Recently, we found ourselves wondering why Nintendo hadn’t gone the extra mile with Mario Kart 3DS, slated to arrive later this year. Sure, the game lets players fly using built-in hang gliders and customise their karts, but for the most part, it provides a similar experience to Mario Kart DS and even Mario Kart: Super Circuit for Game Boy Advance.
The answer is simple: because it doesn’t have to go that extra mile, especially when doing so could result in failure.
Years ago, Nintendo created a series of simple formulas that served as the foundation for a variety of franchises.
With Mario Kart, players just want to putter around tracks hitting each other with turtle shells.
In Super Mario Bros., fans want to stomp Goombas and collect goins.
With Pokemon, they want to raise monsters, battle other players and trade critters.
And so on and so forth. Sure, the company makes subtle changes. Franchises go from 2D to 3D (and back), characters acquire new abilities and there will always be new Pokemon to collect, but Nintendo knows when it has a sure thing, and it will do whatever it takes to give its diehard fans whatever they want.
Doing this comes with risk. Some folks eventually grow out of Mario, but this represents more of a natural evolution, as opposed to Sonic the Hedgehog fans that abandon Sega’s mascot in disgust whenever developers mix things up. You know, like turning the fuzzy hero into a werehog, or making him fall in love with a human.
Think about that the next time you criticise Nintendo for sending Mario to rescue Princess Peach for the hundredth time.