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"I know my audience!!" -- Nintendo's path to failure.

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47 minutes ago, Tom Sloper said:

So when is Nintendo going to die? Or did I miss that part.

Lol, nobody said Nintendo's going to die.

"Failure" should never be equated to "death" -- In fact, failure is the only part of life that can genuinely teach us how to grow.


Nintendo has been on a path to failure for a long time, but it has generally seen its failures as opportunities for growth.
Some of these opportunities have been misguided, but overall, their desire to see these have made them into a better company.

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36 minutes ago, DavinCreed said:

If you're getting so deep into your audience that you can objectively show how each thing in your game will be taken... well that's quite creepy and probably at least a little illegal.

Lol, that's probably a fair point.

What I intended to imply was that there is lots of "hand-waving" in marketing for indies. The huge rate of failures doesn't come from the huge amount of competition. It comes from failing to first define, and then understand, your audience.

There are easier (less-creepy) ways to confirm, objectively, that you're on the right track with your audience.

For example, because past trends don't always accurately represent current desires of your audience, looking instead at atmosphere (in tone/themes/mechanics/graphics) surrounding the kind of game(s) you're wanting to make should actually outweigh (or at least heavily-influence) the looks/mechanics/story/characters you choose to include in the base idea/prototype. Atmosphere is a sort of ambient "gut feeling" tool, but the objective facts are what generate that atmosphere, so it's not voodoo and rainbow magic at work. Fundamentally, "atmosphere" can be defined objectively -- just not easily -- without basing it on facts. You kinda have to be "in the know" -- which is what I've been saying about understanding your audience better by knowing them in a more nuanced way. To do that, you kind of have to BE your own audience. Or at least have someone who knows it REALLY well. A john/jane doe of that audience that you really trust to be clear with you and provide you honest and fair feedback. In that way, it could be considered intimate, but it's really not creepy at all. It's all about actually understanding what it is you're after as a designer, and simply not being flighty about it.

 

1 hour ago, DavinCreed said:

The Wii was sold out consistently for several years after its launch. Characterizing that as a "quick thrill" is misleading the reality. In terms of consoles, it was very successful.

The Wii wasn't a one-night stand -- just a fun girlfriend that didn't want commitment. Regarding its "success" -- Sure, the numbers don't lie. It made lots of money. But it was the first chance anyone got at something "VR" and it sold like mad. Additionally, lots of grandmas loved the casual and friendly vibe from it. Nintendo had lots of fun, but the problem was, they wanted it to last forever.

"Success", to me, is something that is evergreen. Something that doesn't abandon you when the money does. The Wii's "success" wasn't "success" to me. It was an illusion. It alienated Nintendo's fanbase. It caused the failure of the Wii U indirectly. But hey, it made lots of money. And not everyone's definition of "success" is the same...
 

 

1 hour ago, DavinCreed said:

The Wii-U was Nintendo trying to keep innovating and taking risks.

I don't think "innovation" involves creating a new "innovative" controller twice (or three times, if you count the N64) in a row.
But I see your point. Nintendo is known as the innovator. Almost nobody else tries.

 

1 hour ago, DavinCreed said:

I don't think attaching a "marriage" narrative to this accurately represents reality. I mean all companies want people to by their products.

All companies want you to stay with them forever. The Wii U was Nintendo's proposal for commitment to the Wii fanbase. But it was clearly rejected with the Wii U's sales (or bad name -- whichever you prefer).

Even during the time of the Wii U, Nintendo was trying to get back its core audience with great games like Super Mario Maker. I think that's why people warmed up to the Switch so easily. Despite it having barely 3 hours of battery life compared to something like the Vita, they really just wanted the old Nintendo back. And Nintendo wanted them too. The Wii wasn't a bad idea -- it was just a flash in the pan. The future was more important to Nintendo than it realized in the days of the Wii.

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16 hours ago, awesomedata said:

What I intended to imply was that there is lots of "hand-waving" in marketing for indies. The huge rate of failures doesn't come from the huge amount of competition. It comes from failing to first define, and then understand, your audience.

There are easier (less-creepy) ways to confirm, objectively, that you're on the right track with your audience.

For example, because past trends don't always accurately represent current desires of your audience, looking instead at atmosphere (in tone/themes/mechanics/graphics) surrounding the kind of game(s) you're wanting to make should actually outweigh (or at least heavily-influence) the looks/mechanics/story/characters you choose to include in the base idea/prototype. Atmosphere is a sort of ambient "gut feeling" tool, but the objective facts are what generate that atmosphere, so it's not voodoo and rainbow magic at work. Fundamentally, "atmosphere" can be defined objectively -- just not easily -- without basing it on facts. You kinda have to be "in the know" -- which is what I've been saying about understanding your audience better by knowing them in a more nuanced way. To do that, you kind of have to BE your own audience. Or at least have someone who knows it REALLY well. A john/jane doe of that audience that you really trust to be clear with you and provide you honest and fair feedback. In that way, it could be considered intimate, but it's really not creepy at all. It's all about actually understanding what it is you're after as a designer, and simply not being flighty about it.

Attempting to understand ones target audience is a good thing, do some research and try to make something that fits but stands out. That will take a developer one to three weeks to do and will help them have a better chance at finding an audience. But what you're proposing is something that I don't think even the giant AAA game companies can do. You're basically saying that if a developer does not know the audience better than they know themselves the developer's game will fail. I think it's incredibly unrealistic, not merely difficult but nearly impossible. And then you recommend taking a single person out of the audience to represent the whole? That's a bad sample size.

