Does anyone remember the good old days when there was actually enthusiasm in the so called gaming “enthusiast press”? In truth, it probably wasn’t that long ago but it certainly feels that way. It’s where you went to see people who were super passionate about games talk about games passionately. You expected criticism and to see things that were bad called out but you also knew you were going to a place where people took gaming as seriously as you did. Somehow in the last year or two, the enthusiasm seems to have been sucked out and replaced with a dark bitterness that really is making me wonder why some of the people who still write about this entertainment sector continue to bother. I speak in general terms of course that don’t apply across the board but something’s amiss and I don’t get when doom and gloom became the hot topic to latch onto.
I say this as someone who is a cynical bastard. I’m happy when positive things happen but most of my life, I’ve taken the stance that if you assume the worst, you’ll be disappointed less often. Even as someone with that point of view, I find it amazing just how obsessed with negativity the enthusiast press is becoming and how they seem to take a short-term event and milk it with every ounce of dread they can. The most recent example of this is the poor sales month Nintendo had in January with the Wii U. Poor is putting it mildly, it was a number that would have been disastrous for one of the current 8 year old consoles to have, forget a machine that’s only a couple of months old. The Xbox 360 which came out in 2005 and is in all likelihood getting replaced this year outsold it by more than two to one. It’s bad, real bad, even for when trying to launch a new console in a world still deep in a recession, much as the media tries to deny it.
That should be reported as such but what most outlets immediately leaped to was a quote from everyone’s favourite unaccountable hack analyst, Michael Pachter. He is saying that the Wii U was a misfire and that he’s basically put Nintendo on death watch, saying he’s doubtful they can recover from the poor launch and that the 3DS can’t sustain them as a company. Now, I can talk for hours about this twit’s horrendous track record with predictions and how the press touts his few successes while ignoring his many failures but that’s not even the point here.
The Wii U launched with a lot of software but most of it was uninteresting. And as a Wii U owner clamoring for new games, how thin the release schedule is until later this year is a worry for me. However, while there’s no doubt that Nintendo’s in a tough spot right now and has a lot to prove, when did one bad month equal total and complete meltdown? Does no one remember that this is a company that is over 100 years old and which until recently, had never failed to turn a profit? Does anyone remember how the Gamecube is called a failure to this day, despite it actually selling quite well and making Nintendo money? Nintendo is one of the most resilient, continually successful companies in the history of the world and just come off the Wii and DS, two of the most successful, profitable consoles of all time but they’re doomed because of one bad month of Wii U sales. When Apple’s stock started to drop and they failed to meet expectations last quarter, criticism was dismissed at hate and the press said they would “innovate out of their stock slump.” Even by the objectively obvious double standard that Apple operates in, they seem to be the only ones able to do right these days.
Oh yeah, did I also mention that Pachter now sits on the board of a Skinner Box social gaming company that has a direct interest in seeing the console business fail? Yeah, just when I thought the man’s commentary couldn’t get less credible, that massive conflict of interest enters the fray. I’ve yet to see that pointed out anywhere else.
Sure, the short-sighted, largely clueless investors that hold Nintendo stock won’t be happy with the launch. A lot of them wouldn’t have been happy unless it sold better than the Wii, something that was impossible and Nintendo knew. But as is always the case with this company, a couple of good first party titles can easily turn the platform’s fortunes around. I’ll be the first to admit that they should have had more of those titles at launch and that some of them are much further in the future than they should be but they will come and they will likely move hardware. This isn’t the Vita, Nintendo has some of the strongest IPs in the world and those IPs sell machines. All of this is trivially easy to glean by looking at the history of the company, yet I’ve not seen a single article discussing this, not a single reporter raising these points. All I see are inflammatory headlines like “Pachter puts Wii U and Nintendo on death watch” and “Is Nintendo doomed?” Not only is the “enthusiast press” ignoring history for convenient headlines, they are damaging the very industry they are supposed to champion by writing stories like this that scare potential customers away from the Wii U. Hell, tomorrow we’re finally supposed to get the reveal of the PlayStation 4, the first glimpse of the next generation that people have been saying is years overdue. Yet even now, I’m seeing stories questioning whether this is too little, too late and if consoles even matter any more. What the Hell happened to the excitement, to the interest in seeing the good the future may hold? Controversy drives clicks and writing stories they know will start flame wars is part of it but it goes beyond that. When did the press become so damn emo?
Nintendo is a company facing many challenges right now, of that there can be no doubt. Gaming’s changing is ways that have never been seen before and were not predicted by anyone. Many of these are not good changes either but more on that in the future. I’m also the first to admit that the growing scandal over Aliens: Colonial Marines is enough to blacken the heart of even the most naive gaming enthusiast. But seriously guys, if you can no longer write about the industry that is the sole focus of your job as if you actually enjoy it, step aside and let someone in who can actually see the glass as half full once in a while. And for the love of everything, please stop using analyst quotes as the basis for your doom and gloom pieces. These people just want attention and they’re playing you like a two dollar banjo. When even a jaded cynic is thinking you’re being too cynical, you have a real problem somewhere. Gaming is supposed to be fun, let’s start talking about it as if it’s not a burden, at least once in a while.