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EA Isn't the Only One that Needs a New IP!
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on May 22, 2006   |   Episode 105 (Show Archive)  

   

Electronic Arts is banking on original games like Spore, but they will have a new Need for Speed just in case this game bombs!
For Electronic Arts the writing is on the wall. Video game magazines, analysts and consumers have been demanding brand new original ideas from the world's largest video game publisher. They want new games, innovative ideas, and a moratorium on the endless barrage of annual sequels and updates. It's time for Electronic Arts to change ... and apparently they agree.

At this year's E3, EA Worldwide Studios president Paul Lee went on the record and said that they want 50% of their games to be new IP's. He wants half of their output to be games created from original ideas, as opposed to their usual licensed IP content. Will Wright's upcoming PC game, Spore, will lead the way to many more ambitious projects, ultimately proving to the video game world EA is not just movie games and sports simulators, it's a company full of new ideas and innovative game play. At least that's the way Paul Lee explains it.

It's easy to be skeptical when a company that has been so successful at the licensed games suddenly turns around and suggests they are going to do the opposite, but until I see otherwise I am willing to

Perhaps Electronic Arts newfound change of heart will mean we won't have to put up with a Catwoman sequel!
give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Electronic Arts has seen the light of day and is a changed company. Maybe this means we'll finally see a 3D Mutant League Football title. Or maybe it's all just hot air.

Either way, this got me to thinking: is Electronic Arts the only video game company that needs a new IP? Surely there must be other companies out there that rely a little too heavily on their stable of popular characters and franchises.

As I asked that question the guilty companies started to flood into my head. All of a sudden I was thinking about popular game makers like Koei, Tecmo and Midway, all companies that need to take a long retreat and come up with a bunch of new game ideas. But despite their many successes, these were smaller companies

I'm having a hard time thinking of a Tecmo game that doesn't star the Dead or Alive babes!
that can be excused for relying on what makes money.

So what is Nintendo's excuse? For being a company that prides itself on being "innovative" one has to wonder why Nintendo is so afraid of creating brand new characters and game worlds. Year after year, console after console Nintendo continues to reuse their popular characters, their Mario games, their Zelda games, their Metroid games. Not that there's anything wrong with those titles, but where are the new characters?

That's not to say that Nintendo's games are bad. At this year's E3 Nintendo's booth was home base to many of the best games at the show, it was an strong showing of innovative ideas and cool new games. But it was still Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. And it wasn't a direct sequel of one of those games; it was an update to a spin-off, like Super Smash Bros. Brawl or Wario Ware. These

Super Mario Galaxy was really fun and all, but how long can this plumber go without oxygen?
games will no doubt be good, full of brand new worlds to explore and bosses to defeat ... but maybe it's time this company stops cashing in on the past and gives the gaming public some brand new characters and stories to enjoy.

And it wasn't just the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo's newest handheld, the DS, also suffered from exactly the same problem. The big games announced this year were Zelda, a sequel to Yoshi's Island, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2, another Kirby game and a Mario basketball games, familiar territory to anybody who has been a fan of Nintendo's for the last twenty years.

Of course, Nintendo's Mario love was more on the conservative side this year, especially when you remember what they were showing off back in 2005. Last year Nintendo's booth was nothing but

The moment you have Mario, Bowser and the rest of the Nintendo gang breakdancing in DDR is the moment you know you've jumped the shark!
Italian plumbers, with Mario playing tennis, golf, baseball, and soccer, a new Mario Party game, Mario DDR, Mario Kart DS, New Super Mario Bros., and more. We know the people love their Mario Bros., but does he need to be in a dozen games every year? Even Sega knows to give Sonic the Hedgehog a year off every so often.

Nintendo loyalists may contend that Nintendo has released a few new IP's recently, but the mainstream video game media is slow to react (if they react at all). They would argue that Animal Crossing, Pikmin, Electroplankton, and Chibi-Robo are all new ideas. But are these ideas really that new? And what has become of these notable franchises?

Animal Crossing, for one, spawned from a Nintendo 64 game. Electroplankton is more of a tech demo full of unique ideas (and a couple of major flaws). Pikmin was a great concept that hasn't been seen or heard from in years. And then there's Chibi-Robo, a game that critics didn't know what to think of. Despite getting overall negative scores, Chibo-Robo

Oh sure these Wii Sports games feature new characters, but you and I both know I'm not talking about nameless athletes!
is just about the closest thing Nintendo has to a new IP. E3-goers were treated to a hands-on demonstration of the DS Chibo-Robo, which does a good job of recreating the console experience (which isn't a good thing if you've managed to play the tedious GameCube game).

These games just don't have the piazzas of Nintendo's numerous Mario games, Zelda adventures, or Metroid outings. They feature strong ideas but aren't nearly as memorable as what Nintendo was putting out a decade ago. Nintendo was the company of big ideas, but lately it seems like their only ideas are coming from the hardware side. Sure it's great to finally understand how to play Mario with the Wii's remote, but it's a shame that a company like this can't deliver at least one or two original IP's every year.

I'm certainly not suggesting that Nintendo needs a new mascot character or that Big N should cancel their future Zelda adventures, but a little balance would go a long way. I love the idea

Let's hope that the next original Nintendo IP turns out better than Sega's Billy Hatcher!
that Nintendo remembers their roots and releases so many games targeting the long-time fan, I would hate to see the company drop all of their most popular franchises. But at this point Nintendo is starting to feel like that classic rock band that only plays their greatest hits from decades past.

Where is that fighting spirit Nintendo? Where are all those crazy original ideas you've been talking about for years? Doshin the Giant and Nintendogs are cool, but I'm looking for the next big thing, the next franchise that will give Star Fox, Metroid and Mario Kart a run for their money.

Nintendo is far from the only company guilty of riding their popular franchises a little too hard, plenty of third parties should get off their butts and come up with something new and creative. But we're not talking about any old third party; we're talking about Nintendo, a company that touts its innovative ideas and creative games. When people use clich? phrases like, "for people who want to have fun," chances are they are talking about a Nintendo game. This is a company that should be above all of this, a company that should get out there and do what it used to be so good at ... creating new and exciting game worlds better than anybody else. Enough with the Mario games, bring on some brand new IP's!
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