123: Mario is Unmarketable!

Mario is Unmarketable!

"As an icon, Mario is inseparable from the medium he represents, a name practically synonymous with the pastime, and like other creations brought about in gaming's infancy, absolutely absurd. Stare too long and you realize he's an overweight, mustachioed Italian stereotype who battles sentient turtles and grows to immense proportions when he comes in contact with mushrooms. But these are conventions of a universe that we've had over 20 years to become familiar with. Why does the mushroom make Mario big? Because it's a super mushroom. Duh."

Aaron Linde explains why "Mario is Unmarketable!"

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Interesting article. You seriously can put Mario in any game and it would be awesome.

I think the gameplay and the quality of the craftsmanship of Mario games is the reason they are successful.

With few exceptions, games including Mario are all above a pretty high bar of quality.

With few exceptions (the early ones), games including Sonic are generally below a certain bar of quality.

I wish I could like Sonic games but they haven't really made any good ones for quite a while. The only one I own (and will own for the forseeable future) is the original Sonic the Hedgehog on the Virtual Console because I never had a Genesis; on the other hand, I'm picking up Super Mario Galaxy today as soon as I get off work.

Frankly, I think the entire idea behind the article is flawed. You can't simply say, "If Mario was introduced into the gaming world today, would he be successful?" because you seem to believe that if Mario hadn't been introduced when it had that the gaming world would now be as it is. If Mario hadn't been introduced at the time that it was, it's highly possible that the entire home gaming experiment would have ended with the Atari and the Amiga. Even if it hadn't ended, gaming would still be in a completely different place than it is today. It's like trying to ask what would happen in A New Hope was released today, whether or not it would fair well in the world of Hollywood Blockbusters. A New Hope was the movie that showed it could be commercially viable to make a big budget action movie. The fact is, you can't remove the foundation of an entire medium and then expect that medium to remain the same.

I was gonna put time, effort and tought into this post, but somebody on a different fourm (GameFAQS) beat me to it, so I'll quote him instead:

GreatEvilEmpire
Posted 11/13/2007 10:42:18 AM
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At the right place at the right time...you can say that about a lot of games in gaming history.

FFVII was at the right place at the right time. Halo was at the right place at the right time. However, the difference is that those games age badly, while Mario games remain playable to this day.

Is it really just nostalgia or just great design? I would say its the latter. Mario appeared in the right games, the kind of games that excelled in great design and replay value. Mario is far from the immunity that people speak about. He is a character in a great world that Nintendo spend years designing. I'm pretty sure the Miyamoto put his body through all kinds of substance abuse just to get Mario to where he is now.

It's not Nintendo's problem he is such a flexible character who can appear in any game and not be out of place. it's the rest of the industry's problem...because they have to catch up to him.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Heres my question, which remains valid, in my mind, past this article and the posts that followed it-

Why do people feel nostalgic about Mario showing up in sports games, games that have NOTHING to do with his turtle-smashing roots? Aside from the Mario series characters, the sports games have no connection to the old games and ruin any semblance of nostalgia. Just because Mario is in the game doesn't mean its automatically nostalgic- sure, if he was playing soccer while stomping on turtles and jumping over platforms, all while the screen scrolled right, I might be a bit nostalgic. Even that, though, might be a stretch.

Too many of Mario's games have nothing to do with the actions performed in old Mario games. I get it, 2bit side scroller's don't look and play as good as they used to but a side scrolling platformer is the essence of what Mario truly is. Its not his mustache or his jean overalls that make him unique, its the fact that his hard work jumping on turtles and collecting stars made games what they are today. I just can't be nostalgic every time I see a character, he has to be doing what I remember him doing. I have yet to play any Mario game aside from the originals, and super Mario 64. I hate sports games, just because Mario's apart of something I hate doesn't change the fact that I don't want to play it.

Zera:
Interesting article. You seriously can put Mario in any game and it would be awesome.

Mario's time machine, and Mario is missing are very far from awesome games.

it might just be that the high level of design distracts you from the fact that he is actually a number of years old, so that he seems almost a new mario every time, because, they do change to vary how he looks slightly, with what type of engine they use e.g. cell-shading and such, and adding more detail, like in the up-coming super-smash-bros-BRAWL, which looks awesome by the way, in the trailers, mario does have his own distinct flavour, in each of his games, depending on the platform, and style he is meant to be in(e.g. super paper mario is different to super mario 64).

