Over the last few weeks my 3DS and I have revitalised our relationship. I’ve been playing Fantasy Life and focusing on completing all the Streetpass games, which I never really invested much time in before. I had previously dismissed the Streetpass mechanic as lousy, as I just did not believe that there would be enough fellow 3DS owners in Australia for the mechanic to work – I am happy to say I was wrong. But my love of Streetpass is not the focus of this recount. Instead, it is the way you purchase new games in the Streetpass Plaza. Gone is the simple menu, through which you scroll and select the product you wish to buy. Now, when you express your interest in a new title, a personified rabbit store-clerk jumps out of his rabbit hole to ask if you’d like to know more about the product before purchasing. Mr. Rabbit is equipped with a datapad, which he uses to show you screenshots of the product in question, and will become humbly thrilled if you decide to purchase the game without hearing his spiel. Even if you decide not to buy the title after hearing all his information, he is nothing but courteous towards his potential customer. This is what it feels like to shop in Japan. Shopping is not the familiar experience of finding what you want and handing over the money; in Japan, the high level of service transforms the experience into something else entirely. The fact that Nintendo‘s investment in customer satisfaction extends to the effort of programming and animating a store clerk to help you with in-game purchases is a feature I never would have imagined. It’s certainly not something I would expect from any other games company, and exemplifies the company’s uniqueness which, I believe, is the reason it will endure.
Every time I meet someone new, and we begin to inch towards realising our common love of games, I find Nintendo is a great place to start relating to one another. As a student of Japanese, it is especially rare for me to meet another Japanese learner who was not, at least partially, inspired to learn Japanese thanks to games like Nintendo’s. I think my University colleague put it best when he said “Nintendo will always hold a special place in our hearts”. In today’s super competitive AAA market, with companies like Rockstar, Ubisoft and EA churning out more GTA, Assassin’s Creed and FIFA titles than I can keep track of, I find the release schedule of Nintendo refreshing. There may not be as much choice for 3DS and Wii U owners, but these players know when they buy a Nintendo title that there is never a risk of bugs, and certainly the title will always be playable upon purchase.
It sounds very stereotypical, but as someone who has experienced life in Japan I can tell you truly that the reason Nintendo holds these high standards is, at least partly, thanks to the company’s cultural background. The level of service in Japan is world-famous for very good reason, and somehow in the competitive AAA game release environment, Nintendo has determinedly held onto this quality. While some deplore Nintendo for their perceived lack of range, high prices, reputation for “kids games”, or general unwillingness to “change with the times”, in doing so they miss out on something wonderful. Both the DS and the Wii U are extremely innovative consoles, and the DS in particular has been extremely successful, selling over 154.01 million units during its lifetime. Back in December 2012, when the release of the Wii U was just around the corner, I somehow convinced my parents that, despite having reached adulthood, the new console was what I needed for Christmas. The gamepad looked like it could provide innovative new gaming experiences, and, as a Nintendo product I trusted it to deliver. Despite the small range of launch titles it was an awesome gift. With Nintendoland alone, the Wii U delivered. It is, by far, the best multi-player or ‘party console’ on the market, and I continue to love it to this day. The quality of the titles, and the new mechanics made possible by the Wii U’s hardware did not disappoint. And it was not just the shiny, ‘new’ feeling that made the Wii U so exciting. Ever since that Christmas each release of a new major Nintendo game has seen my household wile away many hours excitedly screaming at each other as we enjoy the new title.
Nintendo’s recently announced deal with mobile company DeNA, which will see them move into the mobile market for the first time in the company’s history, is an extremely exciting prospect, and evidence that Nintendo can, and will, always be there for us.