Mario's Creator Likens Game Ownership to Toy Ownership

Illustration for article titled Mario's Creator Likens Game Ownership to Toy Ownership

It's clear what Microsoft thinks of game ownership—the Xbox One's policies don't communicate much of a belief in it. Sony scored a lot of points on Monday, but to be fair, it was a defense of the status quo. Where does Nintendo come down on the subject?

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Shigeru Miyamoto, the creative face of the company, considers video game ownership to be akin to toy ownership, roughly speaking. To him, that means "as a consumer, you want to be able to keep those things for a long time and have those things from your youth that you can go back to and experience again," he told Eurogamer.

Miyamoto drew the metaphor from the idea that Nintendo is "almost like a toy company where we're making these things for people to play with." But it's a very useful counterpoint to those who think a game license versus a game ownership is no big deal—those who think no one will care about the games they bought today when the servers are turned off in 10 years. (As Halo 2 itself showed, people do care.)

If you imagine games as toys—or, hell, comic books, or DVDs of classic movies—then, hell yes it matters, and not because they're collectibles. The interactive experiences these things offer are still there, still may be enjoyed, whether or not they're outdated. Even if they are, your memories may make playing them a richer experience.

That said, Nintendo could take an additional step toward this toy-ownership ideal. As it stands, you may transfer digital content you own from machine to machine only. If your Wii U or 3DS is lost, stolen or fried, there's no way to pull down what you purchased from the cloud—as you can, incidentally, with an Xbox Live or PlayStation Network account. Nintendo's been forgiving in very extreme cases, but it would be nice to see them finally take that step.

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Miyamoto: Nintendo's game ownership policy should operate "like a toy company" [Eurogamer]

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To contact the author of this post, write to owen@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter @owengood. Image by Getty

DISCUSSION

The ownership argument is always in the conversation when an industry is shifting from hard-copy media to digital distribution.

Music fans lamented jewel cases and album cover art and liner notes, but ultimately they gave that up in favor of $9 CDs and a-la-carte songs and downloading an anticipated new cut to their phone at midnight on release day.

Book readers talk about how books feel and how books smell, and how much they like selling or lending or giving away their old books. But many of them have switched to e-books, because e-books are cheaper, and when you finish something, you can start something else right there, without even getting out of bed.

Movie watchers have abandoned disk-based movie purchases for streaming services and on-demand cable, even though streaming media doesn't match Blu Ray resolution. It's just easier to dial something up on Netflix than to deal with disks, and people are less pleased than they used to be to have DVDs taking up space in their homes.

Digitally distributed games are better than disk-based games because the system's HDD can be accessed much more quickly than an optical disk can be read. Even if digitally distributed games cost the same as disk-based games, many gamers would probably switch to buying digital solely for shorter load times. And I expect that the digital versions of games will be at least $5-10 cheaper than the packaged games as well.

I also don't see much need to keep or archive games. Games depreciate incredibly quickly; today's $60 new release is on sale for $40 in three months, and in a bin for $19.99 at Christmas.

The big franchises get nearly annual iterations which supercede and replace the old versions, and there's a huge flood of titles every year, so no game really becomes as monumental as SMB3 or Link to the Past did in the SNES generation. Game technology is constantly moving forward, so most gamers don't want to deal with going back and playing even a seminal last-gen game like Halo 2, with its low-resolution and blocky models.

Even the once-a-generation franchises are sort of obviated by their sequels. Even if you're a huge Super Smash fan, you don't need the old Super Smash once the new iteration comes out.

I think Nintendo made a huge mistake launching the Wii U with such a small hard drive. They missed the boat on digital distribution this generation just like they missed the boat on high-def last time. They're going to be in bad shape when Gamestop starts shuttering tons of stores next year.