The recent Nintendo title Super Mario Maker, released on Sept. 11th, (currently sitting at a 88/100 review score on Metacritic) it lets people create their own mini-games in the style of the popular platformer game series Super Mario Bros, and then share those levels with other players through the internet. The concept was originally just a game development tool for the developers to help create another Mario game, and then they decided to include the tool as an optional mode in the upcoming game but as it became clear that the mode was good enough to be in a game all on its own, the development team split off to feature the level designer as its own product.
In an interview with TIME magazine, the creator of the original Super Mario games, Shigeru Miyamoto, said “It’s really a game about creative play as much as anything. This is sort of like the ultimate extension of that idea. And in fact I used to joke that if kids would play Super Mario Bros. it would help make them smarter, because it encourages their creativity, so this is the ultimate extension of that philosophy.” The game draws inspiration from a part of many PC games known as “modding” in which players create their own additions to games through raw coding or use of specialized programs, (or the game itself in this case) and share them across the internet.
Unfortunately, mod support has been off the table for a long time for dedicated games consoles, because of hardware and copyright constraints, even when modding started to become an important driver of sales for games on PC. Such as with Skyrim, a four year old game that is still one of the most popular titles because of it being one of the most moddable games ever.
In fact, many of the most popular games on PC today started as mods. A genre of game, known as MOBAs (a genre which two very popular games, DOTA 2 and League of Legends, belong to) started with a mod for WarCraft 3. The most popular game in the first-person-shooter genre, CounterStrike, also started as a mod for the game Half Life before Valve, Half Life’s creators, bought the rights to the mod and hired the mod developers to create a standalone game.
In only three weeks, Super Mario Maker has sold over 1 million copies, and its players have created 2.2 million levels, which have been played over 75 million times. Not too bad for a game that was originally just a development tool for another game. Even more astonishing is the fact that many Super Mario Maker videos are on YouTube, as Nintendo is usually a fierce protector of its intellectual property. Regardless, the game represents a cool new direction for the series and games in general.