“Fanboy” has become one of the Internet’s more pejorative terms, referring to a person who identifies excessively with a particular franchise, organisation or product. These fanboys defend that particular aspect with dogged determination and engage or instigate flame wars on comment threads or discussion boards; ignoring opposing arguments that do not sympathise with their point and aggravating other users.
This kind of behaviour is not uncommon. Experiences in gaming, usually felt in childhood , incite a fervent emotional response that can continue well into adulthood. The reactionary behaviour that results is relatively tame, and fits rather snugly as a fringe element in the gaming community. Arguments between opposing camps rarely extend beyond the Internet.
Normal gamers tend to distance themselves from such illogical behaviour, but the fact of the matter is, publishers would prefer if fanboys stuck around. Even if a publisher’s PR department is not aware of their existence, fanboys serve as free marketing. These passionate groups personify publishers as friends, but that fact could not be farther from the truth. Instead, publishers are more beholden to their stockholders and have demonstrated this on many occasions.
The GameCube years were not kind to Nintendo. The new, considerably less efficient media Nintendo chose to use instead of DVDs impacted developer support significantly. Comments made by Satoru Iwata regarding online connectivity on consoles didn’t do them any favours either. The purple box’s best selling games were published by Nintendo and by a considerable margin at that. If this sounds familiar to you, well that’s because the trend continues today.
When the Revolution was announced, the Nintendo faithful were undoubtedly the most excited and certainly the most avid about it on the Internet. But everything from the announcement of its business strategy, to its announced launch titles spoke volumes about where exactly Nintendo was heading – away from its core demographic. When released under its final name, the Wii, the initial high of frantic flailing and carpal tunnel inducing waggle motions were forgivable, as were its incredible sales numbers and its news coverage.
Where did these new sales come from? Everywhere. Almost every conceivable demographic was appealed to through this new device and they were quite content to play Wii Sports (the console’s pack-in game) until the Horsemen bid them hello. The Wii became notorious for its broad appeal, and notably, for ‘abandoning’ its core demographic, itself being home to only a handful of first party titles. The console also continued the tradition of becoming yet another Nintendo platform where third-party games did poorly in comparison to first-party titles.
The Wii U now has to balance the needs of its mainstream audience alongside the wants of Nintendo’s core demographic, whilst still attempting to foster goodwill from third-party publishers and the development community. In the end, while Nintendo never really ‘left’ its fans, it proved quite resolutely that it was willing to put them second to its own interests if the two did not align; in essence, a company like any other.
Japanese RPGs are not everybody’s cup of tea, but there was a time when Square Enix was just Square, or Squaresoft and served the Nintendo and Sony platforms with their rich stories, sweeping epics, quirky characters and turn-based battle systems. Chrono Trigger, the Secret of Mana games, and of course Final Fantasy, were staples of the company.
Then Square Ltd merged with Enix Corp., and made Final Fantasy X-2; an unnecessary sequel to the far superior Final Fantasy X which had a superior battle system, soundtrack, pacing, characterisation, story. Then Final Fantasy XII came out two years later. Fans did not like this new Square. I didn’t like this new Square.
I personally had no issue with Final Fantasy XII other than its abysmal difficulty curve which swerved squarely into the dirt, and its Gambit system which essentially made the game play itself. All contingencies could be accounted for and sorted, without you pressing a button during battle. It seems that Square Enix thought this was the best idea on Earth and in turn made one of my least enjoyed games in recent memory.
It’s been a long time since I was a fan of anything Square Enix released that didn’t have Dragon Quest or Deus Ex in the title. Square Enix’s Final Fantasy X-2 started a worrying pattern of forgoing design evolution by simply advancing the series. At least, as long as it sells well.
”You will never love a woman more than this man hates his fans”
- Robert Evans on Cracked.com
As the ultimate frame of reference, when it comes to crushed dreams and fan ire, there are few men that stand atop the pile of Bobby Koticks, John Romeros, and Peter Molyneuxs, waving that flag in the name of the almighty dollar.
Yes, George Lucas is a person, but he is also unique in that he controls his own IP. It is very rare that the creator of an IP gets to have absolute control over it without giving rights to a publisher or a studio. But George Lucas is the exception to the rule, and perhaps the worst example of what happens when money drives your franchise so much, it overrides creative interest.
I don’t have to elaborate on anything regarding this man that has not already been said. Prequel trilogy. Jar-Jar Binks. The Special Edition DVDs that erase Sebastian Shaw from existence. “Nooooooo”.
All I will say, is that the moment George Lucas let creative freedom be influenced by merchandising is when I lost respect for the man as a director. “Dead Han toys”, ladies and gentlemen. A round of applause.
I could say that the moral of this article is “don’t meet your heroes,” but publishers are not your heroes. Movie fans realised a long time ago that movie studios were not their heroes because they were not individuals. Companies like Nintendo are not individuals; it is a collective of individuals working to advance the interests of its shareholders and provide products for its consumers. Nothing else. Nintendo is not your buddy, no matter how much you loved Super Mario Bros. when you were five.
Mario, Zelda, the Master Chief and any other character used in a game’s marketing are tools employed to evoke an emotional response; intended to keep your mind off the fact that you will be spending full price on launch day for a game you’ve played time and time again.
Fanboys should remember that next time they spew hatred at somebody with a dissenting opinion of their own.