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Friday, February 10, 2023

Reggie Fils-Aime vs. Masahiro Sakurai: Competing with the Past or Competing for Time?

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Different perspectives.

The contents of this week's Nintendo Direct (including many remastered games and the Game Boy [Advance] emulators now available for Nintendo Switch Online [+ Expansion Pack] subscribers) might've prompted Masahiro Sakurai—a several-time director of Nintendo franchises like Kirby and Super Smash Bros.—to go and release this new video on his YouTube channel, Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games:

Sakurai's point is that with subscription services for movies/television shows being very plentiful or even saturated at this point, new content production competes with the past. His logic is that for a movie-watcher, you'll value your time watching content made from decades ago the same as you would watching fresh content now (as long as the quality is equivalent), so subscription services making past catalogues very accessible makes it much harder for new things to stand out. Masahiro Sakurai believes that while game production is tough, movie production is even tougher—so he sees these as distinctly different industries. His reasoning is that very often, new games have far greater scope and quality than much older games. While movies are the same length, games can be much longer, or shorter games made now have better, more modern game design philosophies that allow them to pack more quality per hour.

I'm not inclined to agre with his take on this. To illustrate, let's categorise everything announced in the recent Nintendo Direct. NEW GAMES is defined as new to Nintendo consoles (some are multi-platform games that are out already, but recently):

  1. Pikmin 4
  2. Samba de Amigo: Party Central
  3. Fashion Dreamer
  4. TRON: Identity
  6. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon
  7. Disney Illusion Island
  8. Harmony: The Fall of Reverie
  10. Sea of Stars
  11. Omega Strikers
  12. Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE
  13. FANTASY LIFE i: The Girl Who Steals Time
  14. Professor Layton and The New World of steam
  15. Minecraft Legends
  16. Blanc
  17. Have A Nice Death
  19. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

  1. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
  2. We Love Katamari REROLL+ Royal Reverie
  3. Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection (three games purchasable separately or combined)
  4. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp (two games combined)
  5. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe
  6. Tetris
  7. Super Mario Land 2 - 6 Golden Coins
  8. Metroid II - Return of Samus
  9. Kirby's Dream Land
  10. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
  11. Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare
  12. Game & Watch Gallery 3
  14. Wario Land 3
  15. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
  16. Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3
  17. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
  18. Mario Kart: Super Circuit
  19. Kuru Kuru Kururin
  20. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$
  21. Metroid Prime Remastered
  22. Baten Kaitos I & II HD Remaster (two games combined)
  23. Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection (ten games combined; you can buy them in two bundles of four and six games)
  24. Tales of Symphonia Remastered

  1. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Expansion Pass
  2. Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania
  3. Splatoon 3 Expansion Pass
  4. Fire Emblem Engage Expansion Pass
  5. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass
  6. Disney Dreamlight Valley “new realm”
37 old games to 19 new games in one Direct... yes, the Nintendo Direct (and Nintendo's 2023 Switch strategy as a whole) was very much playing to nostalgia. So according to Masahiro Sakurai's theory, the individual trailers uploaded to Nintendo's YouTube channel should have the new games have the highest view counts and the older games have lower counts. Does that play out? Here are the trailers with over 100,000 views as of writing this:
  1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - Official Trailer #2 (3.1 million views)
  2. Nintendo Switch Online - Game Boy & Game Boy Advance Announcement - Nintendo Direct 2.8.23 (711 thousand views)
  3. Pikmin 4 - Nintendo Direct 2.8.23 (433 thousand views)
  4. Metroid Prime Remastered - Launch Trailer - Nintendo Switch (425 thousand views)
  5. Splatoon 3: Expansion Pass - Announcement Trailer - Nintendo Direct 2.8.23 (340 thousand views)
  6. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pass - Wave 4 Announcement - Nintendo Direct 2.8.23 (284 thousand views)
  7. PROFESSOR LAYTON and The New World of Steam (229 thousand views)
  8. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe - Magolor Epilogue - Nintendo Direct 2.8.23 (124 thousand views)
  9. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp - Release Date Announcement - Nintendo Direct 2.8.23 (106 thousand views)
  10. Disney Illusion Island - Nintendo Direct 2.8.2023 (103 thousand views)
  11. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Expansion Pass - Volume 3 - Nintendo Direct 2.8.23 (101 thousand views)

