I know, Mario. I know. (Credit: Nintendo)
I’m an unapologetic but reasonable Nintendo fanboy. By this, I mean I love Nintendo games and consoles, and I have only owned Nintendo systems (every one, including Virtual Boy, except DS and GameCube); but I respect fans of other systems and am the first to admit the strengths of every platform.
Having said that, I still don’t know what to make of E3.
Briefly in regards to Sony and Microsoft, I will say that the PlayStation 4 really does look like a fantastic system with some great games and good ideas on the way, and that it is well-positioned to be the dominant console of its generation. I also think it is foolish to underestimate the Xbox One; Microsoft obviously made some serious mistakes in how it presented its message to the hardcore gaming audience and media, but they may make up for this in what looks like a killer slate of launch titles and upcoming exclusives.
Then there’s Nintendo.
I’ve written before about what I think Nintendo can and should do to reverse the fortunes of Wii U. It is a solid if not spectacular console, and Nintendo has always been reliable about providing high-quality games for its audience. But if I was worried about the platform’s future before E3, I am now no longer convinced that Nintendo will do anything right to make the Wii U relevant.
The biggest blow to the Wii U’s future came not from Nintendo itself, but from Sony. The PlayStation 4 will launch at $399. That’s just $50 more than the Wii U Deluxe Set, which by all accounts will soon be the only option available from Nintendo. So surely, amid intense pressure from analysts, publishers, consumers and the media, Nintendo is planning a price cut. Right?
TIME’s Matt Peckham: “The Wii defied early critical dismissal by crossing over to a nontraditional gaming demographic, but that demographic was able to enter at the $250 price point. Don’t you think you’d drive more sales if you eliminated the Basic model and dropped the Deluxe’s price to $300?”
Nintendo Vice President of Corporate Affairs Cindy Gordon: “There’s a strong value proposition in Wii U. It’s a versatile system with unique social and entertainment features and a growing and fun library of exclusive titles. Consider this: Five of the top 10 best-selling franchises in home console history – Mario, Zelda, Smash Bros., Mario Kart and Wii Fit – are all on the way soon for Wii U, and either playable or viewable here at the show. At the end of the day, people buy a video game console to play great games. By this measure, the Wii U can compete with anyone. Nintendo has everyone covered with a broad array of amazing new games on the way. We aren’t talking price at the show. We are here to showcase games.”
So, no price cut, then.
This is Nintendo’s corporate culture is cutting off its nose to spite its face. Nintendo seems to believe, contrary to everything we know about consumer behavior, that it can tell consumers what makes a product a “good value”. Consumers don’t really pay attention to that sort of talk — the average non-gamer parent buying a Christmas gift, or casual gamer deciding what new console to buy, looks at the price tag.
Wii U is $350.
PlayStation 4 will be $400.
For $50 more, you get a much, MUCH more powerful console, with features Wii U cannot match, and a substantially larger future game library thanks to third-party support.
With Wii U, Nintendo would like us to believe that the similarity in price is offset by the fact Wii U has Mario and Smash Bros. and a pack-in mini-game collection and a controller with a screen on it.
On PlayStation 4, you’ll be able to play Madden NFL 25, NBA 2K13, MLB The Show, Tiger Woods PGA Tour ‘14, FIFA ‘14, and numerous other forthcoming sports titles.
On Wii U, your choices are year-old versions of Madden and NBA 2K, and an upcoming Mario and Sonic at the Olympics title.
On PlayStation 4, you’ll get AAA titles like Grand Theft Auto V and the newWolfenstein.
Neither game is coming to Wii U, ever.
Which console offers more bang for the consumer’s buck?
Let me be clear: I am happy with my Wii U so far, except for the lack of games and third-party support. I am looking forward to Super Smash Bros.and Mario Kart 8 with great enthusiasm, and somewhat less so for Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I am sure they will all be great games.
But no one who isn’t already a hardcore Nintendo fan like myself is going to buy a Wii U just for those titles.
I am already resigned to the fact that I will have to invest another huge chunk of change in a next-gen console in order to play the sports titles and other big-ticket games I’m interested in. I wish it didn’t have to be that way.
Sadly, Nintendo seems content with letting this be the case, and I fear it will spell the end of their days as a home console maker.