A fucking apology would be nice, for a start.
Business is business, and Nintendo struck gold with the family-friendly gimmick-train that is the Wii console. We certainly can’t blame them for that.
Now they’re telling us that with their new console, the Wii U, they are refocusing their efforts towards REAL gamers. And if, during their upcoming E3 conference on June 5th, we get even just a brief red-faced acknowledgement of the fact that they sold us the fuck out, it would go a long way towards convincing us that they really are ready to make things right.
Words alone won’t cut it of course, and we “real gamers” are a notoriously demanding and discerning people. So, what are the factors in play here? Lately, a lot has been made about the technical specifications of the Wii U. Will it be more powerful than its current-gen rivals, and if so, by what margin? At the very least, we can assume it will be in the same ball park. Is this enough?
The answer is yes – unless Microsoft or Sony announce that they are preparing to launch high-powered next-gen hardware within the next couple of years. Such products would likely have to be sold at a markedly higher price point than current-gen systems and, considering the state of the global economy right now, wouldn’t seem like a prudent business plan. Successors to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are therefore unlikely to be available before 2015, and if the Wii U merely parallels the power of the 360, it could potentially launch at a similar price-point as a direct competitor (though more realistically at the price of a PS3, given the cost of producing tablet controllers).
So, seven years after the launch of the Xbox 360, Nintendo releases a product to rival it. What will it take to steal a share of the incredibly well-established playerbase that Microsoft has garnered? The Wii U has to provide everything that the 360 does – online user accounts, party voice chat, a working eShop, a solid platform for indie releases – these should be a given. And it has to do more. The functionality of the tablet controller is paramount in establishing the Wii U’s edge over the other consoles. After E3 we should know more about this – right now we’re pretty much in the dark. But it must be different, it must be sexy, and it absolutely must not be just another gimmick.
Last, but (to honour the cliché) certainly not least, comes the launch line-up of games. We pretty much know what to expect: One or two first party franchise entries, a couple of strong third party titles, a handful of party games from Ubisoft and one oddball experimental effort from a previously unheard of European developer. That’s how this shit generally goes down. With a few titles already tentatively confirmed, a wise man might guess at Pikmin 3, New Super Mario Bros. Mii, Assassin’s Creed III, Ghost Recon, Rayman Legends (with an accompanying Rabbids game) and “U Just Dance” leading the assault.
Xbox and PS3 gamers, would that line-up convince you to go out and buy a Wii U?
And that is why, while the Wii U may prove to be a success in its own right just as its predecessor has been, Nintendo is not going to win back the core gamers.
The secret ingredient to success
That would be a remarkably unsatisfying conclusion to this article, so lets hypothesize – how could Nintendo do it? At this point I’m throwing the topic open for discussion and I’m interested to hear what everyone else’s opinion is on the matter. But here’s my answer:
Release the console in November, right before Christmas. Include the forthcoming installments of the almighty Call of Duty and Madden/FIFA [delete as applicable to your continent] in the launch line-up, with a marketing campaign heavily focusing on why the tablet controller makes the Wii U the best console for each of those titles (radar and tactical commands are an easy start).
Scrap 2D Mario as a leading first-party game – nobody cares anymore, it’s been milked too much in the last few years. Nintendo needs to reboot something from its glory days. Anyone under the age of 21 doesn’t remember pre-6th generation, so this won’t be a factor for them.
Yes, there are a lot of more mature gamers out there whose gaming teeth were cut on the NES and SNES. Most of them have migrated away from Nintendo now – not without good cause – but I’m betting every one of them would feel a twitch in their trousers if they saw, say, Mario in a castle, hopping into a painting… A blur of colours as Captain Falcon screams his way through F-Zero’s Mute City… And if they really want to hit the nostalgia button, Samus Aran running from left to right (and back again, time and time over) in true old-school sidescrolling fashion.
And there you have it, Nintendo. Give us back what we loved about you. Give us a €200 console with Mario (64-style), Metroid (Super-style), F-Zero UX, Black Ops II, FIFA/Madden, Assassin’s Creed III, Rayman Legends, and U Just Dance (fuck it, it’s inevitable). Give us this, and the world will be yours.
It’s a lot to ask. It’s never going to happen.
But if it does… I called it.