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On Predictions, Introspection, and Group Psychology: The Fan in Fanatic

by James Jones - May 23, 2013, 11:47 pm PDT
Total comments: 4

It's hard to write a good article about your feelings when you're not entirely sure what they are.

This article was originally about EA’s securing of the Star Wars license. I intended to explore their internal development teams and try to find obvious opportunities for them to best use the Star Wars license. It was a fluff piece. I thought that if I hit a single prediction I could celebrate it as if I were Nostradamus, and if I missed entirely I could forget it ever existed. 

Shortly thereafter it morphed into an article on the chilling (or perhaps deeply frozen) relationship between EA and Nintendo. I wondered, "Would Disney allow EA to simply cut Nintendo’s home console out of the Star Wars pie? Would EA – could EA –  continue with statements that simply dismiss any plans for the Wii U? Would their investors allow it?" (Answer: No) The entire exercise seemed like nothing more than empty speculation; I, just like the rest of the media, simply don’t have the information to answer these questions, and as such I was incapable of contributing anything meaningful to the existing discourse.

During some unnumbered revision to this article, I became aware of the tempest in a teapot that Nintendo and Sega created with the announcement of Sonic’s temporary exclusive home on the Wii U. I created a quick draft of an article where I examined the manufactured rage of Sonic fans who felt this somehow betrayed a greater purpose. It was a mean-spirited romp at the expense a fanbase who, for better or worse, is truly devoted to a franchise. I stopped because I realized the same feelings that informed my earlier examination of EA’s rejection of the Wii U ultimately were fueling this long-suffering fanbase. It didn't feel right.

With a certain amount of introspection I realized that the one thing I could examine, the one thing that linked these two topics together, was the emotional investment we put into these decisions by large corporations. Their decisions overcome rational analysis when they strike our ears (or eyes) and become tied to emotion, whether the news is good or ill for the company/franchise/console of choice. 

Why would the EA news bother me? I don’t own many EA games – a quick review of my library lead me to conclude I buy about three a year. Considering that I consume a new game every week (if only for my role on Radio Free Nintendo), that would mean EA is only about six percent of my gaming diet. Even the addition of Star Wars to their portfolio is unlikely to substantively alter that equation – the license hasn't been used well recently. For the sake of argument: if Wii U doesn't receive ports of their games it won't matter; I’ll throw my lot in with one of the other consoles at some point. It isn't as if I’m a single console owner.

Emotional attachment to a company or a piece of hardware is a strange thing. From a hardware point of view, I can understand some of the desire to "back a winner." A financial commitment is made when a system is purchased in exchange for future games. If the games don’t come, it’s a bit like making a bad investment. That doesn't quite take into account feelings of multi-console owners like myself. I cannot promise the default console I’d buy a game on would be a Wii U. My decision would rest upon which version is the best or which I could purchase with the best deal.

Backing a company is a bit more of an irrational decision. To provide the most rational explanation,we need to examine the specifics of the video game industry. Each of the platform holders represents a distinct philosophy. The topic is more than capable of becoming its own essay and is ultimately immaterial to the core point: a consumer may simply find that one platform holder or another devotes itself to a philosophy more in line with their own. The consumer sees that company as continually innovating and bringing products to market that interest them. It fosters an affinity for the company and the company’s success can validate the consumer’s own values. It’s also possible that the exclusive franchises of a given platform play the most important role in backing a platform. The consumer knows they’re going to buy a particular console and may not want to buy another piece of hardware to play "the games." Moreover, it’s easy to become attached to franchises, especially those of our youth. Staying objective is not easy, and sometimes taking emotion out of purchasing decisions just isn't easy. 

So why did all this EA/Star Wars stuff bother me? I'm going to buy another piece of hardware, because I’m actually a bit fascinated with what Microsoft has in mind for their nauseatingly named Xbox One, horrid press event aside. I would like to say I’m bothered by the consolidation of all creative control over such a big franchise in the hands of a company with no long-term attachment to the brand, or that I consider a major publisher simply snubbing a major platform holder a bad step for the industry. But I would guess Sonic fans produce similar rationalizations for their emotional reactions –  Sonic may be their Star Wars, I don’t know. I guess it's the irrational emotion, the nostalgia, that elicits my response. I know there’s no reason to be emotionally attached to a multinational corporation with billions of dollars in assets, but perhaps that’s the only explanation I have.


ShyGuyMay 24, 2013

It's not complicated, I like Nintendo for the same reason I have a favorite restaurant. I like what I get from them.

I'm upset about the lack of support of the Wii U because I like a lot of the possibilities the GamePad offers and would like to see someone besides Nintendo try to realize them. If it weren't for that aspect I think I'd feel the same way you do.

Ian SaneMay 24, 2013

There is very obvious reason to want to back a winner if your budget is such that you can only buy one console.  Obviously you want as many games as possible to come to "your" console.

I think there is psychological desire for things to be "as they should be".  I was annoyed that the Dreamcast didn't do well and I didn't own one, never had owned a Sega system at that point, and didn't have the money at that point in my life to go buy one anyway.  So why did I care?  Because it was a good system with a great lineup of games and it deserved to do better.  The Wii's success however drived me nuts and I owned a Wii and Nintendo had always been "my team".  It drove me nuts because I didn't think it was a good system and I felt it did not deserve to sell so well.  The Gamecube's low sales bothered me because I felt it was a better console then the sales suggested.  I want good products to succeed and bad products to fail because it will encourage the creation of good products and discourage the creation of bad ones.  And it also just seems so rational and logical that when it doesn't happen, it's frustrating.

I find I'm not really bothered by the Wii U's sales because, frankly, it currently deserves to sell poorly.  What bothers me is the state of Nintendo, that a company I used to admire so much has a lousy product that is failing.  Nintendo was my horse because I liked their philosophy towards game design and I wanted them to succeed so as to have a positive influence on the industry as a whole.  If they were making great games but no one was playing them then it would not influence tomorrow's developers and we would all be worse off.  Unfortunately Nintendo changed with the Wii and now they are not a company I want to influence tomorrow's developers.  Nintendo failing with great product or succeeding with bad product might as well be the same thing to me.  I would like the positive values that I felt Nintendo used to have (and they had some bad ones; not ALL of them should influence the industry) to spread throughout the videogame industry, whether it's Nintendo leading the way or some other company with the same values.  Since the Wii U, thus far, does not represent those values, I would consider it a good thing that it is failing as I hope that will inspire Nintendo to change for the better.  But then they could just crash and burn with no ability to bounce back.  That would bother me but only in the sense that the Nintendo I admired never came back.  I wouldn't care if THIS Nintendo died.

pokepal148May 24, 2013

Quote from: Ian


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