Having once been the most fly pimps whoever beat their bitches, Nintendo very nearly ended up standing on a street corner for a six pack of Saki and some sushi roll, when the N64 and Gamecube respectively failing to bring in the Yen.
Had Pokemon not been so easy and supple, one could feasible argue it was looking like the wipe clean poly vinyl maids outfit was already in the post on rush order: feather duster and stain remover sold separately.
But lo, the company made good with the Wii, and thus we now have a situation where Nintendo are once more on that stage of plenty: slapping them hoes and pimping them rides but with a rather more genteel and restrained hand of beringed excess.
Mario is still their Madame of the Bordello of course, but with the entirely new and different approach of marketing their console: as a family fun time toy of motion sensor mirth and bowling, Nintendo have cleverly re-invented the wheel and re-sold it to the public. Well, maybe not a wheel, because it’d probably be seven sided close-up and blurry at the edges, but you get my point.
Beneath the easy-to-dismiss surface of shovelware and swooshy ‘motes, the Wii has nevertheless managed to make gaming a sociably acceptable pastime to be shared between family, friends and attractive young ladies alike. Given the middle aged parent of today was the spotty social outcast of gamings yesterday, it seems reasonable to assume things would’ve evolved in the same manner, though doubtless the landscape would be a much darker and stagnant vista.
With everyone under the age of common sense now owning at least three of its consoles each (right?), Nintendo are setting their sights on an oft ignored slipper-clad market audience; old people. With more than a hint of a predatory Werthers smuggler about it, Nintendos campaign to get the elderly and grey up and in front of its products has seen adverts involving everyday old people (such as you may be), enjoying a favoured hobby (such as you may do), on one of those new-fangled plastic boxes of light and noise (such as the ones your grandchildren made ‘Santa’ buy them last Christmas), in a gentle and overall unscary way.
Having an idealised recording of Grandma’s last days sans the faint smell of wee, espousing the joys of plastic toys, may not elicit an Oscar or a page on IMDb, but not everyone gets to be in a Chuck Norris film. Succour may be gleaned, however, from the thought that Grandma, along with all the other coffin dodgers glaring out from beneath their faces of wrinkles and crows feet, are forcing a change in the world of gaming that a thousand dolly birds in lycra at the latest Tomb Raider launch could never hope to achieve: harmonious understanding of games.
A brief search through the mire of filth that is the internet will garner a million different news sources claiming the manipulative powers games have on human brains, and actions of those who play them, turning normal, sensible, level headed people into gun wielding sociopaths who really like schools and slow moving targets.
The easily led are quickly fooled by this, and thus for the past few years has this situation been increasing the bile and liquid hate of Mr. and Mrs. Concerned Parent, who only want these sick and twisted games banned, and the makers publicly whipped and pulled apart by horses. I mean, because they care, of course.
And yet the humble Wii; the weeny Wii; the winsome Wii; the will-you-play-with-my Wii, has bought these same pudding headed buffoons down from their horses so high, and shown them a way through their confusion and fear based hatred of games. It has guided them across the chasm that divides the generations, and delivered them to this previously closed-off world they knew no understanding of, ‘mote in gently stroked hand and smile upon comforted face.
By marketing the Wii as something the whole family can enjoy, Nintendo have made it acceptable for hours to be wasted in the pursuit of virtual vicariousness. Making gaming seem whiter than the teeth of the people in their ads, Nintendo have made a crucial connection in making games and gaming a recognisably acceptable thing in the minds of the general public. Yes, the Sony Playstation made gaming cool, but the Nintendo Wii makes it acceptable, and therein lies the difference. Cool is outré, exclusive, elitist; acceptable is known, familiar, safe.
Newspapers screaming “killer honed skills in online shooter” as yet another slow news day sparks a barrel scraping contest is to gamers what the old “weed is a gateway drug” is to 14 time Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps. Being able to quantify what ‘games’ are helps people recognise there are many different types of games and gaming genres, each for a specific market and taste.
And, by encouraging people to jump into this world of pixels and plenty, Nintendo are expanding the community of people who participate in the purchase of games; of people who can see the age restrictions on the boxes, and learn the difference between a gun and a controller; of people who understand the lateral thought puzzle, or fatal shotgun blast in the face needed to get the final blue key and save the cheese as being “just a game”, rather than an instructional video.
Clearly having no chance of redemption through their library of releases, Nintendo are still head and shoulders above the competition in terms of sales through careful scatter-gun tactics and all-inclusive appeal. By ignoring the cries of those demanding something more than another collection of mini-games shoved onto a disc and thrown out the door, they have instead shown everyone they can all have a piece of the pie; they just need a Wiimote shaped fork to enjoy it.
It may never be seen as a “proper” console when judged alongside its contemporaries, where the more blood and the more robust the bios, the better the bragging rights. In fact, it may never see its own Resident Evil 4 or Ocarina of Time outside of maybe Mario Galaxy: also known as that “essential “purchase game that makes non-Nintendo owners mutter a begrudging desire to acquire.
And even though I doubt Nintendo are too overly concerned either way, what with the elephantine herd of cash cows they’ve raised jostling for their attention as they swing their milky udders hither and yon, it has defied all the odds and prejudices to not only be the top selling console with unerring consistence, but also to be the first to truly embrace the dream we were sold back when the dream came stamped with an Atari logo; a world full of gamers as happy as they are different, glued to their TV‘s and refuting the real world.
We are still some way away from that Utopian dream, and in a different light one could argue the case for marketing and promotion as the reason to sell the console as much as possible, regardless of some fanciful notion of gentlefolk joining arms against the ludicrous machinations of a knee jerk society. But to that I hold Sony and Microsoft as weights to my reasoning, both advertising heavily, and neither securing the “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” tag the Wii has so easily birthed.
The future is out there somewhere, and though the first few steps are all baby ones (and full of ‘motes and mini Mii’s), they are far bigger steps then have ever been taken before.