Bayonetta 2, or Nintendo as the One Who Knocks

I have a proposal for you. Have you ever considered what it might be like for the core gaming fanbase to join together and support one another, regardless of console allegiances? Say for instance, an awesome exclusive title came out for the Microsoft or Sony platforms and you didn’t have the specified console, but your friend did. Your friend invites you over to check it out and play it with them, in the same room… you know, the way friends do. They might jab you a little bit playfully, talking about how they have this awesome exclusive for their platform of choice, but they don’t mean it as anything but that. You both have a good laugh over it, and get back to the business of playing games. Gaming is a leisurely activity. It isn’t something to get upset over, especially in the name of longstanding console allegiances. Just because some interesting, inventive exclusive lives on some platform you don’t throw money at isn’t a valid reason to get so angry. They’re just video games, after all. It’s no different than when you were a child and were sitting in front of your TV in your room, playing your favorite games while waiting for mom to bring you that awesome grilled cheese sandwich she makes. Of course you now have a bigger TV, and at some point you have to make that grilled cheese sandwich for yourself, but you are playing games to recreate that same feeling of wonder and joy of exploring a world foreign to your own.

I want to live in that world. I want to exist in that space where gamers don’t throw fits over exclusivity announcements. I lived through the SNES era, an era where nearly every major third party title was an exclusive. Sega and Nintendo had vastly different libraries of games, and to truly get everything there was to offer, you would have to get both. For many, it was a case of choosing their battles. As game budgets inflated, third party exclusives became a rarity. The majority of big games that come out now on the Xbox360 and the Playstation 3 are the same on both platform. The only real exclusives are first party titles. Nintendo quit playing the power game, and yield their own array of exclusives, both first and third party. The Wii had a bunch of interesting third party games that gave it a solid library that was different than the competition, and I liked it that way. Of course, the main reason for this happening was the large difference in hardware capabilities. Third parties are no longer interested in true exclusivity because it’s too expensive. Game development and marketing budgets are too high to make platform exclusivity a viable option for hardly anyone, so Nintendo lives in their own world, coasting primarily off of the success of their first party titles while Sony and Microsoft ride the waves of third party multi-platform hits. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if this generation didn’t come with the idea that if your game doesn’t sell four million units, your studio gets shut down because you cannot recoup the expenses of development. It’s horrible. This shouldn’t be happening to anyone. I realize this is a business, but because of this happening, games are becoming less and less unique, and more focuses on being big blockbuster titles.

People like to hate on Nintendo. It’s been that way for years, and it doesn’t seem to be changing at all. The “hardcore” gamers like to throw fits about it because they claim that Nintendo has always had “inferior hardware,” when the Wii was the only actual instance of this happening. They don’t like the “family friendly” image that Nintendo carries. Most of all, they don’t believe video games are for everyone. Parents and small children aren’t supposed to enjoy games. They are all supposed to be “visceral, cinematic experiences that dabble in heavy, adult themes.” Games can never imply that they aren’t “edgy.” They can’t just be fun. Fun is for babies. Hardcore gamers can’t have fun, it’s against the rules! I understand these feelings aren’t going to change, so I do what I can to ignore them. The people getting upset over this aren’t worth getting upset over.

I grew up playing video games that were fun, and Nintendo still offers that to me. I might be a horrible, negative person a lot of the time, but even I can’t help but smile after watching the newest New Super Mario Bros U trailer. It reminds me of what I loved about the medium to begin with. The games knew they were games, and didn’t try to be something outside of that. They’re just fun experiences I can share with other people. Who could really get angry at that?

Nintendo announced Bayonetta 2 yesterday. A lot of people are upset about this because it’s a Wii U exclusive. The backlash over the internet has gone from fanboy ragefests to tweeting death threats at the developers. That’s totally uncalled for! Do you realize that you’re getting angry over the platform a video game is on? Do you realize how insignificant this is outside of your little gaming bubble? This game wasn’t going to exist otherwise. Nintendo resurrected it from the grave and they have faith in it. Fans should be happy about this! This isn’t something to get angry about at all. A lot of the vocal minority on the internet would rather this game not exist than be on a Nintendo platform. They don’t want to buy another box to put under their television for this one game. They grew out of Nintendo’s games because they weren’t “edgy” enough, and the majority of what they want are regurgitated shooting sprees available on the Sony and Microsoft platforms. Games with colors are not allowed. If it’s not brown and full of blood, they don’t want it, which is appropriate, since as it stands right now, the gaming industry has blood in its stool.

Nintendo quit playing the graphics game a while ago, because they understand that this market trend isn’t sustainable. As a company that solely makes video games and video game hardware, they know it isn’t their place to compete. With that in mind, they went back to the drawing board and wanted to find new ways to get people into gaming. With the Wii, they did just that. They got their little white box into a lot of living rooms, and supported it with a variety of great first party software. Third party support for it dried up when first party titles were the only ones selling. The big challenges were the difference in programming architecture and the limitations of the hardware, so the big titles couldn’t come to their system.

The Wii U puts Nintendo in a very interesting position. The majority of large third party titles are developed by Western studios for multiple platforms. A lot of these studios had never made a proper console game before the current generation, primarily sticking to PC where hardware limitations have always been less of an issue. These companies don’t have a history with Nintendo, and because of this, they aren’t as willing to work with them. Nintendo understands this, and I’m wondering if the announcement of Bayonetta 2 is the start of a trend. If the next Sony and Microsoft platforms continue to be driven by the Western developed games they are now, Nintendo can position themselves as a haven for Japanese development. Games that might not have a real place or audience with the other consoles might be able to live comfortably on a Nintendo platform. As someone who doesn’t play a lot of Western developed games on consoles, I want Nintendo to pick up all the Japanese support they can. Japan is their homeland, and if they can give these smaller, mid-tier studios a place to make something great, I’m all for it. I want the Wii U to succeed, and I want Nintendo to help cultivate an array of Japanese developed games and studios. They brought Bayonetta 2 back from the grave and are giving it a chance to do well. They also happen to have the means to give it a proper marketing push that the original title lacked.

By announcing Bayonetta 2 as a Wii U exclusive they did something they’ve needed to do for a while: They got people talking about the Wii U. It might not be the most positive of conversations from the “hardcore” audience, but it got people talking. That’s the first step to building this infrastructure for third party development. When the game comes out, they need to give it a proper push so that it does well. Platinum Games deserves a real commercial success, something they never got with Sega. Between Monster Hunter and Dragon Quest, Nintendo already has Japan on lock down. They just need to find a way to push these sorts of games in the west. If they can make a success story out of Bayonetta, then other Japanese third party studios will follow. American gamers might not care so much about Japanese games anymore, but Nintendo has a chance to help give Japan the unifying push it needs to “catch up” and push their game development back to the top. It’s not that I don’t want Western games to succeed, it’s just that I want a diverse market that consists of both Western and Japanese developed titles across a variety of platforms.

As far as I’m concerned, the Nintendo I saw yesterday was determined. After the misstep with the 3DS, they aren’t willing to make that sort of mistake again. Nintendo has been a company for over 100 years. They aren’t stupid. If they keep making decisions like Bayonetta 2, giving these sort of games a real chance at success, then I see a bright future for them. If they can’t have the existing Western market, Nintendo seems willing to build their own. Nintendo is setting out to be the one who knocks, and I’m ready to watch them do it.

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