It's of course possible to compete with the past, but it's not much easier like Masahiro Sakurai seems to think it is. His message is to stand out from the crowd, you need to offer something fresh. But this isn't even the first time Metroid Prime has been brought to a new console. It's been brought to EVERY Nintendo console since its debut GameCube, in fact. Wii, Wii U, and now Switch. Yet it's still a big view-getter and THE headline-getter in Nintendo's official news write-up of the Nintendo Direct, even above The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. By definition, a 20-year old game going onto its fourth console is not fresh—so something is missing in Masahiro Sakurai's theoretical analysis versus what we observe in reality. We see these old games do, in fact, crowd out the newer titles, just like they can do for TV shows and movies.

There is an alternative and broader perspective offered by another former Nintendo employee: Reggie Fils-Aime has said before that Nintendo competes for consumers’ entertainment time, not just against fellow gaming console rivals Xbox and PlayStation. He stated that Nintendo competes, “minute by minute”, for all of the time a person has that isn't dedicated to eating, sleeping, working, and/or going to school. (But even then, some at Nintendo believe you can eat and game simultaneously, and perhaps if Pokémon Sleep ever becomes a real thing then maybe sleep time is open season too.) Reggie believes that gives Nintendo a different approach than Xbox or PlayStation... but that line of thinking also doesn't make sense when you consider that PlayStation and Xbox never thought of themselves as just gaming consoles. That's how the PlayStation was so dominant to begin with, by packing in the DVD/Blu-ray player into the hardware.

Still, Reggie sees Nintendo and videogames more broadly as competing with the movies and TV series that Sakurai sees as distinct entities.

Reggie Fils-Aime Masahiro Sakurai competing for entertainment time games movies film competition
Left: Reggie Fils-Aime describing how any form of entertainment (made at any time period) is competing for Nintendo's ability to be your entertainment source in any given minute.
Right: Masahiro Sakurai opening his video to mostly talk about how movies are more cutthroat than games in competition due to past and present being in parity, omitting that movies and games also compete with one another too.

I'm much more inclined to see the world as Reggie Fils-Aime does than how Masahiro Sakurai does on this issue, as a real person living a life with very limited free time that has to decide how to use that time. Play games? (Which games?) Put some effort into KoopaTV articles? Socialise with others? Watch things on YouTube? They all compete for time. My time is much more limited than my money, so everything has to compete. Meanwhile, Sakurai's comparison of, say, the latest expansive games with primitive stuff from the 1980s is pretty disingenuous. Plenty of the games being remade or ported to the Switch are from the 2000s from the GameCube era, and those are very clamoured for by fans. And that includes the likes of Kirby Air Ride, which isn't being ported, but is still something very unique to this day. That competes for time, too. I could go play Kirby Air Ride right now! (But instead I chose KoopaTV... and for this weekend, the chocolate Splatoon 3 Splatfest.)

How do you see gaming and entertainment competition? Like Masahiro Sakurai does? Like Reggie Fils-Aime does? Like another opinion does? Share your thoughts in KoopaTV's comments section, and feel free to object if you think Ludwig has misrepresented Sakurai's viewpoints on the issue.

KoopaTV has previously published about Reggie Fils-Aime versus Shigeru Miyamoto on the topic of bundling Wii Sports.
Masahiro Sakurai and Shigeru Miyamoto also tussled over the Wii Remote versus the GameCube controller and which would be the future of game controllers.
The previous video Ludwig wrote about from Sakurai was on Kirby Air Ride as a game concept.
The next Sakurai video Ludwig wrote about is the game concept for Super Smash Bros. Brawl.


  1. I'm going to call this one your most thought-provoking article of the year so far. Should be safer than the last time I bandied that phrase about, no?

    1. On a personal level, the GoldenEye 007 article provoked the most thoughts in my own head, but it makes sense that no one else would think so.


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