Of Fan Disappointment and Nintendo Directs

By Sage Ashford

Let's talk about disappointment for a little bit.  Arguably, facing disappointment is one of the major experiences of being a fan in any given medium.  Whether it  be a project (movie, game, comic, or otherwise) that you were interested in that fell through, or something not being as good as you had hoped, disappointment is bound to play some part in your life as a fan. But there is some disappointment that we as fans can control, and that's what this article is about.

To discuss this, I will use the latest Nintendo Direct and the general fan reaction to it as my primary example.  For those of you who were unaware, in the latter part of the Wii's lifetime, Nintendo introduced an online-only presentation produced generally every month in which the company discusses current and upcoming projects with its fans, delivered by the presidents of Nintendo in Japan, America, and Europe.  It's a neat little way of making fans feel special while they disseminate information.

Now most recently, Nintendo has had a bit of trouble with their company; their home console, the Wii U, has sales so low even calling them abysmal would be putting it mildly.   In fifteen months on the market, the company has sold just under six million consoles.  To put this in perspective, Sony's new Playstation 4 console has sold just under 5.5 million in around four months.  System sales dropped to a snail's pace after the initial wave of excitement for the successor to the much-loved Wii passed with no truly important software being released.

In the midst of this drought last year, Nintendo released a special Direct that gave Nintendo fans hope.  Filled with a number of important games both unannounced and already heard of by gamers, it was a lone life raft of hope in what turned out to be a rather empty year of releases for the company.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MzG6lDA1A0[/youtube]

Since then, nearly every Direct has led to an almost frightening level of hype and build-up in the 24 hours between the time they are announced and the time they are aired.  And after they air, an equal or even greater amount of despair and disappointment is felt by fans as they all seem to echo the strange presentiment that the company is "holding back" or hiding games from them.   This has been a continuing cycle for the last twelve months, finally culminating in Nintendo's most recent Direct.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/BdQg43n2OaM[/youtube]

The most interesting thing here is that the company has done everything that could be reasonably asked of them.  They set out a clear message that this Direct would primarily cover games releasing up to the end of the Spring season, and that's what the bulk of it was about.  But they went above and beyond this description, giving gamers information on Bayonetta 2 , Super Smash Bros., and Monolith Soft's mysterious "X" game, in addition to trailers on both Mario Kart 8 and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

If you are interested in keeping count about such things, that's their flagship fighter, their flagship racer, a highly anticipated sequel to a critically acclaimed RPG, another sequel to a critically acclaimed action game (and a desperately needed third-party title, to boot), and a new platformer game based on a beloved franchise character.   Nintendo unleashed a mini-E3 upon gamers and they were still upset.  Such a peculiar response begs examination.

Nintendo Directs generally attracts a special sort of video game fan—the kind who surfs all the popular (and even not-so-popular) gaming websites for information on their favorite upcoming games, the kind who posts on gaming forums and has heated debates on the mechanics and design flaws of video games.  More than anyone else, they should be aware of the harsh realities of game design, particularly in this HD era of game creation.  And yet, when I gave gaming forums a look, there it was, plain as day: ridiculous, lengthy lists of possible new IPs and long-forgotten franchises they hoped they would see during the presentation.  Certainly, they all claimed to "know" Nintendo wouldn't have all (if any) of them, but still the disappointment was there.

Even worse is there's a pattern to follow.  Famed Nintendo creators known to be currently developing Nintendo games all have a habit of re-tweeting the Nintendo Direct announcements when they show up on Twitter.  Sure enough, the pattern held true yet again, and as the proud owner of a Wii U, I held out hope to hear of only the games by creators who had bothered to retweet the announcement, and I got literally everything I expected from Iwata's presentation.

Perhaps the sad reality is that more often than not, we as fans refuse to temper our expectations.  We expect the world to be handed to us, not just in gaming but in any form of media, and when these expectations aren't met, we react with a little bit of the vitriol that we have become (in)famous for.  There was no way for Nintendo to win in its current situation.  Creating a video game is not only an expensive, but a time-consuming endeavor—there are only so many games they can reasonably develop (or commission) at a given time.  And even if they had announced everything being released from now until the middle of 2015, people would still have been disappointed because nothing would be a surprise anymore—another sign of those nagging, unrealistic expectations we keep in the back of our minds.

I wish I could say I have a simple cure-all to banishing those expectations, but I don't—save to say that we should all be aware of them, and constantly ask ourselves just how reasonable they are before we take to our keyboards and attack the internet with our righteous fury.  Y'know, that or you just become a cynical jerk and decide that everything sucks.

Sage Ashford is a college kid with far more hobbies than he has free time.  You can find him on Twitter @SageShinigami, but also at his own blog Jumping in Headfirst .

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About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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