We’re just over two weeks away from E3 2012 and it’s time to see what Nintendo has up their sleeve. I’ve given my E3 Sony Preview, and now it’s Nintendo’s turn. Everyone knows that the WiiU is the main event for Nintendo, and the general consensus around the web is that the WiiU is a High-Def underdog with too little too late. The argument is that PlayStation and Xbox have already cornered the market on high def gaming and the online side of things, with this console generation nearing the end of its cycle, Nintendo’s entry with the WiiU can’t possibly hold up against the competition for the long haul.
The thing is, Nintendo has always marched to the beat of their own drum. Think about all the buzz we heard about the “Next-Gen Consoles” back before they came out. Everyone thought graphics would rule the gaming world, and nothing else would matter. We’ve seen just how wrong that statement could be.
The Wii has sold nearly 100 million units, topping the long established console giant, Sony and the repetitively new Xbox, both by more than 30 million! Their entire focus was on a revolutionary new way to play games. If I remember correctly at one point their next-gen console was even code-named “The Revolution.” They knew that the competition and the market were focusing on high-def gaming, and they choose not to follow suit. Why? Well for one thing, their entire catalog of game franchises are well suited for SD, Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Zelda, and the list goes on.
That and Nintendo has always had long development times, even for their Standard definition games. So why would they knowingly overextend their 1st party development staff with the task of creating High definition games, when they know that Sony and Microsoft will be doing it faster, and better? Couple that with the fact that they never have had any sort of online service available for their home consoles, but both Sony and Microsoft do.
So, while everyone was going left, they went right. When the industry zigged, they zagged. Was it a mistake….I don’t think so. Have they had their share of missteps, sure. But overall were they wrong to go this alternative route, of focusing on “a new way to play” instead of following suit with HD graphics? I don’t think so. I know that the general perception is that
“real gaming is done on the PS3 or 360” and “Hardcore gamers don’t want motion controls with waggle gimmicks”. But I myself am a hardcore gamer, and I DO want motion controls to succeed. I can’t tell you how many times I played WiiSports games in my home and had just as much fun, in fact more, than when I had to pay $100 to take my family out to bowl at the real alley.
Nintendo knows this. They don’t care if they have the “Hardcore crowd” or the “Casual Crowd”, a gamer is a gamer, is a gamer. The numbers don’t lie. Nintendo created something special with the Wii. They knew that people wanted something new and different, and that’s what they gave us. It wasn’t that their idea was a failure; it was their follow through that lacked. The last 3-4 years have been kind of a flop for the Wii. Where they made their mistake was after claiming nearly 100 million people with the Wii was not doing anything great with that victory over the other console competitors.
During its infancy, the Wii was so successful, that neither Sony nor Microsoft knew how to beat them. They legitimately had a competitor again in Nintendo, and started clamoring to come up with motion controls of their own in an effort to cash in on this gaming market, that clearly wasn’t a fad. Nintendo, after all these years of being behind Sony’s PS1 and PS2, was finally reclaiming its spot at the top of the console gaming world again. Returning to their once triumphant status of the NES and SNES days. The time to firmly secure their place atop the console world was then. To take those 95 million something woman, children, kids, grandparents, and mothers, who weren’t traditional gamers, and convert them. Or if nothing else, at least start to open the proverbial door to such an idea. But they ultimately dropped the ball.
Year after year came and went, with very little that captured people’s hearts and minds the way the Wii first did upon its launch. They re-released key franchises hoping that it would do the trick….but it didn’t. Core Nintendo fans loved their Metroid, and their Kriby, and their Mario, and their Donkey Kong, and eventually their Zelda. But it was as the fear is now for their WiiU….too little too late. What Nintendo needed to do was to release The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword 3-4 years ago, at the peak of the Wii. That was a crucial error for Nintendo. The whole idea of changing the way we played games was spot on. But the “waggle” games were simple and short lived.
Skyward Sword is a great example of the types of games Nintendo needed to be rolling out at the beginning of the Wii’s life cycle, and steadily keep them coming. But they didn’t. Not only that but new IP’s were practically non-existent. Sure I love Mario and Zelda as much as they next guy, but come on! Classics are great, but you have to bring something new to the table. Wii was the perfect platform for that. They could have re-released all their top franchises with wii-mote functionality and gameplay (the likes of Skyward Sword) to get peoples feet wet, then transition to new IP’s with established Wii gameplay mid cycle. But that never happened. It was only 6 months ago that we got what the Wii initially promised us almost half a decade ago, in Skyward Sword.
