Mondays are usually slow for news as people start to stir for the coming week. Therefore, every Monday, we will address one topic to start the week and get discussion flowing. It stimulates the week like a cup of coffee, hence the title.
Nintendo recently announced several details about the Wii U including features, launch lineup, and release date. We at Gaming Bus took the weekend to share thoughts on the news and then speculate on what’s in store for the console when it launches later this year. The discussion is transcribed below.
The question for this week:
What are your thoughts on the Wii U? Will Nintendo win the next console generation again?
Connor Horn: Nintendo is really pushing connectivity, but then again, so is everyone else. Now that gaming has hit a technical ceiling in many ways (companies can afford only so much), the battlegrounds for the next console generation seem to be about all the non-gaming things a console can do. I can use my Nintendo GamePad to surf TV channels, but Microsoft lets me interact with games using my tablet or smartphone. These are the kinds of features that I think will be home to the greatest competition in the next generation.
As for the Wii U itself, well, it’s Nintendo. You’ll get exactly what you expect to get. The addition of Call of Duty: Black Ops II shows that Nintendo is trying to integrate itself more with the console mainstream, but nobody’s really buying a Wii U so they can play Call of Duty. You want to play Super Smash Bros. and Zelda, and it doesn’t take an industry analyst to predict tons of Super Smash Bros. and Zelda for the Wii U.
Christopher Bowen: “You know what you’re getting” is exactly what’s wrong with the Wii U. That’s not going to fly in 2012. The Wii was the biggest console of the last generation because it had things that could get the casual gamers involved. What is there here? The ability to watch TV? My cell phone can do that. A system that requires internal memory? Yeah, I don’t see that filling up quickly, especially when it has significantly less space than my (almost full) PS3 drive has. Oh, and we have a system that is already behind the current graphical curve. Remember the days when consoles would launch and blow away current-spec PC cards? Me neither.
Nintendo had to launch this at an acceptable price point, and $350 isn’t it (the $300 unit might as well be a doorstop). I tell people all the time that the two things that determine where gaming goes are the games and the casual gamers. Nintendo fanboys will buy the system, but the Vita’s learning that dedicated gamers aren’t enough. You have to be able to bring in the casual audience to keep revenue flowing and keep the Michael Pachters of the world from calling your system a failure in the first month. Also, although they’re rich, Nintendo doesn’t have the margin for error that Sony or Microsoft have, who can write off losses in the video game sector with profits elsewhere. There is no reason for a casual gamer to buy this; even the example given by Penny Arcade on just what to do with the Wii U controller skews niche. I see the potential, but my mother will look at the tablet controller and go, “Why not just buy a tablet?”
I’ve been saying for some time that the next console generation is going to be the last one, and in a way, the Wii U proves exactly why: it’s selling itself largely on gimmicks, previously done ideas, and a whole lot of fuck you, we’re Nintendo. I just can’t justify spending $350 on a system that’s selling itself on a gimmicky controller, TV stations I will never watch, an online system that Nintendo has never gotten working right, and a few Mario games that I stopped caring much about years ago.
Connor Horn: I think it’s important to point out that the biggest problem with the Wii U isn’t that it’s selling itself on gimmicks, but rather that it’s selling itself on boring gimmicks. Gimmicks have long been a driving force in Nintendo’s platform repetoire. The original GameBoy was a gimmick, the Nintendo DS was a huge gimmick, the 3DS an even bigger gimmick, and the Wii was a gimmick so popular that every other console player had to copy it in some way. Nintendo is all about gimmicks.
So the issue here is that they’re aiming short this time. You’ll get what you expect with the Wii U simply because Nintendo has failed to catch us off-guard with something new and inspiring. The GamePad is about 5% as cool as it could have been, and I literally lost interest in Nintendo TVii about five minutes into the half-hour presentation. If Nintendo wants to win the console wars with the uniqueness route, they have to actually be unique. They need to sell their GamePad as the sexiest thing in all of history for people to take an interest in it, and they’ve done a poor job of doing that thus far. If I had to choose between a GamePad and a picture of Emma Watson, well, it wouldn’t be a contest.
That Penny Arcade comic Chris linked to actually demonstrates a lot of wisdom. That is how you sell the Wii U. You’ve got to focus on the gaming potential of each player having their own private screen in addition to a large public screen. You’ve got to do things with the GamePad that make people say, “Wow, this isn’t just a Wii that I have to buy again. This is a whole new way to play games!” Until they do that, journalists will continue going, “Ooh, Nintendo TVii, hurray! I swear I’m not bored out of my skull!”
