While many Japanese game studios struggle to remain relevant with Western gamers, Nintendo is still one of the most recognized brands in North America and throughout the world. Even so, the company still deals with significant culture clashes. One example lies with the West’s affinity for shooter games. Call of Duty and Halo are among our biggest series, but games about guns and marines don’t generate a whole lot of excitement in the East.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata also believes the profitability of shooters in the Western market may someday pave the way for a grim scenario wherein shooters flood the shelves (automatic response: “What, they haven’t already?”) and push out games in other genres.
“It is a reality that some of these [shooter] games sell 10 million units per year in those markets, and this is one valid type of video game genre,” Iwata said at an investors’ Q&A in July. “I would personally feel sad if all video games became something like that.”
No doubt Iwata has been giving a lot of thought to shooter games in recent months. The core gaming experience is not defined by shooters, not by a long shot (zing), but it’s also the genre that’s probably associated most with the core gamer, at least in the Western market. Will Iwata’s distaste for shooter games make it difficult for the company to pitch the Wii U to a core audience?
It’s not likely, because Iwata does realize that Japan’s aversion to shooting games does not reflect the tastes of every gamer–and there are a whole lot of us out there. “I do not think such games should disappear,” Iwata said during the investors’ Q&A, which signifies that Nintendo understands the need for balance. As James Brightman points out in his IndustryGamers write-up of the Q&A, Nintendo has been spending a lot of energy trying to court third-party developers over to the Wii U, including some of the industry’s best-known publishers of first person shooters.
“It’s clear that core games will have a home on Wii U,” Brightman wrote. “id’s John Carmack recently told us that Wii U would be a ‘slam dunk’ for his Tech 5 engine, and Activision Publishing boss Eric Hirshberg also acknowledged that it’s a system from Nintendo that’s ‘finally more suited to his company’s games.'”
While it’s good that Nintendo recognizes that shooters don’t fit in its creative strengths and has assigned third parties to fill that gap, it would be interesting if Nintendo tried its hand at a shooter. At the very least, the company might try being more open to giving some of its franchises the first-person treatment: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was originally conceived as a first-person game, and even though there was a great deal of apprehension about Retro taking on the Metroid franchise, Metroid Prime was one of the GameCube’s strongest offerings by far. After all, “first person shooter” is a very general term, and not all of them are Halo clones.
Nintendo has come under fire for not stretching itself creatively these days, and many of us would love to see the company’s take on a shooter. The development process would also present a perfect opportunity to invent a new property and character–though we’d certainly grant a long and very intrigued look at a Mario-themed shooter.