
  • Super Smash Bros
  • F-Zero
  • Star Fox
  • Donkey Kong
  • Pikmin (which is very new I may add)
  • Earthbound/Mother
  • Fire Emblem
  • Advance Wars
  • Animal Crossing
  • Wii series (new as well)

But that’s a tiny fraction of the many different franchises Nintendo has.  You’ve also got Golden Sun, two Wario based series, Kid Icarus and Nintendogs.

Oh wait, that’s not it either.  You’ve also got Endless Ocean.  Adventures of Lolo (funny how no one remembers that one), Pilotwings and various others.

Endless Ocean is a fairly new Nintendo series and had two games on the Wii only a few years ago.

Those are just the games lucky enough to get sequels and end up having an actual series started around them.  Nintendo’s forever been trying to come up with new characters and franchises from the NES days onwards, they’ve just often not had them catch on.  Or in the case of Starfy, catch on outside of Japan.

Remember him from Brawl?  Yeah, he has an actual series in Japan.

There was Drill Dozer, an interesting platformer series made by Game Freak (same company who made the Pokemon games).  There was Geist, that strange Gamecube game where you played as a ghost and possessed various enemies in a sort of first person shooter style adventure.  There was Chibi Robo where you played as a tiny toy sized robot who helped a family with various chores and helped out the various toys living with them with their own problems.

Not to mention the nigh on undisputed king of insane Japan only games, Captain Rainbow.  It should be fairly obvious why this game didn’t catch on, right?

Above: I’d hate to be the poor person charged with marketing that thing in the US…

Usually though, the same people who criticise Nintendo for not trying new things and coming up with new major games will argue that most of the above doesn’t count because they’re not either some ultra hardcore first person shooter or some epic fantasy adventure game series like the Legend of Zelda.

Except you know, we’ve only just had Xenoblade and The Last Story on the Wii, both of which are exactly the kind of game people would expect Nintendo to release.  They even had that really well known fan campaign dedicated to getting them a US release.  Operation Rainfall was it?  They’re good games too.

Finally came to North America recently these games did.  Oh look, Nintendo published/owns them.

Still, are there some gaps in Nintendo’s series line up, some genres they haven’t tackled well?  Perhaps.  They haven’t made a First Person Shooter, but sometimes I’m kind of glad they haven’t. Because as recent examples prove, not many Japanese companies tend to be particularly good at making these types of games, especially if they try making ‘gritty’ war/future games in the vein of Call of Duty.  See Quantum Theory, an unsuccessful third person shooter/Gears of War clone made by Tecmo.

Besides, I’m not sure it really matters since all the best ‘hardcore’ games are third party anyway.  Call of Duty’s been on most recent video game consoles and so has Grand Theft Auto.  Probably best for Nintendo not to jump into a market they probably don’t understand purely to get another samey series in house.

Oh, and to the people who think there’s some rival company who’s made more series than Nintendo?  Here’s a nice list of every game series Nintendo has published in their history:

That’s about 164 different series Nintendo has.  Please tell me this magic company that can match that list of franchises and has been trying more new ideas than Nintendo.  Microsoft from what I tell has about half that number at best and I’m not sure how many Sony has.  These numbers also don’t consider all the spinoffs and sub series that make up the Mario series or the Pokemon series. You know, Luigi’s Mansion, Mario Kart, Mario Party, that kind of stuff.

It’s even more impressive when you consider that unlike so many of their competitors, they both make the games console and most of the major games found on it.  Or that they make many of the TV shows, card games and other stuff associated with their franchises in house now too.

So Nintendo doesn’t really need to make any more series for a fair old time.  Just release a new game for even about 30 of the hundreds of the franchises they own and that’s already a significant amount of variety gained without even having to design a single new character or series universe.  They also make so many new series and games that they don’t need to be told not to rely on the Mario or Zelda series too much, they don’t already.

Oh, and if you’re a bit cynical of this, tell me one thing.  What series caused the Wii to sell well over 80 million consoles and sell out for months on end?  It wasn’t Mario, Zelda or Pokemon.


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