Whoa. Did you know games today cost an average of $10-28 million to develop? Meanwhile something on the scale of Grand Theft Auto V is estimated to cost over $100 million by the time it's finished. That's scary. It's no wonder so many developers like Nintendo choose to play it safe by creating sequels to successful games.

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When development budgets are this astronomical, one failure can mean the complete destruction and demise of a company. Despite this risk, many developers agree it's essential to take risks in order to keep gamers interested. And developers have learned that the most opportune time to introduce new franchises is alongside a new console, when there's less competition and more opportunity to stand out in the crowd.

Frank Gibeau, President of EA Labels via LeMonde.fr said:
I believe in new IPs. But the long cycle of the recent consoles makes it difficult to create them, so the best decision, at present, is to move innovation in already established franchises. It is always necessary to be creative in this industry, or else you die.

I hear Nintendo has a new console releasing later this year. New hardware presents both a challenge and an opportunity. While software developers alone may face slightly less monetary risk by investing in innovative or unproven software, Nintendo (as a hardware maker) also has to account for hardware costs and the success of their platform. To offset these added hardware expenses and minimize their risks, Nintendo often plays it safe with launch software by calling in the familiar troops (consisting of Sergeant Zelda, Corporal Samus, and Captain Mario). It kind of seems like they've closed their eyes completely to this recognized launch window of opportunity to release new software. As a result, Nintendo's past console fashion show debuts have looked like this: Here's Mario with two screens. Here's Mario in 3D. Here's Mario spinning with a flick of your remote. Here's Mario on a touch screen tablet.

Mario is on its 188th release. That's not an exaggeration. There have literally been 188 Mario games. Which is all the more reason the Wii U debut, with its new interface options, would be the perfect time to introduce a new concept, new universe, and new cast of characters. Mario has a lot of baggage (full of Bob-ombs, Toads and Yoshis). With a new Mario game, Nintendo is locked and bound by tradition. They can evolve it, sure. But it's still familiar. Nintendo has the opportunity to wow us with something new but seems to have chosen once again to take risks on their hardware while playing it safe with software, using the familiarity of their existing brands to make a reliable buck.

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As EA's Frank Gibeau noted, the alternative to not taking risks on new software is death. Franchise fatigue has claimed the lives of many over the years, from Tony Hawk to Guitar Hero. Nintendo is better than most companies at preventing the gameplay in its series from becoming stale, but after several decades, the staleness is starting to take hold. A Mario or Zelda release is no longer an event, now it's just called Sunday.

It turns out the thing holding Nintendo back the most is its past. Nintendo forgot the best experiences are often built from scratch, from the ground up around the hardware. Wii Sports seduced players because it was made exclusively for the Wii and its Wii Remote controller. It wasn't a game made for an NES, SNES, N64, or GameCube controller and then shoe-horned onto the Wii.

There's a reason the Apple philosophy has been so successful, where software and hardware combine in harmony to make something remarkable. Microsoft too has recognized this synergy. Rather than having other companies design and develop its hardware, it is now increasingly doing that work itself. This hardware/software fusion delivers the user a combined experience that's more interesting and more fulfilling.

Nintendo controls the destiny of both its hardware and software. It's time for the company to use this opportunity presented by a new generation to try new things—new things with hardware and new things with software.
  1. Well, another year has ended, and another winding-down Nintendo console has passed the baton to its successor. The Wii U, Nintendo's new generation console, is now the focus for fans—and something for me to anticipate as I save up to buy my own. As I go forth into 2013, I find myself taking a look back on my way forward, and reflecting on my own past experiences with the Wii.
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  2. You know those fancy buttons underneath the left and right sticks on the PlayStation 3 that are called R3 and L3? They don't actually have any names on the Wii U. The in-game documentation via prompts in Nintendo Land and Ninja Gaiden just say "Hold R" with a picture of a stick that has two little arrows above it. I think this is similar to what the 360 does maybe?
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  3. Not long after setting up my Miiverse information for the first time, I decided it was time to spruce up the decor a little bit by jazzin' out my profile message. While I was fond of the original "Do, Re, Egon" greeting, it was time to push the envelope a little bit. With the assistance of my favorite linguistic website, I pieced together a polite and affable greeting I'd be happy to show you, your girlfriend, or your grandmother's girlfriend: "
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