Is Mario Kart 8 the Wii U’s Saving Grace?
There has been a lot of digital and real world ink spilt recently on the so-called ‘demise’ of Nintendo. Or to be more specific it’s ‘flat-lined’, ‘troubled’ and ‘dead in the water’ Wii U console. EA stated that Nintendo was ‘dead’ after the release of the Wii U. However, a mere five months after all this speculation and fervour, Mario Kart 8 has sold nearly 1.3 million copies in its first three days of release. Now here’s the kicker, Mario Kart 8 is only available on one platform, the Wii U. It’s not available on Xbox One or 360 and it’s not available on Playstation 3 and 4.
Nintendo believes a closed eco-system will save it from obscurity – something its former rival Sega failed to realise. Nintendo’s core titles – your Donkey Kongs, Super Mario Brothers and Zeldas have become cultural symbols of video gaming heritage. The fact gamers from both Generation X and Generation Y (or Rent, depending on your current situation) have grown up with these characters. This pull is strong as the heritage dimension has caricatured video gamer’s responses. Even the hardest of hardcore players who argue about game engines and the graphical nuances of Battlefield versus Call of Duty in HD game engine terms, will stop and play Mario on Wii if given the chance.
Nintendo is clever. Too clever some might argue, in that it knows social gaming is popular. The demise of the Kinect might have dashed social gaming hopes for the next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony, but Nintendo believes multiplayer gaming (with a healthy bias towards offline engagement) has a massive marketplace. This is what made the original Wii so successful. Xbox and PlayStation are defacto solitary gaming devices; you play online against anonymous individuals. However, Wii, and now the Wii U, is based on a different dynamic of video game interplay one which sees the individual sidelined in favour of the multiplayer – not the online multiplayer but the familial multiplayer environment.
Mario Kart 8 according to meta rankings has had some of the franchises highest scores from IGN to Polygon. The diversity of support is telling, considering that five months earlier these same news services believed the console was dead in the water. Nintendo knows that Call of Duty will remain popular but you don’t want to play Call of Duty Multiplayer with your mum and nan – No-one wants to see their Nan getting mauled by Riley do they? So Nintendo’s niche is that ‘fun’ social gaming will always be needed and more importantly will remain popular.