This generation of consoles has managed longevity better than any previous round of systems.
The Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii have all been on the market since the end of 2006 and grossed an astronomical amount of money thanks to big name franchises like Call of Duty, Halo, Mario and Grand Theft Auto selling instant millions. It was only at last year’s E3 convention that Nintendo was the first of the big three to announce the next step for video game hardware.
The Wii U, due for release at the end of this year, will boast an innovative controller, come with backwards compatibility installed and promises massive third party support along with your favorite Nintendo characters and series.
Any of this sound a little too familiar?
I was one of the many who clawed and scratched for a Nintendo Wii at launch. This was during that time when the Big N was attracting new press every single day with the Wii’s revolutionary motion controller. Stories abound regarding “family game night” being brought back, with everyone gathering around the living room TV for a round of bowling and tennis on Wii Sports, all of them represented by their Mii characters created on the system. This wasn’t why I used a connection at the store to snag me a system as soon as one came in; it was Nintendo’s new system, and I wanted it NOW.
I unwrapped the system, plugged in what seemed like twenty different cables and began to play the games I had picked up: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, and Red Steel. The experience of using my hand to roll monkeys instead of just an analog stick, wielding surgical tools and alternately firing a gun and wielding a katana made me think “Damn, this is pretty cool!”
As weeks went by, I began to feel a sentiment many other gamers experienced: I was in the shallow end of the pool, waiting for adult swim so all the little brats would go away. Nintendo’s big games were nowhere to be found for the system’s initial holiday, and what we got were gimmicks that touted motion control, minigame collections to play with the friends I didn’t have, and watered-down ports of Xbox 360 games.
Six years later, I own about twenty Wii titles. A quarter of them feature Mario, and between Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, a few Resident Evils, both No More Heroes entries and MadWorld, I’m pretty sure I scooped up almost every M-rated title tailored specifically for the Wii. Public perception may have damned it from being taken seriously from the beginning, but I still would have liked to see some more risks taken in those formative years when the Wii became the bestselling system among all consoles.
Of course, no risks were really taken, and Nintendo even shut the door on a few missed opportunities. Fatal Frame IV was given a blunt denial of publishing by Nintendo of America, and it was only after a massive fan campaign known as Operation Rainfall that we are seeing Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story – Pandora’s Tower has not had any such luck as of this writing. As for Nintendo’s first-party contributions, it launched with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, essentially a port of the Gamecube version with motion controls implemented. Super Smash Bros. Brawl, originally intended to be available at launch, did not see a release until 2008, coming in at the heels of Super Paper Mario, Metroid Prime 3 and Super Mario Galaxy. By the time New Super Mario Bros. Wii came out in 2009, the novelty of motion control had worn off. Sony and Microsoft had picked up their pace and established themselves with their own exclusive franchises, cutting prices to the PS3 and 360 along the way.
Now that focus has shifted to the Wii U, Nintendo has begun to laud the same traits as they did when dropping the bombshell of the Wii. In 2006, we had never seen anything like what they were bringing to the table. The Wiimote remains an amazing piece of technology, and some of the most fun I’ve had in gaming came as a result of mimicking the brutal dismemberment of enemies in MadWorld, swinging my arms wildly to impale their heads on spikes and tossing them into a dartboard.
In 2012, however, the innovation factor is gone. Sony gave us the Move, essentially a complete rip-off off the Wiimote, and Microsoft has Kinect, which loses the controller all together in favor of a camera recording your motions to be used in the game. Nintendo has a successor lined up, and what they’ve told us so far stinks of something…familiar.
Nobody can ever accuse Nintendo of not trying new things when it comes to hardware and accessories. We’ve seen plenty of innovation from them – we would not have handheld gaming as it is without the first Game Boy, the Nintendo DS made touch screen gaming a mainstay, and the 3DS took away the glasses while keeping the extra dimension. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen highly-touted experiments fall as flat as the characters in Paper Mario. Is anyone still using their e-reader for the Game Boy Advance? How about all those games that utilized the GBA to Gamecube cable? I’m certain there are more than a few people out there suffering chronic headaches from trying to invest time into the Virtual Boy. Oh, and lest we forget the Wii Vitality Sensor…nah. Too late.
I will say that the tablet controller for the Wii U has me curious, for a number of reasons. If properly implemented, it could be a fantastic addition to gameplay. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Dreamcast utilized the VMU inside the controller, and this was long before the days of wireless gaming. The idea of streaming the entire game to the screen of this tablet is…good, I guess? This is coming from someone who primarily plays games on his own with exclusive access to my own TV, so I have no need to see my game displayed on anything else. I would be much more comfortable and content with features that aren’t intrusive; give me a simple layout of my health, ammo and other stats on my controller to free up display space on the monitor. Although it doesn’t affect me, there is a world of opportunity for sports games with this. Entire coaching strategies can be planned out on the tablet, from calling plays to substituting players and even designing routes to run.
What has me worried is that Nintendo hasn’t been forthcoming with a whole lot of information regarding the controller or the system, and we’re only half a year away from the supposed launch. We don’t know how much it will cost, exactly what games will be available to buy, and we have yet to get a straight answer on whether or not more than one of these tablets can be used during a gaming session. Why so mum? What is Nintendo hiding, if anything?
It better all be good news, because at this point, they are doing nothing more than playing catch-up to the PS3 and 360. Both Sony and Nintendo currently stand light years ahead of the current Wii, and Nintendo is now asking third party developers to make games for a brand new system built to stand toe to toe with two other systems that have been on the market for over half a decade. Oh, that third party support? So far, we’ve got several ports of games already out or scheduled for release on the PS3 and 360. I’m not lining up on Wii U Launch Day for Assassin’s Creed 3.
The other issue is the fact that, while they continue to officially deny the existence of them, Sony and Microsoft are hard at work on the Playstation 4 and Xbox…whatever. The Wii U will not even necessarily have a technological advantage over its current competitors – industry sources have been all over the place with opinions on its power, ranging from “slightly more powerful” to “doesn’t reach the capabilities of Sony’s and Microsoft’s platforms.” Knowing this, how can Nintendo possibly expect to stand up to whatever their rivals have in store? Furthermore, what if Sony or Microsoft has been planning a tablet controller of their own or, for that matter, “borrows” the idea much as they did with the concept of motion control?
When Reggie Fils-Aime joined Nintendo of America in 2003, he single-handedly restored the faith of a Nintendo fan base that had begun to lose hope in the company. Every product he pitched, every concept he introduced was made to be the most incredible new idea in the world, and the people began to take Nintendo seriously again. Reggie introduced the world to the Nintendo Wii, looked us in the eye and convinced us we were witnessing a revolution – the new way to experience games.
95 million Wiis sold later, Reggie and Nintendo now have to convince everyone that their money is worth investing in a brand new platform. They’ll need to fully embrace the online world – not just for multiplayer, but for the digital marketplace which has exploded thanks to the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. They’ll need to stick to their guns with Mario and Zelda (Metroid may be forever tarnished after Other M was ruined by Team Ninja). They’ll need to sew up some support from Capcom, EA, Activision and other big publishing houses, as well as hang on to them. Most importantly, I think, they’ll need to stay the course and make this tablet controller work. Considering that a Wii Remote and the tablet can be used at the same time, there is unlimited potential here if developers are willing to give it a chance. If Sony or Microsoft ends up using similar technology, Nintendo will just have to do what they’ve been doing for more than a quarter of a century: cut a new path.
Wii U Tablet: Engadget.com
Virtual Boy: Realitypod.com