28 February, 2011

Was Nintendo more innovative on the GAMECUBE?

At first, common sense might suggest that it’s the other way around, but I’ll insist: Nintendo was more “daring” on the old Gamecube days.

To know why I think so, read on.

Of course, hardware VS hardware, the Nintendo Wii brings much more inventiveness to the market. Except for the Wavebird, the first wireless controller that actually worked, the Nintendo Gamecube was a pretty mainstream console: nice hardware, in pair with the concorrence and a very confortable controller. The Nintendo Wii, on the other hand, brought movement sensors and an unique gameplay that would ultimately influentiate the whole industry. 

But, after the Wii's launch (and, arguably, the release of Wii Fit), Nintendo hasn't done anything out of the obvious. I mean, of course it has created games controlled by arm twists and envolving crazy dances, but this is just what is to be expected of a console like Wii. Adding movement based controls on games like Twilight Princess or the Metroid Prime series was just to be expected. So, one could say that after an initial innovation, Nintendo has settled down.
On the GC, however, Nintendo was trully daring. Not on the hardware, but certainly on the software. On the Gamecube, Nintendo has made a cartoon-like Legend of Zelda and a 2D gameboy-controlled multiplayer one. Nintendo has turned Metroid into a first person game. It has put 2 racers in one kart and inserted on-foot stages into Star Fox (but that is a different matter, I know). 
Nintendo has made a drum-based platform game out of Donkey Kong, for crying out loud!

The only exception appears to be Mario Galaxy. But... is it really? Is it really "thinking outside the box" to make a "Galaxy" version of a game that has already had Mario Land and Mario World? And, while the gravity is surely relevant for the gameplay, does it really change the game's "core"? Or, when it comes to it, Mario Galaxy is still about jumping around? Mario Sunshine, for one, is clearly a "break" in the series - starting with the vacation-themed scenario. The gameplay also has its changes, with the water squeezing jumps and hovers and the "cleaning" stages.

And, on top of that, there are the new franchises. The Nintendo Gamecube was home of Pikmin, a very original strategy game, and of some welcome incursions from GBA titles, such as Fire Emblem and Battalion Wars ("inspired" in Advance Wars).

Besides, while Nintendo Wii was a innovative bet from Nintendo, it was not a risky one.

Before announcing the Wii, Nintendo decided to test the market, to see if it was receptive to changes. So, it chose to launch a new product, that was not supposed to be a continuation to any of their main lines: the Nintendo DS.
If you've watched the epic DS announcement by Reggie in 2004, and have read news of those days, you might remember that it was not supposed to be the successor of the Game Boy Advance. Even after the DS release, rumors about the future GBA still flourished. The DS was, after all, just an experiment.
But, as it turned out, the DS prints money. So, yes, the market WAS ready, and Wii was announced (not before huge rumors regarding "Nintendo ON").

And then, Wii also printed money and Nintendo could rest, not needing to perform any other crazy innovation to guarantee its sales, unlike happened with the Gamecube, which, although giving Nintendo constant profit, was not a blockbuster. 

Isn't necessity, after all, the mother of invention?

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