I think your advice here would be good advice if you toned down the "listen to me or fail" as well as the "you have know your audience so well you know everything they'll like and dislike" as well as the "any single person from the audience is pretty much the same thing as the whole audience" vibe you have going.

16 hours ago, awesomedata said:

The Wii wasn't a one-night stand -- just a fun girlfriend that didn't want commitment. Regarding its "success" -- Sure, the numbers don't lie. It made lots of money. But it was the first chance anyone got at something "VR" and it sold like mad. Additionally, lots of grandmas loved the casual and friendly vibe from it. Nintendo had lots of fun, but the problem was, they wanted it to last forever.


"Success", to me, is something that is evergreen. Something that doesn't abandon you when the money does. The Wii's "success" wasn't "success" to me. It was an illusion. It alienated Nintendo's fanbase. It caused the failure of the Wii U indirectly. But hey, it made lots of money. And not everyone's definition of "success" is the same...

I don't think the numbers support your claim that the Wii alienated their fanbase. They may have alienated you, but like I've been trying to point out, an audience is a group of a lot of different people with individual likes and dislikes. Anything a company with an audience that large does, will alienate some people and will gain others. When we talk about failures, it's about losing more people than they gained, which was not true with the Wii. Sure they lost some fanbase, even some people that had been there since day one, but that's normal operating collateral. Plus, they kept a majority of their fanbase so I really don't understand you saying they alienated their fanbase when a large majority of them stayed and bought the Wii. Your claim does not match reality and conflicts with objective facts.

Given what you say you consider as "success" all companies and products must be failures.

16 hours ago, awesomedata said:

I don't think "innovation" involves creating a new "innovative" controller twice (or three times, if you count the N64) in a row.

But I see your point. Nintendo is known as the innovator. Almost nobody else tries.

I don't know about that, but out of the big boys, Nintendo is takes the most risks.

16 hours ago, awesomedata said:

All companies want you to stay with them forever. The Wii U was Nintendo's proposal for commitment to the Wii fanbase. But it was clearly rejected with the Wii U's sales (or bad name -- whichever you prefer).

I don't see how you can do that. You claim that the sales don't represent success for the Wii and that the sales represent failure of the Wii U. I think you have to go back and apply your standards consistently because this conversation is not making much sense.

I don't think that the Wii U was Nintendo's proposal more than any of the other consoles they released. I think you're attaching more meaning than there is to these things. The Wii U was just another idea Nintendo had to try to innovate, it didn't work like several of their other ideas didn't work. It's not anything more than them trying to sell a product they are proud of and think people will like.

16 hours ago, awesomedata said:

Even during the time of the Wii U, Nintendo was trying to get back its core audience with great games like Super Mario Maker. I think that's why people warmed up to the Switch so easily. Despite it having barely 3 hours of battery life compared to something like the Vita, they really just wanted the old Nintendo back. And Nintendo wanted them too. The Wii wasn't a bad idea -- it was just a flash in the pan. The future was more important to Nintendo than it realized in the days of the Wii.

 It really feels like you have something against the Wii and Wii U, like this is personal to you. I don't think Nintendo's audience as a whole shares it. I think that's the biggest kick back is this narrative you're trying to force into the world in spite of reality.

We can talk about how a decision had unintended consequences and how paying attention to your audience and/or target audience is a good thing and how some things failed at that... without distorting reality in order to try pass off personal opinion as reality.

The consistency in your reasoning here is lacking, you take things too far, attach meaning to things that don't belong, and that results in it becoming useless. I don't see how I can apply anything you've said here to real life.

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I haven't read these comments too deeply, but as some others have pointed out, knowing one's audience as in depth as you are stating would be rather difficult. Market research is a thing and it is done before a product is released to know if a product has a market and if there would be any return on it. This is true. 

However, knowing what an audience wants is very different from market research, and does not always dictate what a company may make. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, it's entirely possible that people may not know what they want/need until it's put in front of them. We see this sometimes in consumer electronics (the iPad initially was considered ridiculous initially, but as people started to use it, they realized how useful it was), and we also see this in media/entertainment. Leading me to my next point: media/entertainment thrives on novelty. Typically doing something new is better than doing the same thing over and over again because it's boring. Would you want to play the same game over and over again, only with shinier graphics? And this is where knowing your audience is tricky. For one, not everyone has the same opinions, and who's ultimately right? Secondly, you run the risk of simply becoming trapped into just delivering the same repackaged thing over and over again. Trying new things does indeed run the risk of potentially losing old fans, but sometimes it needs to be done for the sake of making something new. This is critical for long running franchises like Call of Duty (though I'm not a big fan myself), Battlefield, God of War, and yes, also Zelda. Sometimes these risks pay off, sometimes they don't, but you have to be willing to take them to succeed, or to at least, learn (as you yourself stated). And this is why it's important to remember that while a game is made for it's players, it's still also ultimately the work of artists (of sorts), who strive to build a vision that people came up with. Artists should make what they thought would be good since that's what makes their work unique. Again, there's a fine line to not listening to feedback but also staying true to the vision and to trying new things as well. It's a delicate balance, but beyond a point, if all we do is listen to audiences and nothing else, I'd argue that that defeats the purpose of having a game designer/developer in the first place, since their jobs are centered around building/coming up with cool ideas that would be fun to play. 

