Saturday, March 20, 2010

Quality And Quantity

One of Nintendo's oldest slogans that was used during the Nintendo 64 era was "Quality not quantity." -- a phrase brought out whenever the company was criticised for its lack of third party support (as, let's not forget, the original PlayStation was capturing the attention of gamers all over the world and managed to have some massive games that went on to become classic franchises, such as Metal Gear Solid and Gran Turismo) or when asked about the length of time between their big games. For whatever reason, their consistent use of that term ingrained it in my head, and there hasn't been any other game company slogan (aside from maybe "It's in the game" -- EA's old one) that has been as memorable as Nintendo's.

In hindsight, the slogan was both true and false: Nintendo's games back then were indeed full of quality, with the likes of Super Mario 64 and, of course, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time smashing the competition and hammering home exactly why Nintendo were (and, arguably, still are) the masters of their craft. But on the other hand, the phrase was an excuse, too; a term to throw about as if its meaning was irrelevant, just to buy the company some breathing space after disappointed fans kept pestering them for new games to play. In a way, these fans had no choice but to constantly nag for new games, too -- the PlayStation truly was powering along at an unbelievable pace, delivering some truly excellent titles, expanding the userbase of potential gamers by appealing to untapped markets, and even converting the odd fanboy or three (thousand) to Sony's new baby. It was the era when videogame enthusiasts, the supposed hardcore, started to realise that to experience any game they might have wanted to, they needed to own all of the systems. This isn't to say that, for some, this wasn't already true back in the 8 and 16-bit days, but the arrival of the PlayStation was when it really started to become necessary: the console was, after all, where the good majority of third-party support was focused on, and the Final Fantasy series' switch from Nintendo to the PS was a massive bonus for Sony's machine.

Fast forward to today, though, and Nintendo's old slogan has become relevant again, but only if its paraphrased. As the title of this post suggests, that paraphrased version is 'Quality And Quantity', and I deem it that because of just how amazing the past 6 months, if not the past few years, have been for the videogame medium.

Since October last year, we've had so many incredible games come out that, just thinking about it now, I still can't believe it. The benchmark has been raised to an exponentially high level, with the likes of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Bayonetta, Assassin's Creed II, Mass Effect 2 and Heavy Rain leading the charge. Even the supposed average titles, such as Brutal Legend or The Saboteur, have been great, highlighting to me that the quality of the industry today is higher than it has ever been.

Looking at the games I mentioned above, the quality extends beyond sequels and underlines the quality of new IP that we've had in recent years. While the sequels might be the most notable, refining and improving upon their predecessors, the new franchises haven't been anything to sneeze at either. Whether it is the two games I mentioned above, both of which are still relatively new, or games from a few years back such as Mirror's Edge or Dead Space, the quality we've seen has been pretty damn amazing, and as the BioShock 2 and Mass Effect 2's of the world prove, these new IPs usually turn out to be remarkable and amazing franchises.

The thing that gets me the most though isn't the fact that the consistency of this medium has delivered time and time again recently, but that it isn't showing any signs of slowing down. The lineup of games due to release later this year -- spread out nicely, too, instead of all at once for the Christmas rush like we've seen in previous years -- as well as intriguing new technology like the Sony Wave and Microsoft's Natal, shows to me that 2010 will absolutely be gaming's best year to date, and when you consider that such a statement is made almost every year these days, that's nothing but a positive sign for a medium that continues to flourish, continues to evolve, and continues to mature into something that can absolutely sit alongside the likes of film, music and literature. I'm not sure about the rest of you but I'm extremely excited about the upcoming months and years for videogames, and I haven't even begun to talk about the push for 3D or whether there's a new generation of consoles incoming...


ThrawnOmega said...

I find it ironic that you're using Nintendo's slogan, yet none of the titles you mentioned are for Nintendo's flagship Wii. The industry may be seeing a quantity of quality, but Nintendo most certainly has not. They've shifted from "quality not quantity" if that was truly their philosophy to "quantity not quality." They've been piggybacking off the success of Gamecube titles by rereleasing them with minor gameplay tweaks. The Wii is a dumping ground of worthless shovelware, and even most of Nintendo's efforts seem plain lazy. I've seen editorials calling out Nintendo in both Game Informer and on IGN. While this has been a gread generation, the Wii has largely failed to show that motion controls are the way of the future.

Steven O'Dell said...

Thrawn -- Yet both Sony and Microsoft are following suit with their own motion control technology.

I understand your point about Nintendo's situation and even agree with it to some degree -- there's no denying that the quality of titles has been inconsistent -- but I also disagree with it too.

I wouldn't blame Nintendo so much as the third party developers who still don't know what to do with the console, and worse, the enthusiast gaming community for not embracing games that are tailor made for them. Nintendo have been delivering quality with their Wii Fit and Wii Sports franchises, but those experiences aren't for us so it feels like there is a real lack of games coming out.

And there is, but I would say that what has come out from Nintendo's stable -- hardcore or casual -- has been pretty consistent in terms of quality, but Nintendo can't keep their console relevant by themselves. The GameCube demonstrated that, and if third parties don't start figuring out how to actually take advantage of the console, we're going to see a similar outcome to that of the GameCube. But even so, my biggest concern as someone observing the way things have gone thus far this generation is how when games made for us do come out, they're not supported because everyone's too busy playing Call of Duty or whatever instead. There's plenty of great games on the Wii, but no one cares, and that's a massive problem.

Here's hoping that with the arrival of more motion controller technology this year, plus maybe a HD version of the Wii (if rumours are correct), things will start to change and the Wii can mix it with the other two for both the hardcore and casual markets. Then again, maybe that isn't such a good idea, because then we'd have even more quality games to try and play...