When I have to think of Mario's fame, it's Super Mario World, possibly the best 2D platform game I ever played.

In Galaxy, for the first time ever I think, we have a true proof that he wears jeans. But feel free to correct me on that one.

I think one of the real questions to the article should be: what else would Nintendo have made without Mario? After all, look at Pikmin. It may not be the million copy seller Mario is, but it sold damn well. In this day and age, Nintendo is synonymous with imagination, so if Mario Galaxy was released it might catch a few eyes. However, at the same time, a lot of people would ignore it upon hearing "platformer" until hearing about the planet gimmick/mechanic. At which point, I imagine plenty of gamers would be interested. I mean, I wasn't all that amazed at Mario 64 myself. It was fun, but since I had already played MechWarrior 2 in 3-D and my brother had shown me Quake 2, 3-D gaming wasn't all that spectacular to me. It seemed like the next logical step.

Mario Galaxy, however, is more than "the next logical step". It really is something new in platforming, while also taking old ideas and making them fun.

ccesarano:
I mean, I wasn't all that amazed at Mario 64 myself. It was fun, but since I had already played MechWarrior 2 in 3-D and my brother had shown me Quake 2, 3-D gaming wasn't all that spectacular to me. It seemed like the next logical step.

To me, Mario 64 was a joke. It perfectly captured the essence of why I couldn't be bothered with this particular console.

If Mario did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

With apologies to Voltaire.

Ranzel:
Why do people feel nostalgic about Mario showing up in sports games, games that have NOTHING to do with his turtle-smashing roots? Aside from the Mario series characters, the sports games have no connection to the old games and ruin any semblance of nostalgia.

Do they though? I picked up up Mario Strikers because I heard it was a good fun game to play - nothing to do with Mario being in the title.

When I play the game I giggle at the cuteness of it, but there's no sense of nostalgia present.

Zera:
Interesting article. You seriously can put Mario in any game and it would be awesome.

check this out: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/23547.html

Arbre
What did you not like abotu M64? I liked the level design and the new fighting styles and hated that the levels were so small and the power ups worthless, SS only improved level design and size the rest of ti was so so IMO.
--------------------------
FunkyJ
I dunno M:SS is cute and all but found it annoying, it didn't flow well IMO,the mandatory jumping zones where hell and I wish I could change the default layout of the sticks and buttons so I can enjoy to play it...
=================================
For me it all depends on what they do with Mario,if its lack luster like most new games I write it off as filler, in the end its what they do with it M:G has tis odd gimmick of mini worlds/asteroids ,M:SS had a gimmick of the water pack, M:P has the odd 2D RPG thing goign for it, but beyond the gimmick is the game fun dose ti stay fresh long enough....M64 was neat but the power ups just made it go stale fast, M:SS is just to many changes at once and not enough polish in gameplay or flow of levels , Galaxy will probably have its own set of quirks.

Could you call it revolutionary if they went back to a action adventure platformer setup, take the fighting from 64,the level design of SS and the power ups from SMB3 or SMW, this combination is "Mario" to me, Mario since SMB3 was all about action/adventure in a platforming world,I'd really like them to go back to it and not these odd off the wall world combinations .

Arbre:

ccesarano:
I mean, I wasn't all that amazed at Mario 64 myself. It was fun, but since I had already played MechWarrior 2 in 3-D and my brother had shown me Quake 2, 3-D gaming wasn't all that spectacular to me. It seemed like the next logical step.

To me, Mario 64 was a joke. It perfectly captured the essence of why I couldn't be bothered with this particular console.

All the same, I definitely remember going to Target, seeing the N64 demo console playing Mario 64, and watching several different people pick up the controller and run around the courtyard. Not actually playing the game, not even getting into the castle, just running around in circles, and enjoying it.

(Yes, this is an argument from influence rather than an argument from quality, so I don't expect it to change anyone's opinion on whether it's still a good game.)

Well, for a lot of people, it WAS a new experience. I mean, Crash Bandicoot itself was still pretty linear, whereas Mario 64 was much more open in the environment style. It would be no surprise if people were amazed at what they could do. Me, though, I just never had THAT much fun playing it....though so far, Mario Galaxy is pretty nifty.

"Let's assume Super Mario Galaxy would be the first Mario game on the market. There'd be questions, and lots of 'em, from the media and the public alike; the sort of questions you expect to be asked when a new property is in development. What's with the overalls? Why the fascination with stars, coins? Where does he come from, and what is his reason for hopping around planets and kicking the crap out of this league of ne'er-do-wells? What's with the exaggerated, cartoonish and stereotypical Italian accent? You got something against Italians? Wake thy lawyers, it's on!"

Huh? You're acting like the media does this to ANY game. Half-Life 2, what's with the post-apocalyptic setting? Been there, done that, *YAWN*. Also, why can your character only be white? EQUALITY I SAY! If they can build a physics engine, then they can let you choose what race your character is.

[/sarcasm]

Really, it would just be another neat game that might or might not do well, I personally think that it would.

FoldMaster:

Zera:
Interesting article. You seriously can put Mario in any game and it would be awesome.

check this out: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/23547.html

Yeah ive seen that already. I just felt like saying it. Seriously Mario is a very flexable videogame character (if not the most) so he can fit in a lot more games without feeling out of place. Even the most "awesome" or "cool" characters can match that.

I think you fail to understand what Mario means for Nintendo.

Mario is not a character, he's a brand. As far as game companies go, Nintendo is fairly unique. They create their games different than anyone else. While most is kept under wraps, some things you can deduct.

Other companies usually create a game like this: "Lets make a game on a space dungeon! (insert your own cool enviroment here), the main character will be an emotionally constipated male with control issues (or whatever), all right! lets make that into an FPS". See the sequence? setting, character, gameplay.

Nintendo does not do this. They test scores of gameplay ideas first. They have this fantastic inhouse engine they have been refining since Super Mario 64. Plenty of ideas are discarded, the ones that turn out good (I've read of Nintendo employees referring to this as "sifting for gold") are strung into levels, which eventually get combined into a whole game and branded -its either Mario or Zelda. Ever wonder how come Mario/Zelda games have so many things to do without getting repetitive?

This is why Mario does not need a background story: He is the real "Nintendo Seal of Excellence". To us gamers, the name "Mario" emblazoned on a game means that the game has been built to Nintendo standards. I don't think anyone plays the Mario games for the story, do you?

Nintendo has taken very good care of Mario, Like all brands, it takes time and effort to build brand awareness.

Could you do that today? Build a new brand like that? Yes you could. But keep in mind how long is going to take, and how consistently good you need to be. It will take vast amounts of resources. And you have a lot to learn along the way. Nintendo has mastered the process over many years. They have become damn good at it.

ccesarano:
Well, for a lot of people, it WAS a new experience. I mean, Crash Bandicoot itself was still pretty linear, whereas Mario 64 was much more open in the environment style. It would be no surprise if people were amazed at what they could do. Me, though, I just never had THAT much fun playing it....though so far, Mario Galaxy is pretty nifty.

A purely 3D platform game is absurd imo. It only gets good when there's a minimum of "rail", like in Bandicoot, which enabled a reduction of the "jumping vagueness".
You can't beat the perfection of a 2D platform games, with its millimetric jumps and secret walls you can walk behind.
This is why the dimension transition gimmick in Super Paper Mario is nice.

Besides, M64 looked empty and ugly to me eyes. Especially when I was used to the absolute shining gem that Yoshi's Island was.

The Katamari series is also completely unmarketable. The only problem is this little gem suddenly turned the industry on its ear by reminding people that simple, little explained games can also be massive sellers.

The gaming industry, as well as the film industry seem to be forgetting the notion of the surreal, that at times things are absurd because that is just how life works. Why do people of European descent greet one another by grasping each other's hands and shake vigourously. Arguably that was originally to make sure that the person you are greeting won't be pulling out a dagger (Reference "Book of Totally Useless Information"). However in today's society, I don't quite think that business men are that concerned about literal cut-throat deals, despite films made by George Clooney.

I'm going off on a tangent. The point I'm making is that it seems more and more that people look for answers that easily fit into their own world, and not sit down and nod at the rules of the world that is meant to be alien to our own. Why would killing random animals in a Role Playing Game net you currency (or for that matter, why does every place in the world accept the same currency?)? Why would Alien guns in Halo or other sci fi games seem to operate on the same trigger system as our own weapons? How can any of the Grand Theft Auto people die in horrible gun battles, just to be resurrected by the hospital, or commit hundreds of acts of murder and the game's titular crime, and come out one day later with a thousand dollars less in your wallet and your weapons confiscated? Why does Link continue to go on these quests when every time Zelda and everyone else in Hyrule treat him like dirt afterwards? Why don't heroes simply get the drop on villains during their incessant monologuing? Some things are just aspects of a world alien to us, others are aspects of drama we've come to expect.

Overall, I feel that gameplay is the first and foremost aspect of games that decide if they are marketable or not. If the game is fun, then maybe we'll learn more about the world.

"Why does the mushroom make Mario big? Because it's a super mushroom."

Or because you might have read Alice in Wonderland. Duh.

The specific details of Mario depend on the series of games that defined him, but there are plenty of other equally-surreal games that are successful.

Surreal game premises don't bother most gamers at all. If a game has good gameplay, then a weird setting is entirely acceptable. If a game has bad gameplay, a familiar setting or character (such as every Marvel/DC superhero game ever made) will not save it.

Hmm, hypothetically speaking, if Mario Galaxy was a first game, it'd probably get treated a lot like Okami did last year. With that being said, what interests me more is the realism vs. surrealism point. It's almost as if the latter is a response to the former. If games are edging toward more photorealistic realism, does there have to be a counterpoint where some titles go completely away from that?

it is kind of crazy ho much mario has been used in games.

he can go into any game and make a incrdibaly stupid idea into an amazing game!!!

I do agree that Mario would do a lot worse if he was just recently introduced.
Many developers now seem to focused on creating gritty "realistic looking" first person shooters.
Nostalgia is an important selling point for Mario and related characters.

One difference between how Sonic and Mario were managed that many people overlook...
is the creators behind Sonic abandoned him after the "early games"
while Mario has had the continued support from his creators.

The quality of recent games is what continues to make the Mario franchise a success.

This could've easily been one of moviebob's (gameoverthinker's) nintendo fanboyism rant.
I mean that in the best way possible, he is extremely good at decomposing the points he wants to get across and does it in a really good engaging way.
Great read, I'm gonna be linking this to a couple of friends...

Mario is more than just a character.
Mario is an idea.
Mario is an example of gameplay, an example of good design.
Mario is the example of how platform gaming is done right.

The main character could have been anything. I highly doubt it matters what they used. Heck, it started during the 8bit era, and we all know what sort of characters arose during that time.
Mario Bros could have been about a sock trying to find it's way to the laundromat, but with the level of gameplay, cheerful color and style of graphics and recognizable theme songs that you'll never forget, it would still be a gigantic hit.
Imagine if Nintendo would have done this. We'd be discussing an article saying that the magical Sock from the Shoe Kingdom would not be marketable if it was released in this day and age. The questions gamers would ask if they'd be explained the standards of the mechanics. "What's with the obsession with lint? Why are there gummy bears everywhere? Why does the sock turn into a shoe if he touches a magical fly?".
I wouldn't make sense.

However, since we'd know the sock for so long, we know that the sock represents something else than the character. I might have been here on this very board explaining how the sock could've been a fat Italian plumber called Mario in the Mushroom Kingdom, and how he's not famous for his character but for the standard he made in terms of gameplay.

Games can be about anything. No matter how surreal, odd or stupid.
If you compare, some of the storylines of other games are far more absurd than Mario's. Even ones released recently. No one is raising an eyebrow. These games are considered marketable.
Heck, if you look at Oddworld from a certain angle, you'll see something a lot more stupid and less marketable than Mario. Yet that game proved itself by being what it is: odd ideas mashed together to create good gameplay. Even the name pointed it out.

Mario is the ultimate proof that gaming should stop trying to tell stories and should get back at the core of itself... Gameplay.

Annom:

Zera:
Interesting article. You seriously can put Mario in any game and it would be awesome.

Mario's time machine, and Mario is missing are very far from awesome games.

In Mario Is Missing you could only play as Luigi of course...

image

Well for one, he would look different. His ENTIRE APPEARANCE was due to the graphics of the time and simply so he could be seen.

thequixoticman:
Frankly, I think the entire idea behind the article is flawed. You can't simply say, "If Mario was introduced into the gaming world today, would he be successful?" because you seem to believe that if Mario hadn't been introduced when it had that the gaming world would now be as it is. If Mario hadn't been introduced at the time that it was, it's highly possible that the entire home gaming experiment would have ended with the Atari and the Amiga.

Kiutu:
Well for one, he would look different. His ENTIRE APPEARANCE was due to the graphics of the time and simply so he could be seen.

Both of these points made here speak about conditions of the time he made the impact which lasts to this day. Specifically, the first argument talks about his influence basically right after the crash of the videogame industry and the second point speaks about the technical limitations of those days.

Although it was the NES console and its roster of quality of games in contrast to the weak lineup of previous Atari one which actually saved the industry, instead of only and specifically Super Marios Bros, the fact the he was there in the beginning of the rescue is massively important, for sure.

What happened after that was that there were quite a few sequels which further improved what game design could produce right up to the point of Mario 64 3D sprawling design, which proved that 3D could be done in a immersive way. To this day, what current-gen 3D games strive for with over-the-top special effects, that game managed to do with relatively modest level design and smooth controls which have yet to be replicated.

AboveUp:
Mario is more than just a character.
Mario is an idea.
Mario is an example of gameplay, an example of good design.
Mario is the example of how platform gaming is done right.

And that point here brings me to think something else.

A lot of well implemented design ideas from Nintendo spawned franchises based on particular characters, like Link with his seamless world in The Legend of Zelda, Samus with her being a rare woman bravely exploring a vast hostile planet with a lot of backtracking and of course Mario with his popularization of side-scrolling stages with a lot of diversity in level design and characters, and the controllability of running speeds and jumping heights.

I just wish they stuck with what constitutes Mario as a character like in the Super Mario Bros I and III or 64, you know.

Ericb:

AboveUp:
Mario is more than just a character.
Mario is an idea.
Mario is an example of gameplay, an example of good design.
Mario is the example of how platform gaming is done right.

And that point here brings me to think something else.

A lot of well implemented design ideas from Nintendo spawned franchises based on particular characters, like Link with his seamless world in The Legend of Zelda, Samus with her being a rare woman bravely exploring a vast hostile planet with a lot of backtracking and of course Mario with his popularization of side-scrolling stages with a lot of diversity in level design and characters, and the controllability of running speeds and jumping heighs.

I just wish they stuck with what constitues Mario as a character like in the Super Mario Bros I and III or 64, you know.

I'd like to thank you for quoting me, otherwise I'd have missed this brilliant post.
It's true, Nintendo made entire franchised based on characters because of the great potential and ideas that their original games had. It gave them a chance to develop and experiment with ideas without making the players feel unfamiliar with anything: they have well known characters in an established world to play with.

Also it's funny how there are so many games with female main characters out there, while Metroid is still the only one that isn't entirely based on the idea that Samus is female. Sure, she's female, but so what?
The other games really have to push it in everyone's face in order to justify their game. And we all know how they love to abuse camera angles with their female characters as well.
It's sad that Brawl put Samus into that kind of role with her Zero Suit.

Aaron Linde:
Mario is Unmarketable!

"As an icon, Mario is inseparable from the medium he represents, a name practically synonymous with the pastime, and like other creations brought about in gaming's infancy, absolutely absurd. Stare too long and you realize he's an overweight, mustachioed Italian stereotype who battles sentient turtles and grows to immense proportions when he comes in contact with mushrooms. But these are conventions of a universe that we've had over 20 years to become familiar with. Why does the mushroom make Mario big? Because it's a super mushroom. Duh."

Aaron Linde explains why "Mario is Unmarketable!"

Read Full Article

If the only Mario I had ever played was Galaxies...I'm pretty sure I'd fall in love with Mario.

It was one of my favorite Mario Titles. Though I must say that Luigi is far more interesting a character, Luigi's mansion deserved more praise...I mean I saw a good bit...but it deserved more.

I think Mario would still be a star if he was invented today. Look at the success he has on the DS. Most of the users there are young kids who make their first steps on gaming though the Italian plummers platforming advertures.

Sure, his long history helps out his commercial success. It is an avalanche that keeps getting bigger and bigger, but there still is magic in the core of it all.

 

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