3 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

Attempting to understand ones target audience is a good thing, do some research and try to make something that fits but stands out. That will take a developer one to three weeks to do and will help them have a better chance at finding an audience. But what you're proposing is something that I don't think even the giant AAA game companies can do. You're basically saying that if a developer does not know the audience better than they know themselves the developer's game will fail. I think it's incredibly unrealistic, not merely difficult but nearly impossible. And then you recommend taking a single person out of the audience to represent the whole? That's a bad sample size.

It is absolutely unrealistic for any company to do that level of research, especially since audiences may not know what they want beyond a point. It's the job of game devs/designers to actually create the content after all. If audiences knew what exactly they wanted, game dev/designers and filmmakers wouldn't exist.

4 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

I don't think the numbers support your claim that the Wii alienated their fanbase. They may have alienated you, but like I've been trying to point out, an audience is a group of a lot of different people with individual likes and dislikes. Anything a company with an audience that large does, will alienate some people and will gain others. When we talk about failures, it's about losing more people than they gained, which was not true with the Wii. Sure they lost some fanbase, even some people that had been there since day one, but that's normal operating collateral. Plus, they kept a majority of their fanbase so I really don't understand you saying they alienated their fanbase when a large majority of them stayed and bought the Wii. Your claim does not match reality and conflicts with objective facts.

Given what you say you consider as "success" all companies and products must be failures.

Companies change over time. Nintendo actually started off as a card game company in 1889. It's now something very different. 

Moreover, sales are the best metric of success for any company at the end of the day. If it made money, it was successful. So the Wii sold metric boatloads of units. We can argue that the games for it were terrible, etc., etc., but they were the ones laughing to the bank then.

That's the best feedback of audiences liking the product: did it make money? The answer here is clearly yes.

4 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

I don't see how you can do that. You claim that the sales don't represent success for the Wii and that the sales represent failure of the Wii U. I think you have to go back and apply your standards consistently because this conversation is not making much sense.

I don't think that the Wii U was Nintendo's proposal more than any of the other consoles they released. I think you're attaching more meaning than there is to these things. The Wii U was just another idea Nintendo had to try to innovate, it didn't work like several of their other ideas didn't work. It's not anything more than them trying to sell a product they are proud of and think people will like.

I'd actually argue that the Wii U was very much the predecessor to the Switch, if you look at some of the concepts. The Wii U failed for a lot of reasons, but the name was a big part of it. It sounded more like a peripheral than a console. There were many reasons but it ultimately boiled down to being a simply bad product. It was a very typically Nintendo thing though, a whack, zany idea that somebody thought may actually work. It's funny how (s)he says that the Wii U was an attempt at the audience of the Wii, but the opposite could not be more true with the way it's controller(s) were designed. 

The Wii succeeded because of how appealing it was to people from every walk of life. It was simple. The Wii U was incredibly complicated by comparison, even to its contemporary consoles.

4 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

It really feels like you have something against the Wii and Wii U, like this is personal to you. I don't think Nintendo's audience as a whole shares it. I think that's the biggest kick back is this narrative you're trying to force into the world in spite of reality.

We can talk about how a decision had unintended consequences and how paying attention to your audience and/or target audience is a good thing and how some things failed at that... without distorting reality in order to try pass off personal opinion as reality.

The consistency in your reasoning here is lacking, you take things too far, attach meaning to things that don't belong, and that results in it becoming useless. I don't see how I can apply anything you've said here to real life.

This seems to be true. There are some very great analyses and lessons to be learned from both the Wii and Wii U, but this sounds more like (s)he doesn't like the Wii and Wii U. 

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4 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

I think your advice here would be good advice if you toned down the "listen to me or fail" as well as the "you have know your audience so well you know everything they'll like and dislike" as well as the "any single person from the audience is pretty much the same thing as the whole audience" vibe you have going.

You know -- I can agree with that.

Sorry if I came across this way.

Perhaps I went a bit overboard by suggesting that others dig into their audience's values as deeply as possible, but in my experience, getting a sense for that "atmosphere" thing I mentioned has worked wonders for me and others I've seen who manage to accomplish this.
I'm not here to be a know-it-all -- I only shared my thoughts on this subject because I've seen that failing happens a LOT because people get so conceited that they don't listen to (or even fully identify) their audience. And all that failure discourages people with great ideas to not even bother making games. And that sucks for everyone.

 

1 hour ago, deltaKshatriya said:

There are some very great analyses and lessons to be learned from both the Wii and Wii U, but this sounds more like (s)he doesn't like the Wii and Wii U.

4 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

 It really feels like you have something against the Wii and Wii U, like this is personal to you


Wow -- I was waaay off the mark then!

In fact, I genuinely loved both systems. I bought a Wii as soon as it was available (~3 years later of course!) The concept was great and I really hoped it would last long enough for VR to get a foothold. I also am one of the few who bought a Wii U as well. It had some great games on it and it broke my heart to see it fail.

It was unfair to call the Wii a "flash in the pan" -- It was the "casual audience" it garnered I was actually talking about. Not the Wii itself.

