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Monday, December 21, 2020

Super Mario 35-Year Anniversary "Celebration", and Interview Styles of Reggie Fils-Aime vs. Doug Bowser

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - The celebration line is stupid, but that's not unique to Doug Bowser's interview style.

I have been seeing a lot of (bad) comments on social media (and even on KoopaTV's comments section) about Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser, and how it looks like he's been doing nothing for the company and is even a malevolent force. These folks miss the point of what presidents do (they're chosen/hired to make decisions, as opposed to being a fountain of memes) with their time. By their very nature, you don't know what they do to run the company unless you work for the company, since companies keep these things secret.

Anyway, there was a very recent Polygon interview with Doug Bowser, where they discussed a variety of topics. The one that's gotten the most attention is the question on why there are so many games and experiences that will disappear on March 31, 2021, including all versions of Super Mario 3D All-Stars and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light. Doug Bowser said these are limited to create a sense of “celebration”, which everyone can recognise is a stupid answer that isn't applied to any other anniversary going on, including ones previously done by Nintendo, and parallel anniversaries like the 30th anniversary of the SaGa series with COLLECTION of SaGa FINAL FANTASY LEGEND from Square Enix. When pressed by the Polygon interviewer (and props for the follow-up question), Mr. Bowser said the decision was made and he can't speak more about it.

Now, that's different than saying he personally made the decision (he didn't), but he's just responding to the interview with the messaging that he's been given. You'd have to go to Nintendo's Japanese executives to have a chance to figure out the real reason.

However, litigating why things are disappearing on March 31, 2021 is not the real purpose of this article. (It's a dumb policy, and I'll maintain the purpose of it is to create a fear-of-missing-out effect, or you could call it a time-limited offer, that not-coincidentally ends when Nintendo's fiscal year ends, to financially soften their lack of a holiday blockbuster.) I want to combat the people (and they exist, this isn't a strawman) who are all “if former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime was interviewing, or if Reggie was in charge, none of these things we don't like would happen!” Or, “at least Reggie is putting on a good public face. What has Doug Bowser done? He's so awkward.” Let's go back to some of Reggie's interviews, which I found looking through time-bound search engines for Reggie Fils-Aime interviews, without looking for any specific moment. In other words, this is randomly representative:


This may be going back to before some of Reggie's fans were born, but back in 2006, Nintendo fans were looking forward to Nintendo's successor to the GameCube, deemed the Revolution. This was alongside the Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo's “third pillar” blockbuster, the Nintendo DS. (That third pillar stuff was total corporate obfuscation, and I'd like to think Reggie played a part in that.) The Nintendo DS was Nintendo's first system that had Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and unlike the then-standard in the market (and now), each individual game had its own friend code, as opposed to a system-wide friend code/gamer tag/ID. That means you and your friend group all being Mario Kart DS buddies wouldn't make you also friends in Animal Crossing: Wild World. Reggie was asked about it in an interview because people back then thought this was a bad policy, and here's how he replied:
Well, a couple of things. First the number of concerns or questions that have been raised by consumers who use the service are extremely modest. I mean we are talking hundredths of a percent of actual connections in terms of any consumers who are saying something negative about the service or the approach.

And the second point, in terms of having to have new friend codes for every game, quite frankly, what that does is put control in the hands of the gamer. So there are some people that I want to let into my house with Animal Crossing and others that I don’t, and that friend code set up allows me to manage that title by title. We think that’s the appropriate way to go.
Basically, Reggie first dismissed the question's validity that Nintendo's approach was being criticised by saying only a thousand people were complaining about it, out of millions. This is the sort of logic that we'd criticise Nintendo's Kensuke Tanabe for when he said under 1% of Super Paper Mario players found the story interesting according to Club Nintendo surveys, so there doesn't need to be a story in Paper Mario games. (By the way, just like an anniversary being a celebration somehow means a game should be available for a limited time, Nintendo never used player feedback from surveys as public justification for an action ever again.) Just because you don't explicitly ask the question, doesn't mean people don't feel a certain way. That's not how survey results work.

Reggie then justified the decision by trying to spin the weird, out-of-touch decision as a positive (by giving gamers more “control”). Funny how Nintendo figured out a system that doesn't require individual game-level friend codes for later online Animal Crossing games! Do you think Animal Crossing: New Horizons would be the success it is today with individual friend codes? ...Maybe, since apparently it's the only game its fans even play. Anyway, this is pretty similar to spinning fear-of-missing-out as “celebratory.”

