Why Doesn’t the Wario Series Have a Dedicated Fanbase?
Usually, any remotely well known media franchise will have an online fandom. Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, you name it, the series has an online fandom with tons of fan art and fiction, dedicated websites and forums and a ton of great fan works to show off the creativity of its followers.
And it’s not even just mainstream ones too! Oh no, for years Yoshi had a fandom which was seemingly entirely about the character rather than any games he was actually in. And that’s not all. We’ve got fandoms about mediocre movies (the Super Mario Bros movie fans), fandoms are dead game series (Bubsy the Bobcat has at least one fan site). Even the CD-i!
All except the Wario series. And that’s what I want to find out.
So let’s begin with the obvious. Is it true there’s actually no online Wario fandom?
The answer is unfortunately this; it seems so. Go on, look for a forum or website dedicated to the series. Presumably one that’s been remotely active in the last three years…
There are none. In Google, I couldn’t see a single forum or dedicated site about the series in at least the first three to five pages of search results. Kind of disappointing when you consider that just about every other series (especially one with its level of sales) tends to get at least five fairly large forums on the first page alone.
And that seems rather strange. I mean, in this day of everyone being somewhat internet savvy and loony fans seemingly existing for every niche and sub niche under the sun, the thought of any remotely popular series not having any kind of active site or social media presence seems kind of worrying. Heck, given how almost everything seems to have at least one big board (500,00 posts +) dedicated specifically to it, as well as a whole raft of smaller sites alongside it, the fact any game series with more than a million copies sold per installment doesn’t even have a 20,000 post site about it sticks out like a sore thumb.
So why is this? Well, I have a few hypothesises, but I’m not sure any are accurate. Let’s look at them…
1. The series isn’t quite popular enough
This seems like the most obvious possibility, that the series is just not big enough to have a devoted fandom. Which given the (incredibly poor) sales of Wario Master of Disguise and Game & Wario, seems reasonable enough on first glance. However…
The series does actually sell for the most part, with the most popular game selling over 5 million copies and some of the others selling between 1 and 3 million copies. Not record breaking numbers, but that’s still at least Metroid or Fire Emblem levels of popularity, and outdoes the likes of F-Zero. All of those have sizeable internet fanbases.
Additionally, the fact a lot of sites exist to support ridiculously unpopular concepts and franchises makes me rather skeptical of this possibility. After all, here are some weird things that seemingly have whole sites dedicated to them:
Bubsy the Bobcat (Bubsy HQ) – http://www.bluies-island.com/BubsyHQ/
The CDi (Compact Disc Interactive) – http://www.cdinteractive.co.uk/
The Virtual Boy (Planet Virtual Boy) – http://www.planetvb.com/modules/news/
Super Mario Bros The Movie (Super Mario Bros The Movie Archive) – http://www.smbmovie.com/
I’m sorry, but not one of those things can honestly be more popular than the Wario series. There’s no way in hell more people out there can love the CD-i and Hotel Mario than the Wario series. Not even in a parallel world in which hell froze over after pigs started flying across the sky.
Above: I’m surprised this has any kind of non ironic fandom at all.
The above also generally sold rather poorly Heck, only 770,000 Virtual Boys shipped worldwide, so if something like that can draw a fanbase, then surely a series with average game sales of at least double or triple that can too, right?
2. The lack of recurring/stable characters and elements
A more likely (but still quite hard to believe) possibility is that the series instability and proneness to changes might have stopped any long term fanbase from getting started.
What do I mean?
Well, to put it lightly, the Wario platformers have never had a single consistent gameplay style. For instance:
Wario Land 1 and Virtual Boy played like traditional hop and bop platformers
Wario Land 2 and 3 were maze based puzzle games where you were invulnerable to damage.
Wario Land 4 and Shake It played a bit like Sabrewulf on the GBA, with running back to the entrance after reaching the end.
Wario Master of Disguise was something hard to describe in general.
And Wario World was a 3D beat up style game with platforming elements. That’s not even accounting for WarioWare or Game & Wario in general.
As a result, I suspect the constant changes may have put off a few otherwise interested fans, since it was kind of hard to tell whether you’d like any other game in the series after playing just one or two installments. That’s not something a series is supposed to generally have as a problem (if you like Mario, you like platformers, if you like Pokemon, you like RPGs, etc).
Above: Mario may have different boss set ups, levels and other things, but it’s always been mainly a platformer series starring familiar characters.
It may also have came down to a lack of cast consistency too. Oh sure, the WarioWare series eventually introduced what’s seemingly a cast of regular characters, and the first two games (ignoring the Virtual Boy one) shared much of the same universe. But every game had everything entirely new. New setting, new villain, new enemies and bosses, new NPC characters, new powers and abilities… I suspect that didn’t go down too well with the kind of person likely to post online, since they tend to be the kind interested in some sort of series universe and recurring things to go with it. After all, even Kirby has the likes of King Dedede, Meta Knight, Waddle Dees, Whispy Woods, Kracko, etc appearing in most new titles, even if the main villains do tend to vary on a regular basis. Wario had none of this, and I partly suspect it may have thrown off the more dedicated fans interested in actual ‘characters’.