 

My criticisms were meant to offer a positive light to indies learning how our beloved Nintendo made mistakes too -- Many of these are only my opinion, as you have pointed out, so I'm quite aware they're not the opinions of most. I wanted to share the points I thought were valid though, and see what points I might have missed the mark on. And you all helped me with that, so I am grateful to you.

 

5 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

I don't see how you can do that. You claim that the sales don't represent success for the Wii and that the sales represent failure of the Wii U. I think you have to go back and apply your standards consistently

Sorry for the confusion -- To be clear, _my_ standards for "failure" (i.e. the Wii's catering to a temporary audience for the temporary sales perks despite the cries of its core audience turning to Sony and MS for solace) and the standards that most people consider and attribute to the Wii U as a "failure" (i.e. poor sales) are very different. Sales are usually cited for the Wii U's failure, but as I stated before, I thought the Wii U was a great system -- that failed because of an unfortunate name (thanks to cultural differences). Nintendo was really trying to get its audience back and that effort I wanted very much to be successful. When I said "it failed due to sales", I did not mean I personally believed that's why it failed -- only that it was considered a failure _in general_ due to lack of sales.
 

 

5 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

We can talk about how a decision had unintended consequences and how paying attention to your audience and/or target audience is a good thing and how some things failed at that... without distorting reality in order to try pass off personal opinion as reality.

To be fair, this was my intention from the outset.

Perhaps my reasoning lacks concreteness, and perhaps my perception is not reality, but the knowledge I've acquired is valuable to me, so I thought I would share it anyway as best as I could. And just because I'm terrible at presenting it in a way that makes sense to you, it does not mean my reasoning or perception is ultimately not worth delving into for anyone genuinely wondering _why_ I believe these things so strongly. Maybe someone out there does wonder this?

 

 

5 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

I don't see how I can apply anything you've said here to real life.

This is the core of your problems with my presentation -- and honestly, I'm glad you were kind enough to point it out.

 

I can't help others without my "help" actually being "helpful" -- can I?


I want to fix this.
 

For now, I will point toward pondering what I mean by the audience's "atmosphere" -- at least until I get back to you.

 

In general, thinking in "all-at-once" abstractions is what I do. I can consider many many more possibilities at once than I can otherwise when I'm thinking step-by-step. This sometimes results in a few unrelated possibilities not filtered out by my critical mind. This part drives people nuts. So I'm really sorry about that.
Please bear with me -- Give me some time and I'll give you something concrete you can apply. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions about anything you don't understand about the "atmosphere" thing -- or tell me what YOU think I mean. That could help me narrow my thoughts in on something a little more tailored and specifically useful to you (and others).

 

And for anyone else here -- I apologize if I've wasted your time.

 

 

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1 hour ago, deltaKshatriya said:

I haven't read these comments too deeply, but as some others have pointed out, knowing one's audience as in depth as you are stating would be rather difficult. Market research is a thing and it is done before a product is released to know if a product has a market and if there would be any return on it. This is true. 

However, knowing what an audience wants is very different from market research, and does not always dictate what a company may make. [...]

I'm in agreement with everything said here. I would also consider playing it safe to also be its own kind of risk. Safe means tried and true, which also means stale, which can be fine for a few iterations. Call of Duty and the like take small risks, some of which paid off, like the achievement systems that didn't really add anything to the game, but gave the players something more. It was new, it was a bit of a risk and the rest of the game was the tried and true copy and paste from the previous year. It worked, players loved it, and the ones that didn't loved making fun of it. Like an odd win/win scenario for them.

1 hour ago, deltaKshatriya said:

If audiences knew what exactly they wanted, game dev/designers and filmmakers wouldn't exist.

This is an important point, sometimes the players don't really know until they try it.

1 hour ago, deltaKshatriya said:

Moreover, sales are the best metric of success for any company at the end of the day. If it made money, it was successful. So the Wii sold metric boatloads of units. We can argue that the games for it were terrible, etc., etc., but they were the ones laughing to the bank then.

I mean you can have other standards for success, but make sure you apply it consistently if you're going to compare and contrast. Which is not something I think the OP is doing well. Comparisons aren't useful if the standards are different between the things being compared.

1 hour ago, deltaKshatriya said:

I'd actually argue that the Wii U was very much the predecessor to the Switch, if you look at some of the concepts. The Wii U failed for a lot of reasons, but the name was a big part of it. It sounded more like a peripheral than a console. There were many reasons but it ultimately boiled down to being a simply bad product. It was a very typically Nintendo thing though, a whack, zany idea that somebody thought may actually work. It's funny how (s)he says that the Wii U was an attempt at the audience of the Wii, but the opposite could not be more true with the way it's controller(s) were designed.

I agree. The Wii itself was a wacky and zany idea. The popular speculation at the time the Wii was announced was that it was going to be the final death nail of Nintendo and they better go to just making games and not consoles (and keep making portables obviously). Now people act like the Wii was a sure thing in retrospect. I think it very well could have ended Nintendo's home console foothold, but people loved it. I couldn't get one until three years in, because I didn't have time to wait in line and/or hunt them down.

2 hours ago, deltaKshatriya said:

This seems to be true. There are some very great analyses and lessons to be learned from both the Wii and Wii U, but this sounds more like (s)he doesn't like the Wii and Wii U. 

It feels like there is some kind of axe grinding going on against Nintendo. It's fair to say that Nintendo made some decent sized mistakes, but so has every large company I can think of. But the important thing, is that when analyzing these things, the standards used and judgments made need to mean something, but when the criticism calling one thing bad applies so broadly it makes almost everything bad as well, that's not very useful.

