Before we begin, let’s just qualify this a little: It goes without saying that Nintendo is one of the great powerhouses of gaming and the industry wouldn’t be the same without it. They’ve been an influential leader pretty much from the beginning building a legacy of brilliant games, fantastic hardware and addictive IPs. Nintendo has always set a very high standard when it comes to the quality and the polish of its software and has always forced competing companies to raise their game (pun intended).
That being said there’s a little bit of a disconnect at the moment between the awesome game making side of Nintendo which keeps churning out absolute winners and the hardware/marketing side of things which is really dropping the ball and, I imagine, putting a lot of people off of getting a Nintendo system.
I should mention that this is is all a personal perspective and not at all based on any market research but I’m pretty confident in my conclusions as I’m a Nintendo fan (and very susceptible to marketing) but just can’t bring myself to invest in a Nintendo device. I’m like a Pokemon genteelly minding my own business in the long grass waiting for the juggernaut of the Nintendo Pokeball to scoop me up…but it just ain’t happening.
Let’s start with the home console, the venerable Wii U which in comparison to the other consoles currently available on the market and the legacy left by its big brother the Wii, is a bit of a sales disaster. I was at my mate’s house the other day and we were playing a few rounds of Smash Bros. and I couldn’t help but consider just how amazing that game was. The mechanics are airtight, the level design is some of the best I’ve ever seen and the rich history is fun to delve into. I was similarly impressed with Mario Kart 8 which, alongside Smash Bros. led to a pretty exciting few months for Wii U owners at the end of last year. The issue is, as it always has been for Nintendo, that these games are few and far between…not worth the price of admission on their own.
Like the vast majority of gamers I only need one console and for me it’s the PS4. In fact, I remember the day when I first switched from Nintendo to Playstation. I walked into my local Virgin Megastore, intent on getting a N64 and realised that Playstation games were a good £10 cheaper. As a kid I wasn’t in a position to spend £50 per game so I got my PSX and have ridden the Sony bandwagon ever since. I use my Playstation every day so to have two consoles is just impractical and I know for a fact that if I were to get a Wii U and nothing else, I’d certainly enjoy the first party masterpieces but have long periods of time with nothing screaming out to be played. Recently Sony first party exclusive The Order: 1886 came out to disappointing reviews and a lackluster reception. The game was ok, good even; just not very satisfying and importantly not very long. I’d planned to play that bad boy until Bloodborne came out with only the odd hunt in Evolve to break up the time. I finished it in about 8 hours but thankfully there was an entire library of 3rd party games I could shore up the schedule with. I choose Dying Light which is awesome but I could have easily gone with Alien: Isolation or Diablo III or even checked out Assassin’s Creed: Unity, all titles I was too busy to play at time of release.
Nintendo doesn’t have this kind of third party support and famously does not have a good relationship with external developers. It doesn’t offer the level of indie support that both the Xbox and Playstation have made a priority and I believe it suffers for that. Last generation you could play something like Super Mario: Galaxy which was certainly an essential game on the Wii, but if you invested in that console to the expense of the others you would have missed titles like Bioshock, Mass Effect 2, Portal, Arkham Asylum, COD 4: Modern Warfare and Red Dead Redemption to name but a few. These were all 3rd party titles which made the rounds but didn’t appear on the Wii. Just imagine a beautiful world where these industry staple games, the ones people love to talk about, appeared on a powerful enough Wii U and stuff like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. were the first party exclusives competing with the likes of Halo and Uncharted. In that world it’d be a no brainer to get a Wii U.
Another quick point, and a personal gripe, before I move on: I HATE the Wii controllers which have somehow ported over to the Wii U. Those flimsy lil white sticks may be good for motion controls but when you’re trying to get comfortable for a game like Smash Bros., they’re so annoying. Nintendo even acknowledges this by re-releasing the GameCube controllers for recommended play with that title. Surely the devs would prefer a meatier method of control? Just another case of one aspect of Nintendo at odds with another and lack of uniformity and focus across the board.
Onto the 3DS which admittedly is a more positive story. Again I feel it hasn’t lived up to it’s potential, the Playstation Vita taken in isolation is a much more accomplished piece of engineering, but the 3DS’s vast game library more than makes up for that. Pokemon, Monster Hunter, Professor Layton a host of Mario and Zelda titles; there’s always something to play on the little handheld. So what’s holding me back you ask? It’s confusion over which iteration of the console to buy.
I was on amazon a while back and could feel the tendrils of impulse shopping sneaking their way into the judgement centers of my brain. I’d just heard about Majora’s Mask being re-released on the 3DS and thought I’d just have a quick look at how much the console was going for these days. It was then that I realised just how many consoles are being supported in the 3DS family. There’s the 2DS, the 3DS, the New 3DS, the New 3DS XL and that’s not including the four iterations of DS that are still available too. I honestly didn’t know if I was getting the latest model or whether the latest model was the best one to have. You know how many 3DSs there should be? One! Just one, so that casual Nintendo consumers don’t get confused as to what to buy. What are the marketing department thinking when they name the new iteration of their console the ‘New’ 3DS? Anyone can see that that’s obviously confusing. What if you want the older model but a new version of it rather than a used one…what do you type in to google? This combined with the fact that the ‘New 3DS XL’ (which I discovered was the best model to have) doesn’t come with a charging cable in an attempt to discourage trade ins (a complete d**k move if ever I saw one…I mean I’ve never had a 3DS in my life, I expect it to come with the appropriate cabling to make it work) completely put me off the whole idea of getting the machine at all.
Everything Nintendo seems to be putting out in it’s messaging and by the way it’s handling it’s hardware suggests that it wants to consolidate it’s already fervent fan-base rather than pull in new gamers. But let me tell you, those guys are passionate and the core is solid. What these moves have done is alienate the people who were on the peripheries and put off potential new users like myself. In terms of the future I hope in the next generation of home consoles, Nintendo builds a machine that can keep up with the Sonys and Microsofts of the world so they can attract third party support and demonstrate there’s more of a reason to have their machine out every day and not for the occasional hit every 3 or 4 months. As for the handhelds, just woo me a little and let me know that you have new customers in mind. Incentivise the product a little and you will surely get a whole swathe of new fans like myself.
Gaming needs a rock solid Nintendo cause it’s an company that in spite of some out dated thinking does the most important thing maybe better than anyone else…it makes great games. Long may that continue!