During my PhD studies, I lost a passion for many things. I lost a passion for playing games. Playing games to analyze them because I had to was not as rewarding as doing the same when I did it because I wanted to. I lost a passion for reading, both fiction and nonfiction. I lost a passion for scholarship, the history of the medium, and the medium as a whole. This summer, now that I don’t HAVE to do these things, I am re-discovering that long lost love for my chosen medium.
First in this quest of rediscovery is the book Console Wars by Blake Harris. I found this book three days ago while randomly browsing the science fiction and fantasy section in my local book store. Clearly, it was misplaced. However, as a student of gaming, it spoke to me. The book follows the exploits of SEGA and Nintendo’s top brass and how they attempted to outsell each other during the days of the Genesis vs SNES console wars. I have yet to finish it, thus “first impressions”, but thus far it is an enjoyable read (almost reads like good fiction) that chronicles the corporate side of the 16 bit console wars. I’m 300 pages in (in 2 days? I haven’t done that in a while!) and I have loved every sentence of it. I am confident when I say that students of gaming, players in general (specially those who were in their teens during the console wars) and anyone interested in gaming will get a kick out of it.
Yes, it is ultimately glorification of corporate culture and marketing, but it is an incredibly compelling read that sheds light on what was happening behind the curtains during what is arguably the only true console war that the gaming industry has ever seen.
This post was originally published in Gamasutra, but at the recommendation of a friend I have decided to re-post here.
There are recent prognostications by industry analysts arguing that video games as we know them are on a lifeline and that the current generation of hardware is the last gaming generation. Their predictions are often accompanied with grandiose statements about how the future of gaming will be found in the mobile market. This most recent round of doom-saying is spurred by Michael Pachter’s recent comments in a Cloud Gaming USA, where he argued that because the most recent Call of Duty only has 25 million players while Candy Crush Saga has 350 million, video game publishers should go into the mobile market and disregard console gaming, as “there won’t be a next cycle” [of video game consoles]. Analysts and game journalists alike further argue that another reason that will precipitate the death of the console are the alleged low sales numbers. Buzzwords like “low adoption rate” and “small user base” seem to flood publications. Last time that someone made this argument, I offered a counter-point using available data. This time, I will use a comparative approach to show that based on the current sales numbers, the gaming industry as a whole is just as healthy as it was at this point in previous cycles.
It seems that – perhaps out of anger due to low Wii U sales – Nintendo is taking its vengance out on gamers by filing copyright complaints against Youtube “Let’s Play” videos, walkthroughs, and any video that has Nintendo-owned content. It’s important to point out that, unlike Sega did a few years ago, Nintendo is NOT taking down videos or channels. Instead, it’s using content ID matching systems to place ads on videos using footage from Nintendo games and redirecting revenue from the major “Let’s Play-ers”. Greg Lastowka has a great explanation of the legal reasoning based on copyright, trademark, and IP policy over at Gamasutra that you should go read if you haven’t already, so I won’t use the same approach. What I would like to do instead is look at some of the claims being made regarding this “scandal” and explain their validity, then state my position on whether Nintendo should or should not do what they are doing.
Over at Screw Attack, Ghost King replies to the claims that “Nintendo is stealing from Let’s Players”, “Nintendo is trying to screw over their customers”, “Nintendo is Dooming Let’s Plays”, and “Nintendo is screwing over their PR with this.” I mostly agree with his comments. Indeed, the “free promo” and “it’s killing their PR” arguments are ridiculous, and – as Lastowka explained – Nintendo is within their legal right when they file these claims. What I don’t agree with is that this is an overblown issue.
Nintendo and I have had a long relationship dating back to 1986, when I got my first Nintendo Entertainment System. I remember growing up exploring the land of Hyrule in the original Zelda. I recall sharing my teenage years with Locke Cole, Terra Branford, and the Figaro brothers. A short and chubby Italian plumber showed me how to take flight and shoot for the stars as I entered adulthood. Even after I had reached adulthood, the age when video games would “no longer be of use to me”, my mom assure me, my friends and I would get together and Wii would have fun. And so, it is with a heavy heart that I say that the Wii U might actually be a failure.