That brings us to today, 2+ weeks until E3 2012, where Nintendo will showcase their WiiU. Hopefully they’ve learned from their mistakes, and are ready to step up to the plate the way they need to. Innovative gameplay is great, and the WiiU looks to have that just as the Wii did. But in the end, if you don’t deliver high quality new IP, then ultimately it will feel stale and get left behind.
The WiiU controller has the potential to do amazing things. The idea of your parents coming into the living room and taking over the TV, kicking you off your beloved game, only to be able to transfer it to your WiiU tablet controller is a great idea. This is appealing on the consumer side both for the kids who are being kicked off the TV, and to the parent doing the kicking. If Nintendo plays that angle up right, all the parents that are tired of fighting for TV time with their game addicted kids, now have a reason to pick Nintendo over Sony or Microsoft. So what other reasons are there to pick WiiU over PS3(4) and Xbox360(720)? Well with WiiU finally joining the HD front, they will have all the 3rd party support and games that everyone else has access to.
I know for my money that sounds pretty good. I’m not such a graphics fanatic that I will pass up a Nintendo console, with all their 1st party games I’ve been missing out on, if I can get the 3rd party games I love too with near identical HD quality. All this talk about WiiU not being as powerful as current gen, or less powerful when the new consoles come out, is garbage. Developers know just how ridiculous the production costs are now on games. Do you really think the graphics are going to be THAT much different from one cycle to the next? Sure, some of the 1st party exclusives may rock the boat, but in general the 3rd party titles will all be created and ported from one console to the next, and each will have the capacity to handle it in kind, that’s a fact.
This undoubtedly leads to the next lingering question, WiiU’s online capabilities. Sony has suffered big time with its inferior online network, compared to the 360’s. It’s been a constant bullet point in every article comparing the two. Global cross-game voice chat, achievements/trophy syncing, and ease of use. That’s not to say the PSN isn’t a great service (especially since it’s free) that’s come a long way from where it started, but it still lacks a few key components that holds it back. Nintendo already has a device to perform party chat functionality, so I can’t imagine it not being integrated into the new WiiU, especially knowing how well it’s bolstered the 360 and hurt the PS3. If they follow that line of thinking, then you can bet they will be putting proper emphasis on the online services to be comparable to the competition.
They aren’t finally allowing 3rd party developers to create games for their system just for the heck of it. They’re doing it because they see their past system was lacking it and won’t miss out on that market again. As such, those games will need a proper online environment, and I’m betting Nintendo will surprise us this E3 2012 with detailed information about the online and all the in-depth functions that are sure to accompany it. That’s not to say that it won’t have its share of problems, but they will be trying, and Nintendo will outline in great detail at E3 2012.
Nintendo has done extremely well this generation and has been flying well under the radar while doing it. Everyone has counted them out, but I think they’re poised to steal it all. They have a new handheld that’s doing well, with legs to match it. They have the next gen console coming out first, and we all know how well that’s worked out for Microsoft. They’re also taking the leap into HD, which should bring in even more customer base than ever before. With all the innovation that Nintendo has up its sleeve, and stepping into the HD light, if they handle the online service well…..Nintendo may just be unstoppable. E3 2012 can’t come soon enough. I think this year Nintendo and Sony are the ones to beat!
*Nintendo will speak at length about how well the 3DS is now doing. They will also show some 3DS titles we can expect to see soon. It’s also very likely that we’ll get a detailing of how the 3DS and Wii-U can and will interact together.
* The WiiU will take the bulk of the stage time. I know they’ve said that they won’t be talking about price point or release date, but I think they will. The release window has to be sometime this fall, either end of October or End of November. And, if they do plan to release the system that soon, they will have to give a price for people to start talking about/coming to terms with. It would be smart to price this next-gen system low so that they can continue to rack up the customer base, with something like $299.99. But seeing as Nintendo has suffered their first loss in more than 30 years, they may try and capitalize on the fan base by jacking up the price to start, then lowering it to the lower price 12-18 months later. The price I believe they’ll launch at is $349.99.
* WiiU will have a robust online service that will include cross-game voice chat, some sort of Trophy/Achievement system, and they will most likely have a Tiered subscription service, but will decline to comment on the pricing model of that until a later date.
*There will be stage demos a-plenty. Nintendo loves to put on a good show. You can bet they will have several stage demonstrations for the WiiU, the tablet, and the 3DS
*Lastly, since the next system will keep the name “Wii” I believe that they will announce that the WiiU will be backwards compatible with the Wii. Somehow focusing on the fact that the Wii was all about all of us playing together, and the WiiU will expand upon that, by having us all play together, but the system being tailored to “You”. I expect them to have a robust set of features that make the system and more specifically the online components very “you” centric.
Games you can expect to see/hear about
Smash Bros WiiU
Assassin’s Creed 3
Just Dance 4
Super Mario Bros WiiU