Retro Video Game Collecting

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Tag Archives: "Wii U"

Wii-Vaporware: The Uncertain Future of Nintendo’s Motion Control Games

Posted on 28 June, 2016  in Nintendo, Wii, Wii U

Credit: Nintendo

 

It’s hard to imagine a world in which Super Mario Bros. was lost and forgotten a few years after its release.  Even if Nintendo had failed to re-release it in some form on nearly every subsequent platform it produced, there are still perfectly functional SMB cartridges and Nintendo Entertainment System consoles and NES clones to allow for continued enjoyment of this landmark game.  Plenty of PC emulators exist to offer this and other classic games in a dubiously-legal format.  We don’t have to worry about losing Super Mario Bros. forever.

 

Incredibly, we may face a situation in the not-too-distant future wherein the best-selling home console game of all time is essentially unplayable, remaining only in the memories of players and YouTube videos.

 

Wii Sports and hundreds of other motion-controlled games for Wii and Wii U have an uncertain future.  The NX, Nintendo’s replacement for the not-quite-good-enough Wii U, arrives next year.  At some point around that platform’s arrival, Nintendo will cease manufacture of Wii and Wii U consoles.  Unless the NX maintains full backwards compatibility with both of those systems and, crucially, the Wii Remote controllers, it will effectively trigger a time bomb that will effectively kill all Nintendo games that depend on motion controls.

 

This is purely speculative, but it is a point worth considering, as Justin Davis writes for IGN: what happens if these games are trapped forever on the Wii and Wii U?  Within 30 years, it’s likely most of the original Wii and Wii U consoles will have been junked, no longer functioning properly, or completely incompatible with whatever video display / TV format is in use by then.  Optical drives will almost certainly have been a relic for decades at that point.  Will there be enough demand in the retro / classic gaming hobby to maintain them?  And what of Wii remotes and sensor bars?  Will a manufacturer continue to make them available?

 

The pre-CD era of gaming is well suited for the retro collector, as the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles from Nintendo, SEGA, Atari, and others were solid-state.  They have no moving parts, aside from the odd power or eject buttons, and they are easily renovated or recreated.  Disc-based systems, on the other hand, are innately more complex.  So far, we haven’t seen a market for cloned PlayStation 1 or SEGA Saturn systems, though many of the original consoles remain in use.  More importantly, a significant number of games for those systems have been re-released over the years and can be easily emulated on modern platforms, with ordinary controllers.

 

Motion controls are a different beast, and thus the concern for the longevity of Wii and Wii U software.  As Davis notes, VR may hold the key to preserving the gems of those generations, assuming Nintendo has any interest.  But it’s still very early to worry about this problem; if nothing else, the history of gaming has shown us that eventually, technology provides a solution.

 

That being said, I plan to keep my Wii and Wii U consoles in pristine shape for many years to come.

 

 


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Zelda, E3, and Nintendo’s Last Stand

Posted on 3 June, 2016  in Nintendo, Wii U

Image of Link from The Legend of Zelda

Credit: Nintendo

 

This week, I was invited to join the awesome crew over at RadioFreeRadio for their live weekly pop culture show Popped!  We talked The Legend of Zelda, specifically its 30th anniversary and its frequently-delayed upcoming game, which Nintendo says will be the only playable title at its E3 area.

 

Enjoy the show, and be sure to check out RadioFreeRadio, available streaming live and free on the website or on their mobile app!

 

 

 

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Zelda Redux: The Reinvention of Link

Posted on 16 February, 2016  in Current-Gen Reviews, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color, GameCube, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Famicom, Wii, Wii U

Seeing Double: GameXplain compares the HD remake (left) and Wii original (right) of Twilight Princess. (Credit: GameXplain)

 

On November 23, 1998, what is commonly described as one of the greatest video games ever created was released to an eager North American audience.  The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time went on to sell more than 7 million copies worldwide, and continues to capture the imaginations of gamers to this day.

 

In its shadow, just over three weeks later, another revolutionary Legend of Zelda game made its debut, for a second time.  The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX was, of course, the definitive version of what had already become a classic Game Boy title, now available for the first time in color.

