Hey Nintendo, Where Did The "Quality" Go?
Nintendo's Wii and DS systems are seeing great success among the perceived “new market” of casual gamers. That might explain all the cheap shovelware I've seen for both systems on retailer's shelves. I've played some of these games, and many are remarkably poor. Just for fun, I wanted to point out to a friend that our opinions must be wrong, since the games bear the golden seal of Nintendo. Then I saw what word was missing from the new seal: “quality".
The video game market after the industry crash of 1983 was a bleak one. Retailers blamed the innumerable lousy Atari 2600 games for causing the crash by abusing consumer confidence. Atari had no control over who could and couldn't develop games for their system, so when barrelfulls of rushed and ill-conceived games hit retailers in the early 80s, the public stayed away in droves.
To combat this hostile market, Nintendo's console had a lock-out chip preventing unauthorized games from running on the system. If you wanted to develop for the NES, you had to play by certain rules and pass inspection by Nintendo to earn their “Seal of Quality”. This control over the video game market put Nintendo on the map, and kept their console on top throughout the 80s.
It also didn't hurt that if developers wanted to earn the Seal of Quality, they also had to manufacture cartridges through Nintendo. Ever wonder why practically every cartridge (okay, maybe not Bible Adventures...) was the exact same? No wonder the big N was making money hand over D-pad.
To the public, the quality seal promised that the game had passed the company's muster (indeed Nintendo has helped third party developers better their games during “inspection”). The Seal has been in place since the 80s, as a sign of the big N's hands-on approach to keeping their systems strong – though I think we can all agree that there have been more than a few clunker games over the years that challenged their promise of “quality”.
Nintendo has maintained their reputation for developing high-quality, first party games. I don't think that there's any question that quality is a high priority for their own titles. Nintendo's own games have always been the most anticipated for their consoles. Yet it's curious that they removed “quality” from the seal since the introduction of the Wii and DS. Perhaps a precaution in this litigious world of ours? Or is it a license to publish more NES-era third party junk like Bart vs. The Space Mutants?