It's no secret that there's always an inverse relationship with quantity and quality
. For whatever reason a lot of writers tend to take the side of quality.
It's likely because it's commonly viewed as being easier to produce many things with little effort than producing a single thing with a lot of effort. At times, this is often intended as a Take That
towards companies who subscribe to the above theory by making cheap but low-quality products.
Most commonly the protagonists in a given work are a small elite group pitted against a large group of weak mooks. Possibly because throwing away the lives of people on your own side is seen as unethical.
Conservation of Ninjutsu
is a demonstration of this trope, while Zerg Rush
is a specific inversion of it.
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Anime and Manga
- A dilemma that Section 9 has to deal with in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The Big Bad of the second season points out that no matter how good the members of Section 9 are, they would still lose if they were out-numbered. Batou later has to decide whether he should decrease the difficulty for new recruits to join S9, knowing that doing so would reduce the overall quality and potential each member has. Ultimately, in Solid State Society, Section 9 has expanded its ranks.
- The novelization of The Karate Kid (the original one) had Daniel complain to Mr. Miyagi before the tournament that he didn't know very many moves. Miyagi replied that he was better than the Cobra-Kais at the ones he did know.
- Honor Harrington: A recurring theme for the Royal Manticoran Navy, due in no small part to their primary threat being the expansive People's Republic of Haven, whose fleet they could not hope to match in numbers. Over the course of several decades, King Roger, and after his death, his daughter Queen Elizabeth, funded a series of secret R&D projects which, when paired with a very aggressive shipbuilding program, meant the war between Manticore and Haven was a long series of Superweapon Surprises for the Havenites to deal with.
Dalek Sec: You are better at dying!
- Doctor Who, "Doomsday".
Cyberleader: Daleks, be warned. You have declared war upon the Cybermen.
Dalek Sec: This is not war... this is pest control!
Cyberleader: We have five million Cybermen. How many are you?
Dalek Sec: Four.
Cyberleader: You would destroy the Cybermen with four Daleks?
Dalek Sec: We would destroy the Cybermen with one Dalek! You are superior in only one respect.
Cyberleader: What is that?
- Nintendo Power once had a debate on which was the better series, Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. Zelda essentially won with the rebuttal of quality over quantity, arguing one Link to the Past was worth far more than multiple Mario Partys, despite the long time between Zelda games.
- This trope was Nintendo's whole argument during their dominance in the 80s and early 90s before they changed their policies after being accused of monopolistic practices with their licensing agreements. The original agreement was that licensees could only make up to five games a year; the reasoning behind the decision was that it was better for the developers to focus on creating a few smash hits than to flood the market by churning out mediocre games, as was the case with Atari before the crash (some companies with a good track record for quality would make up bogus development houses to go above the five-per-year limit, like Konami did when they made up the Ultra Games label).
- In the WarioWare series, this is the contrast between Mona Pizza and Pizza Dinosaur. While in their shared theme song, Mona Pizza boasts about how great their pizzas are, Pizza Dinosaur only boasts about how they're everywhere, while acknowledging that their pizzas are terrible. In WarioWare: Twisted, Pizza Dinosaur has its business being taken away by Mona Pizza, driving them to use more aggressive measures of competition.
- The WarioWare series in general is about a small team of people cranking out games on a per-minute rate. Each game is about 4 to 8 seconds long, and hundreds of them pour out at a time. Wario has seen much success with this model, both in the stories for the games and in real life sales of the video games in this series. (So basically, this game is an inversion where quantity wins out.)
- In Mass Effect, Saren tries to cure the Krogan Genophage so he'll have a Krogan horde at his back. In Mass Effect 2 Warlord Okeer derides the idea of sheer numbers, calling it the mistake of an outsider. He, himself, has created Grunt, whom he considers a perfect Krogan warrior.
- Invoked in universe by Donna in Final Fantasy X. She berates Yuna for choosing a large number of Guardians (AKA the rest of the cast) over one quality one. She even says "Quantity over Quality, what were you thinking?" (She herself only has her Lover Bartello). And in the end it's averted because Yuna ends not only Beating Donna to Zanarkand, she end up saving the world for good. Donna even referred to Yuna's father High Summoner Braska, pointing out that he succeeded with only two Guardians. She's undercut when Bartello realizes that one of Yuna's Guardians is Auron, one of Braska's former Guardians. Yuna has quantity and quality on her side.