 

Link’s Awakening DX was also the very first true remake of a Zelda title, setting a trend that culminates in next month’s release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD.  Nintendo has issued more remakes in the Zelda series than any of its other acclaimed franchises — even Super Mario and Pokémon.  With Twilight Princess HD, Nintendo will have recreated, repackaged, and remastered every major home console title in the legendary series, save the newest original game, 2011’s Skyward Sword, and, curiously, the first two games originally released for Famicom and the NES.

It’s total BS this LoZ remake never left Japan. (Credit: VideoGameConsoleLibrary.com)

The original The Legend of Zelda did get a remake of sorts, but it was never released outside of Japan, and crucially it can no longer be played in any conventional or authorized manner.  In 1995, Nintendo and publishing partner St.GIGA created BS Zeruda no Densetsu, a downloadable game for the then-cutting-edge BS-X Satellaview, a Super Famicom peripheral that allowed players to download games via a satellite receiver.  Twenty-five years before digital-only titles would become an industry standard, Nintendo made this curious time-challenge version of the 1986 classic available only via download.

 

While BS Zelda survives in the ROM-swapping community thanks to the efforts of a few far-sighted Satellaview owners, Nintendo would wait another three years to issue its first “official” remake of a Zelda title, Link’s Awakening DX.  More than just a colorized version of its Game Boy source, LA-DX featured an entirely-new dungeon and what felt like a much more interesting world to explore thanks to its now-vibrant color palette.

 

From there, Nintendo recognized the long-term play value and resaleability offered by the deep, lavishly-produced Zelda games, and subsequently every “main” game has gotten the enhancement treatment.  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (which also saw a BS-X Satellaview broadcast in 1997) returned via Game Boy Advance in late 2002, nearly unchanged save a smaller screen resolution and with the welcome addition of Four Swords, which itself was remade in 2011 for the Nintendo DS in a 25th Anniversary Edition.  Ocarina of Time was remade not once but twice: first as a lightly-tweaked GameCube port, the Master Quest limited-edition bonus for The Wind Waker pre-orders; and then again for Nintendo 3DS as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, a more ambitious and visually-pleasing true remaster.  The Wind Waker HD debuted two years later as the first Zelda release for Wii U.  The Zelda remake renaissance continued in 2015, with the brilliant enhanced remaster The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D for Nintendo 3DS.  (Lest we forget, Majora’s Mask also saw a straight port on the GameCube in 2003’s Collector’s Edition disc.)

 

 

Twilight Princess was sort of remade right out the gate, if you consider its GameCube release to be the true original and the simultaneous Wii version to be an enhanced port, with 16:9 visuals and motion controls.  (Complicating matters further: the Wii version was published weeks before the GameCube release.)  And now what’s old is new again, as TP makes its HD return on March 4.

 

A Skyward Sword remake seems inevitable at this point, especially given the Wii release’s somewhat muddy visuals, divisive control scheme, and laborious “tutorial” in its opening hours.  If there’s one thing the numerous Zelda remakes have done well, it’s improve upon the originals and fix whatever flaws they had.  Wind Waker HD is the best example of this, with the much-improved sailing mechanics and abbreviated Triforce shard quest; likewise, Majora’s Mask 3D made many changes to address complaints gamers had about the Nintendo 64 original.  I remember that version as frustratingly difficult by Zelda standards, particularly its arcane save system.  I attempted a replay when it arrived on the Wii Virtual Console nine years later, and I gave up pretty quickly.  Majora’s Mask 3D rectified all of my complaints about the original, making it just a bit more accessible while greatly improving the graphics and speeding things up a touch.

 

Yes. Yes, you are. (Credit: Zeldapedia)

So it seems strange, then, that Nintendo never bothered to take another crack at Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, generally considered the worst title in the series.  Yes, Zelda II has its fans and defenders, but this is the game that even Shigeru Miyamoto hinted was likely his biggest regret.  Zelda II took some big risks and introduced interesting new mechanics and gameplay, but it is badly hindered by poor localization, severe difficulty, and critical situations (like finding Bagu’s house) that are nigh impossible without the help of a player’s guide or walkthrough.  As a nine-year-old, I spent hours of severe frustration trying to find Parapa Palace in the western area of the map, since an NPC had told me to “GO WEST” in search of it.  Parapa Palace is, of course, in the east.  But I do go on — if any Zelda game needs a remake for redemption, it’s the unloved second in the series.

