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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Alien Fanbase of Punch-Out!!

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - A divergent path from the rest of Nintendo.

The past two days in Punch-Out!! week I've mentioned that Little Mac and Punch-Out!! stand alone compared to the rest of the Nintendo cast and games. This article will try to find the root cause and impact of this phenomenon.
First, we should note that the people who played Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! are more-or-less not the same people who played other character-based Nintendo titles. Observe the back of the box:

This literally calls Glass Joe a "tough contender".
As you can see, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! was labeled as part of the "SPORTS SERIES". The same series as generic games like Baseball, Soccer, and Tennis.

Generic and pixel-y enough.
Where did that guy's pants go?
The ball has a shadow, but the player doesn't.
Obviously, Punch-Out!! was the magnum opus of these "SPORTS SERIES" titles. 

Ever think about when people are referring to the NES Punch-Out!! game, they call it Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! and either ignore the existence of or frown in disgust about the Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream rerelease? Because look at that box up there on the page. It's just gushing with star celebrity power. "BOXING TIPS FROM THE CHAMP INSIDE."  What would a bunch of nerds do with boxing tips from Mike Tyson? Nothing much, especially if you see what those "tips" were. But it sounded cool. You could be POWERFUL. Forget playing Kid Icarus, that game sucked and was impossible and stuff. I'm gonna get BOXING TIPS from BUYING THIS GAME. I can use those in REAL LIFE. People thought this game was a boxing simulator like Tennis and Baseball primitively tried to be rather than an action puzzler with boxing as the dressing.

So obviously this was marketed to a very different type of person than Super Mario Bros. 3. It even seemed very Western-ish: The cast was all human, on Earth, in New York even. No fantasy world stuff here. Nintendo wouldn't do something like this again until Mother. This was truly for the American audience, even Genyo Takeda admitted as much. And it resonated with them, selling the vast majority of copies in North America. It was like Madden with good game design principles.

To illustrate how enduring Punch-Out!! is, journalists literally writing for ESPN and TMZ, organizations that have nothing to do with videogaming, herald Punch-Out!! as the best videogame ever. TMZ had a story that Mike Tyson has never beaten Glass Joe before, and in fact he is a fan of "Tour of Duty" (he likely meant Call of Duty). Is Punch-Out!! perhaps the 1980s godfather of today's modern dudebro game?

However, and JUST for KoopaTV, Mike Tyson finally has defeated Glass Joe THIS WEEK! (Punch-Out!! week!)

If that's true, will people in 25 years be talking about how they've still memorized the password code to the Mike Tyson battle and all of the difficulties that have gone into beating Mr. Sandman... but for games like Call of Duty or BioShock Infinite? Do those games even have the same polish, charm, and solid game design that Punch-Out!! has that has kept in relevant in the minds of an entire generation over to the next generation?

I doubt it. Gaming was a different time back then. Games back then that had the casual type of appeal Punch-Out!! presented were meant to expand the gaming market, much like Wii Sports is trying to do today. People would probably be talking about Wii Sports in 25 years if its audience — people in retirement homes — would still be alive! Meanwhile, dudebro games like Call of Duty exist to feed the same existing horrible audience without care for quality or for the good of the industry. Punch-Out!! is nothing like that. It's a series far from an annualized release schedule. However, it may be because of that that the Punch-Out!! gamers of 25 years ago are the husbands and fathers of today's age... the ones that don't play games.

In conclusion, Punch-Out!! appeals to a far different fanbase than other Nintendo games do. It's very likely that, because of how the game was marketed, it expanded the NES audience in a completely different direction than the typical nerd or little excitable kid wanting to play the latest Super Mario Bros. game. Little kids didn't play Punch-Out!!; teenagers and young adults did. And they played the other sports-type games. They aren't gamers today, and so you don't see Little Mac up there like Mario is. If you ask them what "NSMB" stands for, they won't say New Super Mario Brothers.

And that's a shame, because the marketing that worked very well for Punch-Out!! back in the 1980s is working against its chances of being relevant in the 2000s and on like The Legend of Zelda continues to be, despite it being just as good — if not better. And now Nintendo differentiates itself from companies that would make a Punch-Out!!-type game today because it just doesn't appear to be Nintendo-y. No celebrity endorsements in the newest New Super Mario Bros. U, after all. Japan wouldn't have ever made Punch-Out!! Wii if Nintendo of America wasn't asking for a new game in the series for a while. Nintendo just keeps developing for the kids, while games that would appeal to an older and different audience, like a Punch-Out!! or Duck Hunt, don't play games or move on to other pastures.

And that's why Punch-Out!! is so different from other Nintendo series.

Ludwig doesn't really hang out in the Punch-Out!! Miiverse community but it seems similar to how people would act on the playgrounds, community centers, and gyms in the 1980s. But he does hang out in the Super Smash Bros. 4 community, trying to get support for Little Mac. Follow him at NNID PrinceOfKoopas!

The next article in the week is this.
Let's not forget that Mike Tyson is a criminal.

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