Nintendo has been focused on the family gamer for decades, as almost all of their games are quite safe and clean. There is little to no mature content, and always from a third-party developer – and they never seem to succeed very well. Likely because the main audience for Nintendo doesn’t want it, and those who do want mature games would rather get them on a console that provides a wider selection. In addition, most of these games just wouldn’t look good on a Nintendo console. At least Nintendo makes games that are designed with an art style that fits the poor graphical capabilities of the consoles. I’m not saying that a family-friendly game can’t be just as enjoyable and amazing as other games. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of plenty of indie games that are the result of a parent making a game for their toddler ( Seasons after Fall , for example). However I am saying that Nintendo’s audience is definitely the family – a glance at their yearly line-up of major titles can speak for me.
The range of family-friendly content that Nintendo provides is great. I’m sure once I become a parent, I’ll be relying heavily on them to convert my child into a gamer like me. There are no other games out there quite like the pastel worlds of Pokémon and Mario , especially with gimmicks like the Wii’s motion controls. Sony and Microsoft just don’t have that kind of focus, and that’s perfectly okay. Family is a demographic that will never disappear.
That said, I think Nintendo is making a mistake by implying that it wants to expand that focus with the Switch. I mean, sure, more audience equals more money. That’s all well and good in theory, but Nintendo has dedicated itself to the family-friendly image for decades, so why change now? Well, according to Shinya Takahashi, the General Manager of Nintendo Entertainment Planning and Development, “I can’t talk about this in detail yet, but we are aiming so that neither people who like games nor moms dislike it. I think that I want to release a game device that both customers who have much experience in gaming and customers who haven’t played much can enjoy greatly.”
The Wii U was Nintendo’s first sort of attempt at this, and we all know how that went down. Yet, Nintendo clearly wants to give it another go with the upcoming console. Indeed, the Switch has no shortage of praise from developers. Ubisoft has been the most vocal, stating that, “we have always appreciated the relationship with Nintendo, the co-creation and the fact that they are really concentrating on quality – they have fantastic brands. And they are addressing the family market in a very different way, their own way, which we appreciate. We have done a lot of products and successes with Nintendo in the past, and we believe that the [Switch] will recapture a lot the lapsed Wii players. So we will see when they release it, but we are confident.”
Confident or not, it would be impossible for Nintendo to please both hardcore and family gamers because of interest conflicts, length of game sessions, and co-op play. Conflicts of interest occur mainly in content, as the hardcore gamer is looking for something that they can relate to as a mature adult, whereas the family gamer is looking for something that their children can watch or play without running into anything the parent might disapprove of. Furthermore, the family gamer is looking for short and engaging game sessions, something that can end quickly and be put down if need be. Lengthy, in-depth experiences without pause are what the hardcore gamers want – they want to be able to get lost in a game world and not come out for a good 5-8 hours. Co-op play is also very important to the family gamer, it needs to be easy, fun, and short for both adult and child. A hardcore player would defintiely prefer a stronger difficulty curve and again, longer sessions.
If Nintendo can find that happy medium and appeal to gamers of all skill levels, then I’ll eat my hat. The more hype developers and Nintendo itself put on the Switch, the more suspicious I become. The Switch looks cool, but it isn’t going to be some sort of miracle sent down from the gaming gods. Never mind that broadening its focus like this is a huge mistake – Nintendo will lose one audience or another regardless of how the Switch’s first-party offerings turn out.