Nintendos and Don’ts

As a lifelong loyal Nintendork, I totally have E3 Fever to the max!  With less than a week until Nintendo’s press conference, I am so unbelievably excited to learn more about the Wii2/Stream/Project Cafe/whatever, that I am foaming at the goddamn mouth!  I know every website on the internet is speculating and theorizing and daydreaming about this thing, but I figured I’d join in on the fun as well.  Instead of attempting to make realistic predictions, however, I’m going to throw my two cents in on what Nintendo absolutely should do with its new console.

I think it’s safe to say that Nintendo revolutionized the video game industry with the Wii.  In aggressively pursuing new demographics, the concepts of who plays video games and how they play them have been forever expanded, and that’s a great thing.  It’s wonderful that grandmas and families and normies who don’t know a Blooper from an Octoroc all gathered around the TV to play Wii Sports Bowling and as a result, the future of gaming has never seemed more wide open.  I think we can all agree, however, that this strategy led to both third-party developers and “hardcore” gamers feeling a bit alienated by Nintendo.

The great thing is that now Nintendo has a unique opportunity to appeal to everybody, grandmas and gameheads alike.  There is nothing standing in their way of continuing to appeal to the casual Wii gamers while also appealing to the Call of Duty set with their fancy new high-powered console.  I’m sure they’ll have no trouble with continuing to successfully produce and market fun, simple party games.  I have no doubt that equivalents of Wii Sports and Wii Fit will be among the first titles released for the system.

The second part is a little bit trickier, because Nintendo’s first-party franchises are never going to be widely perceived as “hardcore,” even the ones like Metroid Prime and Super Mario Galaxy which are undeniably hardcore to anyone who isn’t a total idiot.  Because of this unfortunate truth, this strategy will require the cooperation of third parties, many of whom are probably a little bit sick of Nintendo’s bullshit.  People need to have the option to play games like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Mass Effect on their Nintendo console, or else Nintendo is fucked.  If something like Grand Theft Auto or Modern Warfare isn’t shown off at E3, that will be really surprising and disappointing.

With the new console rumored to be significantly more powerful than the PS3 or 360, none of this should be a problem from a technical standpoint, but in order to really court the third parties Nintendo needs to rectify a couple of other long-standing hang-ups…

Every time Nintendo releases new hardware, it introduces a ton of innovative new ideas that revolutionize gaming, and are quickly and shamelessly ripped off by their rivals.  The Wii is arguably the strongest example of this, but the difference is that this was the generation in which the other guys also introduced game-changing revolutions to the industry.  And for once, I think it’s time for Nintendo to stop being so pointlessly stubborn, and to start doing some ripping off of their own.  Or else they are going to be left in the dust once again.

Online integration, achievement systems, multimedia options, social interaction, storage solutions, downloadable content… in addition to motion control, these are the things that truly separate this console cycle from the ones before it.  And none of them happened on the Wii.  While Nintendo’s system has the best software library of this generation by far, the PS3 and 360 have become all-inclusive entertainment hubs for many gamers, myself included.  You can load those machines up and watch movies, check out your achievements, see what your friends are up to, sample demos and game trailers, and do about a million other things before you even load up a single video game.  Nintendo’s efforts on this front have been half-assed to say the least, and they really need to get up to speed if they’re going to be competitive.

Even if you personally don’t care about any of this extraneous bullshit and just want to play games, the fact is that third-party developers care about it very much, and those are the cocks Nintendo needs to be sucking right now.  Nobody will care about putting an online FPS or an MMO on Nintendo’s console if gamers can only play it with the four people they’ve traded friend codes with, or if they’re not going to be earning achievements or downloading new maps and quests.  Additionally, nobody is going to care about demos or DLC if there’s not an intuitive and easily navigable means by which players can access this content.  The Wii2 needs to be a fun, social, multimedia, online entertainment hub, and if Nintendo is smart they’ll realize that they already have the perfect vehicle to make that happen…

Playstation Home was a brilliant idea that never went anywhere due to it not being any fun, and to feeling like nothing more than a huge interactive advertisement.  Animal Crossing was a fun and addictive game that hit a wall due to lack of growth, and its continued role as an isolationist experience in an increasingly social gaming culture.  Nintendo should combine these two concepts and make Animal Crossing the online MMO hub for its new console.

Imagine if you could easily and seamlessly step from your private animal village into a huge area filled with real-world friends and strangers, with whom you could immediately begin playing online games.  Or if instead of the friendly warthog next door telling you he likes your shirt, he invites you to his house to watch an exclusive trailer for an upcoming game?  What if a walrus showed up in town and offered to give you exclusive Smash Bros. DLC if you could catch him a certain type of fish?  This would add new urgency to the same ol’ Animal Crossing goals, and would give a Home-like experience a skin that felt like actual gameplay.