How about this exchange between President Fils-Aime and Geoff Keighley back in E3 2012, before the Wii U came out?

Keighley: I think there's some concern amongst fans that, you know, Batman [Arkham City] is the same game that was released last year...
Fils-Aime: It's not the same game.
Keighley: Well, the same content at least...different way to experience it...
Fils-Aime: It's not the same content.
Keighley: There's different content in there?
Fils-Aime: There's additional content, you know, the content from WB showed there's different content, there's a different way to play the game. Yes, it's still set up in Arkham City, it still has some of the same characters, but there are additional functionalities in the suits, there's additional functionalities with the way the Wii U GamePad...
[cross-talk]
Keighley: Enough for fans to replay these games [unintelligible] Batman?
Fils-Aime: Absolutely, absolutely.
Keighley: It's a lot of money to spend 60 bucks to replay a game.
Fils-Aime: Well you know what, from our perspective, what we want to show, is that, for the games that third-party are bringing, absolutely, it brings a new level of the experience leveraging the [Wii U] GamePad. And you know, in the end the players need to see for themselves. But I gotta tell you, I play a lot of games, I will be buying Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition. It has enough to keep me interested.


Reggie Fils-Aime Batman Arkham City not the same game content Nintendo Wii U
Reggie Fils-Aime, Doug Bowser... Same playbook. Don't revise history, Nintendo fans.


It's important to note that Reggie was being quite disingenuous with his comments here. He wasn't telling you the information straight and directly and cutting the crap. Reggie reveled in the crap. Even Nintendo.com says it's the same story and gameplay. Several independent reviewers said the Wii U-exclusive Battle Armored Tech (B.A.T.) adjustment to the Batman: Arkham City combat system—this is the biggest change—either makes it worse because it simplifies what's otherwise satisfying, technical combat; or the B.A.T. is just a trivial addition. The other new content is mapping some controls to the Wii U GamePad/having a second screen experience, which isn't really content.

If there is one difference I can put between Doug and Reggie—since they both use redirection and spin in their interviewing—it's Doug Bowser's annoying habit to predicate his answers with a variation of, “The way I look at it is” and then give his answer. I assume the Polygon interview was over the phone or in-person, and Doug was using stall tactics while he gathered his thoughts. Still, it looks atrocious on paper.

Other than that... Reggie and Doug play the same role, saying and really doing the same things. If you actually look back at history instead of your fond revisionist memories, you'll see that for yourself.



Let Ludwig know why his analysis is wrong (with some amount of detail, please) in the comments section below. He's totally disillusioned with Reggie by this point and doesn't feel it's useful to hold him on a pedestal.


Present-day Reggie Fils-Aime brings his spin arguments to his political commentary, too. It's incredibly weak and free of facts, despite his spin to the contrary.
KoopaTV didn't “celebrate” its eight-year anniversary on the basis that in Doug Bowser's interview, celebration means the product stops existing afterward.

4 comments :

  1. Absolutely correct. I like Reggie, but not enough to worship his every move. I do wish Doug Bowser would interact more, i get that this is a pandemic, he's new, his main priority is his job, and directs are practically dead at this point. I just like seeing the corporate elites talk with the gamers, makes me miss Mr. Iwata :(

    I understand the different friend code policy, but at the same time couldn't they have implemented a block button for certain games? Also, if you can play mario kart with a friend, why wouldn't you want them in your AC town. It's not like they can just invite themselves over, and how would they know you were playing animal crossing unless you showed them anyway.

    On that animal crossing thing, i know an absurd amount of people who bought a switch and online pass just to play and travel in animal crossing, i know for a fact that none of them are playing those SNES/NES games. Or any other game for that matter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mean, he has a Twitter account. Reggie didn't get one of those until after he retired.

      Most of Reggie's interaction was from the Directs, and as you noted, those haven't happened.


      That's the whole point of why Nintendo's reasoning was trashed back in the mid-2000s.

      Delete
  2. I will never ever support limited things, but of course they like to trap you into playing along. This goes back to the Wii days where I could never get into a lot of the digital stuff and sure enough, one must use alternate methods to access this content now. Just a mess!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, if you're using the Wii as the example, everything is limited if your time horizon is long enough...

      Nice to see you back!

      Delete

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