Nintendo's Online Strategy: Behind The Times, Or A Means To Fight Evil?
For years, the big N neglected online gaming. Perhaps there's a horrifying reason why.
James Cameron's film, Aliens, is full of memorable scenes and quotes. One of the lesser known lines occurs a little more than halfway through, when Hicks, noticing his marines are in rough shape, attempts to keep them focused on defending the perimeter.
Hey. I know we're all in strung out shape, but stay frosty, and alert. We can't afford to let one of those bastards in here.
Sound advice, despite the fact that minutes later, the entire area's overrun with xenomorphs, all because our heroes missed one critical point of entry in the ceiling. You probably know what happens next. All hell breaks loose. People die. Situation FUBAR.
We couldn't help but recall that part of the movie while enjoying multiplayer races in Mario Kart 7, because it brings to mind Nintendo's online strategy, or lack thereof.
For years, the big N has received plenty of criticism from gamers that feel the Japanese based company is behind the times, that it simply doesn't get online play, or the benefit of creating an advanced and always connected service, such as Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.
To be fair, the publisher's made strides, including a DS headset for Metroid Prime Hunters and the ability to compete against players from around the globe in Mario Kart 7 without those bothersome friend codes. Fans can even create custom messages for others to see.
This reluctance to embrace online connectivity may have something to do with the company's belief that customers prefer local play, or perhaps there's some piece of research showing the majority of folks ignore online features altogether.
We, however, see it a different way. Ultimately, Nintendo is terrified (and rightfully so), that one day, the public will associate this...
To which we repeat, we can't afford to let one of those bastards in here.
Don't get us wrong. We're not suggesting Xbox Live and PSN are full of pedophiles seeking to prey on children.
At the same time, it's obvious that kids have been Nintendo's target audience for more than two decades, and when you invest that much time and money creating brand recognition, an ounce of mistrust may result in millions lost, as in customers and dollars. You cannot risk one incident, where some sick man or woman attempts to contact youngsters.
Is this the reason the company has largely ignored pleas to invest in fleshing out online enabled games? We don't know the answer to that.
Regardless, this definitely puts the big N in a tight spot, because it must find a way to keep its older fans happy with online gaming, while at the same time preserving its kid friendly image, the one parents trust.
That said, it'll be curious to see what Nintendo does with 3DS games moving forward, and then its Wii U console in 2012. We're definitely on board with making things safe for players of all ages.
With this in mind, Nintendo must closely examine online multiplayer to make sure its system is locked down. A single breach could prove catastrophic.