How is Blizzard like Nintendo?

I’ve been reading this post by Psychochild and this one by Cuppycake.

Of course, there is the usual discussion of WoW, and whether it is innovative or not. I won’t address that directly here, but something that gets overlooked way too often. And it’s why I continue to think that Nintendo and Blizzard are the smartest of their fields when it comes to making money.

Brian says:

Even now, a lot of people are dismissive of the Wii since it does not have the graphical capabilities of competing consoles. But, Nintendo took a huge risk that went against the grain and it paid off spectacularly. I’m certain that if Nintendo had been trying to compete directly with the graphical prowess of the XBox 360 or the Playstation 3, they would not have had the ability to try an innovative controller design.

You know, people said the same thing about Blizzard. The graphics are stupidly simple. They are over saturated neon colors, with highly exaggerated features. This is in keeping with the art design of previous Blizzard games. It isn’t a displeasing look, but it isn’t “bleeding edge”. This has two big qualities that win for them:

1. It says “this is a game, it isn’t real. It’s supposed to be fun, and funny.”
2. It means that it could be run on any old computer that you had laying around.

Number 2 is far more important in my mind. It has a lot to do with why there are 10 million WoW players. Mom and Dad didn’t have to upgrade Billy or Susies computer for them to play it. Or their own. If you read the first posts on this blog, you will see how much trouble I had getting a computer to run EQ2 well. It wasn’t easy. And EQ was sold with much fanfare about how they had designed the game to keep updated in its appearance, as gfx cards got better.

Blizzard doesn’t care about this. Lots of the hardcore MMO players didn’t like the look. However, Blizzard understood that those weren’t the people they were trying to please. They pleased the 10 million – 300,000 people that play WoW and nothing else. Was that dumb? No. Did it make me happy? Not really, but there are other games to play.

How is this like Nintendo? If you still haven’t got it, the Wii is enormous for them. Sniff at the gfx all you want, but people are buying and playing Wii’s that have never had consoles before. Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and Rock Band all appeal to non-traditional videogame audiences. It’s huge, it’s fun, and it marks them as much smarter than their rivals.

The only people that own an X-Box seem to me to be the adolescent males with inferiority complexes who have to have the “biggest” or the “fastest” or the “wankerest”. I don’t mean to be sexist. These days maybe there are some young women infected with this disease as well. But that’s a small audience compared to all the adults out there who are playing Wii Sports, the people doing Wii Fit, and the grandparents who are playing Rock Band The Beatles.

The argument of “improve what you have” is the cry of the devoted base. Devoted base, I’m sorry to say it, but you are asking to be abused. I have been on the treadmill where you improve your game based on the requests of the hardcore customers. This is a losers game. Some of those hardcore customers are inevitably going to peel away, due to death, marriage, divorce, job loss, and other forces of, well, let’s just call them Nature. No matter what you do. You may lose slowly or quickly, but the path of pleasing only your base is a losing game. (I think that’s true of politics, too, but that’s a subject I stay away from on this blog. Mostly.)

If your game is going to have life, you have to be growing your base. Figuring out how to make it, or the next game, appeal to more people.

And for every vocal hardcore who harps at your door saying they want a bigger death penalty, there are 10 people who like the death penalty just the way it is, thank you very much. They aren’t talking to you about it though. Because it’s fine the way it is. Though maybe it could be a bit easier, I mean the repair costs are killing me…

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