In short: it’s nice to have connectivity, but that doesn’t mean that your console can’t be an awesome gaming console as well.
Joshua Moore: Chris, you’re definitely right that the Wii U is adding a large number of features that everyone and everything else has, and yes, the $350 price point is high. But I think one thing that people are overlooking is that Nintendo is obviously trying to pull its weight using third-party games and exclusives. Take Bayonetta 2 for instance. This is a game that was all but cancelled mostly due to Sega’s restructuring. Nintendo decided to foot the bill and publish the game with the guidance of Sega to get a relatively popular exclusive to launch with their system. Ninja Gaiden 3 is also getting a major revamp in the form of Razor’s Edge and it’s unclear whether or not this update will even be seen on other consoles.
Regardless of what anyone thinks, games are what sell a system. A strong launch lineup is necessary for a game system to do well. What does the Wii U have? Bayonetta 2, Ninja Gaiden 3, Black Ops II, Pikmin 3, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Rayman Legends, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition (I find this one hilarious), and Assassin’s Creed 3. The system looks great from this perspective. This lineup speaks greatly as to Nintendo’s new outlook regarding third-party publishers, and I can’t wait to see what they pull off now that they have a console that appeals more to them.
The GamePad idea is strange. I can see its usefulness in RPGs and select other instances, but let’s not forget how strange everyone thought the DS was. I’m sure they’ll find a way to use this in a manner not currently possible with a tablet and a TV. Connor’s comment about each player having their own screen is exactly what I wanted to see when the Wii U was announced, but from what I’ve read, it looks like costs were a big factor as to why that didn’t happen.
At the end of the day, this is Nintendo we’re talking about. They aren’t bleeding money yet and can put their efforts into obtaining exclusives. Plus, nobody ever knows what the fuck this company is thinking half the time, and they still manage to pull a profit. This system is guaranteed not to be a failure. Will it surpass the Wii? Probably not, but it certainly won’t sell like an Xbox 360 in Japan.
My opinion on the Wii U is generally positive, but I’m not blind enough to think that the tablet controller will be utilized to any real degree. Think back to the Wii’s motion control, the 3DS’ 3D, and DS dual screens. Very few titles ever utilized those gimmicks to any real degree, either. I just want some good old gaming but finally see Link, Mario, and Samus in HD.
The real hampering point for me is the price: $299 with no pack in game, $350 with extra stuff and Nintendo Land. This is a huge mistake not only because the price sort of undermines Nintendo’s tradition with being accessible in terms of cost (didn’t they learn from launching the 3DS at $250?), but also, Nintendo Land would make the best demonstration of the Wii U’s abilities.
What was the one title that really explained how motion controls works to the general public? Wii Sports. All across the Internet, I’m seeing lots of mistakes and conjecture about how the Wii U tablet works, with even dedicated gamers thinking they need to buy multiple expensive Wii U tablets for multiplayer and not realising that the old Wiimotes work on the Wii U. This is similar to how people were confused on how the Wiimote worked back in the day: when I was asked about the Wii by relatives, I didn’t say a word. I just popped in Wii Sports, started the bowling game, and threw a ball. Right then, it clicked. They understood everything about the controller.
From previews of Nintendo Land, I see it as being very similar to Wii Sports: a lot of minigames which showcase how the new and asynchronous multiplayer could work. This needs to be with the basic package to show how the Wii U can be different and unique. Putting it in the premium package is a huge waste.
Nintendo.com has the release dates of several Wii U games, and frankly, it’s looking very good! Twenty titles are listed for a release on November 18 with exclusives being Rayman Legends, New Super Mario Bros. U, Rabbids Land, Scribblenauts Unlimited (well, console exclusive anyway), and ZombiU, not to mention some great third-party titles like Epic Mickey 2, Black Ops II, Assassin’s Creed III, and Tekken Tag Tournament. If it had Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101 on there, I would say it’s the best launch lineup in recent memory because face it, the 3DS, Vita, PS3,Xbox360 and Wii all had shitty launches.
How successful will it be? No one at Gaming Bus can tell you. Not to dis our own web site, but Nintendo proved that hardcore gamers were not the drivers of sales in the last console generation, casual gamers are. How they respond is up in the air, and we might as well roll some dice to see how that turns out as the common consumer is a fickle beast.