 

And what of the first, original, 1986 Famicom Disk System release that gave the franchise its name and propelled Miyamoto-San even further into video game history?  As it is, the original is very good: a memorable soundtrack; crisp, clean, vintage 8-bit visuals; clever map design; challenging boss fights; and a great all-around experience.  Yes, it suffers a bit from the “I have no idea what to do next” that was MUCH worse in its sequel, but it was really revolutionary at the time and still holds up well.  A FAQ or walkthrough is essential for the first-time player even today, but I’m not certain adding modern visuals or even a Link Between Worlds sort of aesthetic would be an improvement.  If anything, I’m hopeful the upcoming Wii U title will be a sort of spiritual reboot, simply called The Legend of Zelda and serving as a total reinterpretation and fleshing-out of that classic’s sparse storyline.

 

Until then — and I’m not certain it will come out in 2016, or only on Wii U for that matter — I have high hopes for Twilight Princess HD.  The original is the only other “main” Zelda game besides Zelda II which I haven’t finished, owing to my dissatisfaction with the Wii control scheme (and just meaning to get back to it later, then never making time).  Nintendo has proven they can and do listen to fans and critics when it comes to remastering their most-beloved property not named Mario, and the long list of successful Zelda ports gives plenty of reason for optimism.

 


 

AT A GLANCE

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

PLATFORM: Wii U

PUBLISHER: Nintendo

DEVELOPER: Nintendo

RELEASE DATE: March 4, 2016

ESRB RATING: T

FRANCHISE: The Legend of Zelda

DESCRIPTION: High-definition remake of the 2006 GameCube and Wii title, a linear action-adventure with an emphasis on sword combat, puzzle-solving, side quests, and boss fights in a high fantasy setting.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS: Fans of the Legend of Zelda series

WHO WON’T LIKE THIS: Players who absolutely hated the original Twilight Princess and refuse to give it another shot

SIMILAR TITLES: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; Darksiders II; Okami; Beyond Good & Evil HD

 

 

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The Xbox One Price Cut: What Does it Mean For Wii U?

Posted on 27 October, 2014  in PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox One

Left: an Xbox One with Kinect and controller; right: a Wii U and GamePad

Credit: Microsoft / Nintendo

 

This week, Microsoft announced a holiday season discount on Xbox One, slashing the price of no-Kinect console bundles to $350. It’s a very good deal, and a shot across Sony’s bow heading in to the crucial Christmas sales season.

 

You’ll do doubt recall Nintendo threw a little pre-holiday Hail Mary of its own last year at about this time, knocking $50 off the price of admission for its slow-selling hardware, and even throwing in a free game or two. But even the price cut and the debut of the acclaimed Super Mario 3D World didn’t do nearly as much to increase the Wii U user base as hoped.

 

So what, if anything, does this have to do with Wii U? Microsoft has been working all year to please gamers who have been on the fence about which new-gen console to purchase, dropping mandatory Kinect and achieving price parity with the best-selling PlayStation 4. This latest move puts a bit more pressure on Nintendo to improve its own value proposition, but perhaps not all that much.

A quick survey of top retailers (Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy, Walmart and Target) shows a number of new Wii U bundles at around $300 each — several with at least two games included. The system already has a decent-sized library after two years on the market, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is just weeks away. It’s a good time to buy.

 

But Xbox One has an insurmountable edge over Wii U when it comes to most gamers, and that’s blockbuster third-party titles. Pretty much everything multiplatform title that’s being released for PlayStation 4 is coming to Xbox one, so the price cut brings Xbox One into favorable territory for gamers who aren’t particular to one brand or the other, or who don’t anticipate any must-have exclusives on either system. (Though Sunset Overdrive sure looks like a blast, doesn’t it?)

