On Evacuation and Endorsement

If you missed the news, this past week was host to the Nintendo Media Summit. Among the news stories crashing RSS feeds were some release dates for upcoming Nintendo titles including Metroid: Other M and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Now it is certainly possible that the decision makers at Nintendo realized there are twelve months in a year and 52 weeks worth of release dates instead of the ones between Thanksgiving and New Years. It’s possible that these games were always scheduled to come out in the Spring to capitalize on a typically slow release schedule. Ironically it would seem that Sony and Microsoft had a similar thought process. God of War, Heavy Rain, Mass Effect 2 and a handful of other high profile games have highlighted the beginning of 2010. With Super Mario Galaxy 2 coming out May 23 and Metroid: Other M in June, Nintendo is positioning these first party favorites well in advance of the holiday season potentially as an attempt to capitalize on the market before store shelves become over saturated with offerings. Or, if you have a tin foil hat handy, maybe they are ensuring these games are released before the fall season because they are afraid something else is much more likely to capture their audience and they do not want to lose potential sales. But that can’t be true, cant it? Is it possible that Nintendo is afraid of Project Natal?

I know it sounds crazy, but the voices in my head think it’s possible. Let me explain.

My position on Natal has remained the same since I first learned of Milo. As a gamer, I hope this venture is successful. The potential for future integration in home entertainment is great and the possibilities are truly endless. As a consumer, I have no interest in Natal and will not be camping out overnight to pick this up when it is released, nor will I be asking Santa for it as I try to bribe him with milk and cookies. I don’t think that seeing Natal featured on an episode of Smallville is any concern to Nintendo, but I think it’s possible that the hype might have influenced the release schedule of these two games.

Now I’m going to do something I rarely do- I’m going to cite the NPD reports. I have made my grievances about how some groups obsess over and give inordinate amounts of praise to these monthly reports. Depending on who you ask, the NPD represent the only piece of evidence needed to support blind faith and an unwillingness to listen to sound logic and reasonable facts. The NPD reports do shed some light on the industry each month, but they do not reveal the entire picture and we should not treat them as such. But I digress. If you look at these reports any given month you will likely notice a great proliferation of Nintendo among the Top 10 software sales and at the top of the monthly hardware reports. While the NPD does not provide a complete report of everything sold in the United States, it does reflect a large enough sample size worth our attention for the duration of this post. Simply put, Nintendo has not had any problems selling their products to consumers.

Over the past twelve months, according to NPD reports, Nintendo has sold 9.36 million Wii Consoles, and 11.10 million total iterations of the DS or DSi. Aside from the impressive showings from blockbuster titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Nintendo software constantly outshines its competition. One month a new release like Mass Effect 2 shines above all others, but the sales graph for games like that shows a quick spike and an eventual down turn. Conversely, titles like Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit do not have a sales graph like that. New Super Mario Bros for the DS surely does not have a sales graph like that. Looking again at the NPD reports, the last twelve months show New Super Mario Bros. Wii selling 4.88 million, Wii Fit Plus selling 4.09 million units (impressively with less than 5 months on retail). Wii Sports Resort has also sold well, nearly 5 million units in less than 8 months. With consistent titles like these and others like Mario Kart Wii that defy the nay-sayers and Nintendo’s software consistently performs at retail. It’s beyond mind-boggling but those are the facts.

In the grand scheme of things, Nintendo’s first party software is all that matters. By leaning on their traditional mascots Nintendo has seen success over the life of all of their consoles. Particularly for the more enthusiastic gamer, any announcement about Mario, Link, Samus and company will always demand our attention. No matter how emphatically we criticize Nintendo for ignoring the fans that brought them their success and the jealousy shown by complaining about the lack of attention we get we will continue to come back when a new game featuring Mario is announced. Knowing that, why wouldn’t Nintendo set these titles up for a typical holiday release? Super Mario Galaxy was released on November 12, 2007 in the United States. Why not show the sequel similar treatment?

I know there isn’t a firm release date for Project Natal, or whatever it’s going to be called, but all signs are pointing to this fall. If the tea leaves are correct then other companies have to be aware of the potential for a product like this. Given the hyperbole surrounding Natal, it is possible that it could change the landscape of gaming for future generations. Then again, it could just be a fancy Vision Camera. For the conspiracy theorists out there, the fact that a proper Mario game and a Metroid game are being released well in advance of the fall, and potentially of Project Natal is more than a prudent business decision. Removing themselves from the release window and post-launch buzz of Natal might be the biggest endorsement Microsoft could get for their add-on. We don’t know what kind of software will be available at its launch, we don’t know the price, we don’t even know specifically when Natal will be ready for public consumption. But if Nintendo, the company that changed all the rules and redefined the audience for a video game is avoiding Natal, then maybe this thing is legit.

Maybe Natal will change the landscape of gaming. Maybe we will all be waving our arms and legs wildly at our television screens Christmas morning instead of throwing Wii-motes into our LED televisions. Maybe this will be the next generation of gaming. Am I crazy?

This post is also hosted at Talking About Games.

One thought on “On Evacuation and Endorsement

  1. No you’re not crazy, my friend. All points are valid (you even made me consider some thoughts I had on the NPD reports).

    As I said before, we haven’t seen the full potential of Natal. Once we do, the landscape of videogaming will change completely.

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