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Astronaut Island Blog

Astronaut Island is the home of Marty Allen's writing about pop culture, video games.

Down With Nintendoubt, Up With High Fives

 The Switch is coming and I'm excited. You should be, too, dammit.

I've got an axe to grind and swing about lazily: I'm a touch weary of this phenomenon I'll dub “Nintendoubt,” and I want to hash it out, internet-cage-match style.

Me? I believe that Nintendo makes fun toys, and they deserve our support in their sometimes blind and wild pursuit. That's what they've been doing for nearly 130 years. Some people think The Big N should give up the Pac-ghost, but Nintendo keeps trying, and in the process they keep innovating in ways that no one comes close to. High five high five high five.

Much of the collective hive that is the internet is indeed cautiously optimistic for The Switch, due in no small part to smart marketing and timely innovation. But there are those sinister under-currents, those think pieces about Nintendo's next colossal failure. Those shadowy musings about how all hope is already lost, anticipating failure, their Cheeto-dust-covered hands rubbing together in villainous anticipation, or their Cheeto-dust-covered fists balled up and cursing the sky at their indignation at Nintendo's past failures. Cut it out, guys.

Early internet leak of possible design directions for the then-codenamed Nintendo NX

Early internet leak of possible design directions for the then-codenamed Nintendo NX

Of course everyone is entitled to their view, and I celebrate the responsible critical eye from all directions. But my particular view is that we oughta stop pre-emptively complaining about a company that has done so much for gaming. Let's instead unleash a high five speed run paired with a treasure chest full of invincible stars spewing forth from our collective mouth into Shigeru Miyamoto's eyes and heart (cue Zelda treasure FX on loop). Or, you know, just keep an open mind.

In the interest of coming clean, I have a Nintendo shirt, some Pikmin action figures, maybe some Mario bedsheets still tucked in the closet. I may or may not have made an album dedicated to Nintendo. So I guesssss you could say I'm something of a Nintendo fanboy (though I've seen much worse – I'm looking at you, Tingle cos-players). While my love of games stretches back to the Apple IIc (ah, Zork...), my True Love for gaming blossomed the day I slammed an Italian plumber's head into a block with a question mark on it and watched a mushroom pop out. It made me big. Who thinks of that?!?

From then on I was hooked. Don't get me wrong, I've had had deep love affairs with other consoles. Me and Sonic go way back and even hung out on Sega CD, I worked my PS2 into an unrecognizable clanking pulp, and I still spoon my Dreamcast at night. My PS4 is indeed very shiny, and often tucks me into bed before said spooning.

But Nintendo was the one everyone watched and tried to keep up with. We still should. They've always labored to deliver fun toys and great games couched in real innovation and inspiration, despite bottom lines. Because that's what they do when they get it right. And in order to deliver new experiences on that level, no matter how hooked I am, I acknowledge that some things aren't going to go right.

The WiiU did not go right. I get it, but I also think this one is a measured failure. I can understand that 11 MILLION units wasn't enough to be deemed a success when stacked up against two nearly-identical super-computers (Xbox One and PS4) and a fledgling mobile industry that features addiction for less than ninety-nine cents a pop. All amidst a console business that is on a steady trajectory of decline. I acknowledge that based upon this industry, the machine was a failure by Nintendo's own metrics, too. But 11 million is not exactly nothing, either. And the WiiU wasn't all failure.

The WiiU was also very fun. Nintendo did what they do, and despite some disappointment made the engaging, colorful, weird, surprising, innovative games they are known for. Arguably some of the best games in Nintendo's rich history came from this generation. All of this at, yes, a slower pace than you or I would prefer. So, Nintendo is committed to making high quality games, and won't let them loose without feeling like they've delivered. But make them more quickly, please, because after sinking sixty hours into The Witcher I need new Mario NOW. We're jerks.

And it's not just the games. Nintendo makes fun, colorful, weird, surprising, innovative SYSTEMS. Consoles and handhelds, baby! Unlike certain other consoles, they create fun toys that aren't designed to compete with PC's for gaming. Much and more has been said and guessed and glimpsed in anticipation of Nintendo's Switch, but most of it amounts to, “Holy crud! What's Nintendo doing now?!”

With all that Nintendo does well, sometimes they miss a beat and drop a console or play mechanic or online philosophy or entire generation of hardware. And I'm here to say: more power to them.

I'm being a bit hyperbolic to make a point. I'm not uncritical. I scrutinize their decisions, and I have a growing bald patch from all of the head scratching at their choices, too. Friend Codes are not my friend. I want a new Metroid five years ago.

But what is deeply important to appreciate about Nintendo isn't simply how committed they are to crafting unique and fun games or consoles, it's their willingness to fail at them, too. They really don't have to. Failing goes against a lot of contemporary business sense. No one else dares to try what they do, and no one does it so well, and time and time again, despite their often harrowing mis-steps, they manage to re-invent games and how we play them.

Taking chances in any area, from life to gaming, will lead to some failures. Sometimes these failures are almost unequivocal (VirtuaBoy), some are measured (Gamecube and WiiU). But like in life, it's these failures that lead us to revelations (The NES, DS, Mario, Zelda, 3-d platforming, The Wii, etc etc etc). If we don't take chances, we don't grow. What is true for people and art and new restaurants is true for the console game industry, and I suggest that we continue to celebrate and support it, lest we watch it atrophy into the great Warp Zone in the sky.

So here's my high five Nintendo, and my $300. I don't care what you do next, I can't wait for my Switch.

What do YOU think?