 

Inexplicably, Nintendo’s biggest carrot for these core gamers — Super Smash Bros. — is not presently being offered in any sort of official retail bundle. I wouldn’t be surprised if Walmart or Best Buy cook up their own BOGO-type deal to move Wii U hardware, but it seems if Nintendo was planning a price cut or SSB console bundle, they would have had to announce it by now.

 

I’m a Wii U day-one owner and I’ve been particularly critical of how Nintendo has managed the platform for the last two years. Unless Nintendo answers Microsoft’s smart move and makes the Wii U a too-good-to-pass-up $250 price point right away, I think it will be Kyoto’s way of saying “Meh”. That is, they are resigned to the Wii U being a niche console for the most dedicated of Nintendo fans, a secondary console for well-heeled core gamers, and as profitable as can be with low sales volume and a small install base.

 

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Buy Mario Kart 8, Get a Wii Wheel Free

Posted on 30 May, 2014  in Wii U

Photo of a Wii U wheel accessory for the Wii Remote and an unopened copy of Mario Kart 8.

 

The best Mario Kart 8 pre-order bonus doesn’t even require a pre-order. Many Target stores are offering a free, official MK8 Wii Wheel with purchase. I got mine as soon as my nearby store opened this morning. It has Mario on it and everything! (No Mercedes logo, though.)

 
Supplies may be limited, as the Target I shop at had only three Wii Wheels available for the promotion. Naturally, they had just six copies of the game. Go figure.

 

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Dreamcast Outsells Wii U, By at Least One Metric

Posted on 20 April, 2014  in Dreamcast, Saturn, Wii, Wii U

A Wii U GamePad with a SEGA Dreamcast logo in its display

 

Here’s a thought that should have set stomachs turning at NCL in Kyoto: the Wii U is now at the same point in its lifespan (in North America, at least) as the SEGA Dreamcast was when official support ended… and over that time period, Dreamcast outsold Wii U by nearly two-to-one.

As gaming writer Patrick O’Rourke reports for Canada.com, there are some pretty major differences between the SEGA of 2001 and Nintendo of today, particularly financial. Nintendo didn’t have a string of failed or below-expectations consoles and add-ons leading up to Wii U; and the Wii was a blockbuster compared to the middling Saturn.

 

But even for a Wii U owner and supporter like me, this is a bit troubling. In about 18 months, Nintendo has only sold two-thirds as many units as it planned to sell in the console’s entire second year. If Dreamcast was no longer viable with about 10 million consoles sold in that time span, how much longer can Nintendo afford to market a system that’s sold barely 6 million worldwide?

 

More concerning is that once again, Nintendo has seemingly forgotten games are required to sell consoles. After Reggie Fils-Aime promised us in several interviews last year that there wouldn’t be another Wii U games drought… we’re in another Wii U games drought. Here are your platform-exclusive (literally, all games that are not LEGO, movie tie-ins or Cabella’s hunting games) retail title offerings so far in 2014:

 

And here are all announced 2014 release dates to come for retail Wii U releases, again excluding the interminable LEGO series and multi-platform movie tie-ins:

 

That’s it. Two new Wii U-only retail listings in five months, both sequels.

 

Now, granted there are quite a few download-only titles coming to the eShop, mostly indie games and a few bigger games like NES Remix 2. But most are not exclusives, and none are what I would call system-sellers.

Reggie was either misinformed or being disingenuous when he said there’d be no drought in 2014.

 

Ah! But there are some big releases to come, right? Bayonetta 2, X, Hyrule Warriors, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and of course some unannounced Zelda and Mario titles we may or may not learn about at E3.

 

Anticipation doesn’t sell consoles a year-and-a-half out of release. Gamers are notoriously demanding and impatient. Nintendo hasn’t convinced very many to adopt by now, and I suspect they may not do much better than double total lifetime sales by the end of this year.

 

Failing that, this could be the final E3 for the Wii U before Nintendo pulls the plug.

 

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Wii U Marketing Done Right

Posted on 12 December, 2013  in Nintendo 3DS, Wii U

A Nintendo kiosk at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

 

Seen this morning at the Atlanta airport. Captive audience and free entertainment! Though, to my dismay, I didn’t get a 3DS StreetPass hit here…

 

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One Year of Wii U: The First Anniversary of an Unloved Console

Posted on 18 November, 2013  in Wii U

A Wii U and GamePad with a 1 birthday candle in its display

Happy Birthday to U.

