EA & the Definition of Kids’ Games

Posted: January 24, 2014 in Current Gaming
Tags: , , , , , , ,

EA & Nintendo

It really annoys me when I encounter people making a generalization about Nintendo consoles only being for kids’ games. I don’t like generalizations anyway, but one like this that is so patently false and spawned of ignorance truly raises my hackles (note: I’m not actually a dog, just using hackles in a metaphorical manner). The positive that I can keep with me on this subject is that at least it’s confined to a loud minority with no real standing or influence over the video game industry.

“Nintendo was dead to us very quickly. It became a kids’ IP platform and we don’t really make games for kids.” – EA Source to CVG

.  .  .  .  .

Grumpy Cat

I rarely make a statement in a blog without prefacing it by saying that it is only my opinion and others will differ in their own opinions. I openly accept, acknowledge, and encourage dissenting opinions to my own. Everything I write is viewed through the prism of my life that no one else can see, just as I can’t see theirs. That said, this statement about the WiiU by EA is bullshit. And I don’t consider that my opinion, I consider it a verifiable fact.

First of all, we have to remove sales from this statement. If EA wants to complain that their games don’t sell on the WiiU, fine. That’s provable and has been true to date. EA specifically cited Mass Effect 3 being published on the WiiU as not performing well. Could it be due to the fact that it’s a game that builds upon your customized character from the previous two games, neither of which appeared on the WiiU, making it a more attractive purchase for those that owned the previous titles on the competing systems? That would be my guess. I’m sure it was at least a large factor in poor sales. This happened with the Wii as well. A company puts out a lesser effort on a Nintendo console, then points to the lack of success as proof that their titles don’t sell. Dead Space: Extraction was a fine game, but it was also an on-rails shooter, which is immediately a limited market, but it’s poor performance was absolute proof that an actual Dead Space game would never have worked on the Wii (ignoring the performance limitations of the Wii for the moment). It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That said, this isn’t a blog about why third party games struggle on the WiiU (but that’s a great idea for a future blog). This is about EA’s assertion that the WiiU is a console for kids’ IPs, a comment repeated, as pointed out in my opening paragraph, by many other individuals, and is the battle cry for at least a small segment of gamers. Really though, what is a “kiddy” game? In my mind, a kids’ game is game that is designed solely for children, age 12 and under, that is used for their entertainment and/or educational purposes. To be solely for kids, it would have to be a game that offered little to no appeal to the majority of game players outside of that age range. The difficulty would have to be low enough to allow the kids to complete the game with minimal difficulty. Just to offer some concrete examples, I would consider the following games to be good examples of “kiddy” games:

  • Winnie the Pooh’s Rumbly Tumbly Adventure
  • Dora the Explorer: Journey to the Purple Planet
  • Pillow Pets
  • Go, Diego, Go! Great Dinosaur Rescue
  • Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster
  • Zhu Zhu Pets: Quest for Zhu

You get the idea here. Those are kids’ games. I can vouch for this because, having a seven year old, I’ve seen three of those in action, and actively had to play one of them (Pooh’s Adventure). I can state without reservation that the vast, vast majority of these games aren’t meant for adults.

In its defense, it is at least a pretty game.

In its defense, it is at least a pretty game.

EA doesn’t interpret kiddy games that way though. I mean, I’m sure that in EA’s eyes, those are kid games, but my scope and definition is too narrow for them. To attempt to figure out what EA considers to be a kid game, let’s take their statement at face value. The WiiU is a console for kids’ IPs. Alright then, what are the top games for the WiiU (sales, ratings, buzz, etc…):

  • New Super Mario Brothers U/Super Luigi U
  • Super Mario 3D World
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
  • Pikmin 3
  • Lego City Undercover
  • ZombieU
  • Monster Hunter Tri
  • The Wonderful 101
  • Bayonetta 2

We’ll go ahead and omit ZombieU, Bayonetta 2, and Monster Hunter Tri because they are obviously meant for an older audience. I suppose we can remove The Legend of Zelda and The Wonderful 101 as well, for the same reason. That leaves us with four games (I intentionally left out Nintendo Land and Party games, they’re generally fun for all ages). We have two Mario titles, a Lego game, and Pikmin 3.

So what can we glean from these titles to help us understand EA’s thought process. Those games aren’t particularly easy, so it can’t be a statement on difficulty. They aren’t derived from popular kid’s shows, so we can jettison that argument. EA has done some platforming-esque games in recent years, so even that can’t be pointed too. What are we missing here?

Pictured: Platforming

Pictured: Platforming

Maybe we’re looking at the argument wrong. Maybe it isn’t that the WiiU is home to games just for kids, maybe it’s that the WiiU is home to games that aren’t only targeted to adults. Look at Dead Space 3, Battlefield 4, Dragon Age 2, and Crysis 3. All are rated M . I have no problem with that, I’m quite the fan of the Dead Space franchise, but it shows that EA is aiming for an over 18 market with their games (excepting Need for Speed, Sims, and sports games). So, with this quote, I think it’s safe to say that EA views anything that’s not a T or M rating as a game made for kids.

Rated E, meaning no adult has ever touched this title.

Rated E, meaning no adult has ever touched this title.

Here’s my problem with this situation. Dismissing anything that doesn’t look gritty or doesn’t have guns and gore and blood as not worth playing means that quite a few games are going to fall through the cracks. Mario may not have gore, but it’s still an extremely challenging game. Anyone that thinks it’s a kids’ game has never played the Special World in Super Mario Galaxy 2, or the Special Worlds in Super Mario 3D World (or Tubular in Super Mario World…[shudder]). They were designed to challenge the most seasoned of game players. Yet, the game can still be played by virtually anyone. Why is that seen as a bad thing? The same is true of Zelda, Pikmin, Lego City Undercover, and many other games. Sure, maybe anyone can play them, but does that make them less fun for an older gamer? It never has for me. We’re in a generation now that no longer looks for just fun, they seem to be looking for fun and [something serious and adult]. Fun and gritty. Fun and gory. Fun and bullets. For some reason, fun is no longer enough.

I’m not ripping on adult games here. As I said, I love Dead Space. I think Resident Evil 4 is one of the greatest games ever made. They all have their place in the market. I’m ripping on those people that automatically sneer at anything that isn’t of a certain rating or a certain seriousness as being too “kiddy” for them to lower themselves to play. It’s almost an elitist attitude: “I’m far too adult to enjoy a game an 10 year old might also play.” Where did that come from? If a game is fun, why is it still looked down upon by certain segments? If I prefer Mario Kart to PGR or Need for Speed, does that make me more or less of an adult? No. It just means that I derive more enjoyment from one of those than I do the other. While many in this segment would chide those of us that still play Mario or Zelda or Pikmin for being childish in our game choices, I think they’re the ones that need to take a step back and see that maybe they need to mature a bit and not be threatened by playing something that doesn’t have an “M” on the box.

I mean, come on!

I mean, come on!

Update:
Peter Moore has since responded to the quote I placed above:

“Don’t trust ‘anonymous sources.’ Nintendo’s a great partner. They never have been, and never will be, ‘dead’ to EA.”

Good for Mr. Moore, but I think this is more of a damage control statement than anything. EA is putting nothing on the WiiU. Blaming it on sales is fine, there’s a strong argument to be made there, but I still suspect that the attitude from the previous quote, and not addressed by Mr. Moore, is the prevalent attitude at Electronic Arts. No proof guys, just my personal opinion, as always.

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