Considering how regularly Nintendo is lambasted for always returning to the same franchises and characters on each of their consoles, Splatoon was truly a breath of fresh air when it was announced at E3.
Yet, the paint splattering mechanic did seem to call back to Mario Sunshine on the Gamecube, and indeed, it turns out that there were internal discussions on whether or not Splatoon should be made part of the Mario universe.
Speaking in this coming month’s Edge Magazine, Shigeru Miyamoto opened up on the subject, saying, “There were heated debates over who the main character should be, whether it should be Mario, or the squid. When we talked about the possibility of it being Mario, of course we could think of the advantages: anybody would be willing to touch it as soon as we announced that we had a new Mario game. But at the same time, we had some worries. If it were Mario, we wouldn’t be able to create a new IP.”
Considering Nintendo’s previous propensity to slap Mario into all manner of genres outside of his traditional platforming, regardless of the actual merits of doing so, and getting slammed for doing so, it’s great to see them take on the risk of creating something without his face on it.
However, it could also be considered a play to attract more of the core gamer market, as Miyamoto noted a major shift in Nintendo’s attitudes towards casual gamers and people who want to “passively” enjoy games.
He said, “[These are] the sort of people who, for example, might want to watch a movie. They might want to go to Disneyland. Their attitude is, ‘okay, I am the customer. You are supposed to entertain me.’ It’s kind of a passive attitude they’re taking, and to me it’s kind of a pathetic thing. They do not know how interesting it is if you move one step further and try to challenge yourself [with more advanced games].”
It’s a big change compared to the mass market popularity of the Wii thanks to accessible games like Wii Sports and their use of innovative and intuitive motion controls. However, with the proliferation of gaming on smartphones and tablets and the Wii U struggling to capture the same casual market’s imagination, Miyamoto thinks, “It’s a good thing for us, because we do not have to worry about making games something that are relevant to general people’s daily lives.”
With the combination of a willingness to try to create new characters and franchises and a renewed focus on core gamers, we could potentially see some more exciting announcements out of Nintendo in the future.