Above: Captain Syrup is the only recurring pre WarioWare character in the series, and even she only appeared three times in total.
So consistency (or a lack of it) may be one thing. But it doesn’t really explain why WarioWare never ended up with a real fandom.
3. The gaps between games
Another possibility is that the insane gaps between the release dates of each game may have had something to do with the lack of a fandom or fan following. After all, fans tend to like to see multiple installments in a fairly short amount of time, not one game followed by about ten years of sod all and then a revival.
And you can definitely see the effects out there. Doctor Who’s fandom shrunk quite a bit in the gap between the end of the classic series and the premiere of the new one, with many of the lesser fans drifting away to other media/franchises. Luigi’s Mansion only has a fairly small hardcore fan community for similar reasons (the ten or so year gap between the original and Dark Moon likely explains why the only dedicated forum has less than 50 members).
Here’s an overview of how long we went between Wario games:
Wario Land 1 -> Virtual Boy – 1 Year (1994 to 1995)
Wario Land VB -> Wario Land 2 – Three years (1995 to 1998)
Wario Land 2 -> Wario Land 3 – Two years (1998 to 2000)
Wario Land 3 -> Wario Land 4 – One year (2000 to 2001)
Wario Land 4 -> Wario World – Two years (2001 to 2003)
Wario World -> Wario Master of Disguise – Four years (2003 to 2007)
Wario Master of Disguise -> Wario Land Shake It – One year (2007 to 2008)
Of course, that assumes you count Wario World and Master of Disguise as the same series. If not, you’ve got a seven year gap between Land 4 and Shake It.
But it doesn’t explain WarioWare. This series got games every year for a while (even two in one year with Twisted and Touched in 2005), yet the fandom never really developed there either. And then it went into long droughts between games too, with the latest games having two or three years between them for no real reason (more if you don’t count Game & Wario as a real installment).
Above: WarioWare is a more regular series, but even that has less fans than most.
And it doesn’t explain the popularity of many more obscure series. I mean, F-Zero hasn’t had games for ages, but the fandom likely still exists for it. And stuff like the Virtual Boy, CD-i or Mario movie are literally deader than disco, unlikely to ever get revived in any major form due to the public’s negative opinion of them.
But I guess that could be another reason. Fandoms tend to only develop arounds games and franchises with regular activity after all, and the wild inconsistencies between game releases here may have driven away a good few potential fans.
4. The genres lend themselves less to dedicated fandom
Finally, we’ve got this reason. Perhaps certain video game/show genres tend to lend themselves less to the formation of a fandom/fan community.
On the surface/face of things, this does make sense. More plot heavy games like RPGs and visual novels tend to open up a lot more possibilities for things like fan fiction and other fan works, and tend to appeal quite well to a certain audience (namely, teenage girls and college/university students). So I guess I can sort of figure why say, Pokemon or Zelda or Final Fantasy or whatever tend to draw quite a lot of fans both online and in the real world, for the same reasons works like Harry Potter and Star Trek or whatever draw similar audiences in other mediums.
But then you have to wonder how so many other platformers tend to get a lot of fan support. Like the Mario franchise, everyone’s favourite king of excuse plots and flat characters. Or the Sonic the Hedgehog series, which is remarkably popular among autistic people and such like for reasons no one’s yet figured out. But even ignoring big series like those, even other platformers have some fans.
Like the Yoshi ‘series’, which has quite a few active fan sites despite being about as story driven as either Mario or Wario Land. Or the Donkey Kong Country series, which at least has the (utterly fantastic) forum DK Vine for anyone interested in the world and characters.
And even the party series stuff in WarioWare can’t be too much of a fandom alienating thing. After all, Mario Party has some pretty active communities to it. And analogues in other mediums (like Game Shows for the TV audience) also have very dedicated fans, complete with active fandoms for the likes of Wheel of Fortune, the Price is Right and Deal or No Deal.
Above: Mario Party has a pretty active/cool fandom.
So I’m kind of conflicted here. I mean, I can see why the microgame and platformer genres of the series might have something to do with its fandom (lack of it), but given many of the similar series that do have extensive fan communities and followings, I’m not sure how much sense that idea makes.
In conclusion therefore, I have to admit I’m not sure why the series happens to have so little fans/so little of a fan following online. It’s not particularly unpopular or critically hated, it’s by Nintendo and fandoms have started for way stranger and more obscure things, so I’m curious why the Wario series in particular seems to been so ignored on the internet.
Perhaps it’s the lack of lore or characters to grow attached to or something. But that’s the only thing I can see as even remotely possible.
Why do you think the Wario series doesn’t have an online fandom like so many others?