- Dona DOES eventually make it to Zanarkand (unless the player tells her to give up and quit on the airship), but Yuna and Co have already killed Yunalesca by the time she gets there. Add to the fact the party got waylaid a number of times, even if you take into account that Dona was waylaid in Home as well, it just shows how much faster Yuna and Co were able to get the job done.
- Gilgamesh from Fate/stay night believes that this applies to humanity. Back when he ruled there were far fewer humans but his rule was a golden age and his kingdom was a glorious one full of advanced super-technology. His Evil Plan in Unlimited Blade Works is to use the Grail to thin out the human population so he can rebuild Babylon with the worthy survivors as his new subjects.
- In SpongeBob SquarePants, King Neptune challenges SpongeBob to a frycooking competition where whoever cooks the most Krabby Patties wins, but he concedes to SpongeBob when he finds out that his mass-produced Patties are terrible while SpongeBob's singular Patty made with love is superior. Slow and steady wins the race, indeed.
- Seen in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic when Sweet Apple Acres gets into a cider making contest against some slick salesponies and their Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000. This trope is Double Subverted because the machine is shown to make good cider, but when the Apple family, along with the Mane Six, start pulling ahead the sales ponies turn up the power and turn off the quality control, which lets them churn out far more barrels of cider but it's the kind no one wants to drink.
- The ancient Spartans were an example of this. The only people allowed to join the Spartan military, still remembered today for being pretty much the most hardcore fighting force ever assembled, were Males of full Spartan citizenship. With the borderline-insane amounts of training they had to endure from a young age, they were raised from early childhood for the sole purpose of becoming a member of Greece's (and probably history's) most feared and respected military force. while this approach DID produce incredible soldiers, the strict entry criteria (most citizens of Sparta were not actually full spartans, such as the Helots) meant that there army was, while still not small, not really large by the standards of the time either.
- Subverted in World War 2, when superior number of M4 Shermans and T-34s overrun individually superior Tiger and Panther tanks. Played straight in modern warfare though, where technologically superior M1 Abrams steamrolled greater numbers of export T-72s in Desert Storm. The important lesson to take away from this is that while the machine can be replaced, the men behind it isn't. The increased quality competent tank crews, the cost of training them, and the importance of combined arms, mean that tanks and their crews can no longer be considered expendable.
- This can be seen in the air as well. Fighter aircraft are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and requiring more time to engineer and manufacture. Like tank crews, training fighter pilots is a lengthy, demanding, and expensive process.
- One of the horrifying realizations for the Japanese Airforce during WW2 was this; the Kamikaze attacks they conducted were having diminished success later into the war because while the Japanese have been effectively tossing their airmen at the enemy by the bucket loads, the Allies were fending them off and learning new strategies on how to counter them. Near the end of it, the majority of Kamikaze pilots were young men barely out of basic training piloting what were essentially slapdashed planes made from spare parts, while the Allied airforce against them were veterans of the entire war armed with the most advanced interceptors of their time. They also realized that, at this point, very soon they wouldn't even have the numerical advantage.
- At the Battle of Cannae the forces of Hannibal were outnumbered by the roman legions, by almost 2 to 1. Hannibal instead decided to use greater tactics against the numerical advantage. Due to the fact that Roman command rotated when two consuls (their supreme commanders) were present, Hannibal took advantage of that cycle and drew in the roman legions on the day the hotheaded consul took charge (who thought his massive legions were enough to simply steamroll over Hannibal). Hannibal had placed his weakest troops in the center of his own formation (an inverted crescent), while his strongest troops on the edges. The Roman Consul took this as an opportunity to route the center of Hannibal's forces and cut the latter's army in two, before routing them. Instead, Hannibal had placed himself within the center formation, resulting in them not being completely curbstompped, but simply moving back. His outer forces did not budge however, and instead closed in the right-side crescent formation. His own cavalry then later closed what little gap there was left, and thus Hannibals much smaller army was now able to butcher the Romans at their leisure (some accounts describe that the space was so tight between the romans that many of them could not even raise a sword or shield to defend themselves). Cannae would be one of the first times in history that a larger army was defeated by a smaller one.