 

One year ago today, I got my hands on my Wii U. It was the first launch-day console purchase I ever made. It will almost certainly be the last as well.

 

A lot has been written over the past year about what Nintendo did wrong with the Wii U, from its awful name to its underpowered hardware to its interesting but underutilized GamePad controller to its dearth of post-launch games to its abysmal lack of third-party support.

 

Unsurprisingly, scarcely a word has been written on the day of its first anniversary, as the gaming press remains fixated on the launches of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, last week and this Friday, respectively.

This Friday also brings what may become the first true must-own title for Wii U, Super Mario 3D World. But that too will fall to the wayside in the gaming media, thanks to Nintendo’s troubling decision to launch both SM3DW and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the same day as a new competing console.

 

With that in mind, I offer a brief look back at the year that was for Wii U, and more importantly, where I think it is headed in the months and years to come.

 

Year One: U Were Not Interested

When the final word on Wii U is written, the narrative surrounding its appallingly weak launch and first year will focus on the slowest of slow starts. Things could not have gone much worse for Nintendo in terms of both hardware and software sales. As of this writing, fewer than 4 million Wii U consoles have been sold worldwide; PlayStation 4 looks poised to surpass that number in as little as three months, and Xbox One will likely do the same. Games industry analyst Michael Pachter, among Nintendo’s most-vocal critics, suggests the console will do no better than 30 million units lifetime.

 

I think Pachter is wrong. I have serious doubts the Wii U will sell even half that many.

 

Name issues aside, the Wii U is competing for more than just shelf space at GameStop and Walmart. It must battle consumer apathy toward the Wii brand and console gaming in general, created in no small part by the explosion of mobile gaming. It also faces competition from within, namely the Nintendo 3DS, which in many ways offers similar experiences to those that can be had on Wii U.

 

You’ll notice I didn’t mention Sony and Microsoft as competition. That’s because, frankly, they aren’t. (Heck, even Nintendo seems to subtly acknowledge this.) There is absolutely no way Wii U can ever compete with those consoles; you either want a Wii U, or you don’t. You want a PlayStation 4, an Xbox One, or neither. Few and far between will be the shoppers this holiday season who are trying to decide among a Wii U, PS4 and Xbox; and any parent who purchases a Wii U in lieu of a sold-out next-gen console will have a very disappointed kid on Christmas morning. I look forward to the first clever YouTube user uploading a side-by-side comparison video of a kid unwrapping a “PLAYSTATION FOUUUUURRRRRR!!!” …only to realize “it’s a ….Wii U?”

And therein lies the problem. Nintendo found audiences for its previous consoles, particularly Wii, when it struck gold with motion control and casual gaming. Most of those consumers have moved on to their iPads and iPhones and whatnot. Hardcore gamers generally never wanted a Wii unless it was a second console so they could play Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

 

So who is the audience for Wii U?

 

Right now, it’s dedicated Nintendo fans, such as myself, and most of us have already bought one if we’re going to at all. The biggest potential market may have already reached its saturation point, and that is very bad news for Nintendo.

 

Arrested Development

You’ve read the headlines: third-party developers have fled from the Wii U like it’s got the plague. Criterion is bitter about poor sales of Need for Speed: Most Wanted U. EA is clearly doneTake-Two has moved on. Bethesda said “no thanks”. Even Ubisoft, the biggest third-party supporter from the get-go, has admitted sales have fallen below expectations and given us reason to believe it’s not keen on doing Nintendo any more favors.

 

Nintendo and its supporters have said the third-party support will return once sales pick up. Of course, we all know sales won’t pick up unless there are games, and the vicious circle grows ever wider. Nintendo now faces a looming crisis which could very well spell the premature death of Wii U: the end of third-party retail support entirely.

 

Let’s assume in a best-case scenario, Nintendo meets its fiscal year goals of moving 9 million units lifetime by April 2014. That *might* be enough to convince third-party publishers to start cranking out titles again. But there’s a problem: if, as seems likely, most or all third-party development has ceased as of the current quarter, that means no new third-party Wii U games are in the pipeline. I am not a developer, so I’m speculating here, but I believe there’s no way EA could have a new Madden game ready for August 2014 if development isn’t already ongoing (which I believe it’s safe to assume it isn’t). Supposing a typical retail game takes at least 18 months to develop and publish, would third-party publishers really be willing to take on the risk of creating new games for a floundering console whose future remains uncertain?

 

That leaves only two main sources of games for the console: independent developers and Nintendo itself. Can the Wii U truly survive as a Nintendo exclusive and indie download-only machine? To put it another way, would you pay $300 for a device that only plays major titles from one publisher, along with a handful of indie games available on PC or iOS / Android and a few vintage games, and does virtually nothing else?

 

 

Out of Context

Nintendo apologists have been quick to bring up the 3DS, which sold poorly at launch but gained momentum after a price cut and a surge of great game releases. Critics like to compare Wii U to the GameCube or the failed SEGA Dreamcast. Others point out the lamentably poor start PlayStation 3 saw at launch.

 

I believe all such comparisons are irrelevant. The Wii U was released under completely unprecedented circumstances, never before seen in the history of gaming. PC is huge; mobile is by far the dominant platform; most consumers expect to pay only a few dollars or nothing for simple time-killer games; and rival consoles offer substantially greater bang for the buck.

 

What about other past consoles?

 

  • The GameCube and Dreamcast launched as online gaming was in its infancy, and first-person shooters were just starting to surge in popularity (along with PC gaming in general).
  • The GameCube followed Nintendo’s modestly disappointing Nintendo 64, and continued a downward trend in hardware sales that followed the once-in-a-lifetime success of the NES / Famicom.
  • The Dreamcast was by most accounts a superb console, but consumers had lost all faith and confidence in SEGA after a string of overpriced, under-supported peripherals and consoles (SEGA CD / Mega CD, 32X and Saturn).
  • Both Dreamcast and GameCube had to compete with the PlayStation 2, which with its vast library, tremendous third-party support and built-in DVD player functionality, went on to become the most successful home console in history.
  • The 3DS is a handheld console that competes primarily with the now ubiquitous mobile gaming platform and, to a lesser extent, the PlayStation Vita.

 

So where, exactly, does the Wii U fit in to all of this? It occurs to me that the Wii U is actually a great console — in a vacuum. With no other alternatives, the Wii U is an outstanding machine with an interesting control scheme, a huge legacy library thanks to Wii backwards-compatibility, lots of peripherals (also thanks to Wii compatibility), good HD visuals and decent online capability.

 

The problem, of course, is that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One do so much more and so much better, for only a $100 to $200 greater price point. Mobile offers far more games that appeal to a much broader audience at a fraction of the cost. PC does almost everything the other guys can do, and better in most respects.

 

Whither Wii U?

 

The Next Steps

I have no clue what’s next for Wii U. At best, it can perhaps become a decently-supported niche console with a library of very good to great Nintendo-published games and indie titles. If Nintendo really wants to up the ante in terms of value, I have a modest proposal:

 

Turn on the Virtual Console like a fire hose.

 

Nintendo has one opportunity to save the Wii U to some degree, I think, and it’s not with stupid commercials like this. They need to say to gamers, “Hey, remember the NES and Super NES? Remember the Nintendo 64 and GameCube? Or never owned one, but you always wanted to? Well, we’re going to put all of them into one package for you.” Nintendo should create an entire division devoted exclusively to porting legacy platform games to Wii U, with as much speed as possible. Right now, there are 56 titles on Wii U Virtual Console, all of them either NES or Super NES. That’s it. Fifty-six titles in 52 weeks on the market — you do the math. Compare that to the number of Wii Virtual Console titles in Japan — 658. This is ABSURD. There is a vast, untapped market to be had here! Nintendo should IMMEDIATELY bring all of its existing Virtual Console (and, while they’re at it, WiiWare) titles to Wii U, including Japan exclusives. Get them localized. Market the system that way: “Here are 700+ games you can download RIGHT NOW, and ONLY on Wii U — not available (legally, anyway) for any other platform. Period.”

 

The success of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD should have proved to Nintendo how important this audience is when it comes to GameCube as well. There’s no reason the entire first-party library of GameCube titles can’t be brought to Wii U. If the emulation ability doesn’t exist, MAKE IT HAPPEN. Then, sell this machine through targeted marketing to gamers and former gamers, ages 25+, and win them over through nostalgia.

 

My modest proposal may or may not reverse the fortunes of Wii U. But it will never happen.  Nintendo is, unfortunately, in a curious position of being both a leading innovator and stubbornly stuck in its ways.

 

One year after my Wii U purchase, this Nintendo fanboy’s patience has run out.

 

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After E3: A Nintendo Fan’s Lament

Posted on 16 June, 2013  in Wii U

Sad Mario from Super Smash Bros. Melee

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?

 

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.

 

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Wii U’s Worthless Warawara World

Posted on 9 June, 2013  in Wii U

Wii U Warawara Plaza

GET OFF MY SCREEN. (Credit: Kotaku)

 

Upon launching Wii U, this is what we see on our TV screens. Named “Warawara Plaza” by Nintendo, from a Japanese term meaning something like “chatter”, this is apparently supposed to showcase other Wii U owners throughout the Miiverse, and the games they’re playing.

Six months after my launch-day purchase of a Wii U, I find myself asking, what’s the point?

 

Warawara Plaza doesn’t accomplish anything. It just floats there on the TV, showing whatever newer games Nintendo wants us to know about, randomly throwing up speech bubbles from Miiverse comments and illustrations, while Miis wander aimlessly in clusters and canned music and gibberish speech loops in the background audio track.

Basically, it serves no useful purpose.

 

I have never used a PlayStation 3 and only played on an Xbox 360 a couple of times, so I can’t say much about how their startup screens and OS interfaces feel. But even without that benefit, I think I can offer some ideas as to how Nintendo can replace Warawara Plaza with something beneficial to gamers — and to Nintendo.

 

Show off the eShop. Give us something resembling the dashboard that advertises eShop offerings that are new, best-selling, on sale or perhaps overlooked. Customize it to ensure it doesn’t advertise games already owned by the user. Come up with a simple algorithm to match games to the apparent tastes of the logged-in player: for example, show me sports titles and action platformers, but not games aimed at kids.

 

Highlight what’s on. The Wii U’s TVii app has a lot of promise, but since it’s kind of buried on the GamePad menu screen, I often forget I even have it. Since it can be programmed to remind me of when my favorite shows are coming on or when a team I follow is playing, perhaps a TV guide could occupy some real estate on the start-up screen.

 

Localize it! I actually enjoyed and used the News and Weather channels on my Wii. They don’t make sense on the Wii U with its far more robust web browser, but similar technology could create a nice little “happening now in my area” launch screen: current weather conditions and forecast, a couple of news headlines, etc. Or customized headlines for topics I care about. Speaking of which…

 

Finally make the dang thing social! Miiverse is nice and has its moments, but what Wii U really needs is true integration with the major social networks. A good start would be adding Nintendo’s Twitter feed to the start-up screen. After Nintendo finally adds some Facebook and Twitter apps (there is no indication they will, but here’s hoping anyway), users could customize the start-up screen to show Twitter or Facebook feeds they care about.

 

Make big events even bigger. With E3 starting this week, wouldn’t it be great if, as soon as I turned on my Wii U, my start-up screen was showing a live streaming camera from Nintendo’s booth at E3, along with Nintendo’s Twitter feed and links to just-released YouTube videos showing new Wii U and 3DS software? Or if I turn on my Wii U just before or during a Nintendo Direct, it automatically starts playing the video (with a prompt). Suddenly Nintendo increases its outreach and the utility of its console, while connecting with users on a deeper level.

 

What are your ideas for replacing Warawara Plaza? To be clear, I have no insider knowledge and have not read or heard anything indicating that this is under consideration. But frankly, it’s a useless start-up screen and Nintendo could do MUCH better!

 

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