Also, I’d like to respond to Chris’ comment about consoles blowing away current spec PC cards. I do remember: it was the Xbox 360, which used a more powerful version of the ATI X1800 series cards that would release at around the same time. However, by spring of following year, it was already obsolete. If NeoGAF is to be believed—so take this with massive quantities of salt—the Wii is running one of ATI’s Radeon HD7000 series cards, the very latest type, but all Nintendo will say is that it’s an “AMD Radeon™-based High Definition GPU.” We’ll have to see when the system launches and someone guts it.
Nathan Wood: Even though I’m not the biggest Nintendo fan, I have to admit that I’m pretty impressed with the titles that Nintendo has lined up for the Wii U for the launch window. In a list of 50 titles, a fair number are big AAA titles like Black Ops II, ZombiU, Rayman Legends, New Super Mario Bros. U, and Assassin’s Creed III.
The only potential problem here is that I’m not sure how many people will instantly think, “Oh wait, I’ll buy my dose of AAA titles for the Wii U, a new system that my friends may not have, instead of the other two options.” But Nintendo is trying to provide the best of two worlds, that of the hardcore and social markets, but this where the problem may lay. Can Nintendo cater to both without turning this into an absolute mess and alienating both parties? This detail is what has me concerned for the future of the Wii U, and frankly, it could go either way.
One thing I have to mention is Connor’s note of the push for connectivity and how this may be a deciding factor for the console—that is to say, I have to politely disagree. More often than not as time has moved along, I’ve found that a significant number of people are tired of Microsoft and Sony trying to turn their game console into everything but one, and I’m inclined to agree. I have plenty of devices that already offer the same service, often one that’s much better, and having to navigate more clutter for Apps and functions that I most likely will never touch isn’t a lot of fun—which, might I add, is the essential point of video games.
Now, if there were a way to implement it for those who want it whilst not negatively impacting those who just want to turn the system on and play some damn video games, then go ahead. I have no problem with that. But none of the big three have done this yet.
And this is where I think the Wii U can really surpass the PS3 and XBox 360, specifically in that one can navigate the Wii U’s interface in a simple, elegant, and ultimately intuitive way. XMB is an absolute mess, and the XBox 360 dashboard isn’t much better by throwing ads all up in my face. In a world where Apple has allowed even a cavemen able to navigate their device with ease, this is unacceptable, and Nintendo would learn a lot from not following the same mistakes of the other two HD consoles. Is it huge deciding factor? No, not necessarily. But it could sure go a long way.
Christopher Bowen: So the following are the strikes against Nintendo’s favour: generic AAA sequel, generic AAA sequel port, the most generic AAA series known to man, Scribblenauts, generic AAA sequel (though a good one), a limited edition of a game that will have been out for six months and really needs the data of previous games to be successful, and ultra generic AAA port. Holy shit, that’s one game out of that whole list that hasn’t been done on other systems already (I’ll discard the Ninja Gaiden 3 gimmick). This is what Nintendo’s selling? On a “Buy our stuff because you can play it with a tablet that’s not as pretty as the other guys who are doing it” basis? Third-party games that have been done better on systems made by companies who have historically been more amenable to third parties (let’s face it, Nintendo’s treated them like redheaded stepchildren since the NES era)? This is worth my $350? Wait, that’s okay because Reggie said, “We like to sell our systems at a profit.” Good for you, Reggie. You know what I like? Not lighting $350 on fire when I’m not even sure video game consoles will be a thing in five years.
Mohamed mentioned something about the specs but that Nintnendo wouldn’t give specifics. If that story came across my desk here at Gaming Bus, I would reject it as not enough information, but Nintendo’s outsourced PR firm has made a killing in cock-teasing the press, so we’ll run with it. Let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s a regular Radeon HD 7870, the best Radeon card on the market today, fitted for the Wii U. Guess what? It’s dust in six months, and suddenly the Wii U—which can’t be upgraded with more RAM or more anything—is just another console with overpriced games and a stupid gimmick. All this in an era when the casual gamer, the bane of our existence but the true deciders of who “wins” a console war, has moved onto cell phones and tablets. And I mean real tablets that can do other things like make phone calls and write office documents. Imagine if the 3DS could effectively do what a tablet does. That’s where we’re going, and it won’t be by any of the console makers.
Nintendo needed to hit a home run with the Wii U. They succeeded, if we’re yanking the calendar back five years. In 2012, that’s barely good enough to leg out an in-field single. That might be better than what Sony’s Vita did, which is equitable to striking out, falling down, and having their pants fall down to expose their tiny dick. However, a single’s not going to accomplish anything now. So Nintendo’s answer is to become what Microsoft always was, and Microsoft’s answer is basically to say, “Games? What games? You can watch ESPN!” