Nintendo Throws In The Towel?

In the last couple of weeks Nintendo has come to a brave decision. In a Robin Hood style gesture, the big N has decided to take from the rich and give to the poor. Yes, Nintendo is effectively giving away the GameCube.

This is less a gesture of goodwill and more a sad sign of desperation. At the new price point of around £79, the GameCube is cheaper than the Game Boy Advance SP – er, that's a handheld, in case you'd forgotten. Nintendo is on the verge of doing a three for the price of two deal. Buy two games and get a free console thrown in, is the only way they can go from here. Games now cost 50 percent of the machine's retail value, which leaves a feeling of imbalance. Nintendo's ying is extremely out of balance with its yang.

Something is rotten at the heart of Nintendo and I think I've discovered what it is. Mario, the pot-bellied plumber, is sinking the Nintendo ship. There is an over-reliance on the Italian moustachioed one and it's not doing anyone any favors, least of all the house of Nintendo.

Now, before you set off to burn deftly crafted effigies of my good self, hear me out. We all know how it began in the arcade with Donkey Kong – great, love it, and remember it fondly. And then Miyamoto created Luigi and that historic moment in videogame history – the launch of Super Mario Brothers. Many a happy gaming career began with Super Mario Brothers and it holds a special place in gamers' hearts. I did spend a large part of a holiday in the Caribbean playing that with my cousins as a kid – what white sands and palm trees?

Now, we've lived through Mario 64 and a Mario movie (I like to place the sublime and the ridiculous side by side). Add to these golf games, tennis games and everything in between. For a while there the whole world went Mario crazy. But I just keep asking myself if Mario is relevant anymore.

Recently, we've had Luigi's Mansion, which was decidedly — okay. Then we had Mario Sunshine, which just didn't cut the mustard I'm afraid. It was kinda cute, but also mildly irritating – not something that could be said about Super Mario Brothers, I might add.

No, the fact is that Mario has had his day. Miyamoto is flogging a dead horse that probably wouldn't even be allowed into the glue factory. I'm not denying that Mario is a great figurehead, quite the contrary. In fact, it is his position as one of the most recognisable and best loved games characters that I am trying to preserve. Mario is a highly marketable character and let's face it; he could be used to sell any old schlock. Okay, so Sunshine wasn't schlock, but it certainly wasn't groundbreaking. We have to remember that Mario brought us the most joyous platforming experience ever known to gaming and we mustn't lose sight of this fact.

Mario is the new Mickey Mouse – a figurehead and symbol of a longstanding company, with a history of producing high quality products. Once upon a time Mickey was a movie star, but now he is a man in a suit and captivates children at fun fairs around the world. Disney doesn't put Mickey in movies anymore and there's a very good reason for that. He's just not relevant, I mean mice don't look like that and he's got that weird squeaky voice and why is he wearing those big white gloves?

Much like Alfred Hitchcock, Mickey has one of the most recognisable silhouettes in the business. Even though he's not on the big screen, his image is still synonymous with Disney and we're glad we don't have to sit through his movies anymore. Nintendo should take a note from Disney's book and elevate Mario's role to that of figurehead. He doesn't need to do games anymore, he's done his bit and now it's time for him to take a back seat.

Just like Mickey, Mario is kind of old fashioned and although his popularity hasn't waned he just doesn't have a part to play on the frontline anymore. Mario is a mascot and a darn fine one at that, but that's all he should be. The only reason anyone buys a Mario game now is because they are trying to recapture the old magic of first jumping on a turtle or bouncing off a mushroom. It's bad enough having second rate companies churning out second rate Mario platformers without Nintendo joining the party.

Face it Nintendo, it's time to do us all a favor and put the old boy out to pasture.

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