The Imperial March: Can’t Buy Nintendo’s Love


Welcome to The Imperial March. This weekly column is takes a wide-angle perspective on gaming industry issues. Note that these opinions reflect only those of the Emperor himself, and are not those of his Majesty’s kind hosts at


Nintendo doesn’t love you.

I am sorry to be the one to tell you this. Life is a harsh mistress. I mean, there is no Santa Claus. You do not always get what you want. And any lucky streak relating to rabbit feet, horse shoes or wishbones is a total myth. So when I tell you Nintendo does not love you, you really should thank me. I am just dispelling another one of the great illusions from your childhood.

Nintendo never loved you, frankly. You were a customer, a source of revenue, and Nintendo was a corporation beholden to its shareholders. Its goal was very simple: make as much money as possible. And you, in your innocence, thought that Nintendo was making all of these games to entertain you in your youth. Your introduction to gaming was through that green fellow with a floppy hat, and a fat man in overalls with a mustache 1850 would be proud of. The games were simple, and yet offered tremendous depth and replayability. The company itself never released many games (a quick look back at the lineups for any of Nintendo’s consoles after the NES will show that there were not all that many options, and certainly not many quality options). But you were poor, and the few games you had were plenty.


And then you grew up. The company continued to release a couple of quality games a year, but you were older now. You had more money, and chicks dug you (or dudes… let’s not accuse the Emperor of sexism).  And you wanted more games. But while you were growing older, and wanting more, Nintendo stayed the same.

Even Dawson feels the lack of love

Nintendo’s core customer has never been the core gamer. They have always targeted the casual gamer first.  This is why the NES controller had so few buttons on it. This is why launch titles were always rated E, and were widely recognized brands. This is why the company focuses on gimmicks like motion control and touch screens: they were easier for any idiot to pick up and play. Do you honestly think that Wii Fit and that silly board was aimed at core gamers?

A core gamer is not satisfied by one, or two, or five quality releases a year. We have an appetite for more. The Emperor bought 38 games in 2010, and played many more than that. I need more to conqueror, and Nintendo has proven that they are unwilling to satisfy me.

Nintendo did not fail you. Their strategy with the Wii has been the same one they have been rolling along with for years. Wipe the tears off of your face. They are not beholden to you.  This is more of a friends-with-benefits situation, and it is over now.  They never put a ring on it. Nintendo did everything they could to make sure they never knew who you were, from their ridiculous friend code system, to DLC being tied not to an account, but to a specific piece of hardware. You are a serial number, tied to a piece of electronics, a mere “piece of meat.”

This is how a heart breaks

Now, this is not to say that Nintendo’s products are of some sort of inferior quality. The Imperial point is that Nintendo releases their products for a very specific market, and you are no longer a part of that market. Well, maybe you are, but given that you are reading an editorial on a gaming website, odds are you are slightly more informed and interested than the average foot soldier.

The problem Nintendo has is that they have been stringing the poor core gamers along. “Of course we love you,” they say, as they show a trailer of a game that releases in 2012. Nintendo made a fantastic showing this year at E3, but everything they showed was in preparation for the Wii U, dropping sometime next year (unlike Nintendo’s stock prices, which dropped as soon as their press conference was over). The hard core star of E3 2010 was the new Zelda, Skyward Sword. It’s so new in fact, that it still has no release date, more than a year later. Nintendo does not need to admit the obvious (that they could care less about the core gamers, because most of their sales come from other markets). But they should stop asserting that they are behaving to the contrary.

Nintendo just dropped the price of the 3DS by a third (as of mid-August). Their sales in the past quarter were half was they were in the same quarter last year. And the company just announced profit expectations for the year would be lowered by 82%. With Nintendo’s current console generation in its death throes (do you cremate a Wii or bury it?), and the 3DS severely under-performing (either that, or Nintendo now believes that selling a system at a loss is the best was to make money), the company is riding out the storm until the Wii U arrives to save the day.  If it can.

But please, do not delude yourself. Nintendo is making grandiose claims about 3rd party support that it has never fulfilled in the past. With a drastically different input system from the 360/PS3/PC crowd, and no recent history of 3rd party success and support on Nintendo systems, publishers are going to give an effort on Nintendo’s console that is parenthetical at best.

And, of course, remember that Nintendo does not love you. Iwata and Reggie will whisper their sweet nothings in your ear, and try to whisk you back to their place for a long night of Wii-Uing (I don’t think it’s like planking… what do I do to you to do a Wii U?). But remember: Nintendo does not want to make the commitment that you as a core gamer require, and deserve. They’re just looking for something casual.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
Author: Tony Odett View all posts by
A member of the Perfectly Sane Show crew and's Features Editor, Tony brings the smart and funny (and the rapine and pillage...). Also known as The Strategy Gamer, Tony declares it his duty to get as much coverage as possible for what should be everyone's most loved genre.
  • Jeff Derrickson

    Are you directing this toward me? Because I have their juices inside me, and they spent the night.

  • Gunnys woffles

    fuck miyamoto