Maybe after over two decades of hearing it, I'm just bored of hearing about how Nintendo is on a path to failure or how this next thing will be the death of Nintendo. I don't get why so many people have a grudge against them, OK, Nintendo does do some dickhead things, but there are worse companies that deserve it more.

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4 minutes ago, awesomedata said:

You know -- I can agree with that.

Sorry if I came across this way.

Perhaps I went a bit overboard by suggesting that others dig into their audience's values as deeply as possible, but in my experience, getting a sense for that "atmosphere" thing I mentioned has worked wonders for me and others I've seen who manage to accomplish this.
I'm not here to be a know-it-all -- I only shared my thoughts on this subject because I've seen that failing happens a LOT because people get so conceited that they don't listen to (or even fully identify) their audience. And all that failure discourages people with great ideas to not even bother making games. And that sucks for everyone.

There are a lot of reasons for failure, not finding an audience is one. Arguably a big one, but there are many levels of grey area in there. I agree with seeking out the atmosphere, that is great, but a large subject in itself. I think you were pretty much on it about the Wind Waker audience, I merely disagree at how far you recommend people go to avoid such a thing.

7 minutes ago, awesomedata said:

Wow -- I was waaay off the mark then!

In fact, I genuinely loved both systems. I bought a Wii as soon as it was available (~3 years later of course!) The concept was great and I really hoped it would last long enough for VR to get a foothold. I also am one of the few who bought a Wii U as well. It had some great games on it and it broke my heart to see it fail.

I like both systems as well. The analysis shouldn't matter whether one likes or dislikes the thing they are analyzing, the result should be about the same. Ideally.

11 minutes ago, awesomedata said:

Sorry for the confusion -- To be clear, _my_ standards for "failure" (i.e. the Wii's catering to a temporary audience for the temporary sales perks despite the cries of its core audience turning to Sony and MS for solace) and the standards that most people consider and attribute to the Wii U as a "failure" (i.e. poor sales) are very different. Sales are usually cited for the Wii U's failure, but as I stated before, I thought the Wii U was a great system -- that failed because of an unfortunate name (thanks to cultural differences). Nintendo was really trying to get its audience back and that effort I wanted very much to be successful. When I said "it failed due to sales", I did not mean I personally believed that's why it failed -- only that it was considered a failure _in general_ due to lack of sales.

I think with the Wii, they were finally trying to do both, market to several different markets, but they did focus more on casual gamers, taking a queue from what Sony did with the Playstation. The Wii was targeting the people that Microsoft and Sony were both ignoring. It was the same strategy even though the target audience was different. It worked for Sony, then it worked for Microsoft, and then it worked for Nintendo. There's nothing wrong with casual gamers, no matter how much the hardcore gamers seem to despise them. Not everyone has the time to play games like a full time job, and it's dumb to discriminate against people because they can't. And apparently it's good to target them.

15 minutes ago, awesomedata said:

To be fair, this was my intention from the outset.

Perhaps my reasoning lacks concreteness[...]

Or maybe I didn't interpret it correctly. Or maybe a little of both. Discussion helps us to sharping our ideas if we make that the goal and purpose of it. That's why I like talking about things at least.

18 minutes ago, awesomedata said:

For now, I will point toward pondering what I mean by the audience's "atmosphere" -- at least until I get back to you.

In general, thinking in "all-at-once" abstractions is what I do. I can consider many many more possibilities at once than I can otherwise when I'm thinking step-by-step. This sometimes results in a few unrelated possibilities not filtered out by my critical mind. This part drives people nuts. So I'm really sorry about that.
Please bear with me -- Give me some time and I'll give you something concrete you can apply. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions about anything you don't understand about the "atmosphere" thing -- or tell me what YOU think I mean. That could help me narrow my thoughts in on something a little more tailored and specifically useful to you (and others).

And for anyone else here -- I apologize if I've wasted your time.

That might be a good thing to focus on, but I think it's so abstract a concept that you won't find anything too concrete. But we can discuss things around it.

I don't think anything here was a waste of time, maybe a bit of my posts were a waste for others, but honest and polite discussions are almost always useful in some way.

 

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On 5/31/2019 at 2:15 PM, deltaKshatriya said:

Typically doing something new is better than doing the same thing over and over again because it's boring. Would you want to play the same game over and over again, only with shinier graphics? And this is where knowing your audience is tricky. For one, not everyone has the same opinions, and who's ultimately right?

This is a great point. -- There's this great mini-series called "The Code" that talks about mathematics in nature, and one part is about how google can predict various epidemics down to almost the _exact_ number of people affected by the flu by just tallying people's searches on particular subjects. That's easily explainable if you're a skeptic (like me) because google is notorious for data tracking and could easily be doing something in the study they didn't disclose. They're not inherently scientists after all.

Instead, a more interesting experiment (in that same movie) is the bit about the Jelly beans. When 400 people were asked about the number of jelly beans in a clear jar, the guesses were wildly off. Nobody was even close. However, when all the (seemingly-random) numbers were added up and then averaged out, the average number of jelly beans people guessed were off by almost exactly 3 jelly beans. Yes, 3. Ultimately, this proves people's issues and mindsets are vastly different, and while their crazy reasons for why they guessed what they guessed was all over the place, in the end, it all averages out. There indeed _is_ an average "atmosphere" that is possible to know and prove objectively -- and with Novelty as the basis, it makes it even easier to hone-in on which areas that people find important in games. And while this seems like magic (after all, we're each just one person), this is actually very much science.

