Posted by: Chris | November 2, 2010

A Baffling Piece

I know we are not the best people to be criticizing half-assed blog posts, but the Atlantic’s Sam Machkovech scrawled out one commemorating the 25th anniversary of the NES that probably would not pass even our low standards.

First, he mistakenly attributes the quarter centennial to Nintendo itself when the company is over 100 years old and, in 1985, had been in the video game industry for over 5 years (and in 1981 they released a little know game called Donkey Kong).  The content of the post makes it clear that it is the NES, not Nintendo itself, whose anniversary is being celebrated, but the mistitling was sufficient to confuse Andrew (and undoubtably others).  Further, October 18th, 1985 is a pretty arbitrary date to pick as NES’s birthday.  The identical Famicom (as a commenter noted) was released long before and the actual rollout of the NES in North America was not initiated until February 1986 (October 1985 saw the NES released in select stores in New York City).

But this is far from the most egregious part, as the central allegation is utterly untrue.  Machkovech claimed that Nintendo is ignoring its history out of some bizarre sense of shame.  Except that, even at the time of Machkovech’s posting, Nintendo had already long since announced a 25th anniversary red Wii package (complete with a special SMB with question blocks featuring the number 25) as well as a Super Mario Collection pack in Japan (as well as Europe), with these two packages (plus more) to be announced for North America shortly after Machkovech’s post.  Indeed, Machkovech seems to have simply checked NoA’s press site the day of and, not seeing anything, decided something nefarious was afoot, despite the fact that the oversight has been corrected thrice over.

Finally, of all the things NES-era-Nintendo should be ashamed of, easing the entirely valid concerns of skittish retailers that video games were not a dead fad and the Atari bust was a isolated incident seems innocuous.  Indeed, NoA often seems to relish its past as a scrappy, fly-by-night operation taking on a hostile market.  I would imagine instead giving preferential treatment to their own software and using their licensing controls to limit the number of games competitors could release would probably serve as better examples of a past the company would rather not talk about.  But that has nothing to do with arbitrary birthdays (not their own) that Nintendo (does not) ignore, so I guess it was not worth mentioning.

Machkovech’s other output on the Atlantic is a mixed bag.  The plain silly Harmonix-as-Pixar analogy is predicated a very broad comparison (“Both games are critics’ darlings, yet also huge sellers. They’re family favorites that adults can’t help but love.”) that basically includes half of all major developers, most of which, unlike Harmonix, have more than effectively one game to their names.  Plus, half of that “both” in “both games,” is an unreleased game for an unreleased peripheral, so I can’t quite figure out how it has earned any of the above superlatives.  But I did like his point about bugginess and technical difficulties separating games from other media (and is also why attempts to recenter review averages at 5 on a 10-point scale are ultimately misguided).

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