If they played this right, Nintendo would have a built-in, fan-approved method of conveying news and promotions, introducing customers to new IPs and gameplay concepts, and easing casual gamers into an online-integrated experience.  It would be really wise (and awesome) of them to include something like this on their new console free of charge with launch.

I’ve used the phrase “online integration” about fifty times so far, so you probably have some idea of how important I think online integration is.  However, I don’t think this should come at the cost of something that has been one of Nintendo’s greatest strengths in recent years: local multiplayer.

With all the focus on online multiplayer, the Wii proved that people were still extremely interested in getting together in the same room to play a game with family or friends, and that there were still ways to keep that experience fresh and exciting.  However, local multiplayer has always been impossible for certain types of games, specifically any game that requires an individual player to keep certain information private.  As a very basic example, something as simple as poker could never work when everyone is looking at the same screen.

During the Gamecube era, Nintendo attempted to rectify this issue by releasing a peripheral that allowed connectivity between the ‘Cube and Game Boy Advance.  This allowed for multiplayer games on the same TV, but each player also had their own private screen.  A couple of really wonderful and unique games (Pac-Man vs. and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures) were released as a result, but you can probably already see the problem… in order to play these games each player had to own the peripheral as well as a whole other video game console.  Obviously this concept didn’t take off, and support for it ceased almost immediately.

With the all-but-confirmed rumors that the Wii2’s standard controller will include a personal touch screen that streams information from the console, that problem is solved!  The controller’s screen can act as the player’s “hand” and allow them access to any personalized stats that they don’t want other players to see.  I know this might not seem like a big deal, but in my mind this could completely revolutionize local multiplayer.  If you’ve played either of the games I mentioned above, you might be able to imagine the endless possibilities that such a system could offer.  Or hell, even if you’ve just played poker.

Motion control has been controversial from the very beginning, and continues to be a hot topic amongst gamers.  Perhaps in reaction to that, rumors point to Nintendo’s new controller reverting back to a more traditional design (besides, y’know, the giant fucking screen).  Other rumors state that the system will also be Wiimote-compatible, but for all we know that might just be for backwards compatibility.

My opinion on motion control is that it could be a huge part of the future of video games, but that it’s still in its beginning stages where everyone feels the need to shoehorn it into games in inappropriate ways.  Despite the downsides, it would be very unwise for Nintendo to abandon motion control at this point.

It’s the perfect method of control for first-person shooters.  It’s the next best thing to a mouse for any game that requires pointing-and-clicking.  It’s obviously a necessity for Wii Sports-esque party games.  I even think that a quick shake is a slight improvement over a button-push for basic attacks in games like Mario and Zelda (although I realize that a lot of people disagree with me on that one).  In my opinion, the potential for motion control is just beginning to be realized by developers, and shifting focus from it at this point would be a huge misstep.  It’s a no-brainer that Nintendo should continue down the path they paved with the Wiimote.

We’ve already discussed the importance of the new console landing the A-List third-party franchises.  As for Nintendo’s first party games, well that’s what they do best, so it’s really just a matter of them keeping up the good work.

The main thing they need to do is assault our assholes with awesomeness RIGHT THE FUCK FROM LAUNCH.  If anyone at Nintendo is seriously wondering why the 3DS isn’t selling like they expected, well maybe it’s because you launched with a pile of garbage lineup that nobody could possibly give a shit about.  Come on Nintendo, I know you like to strategically space out your big releases, but if you want to sell systems at launch, you gotta give fans what they want, not what you want them to want.  We want Mario at launch.  We want Pikmin at launch.  Maybe Smash Bros. or a Retro-developed Metroid.  We want an amazing new Wii Sports so we know this shit is gonna party just as hard as the Wii.  Our parents and girlfriends want Wii Fit.  We want WarioWare and Mario Kart and F-Zero and Kirby and Pokemon and Star Fox.  Do not make us wait a year or two before we can pig out on all those games.  Oversaturate our asses right from the beginning this time, and then make new games or coast by on kickass third-party releases for a while.  Or on the other hand you could just release Pilotwings For Babies and Boring-Looking New Submarine Game Part 2 and Nintenparakeets and see what happens.  Your choice.

I don’t really expect Nintendo to do all of these things.  In spite of all the rumors that their next system is going to be mega-powerful, super-online, and ultra-innovative, I’m sure there are going to be a couple really stupid things about it that piss everyone off.  But I hope they at least approach it with the right attitude this time, and realize that being competitive and finding their own path need not be mutually exclusive strategies.

In any case, even if they totally fuck up, it’ll still play Mario and Zelda games, so it’ll still be the best video game console of its generation.

We’ll see what the fuck is up in FIVE DAYS!!!!!!!

2 responses to “Nintendos and Don’ts

  1. yer ghey

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