 

This discussion about novelty leads me to my earlier comments about determining the "atmosphere" around games (and their players) objectively.

In our case, it is actually _because_ our industry is so novelty-driven that we have a decent advantage over other industries. We can easily identify the "average" customer specs for any game because customers and feedback on those games are plentiful, and what's different between games isn't (usually) _that_ different that we can't identify an audience's tastes from that data. The important part is that we know whether it's OUR audience we're identifying tastes for -- or not.


For example, Call of Duty has "RPG" elements in it, but it is definitely not an RPG game just because it has a leveling system. And an "RPG" is definitely not an "FPS" just because you're playing from an FPS perspective and shooting guns (i.e. Fallout 3). There are certain expectations that must be met with each of these monikers, and _those_ expectations change with their audience (and from audience to audience) over time. As a kid, Fallout would never be considered an RPG (in the time of Doom, Quake, etc.) because an "RPG" was actually what we now call a "JRPG" today.

The important part is that we struggle with identifying our audience because our nomenclature and terminology matches our audience's nomenclature and terminology -- which clearly changes over time.

It is hard to hit a target that is always moving -- especially when one lacks the proper terminology to define it.

 

This isn't an easy task.

In general, style can be used to define games of a certain type -- i.e. one style could consist of cute art and hard-as-nails (but-fair) gameplay, meaning you've got "Megaman 2" or "Ducktales" now. Get rid of that "(but-fair)" part, and you have "Super Meatboy" or even troll games like "I wanna be the guy", where the challenges are heavily weighted against the player and rote memory and fast reflexes are what it takes to survive. Sure, these are all cutesy 2d platformers, but these subtle-but-VERY-different, mindsets attract VERY different audiences.

So how do you strike a balance?

The right nomenclature to identify the game style we're looking to make is important in defining atmosphere objectively (but identifying the specific style of a game is what's _actually_ "hard" about determining our audience -- there are so many "styles" of games, yet there are so few labels, and the labels barely stick as time passes.) For example, is "The Witcher" an RPG, an Action or Adventure game, a Puzzle game, a Stealth game? -- All of the above is the easy answer -- but, really, it is none of the above. We just have easy (extremely subjective) labels to slap on and forget. The real answer is a LOT harder to define with our industry's current terminology.

The label(s) we pick tends to depend on which label we identify with the most or decide will drive us a bigger audience.

There is a downside to talking in game "styles" though.
Talking in "styles" is less precise than talking in "mechanics", but talking in mechanics is tedious and not great for understanding ideas. The variety is overwhelming to us mere humans.

For example -- How do we recognize each other? Starting out, we're groups of atoms defined by quantum rules. But we aren't _just_ atoms -- we're chemicals (certain atoms arranged in certain ways). But we're not quite chemicals either -- we're specific DNA sequences. Yet we're not just DNA sequences either -- we still consist of some floating atoms and some floating chemicals, both unrelated to our specific sequences of DNA. So we call ourselves "human beings" to fill in this gap. But there are just too many human beings. We're Mark or Earl or Jen or Jessica. But there are still too many of those too -- We might call two friends MarkA or MarkB in our minds, but in reality, we know them by their face and personality more than their name. Each Mark we know has a different "style" or "personality" alongside his face in his mind, and it is his personal style which sticks out so prominently to us. This overall unique personal style naturally makes them memorable to us in a sea of atoms in our universe.

 

It's no wonder Wind Waker bombed a bit, yet is now so unquestionably-memorable. -- It had such a distinct personality, but we didn't get to know it at the time because we just didn't like its face.
After Smash Bros arguably made Toon-Link a celebrity, we're now like "hey, I knew that guy! -- after you get over his cartoonish looks, he's actually really cool!!"

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Games ultimately need better terminology to help them visualize their personal style and scope to their audience -- and verbalize that same unique style and scope so that the atmosphere around their particular games (and players) can be analyzed objectively.

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Adding to the above, customers see companies like EA or Ubisoft way differently than two to five-man team indie developers. Players will accept failures in some places but not others, but depending on who you are, this might be forgiven easily, begrudgingly, completely, temporarily, or not at all. The only way to know this is knowing what customers you're targeting -- and why they're targeting you.

If you want to make a stylized game like WindWaker (because your artists are excellent at that kind of art, or you found a charming style you want to emulate), then look at the atmosphere surrounding stylized games at that point in time. It generally helps to see who the customers are for those types of games (i.e. children, or are adults playing them too?), then check to see how well your particular game adapts to that trend (i.e. WindWaker was kind of a "teen" game, but only young children in the US were playing cartoony games at that point in time). Conker's bad fur day was an exception to this -- and it was great -- but it was sold at the end of the N64's life, so it didn't do great -- the older audience it targeted had pretty much moved on to other consoles by that time. So that's a point too -- it isn't _just_ the audience you should consider, but what _environment_ does that audience exist in should be considered as well.

All in all -- who's "right" depends on a number of factors, including your own capabilities, the general state/mood of the player-base, and the environment in which that player-base exists (any significant change in that environment could greatly alter their perceptions of your product -- you should usually have a "Plan B" in case a change like that happens during development). Conker's bad fur day comes to mind here. The atmosphere was changing around their product -- so they changed their product to suit it. Whether or not it was a good idea to fully change the direction of the game to fit the atmosphere of the industry as a whole (rather than changing their product to better-fit their particular market) is actually a great subject for analysis, but is beyond the scope of what I'm discussing atm.

 

On 5/31/2019 at 4:52 PM, DavinCreed said:

There's nothing wrong with casual gamers, no matter how much the hardcore gamers seem to despise them. Not everyone has the time to play games like a full time job, and it's dumb to discriminate against people because they can't. And apparently it's good to target them.

Indeed, "casual" is not an inherently bad audience for serious devs -- it just gets beaten-up on for being misunderstood as an audience who is happy playing "Match-3 clones" or "Solitaire" on their smoke break everyday.

This stereotype isn't all there is, and I would argue that "casual" is actually an under-served audience -- i.e. I used to play games "hardcore", but I don't have time to do that anymore. I can't see paying $60 for a huge epic experience I won't have time to sit down to. I will buy one or two awesome / epic / huge titles a year sometimes, but it could take me another year or two to get through them.

 

Regarding Nintendo's "casual" affair:

I was only referring to the problem of using Sony's strategy to target the specific audiences it tried to target (longterm) without the wisdom of the nuances of how to execute Sony's strategy well -- especially over the longterm. A copy of a great thing is still a copy -- even great copies can miss the smaller/finer details and nuances of the source.

Eventually, copying "a good strategy" can become a lot like playing telephone.

Nintendo had only a barebones idea of what they were doing -- they saw Playstation's success, but they missed a lot of the subtle reasons _why_ Playstation was so successful. Unlike the novelty-seeking audience Nintendo targeted, Nintendo's original audience had grown up. They were very different people. Nintendo didn't want to (or maybe didn't know how to?) change with their audience. And, like anything novel -- eventually that novelty wears off. After that, only the high-quality classics (and the originals) will remain.

To target both crowds, Sony's offer of freedom to third-party developers was likely its "secret sauce" -- Nintendo wasn't terrible for not seeing it sooner, because, after all, this very same "freedom" damned the Atari systems and almost our entire industry.
Nintendo saved it almost single-handedly by way of its legendary penchant for very high-quality games like Super Mario Bros.
However, Nintendo went to the extreme with this, becoming a sort of dictator. Sony, however, suddenly provided Nintendo's aging audience (thanks to many high-quality third-party developers) with mature-themed games again on the Playstation with games like Resident Evil, FFVII, Xenogears, Twisted Metal, and leigions of others. Even during the final days of the Wii/U, Nintendo, only just on the verge of catching on, saw that their "audience" did not just include gamers -- it also included developers.

This is something we, as a community of developers, should take to heart more. -- We (developers) still provide our industry value. because it is we who provide the audiences for our industry exactly what they want. It is our JOB to learn how to do this better.

 

I think a discussion on the terminology we use to visualize our games (both to ourselves and to our audience) is sorely needed.

Without this, discussing the atmosphere objectively is very difficult without everyone being on the same page already.
This is why I believe smaller teams (with members who are really close friends) actually produce better games. Anyone remember World of Goo? -- That's a pretty good example of a small team who did great work (for the correct audience) because they were already on the same page. -- In cases like that, the game just kind of "puts itself together" (in a manner of speaking), doesn't it?

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54 minutes ago, awesomedata said:

Regarding Nintendo's "casual" affair:

I was only referring to the problem of using Sony's strategy to target the specific audiences it tried to target (longterm) without the wisdom of the nuances of how to execute Sony's strategy well -- especially over the longterm. A copy of a great thing is still a copy -- even great copies can miss the smaller/finer details and nuances of the source.

I don't think this matches reality. They were very successful. Even with the Wii-U, they were still going strong. I don't get your use of "longterm" when the Wii lasted almost as long as the NES. It doesn't feel like a consistent metric when you're using it.

Sony had equally messed up in a shorter time span with the PS2 at launch and in general.

57 minutes ago, awesomedata said:

Nintendo had only a barebones idea of what they were doing -- they saw Playstation's success, but they missed a lot of the subtle reasons _why_ Playstation was so successful. Unlike the novelty-seeking audience Nintendo targeted, Nintendo's original audience had grown up. They were very different people. Nintendo didn't want to (or maybe didn't know how to?) change with their audience. And, like anything novel -- eventually that novelty wears off. After that, only the high-quality classics (and the originals) will remain.

I can't say what Nintendo did or did not see or any underlying reasoning they used to come to their strategies... and I don't see how you could either. And on top of that, their strategy worked with the Wii in all metrics I can think of. If you don't think so, then please describe the metric you're using to say that they're weren't all that successful. Because it looks like if we get the standard(s) you're using and apply it/them to all the other companies, then no company will be successful by it.

Also, Nintendo targeted a large portion of the video game audience that was being under served, just like Sony did, and it worked both times. That was the strategy. The specific audience they targeted only matters when it was a portion of the audience that was under served. If Barbie gamers were a large market and they were being under served and someone targeted them and were successful, it would be the same strategy.

1 hour ago, awesomedata said:

To target both crowds, Sony's offer of freedom to third-party developers was likely its "secret sauce" -- Nintendo wasn't terrible for not seeing it sooner, because, after all, this very same "freedom" damned the Atari systems and almost our entire industry.

Nintendo saved it almost single-handedly by way of its legendary penchant for very high-quality games like Super Mario Bros.
However, Nintendo went to the extreme with this, becoming a sort of dictator. Sony, however, suddenly provided Nintendo's aging audience (thanks to many high-quality third-party developers) with mature-themed games again on the Playstation with games like Resident Evil, FFVII, Xenogears, Twisted Metal, and leigions of others. Even during the final days of the Wii/U, Nintendo, only just on the verge of catching on, saw that their "audience" did not just include gamers -- it also included developers.

Yes, Sony used to be good for indie devs, all the way from the PS2 launch until the second half of the PS2. Then they started to tighten that shit up.

I agree that Nintendo took quality control way too far. They are getting better at it though, and that's the important thing. You can't go through anything without making a mistake, the good companies will learn from their mistakes and adapt. Nintendo has been doing that for a long time, even if it takes them a few years to see that they made a mistake.To be fair though, sometimes, especially with the big companies, it takes a few years of data to find out they made a mistake.

We could also talk about how Sony made the same kind of mistakes Nintendo did. Or even Microsoft. Which is kind of why it appears that you're picking on Nintendo. Because if we applied what appear to be your standards to companies that are not Nintendo, then we'd have to come to the conclusion that all companies are on a path to failure, unsuccessful, doesn't think about the long term... etc.

I think this is very important. If you're going to say that specifically Nintendo is on a path to failure, but applying your standards to all other companies shows that they are also on a path to failure, then we have to wonder why you're singling Nintendo out. It appears to be bias.

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4 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

Which is kind of why it appears that you're picking on Nintendo.

This seems to be the crux of your problem -- you want me to objectively prove that Nintendo is "bad" and I'm not going down that path because

4 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

If you're going to say that specifically Nintendo is on a path to failure

The title of this topic is "Nintendo's path to failure" -- not "Nintendo is currently on a path to failure".

Sure, its an easy misunderstanding, but Nintendo is a great teacher in our industry, and learning from their failures (and successes) is a great place to start breaking into the industry.

 

Like you, I'm a Nintendo fanboy through and through. But they damn well can make mistakes. Just like Sony and Microsoft can. And I'm not minimizing any of their faults either. They've failed just as many times as Nintendo. In some ways, they've failed even more spectacularly.

However, because Nintendo is still the "golden boy" of the industry (i.e. that guy from Ubisoft cried tears of happiness because he got to use Mario in a game), Nintendo is also a great opportunity to see where, when, and why novel ideas (i.e. some types of games) fail or succeed at different points in time.

Wind Waker was a great example of this happening for the same game -- but in reverse of what usually happens with a "failed" game.

It pointed out some of Nintendo's (and many of our own) faults with assuming we understand our audience.

 

------------------------

This post was not meant to beat-up on Nintendo -- it was to celebrate what a great company it was (and continues to be) while also using its mistakes as an example to learn from. Approaching failures from someone you admire with a critical / devil's-advocate mindset is a great way to learn in a deeper way than just regurgitating and pouring over simple metrics will ever allow.

This kind of thinking does not diminish your respect and appreciation for those you admire, but it also helps you to see why they probably made their mistakes so you don't have to make them yourself.

------------------------

 

4 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

I don't get your use of "longterm" when the Wii lasted almost as long as the NES.

5 hours ago, DavinCreed said:

if we applied what appear to be your standards to companies that are not Nintendo, then we'd have to come to the conclusion that all companies are on a path to failure, unsuccessful, doesn't think about the long term... etc.

I will explain this only because others might want to know since you brought it up, but I'm going to skip some of these rhetorical statements if you're not trying to discuss anything with me. As it stands, it appears that you're simply trying to shoot me down rather than contribute to the progression of the discussion. -- If you don't understand my reasoning, why not simply ask some questions?

For example -- what do you assume my "standards" are?

Back to your statements though -- my usage of "longterm" is based on the idea of an "evergreen" company -- i.e. a company that aims to be around longer than five or six years beyond the life of a single product. An evergreen company can't rely on only one product to be "successful". The NES (itself) was successful because it saved the industry. The Wii (itself) was successful because it catered to the novelty of VR and the intuitiveness of motion-control first. The Wii U (itself) was not that successful due to poor naming and cultural differences in marketing that name. The Switch has had great success so far due to Nintendo getting back to being the "cool" console to have again (plus there's Zelda and Mario), but we'll see how it does since it's still early days. Nintendo, however, is not yet (by definition of an evergreen company) "successful" despite its overwhelming successes. For example, I would put money on the idea that Nintendo's "Switch" isn't simply in name only -- I'd bet that name not-so-subtly hints at their overall strategy too. But only time will tell for sure. The Switch isn't by any means Nintendo's last console though. Nintendo's "success" hasn't yet been determined, though it has definitely been "success-ful" overall. The same goes with Sony and Microsoft. The book of history has not yet been written.

 

Ultimately, I've just always found it fun to watch how things played out in the early days (ever since Nintendo vs Sega, then Nintendo vs Sony), but I've always enjoyed learning from Nintendo's occasional failures the most. After all, they have that one guy who saved the entire industry on their payroll. They have the kind of insights the rest of us only dream of at their disposal. Why not learn from it on the rare occasions they goof up?

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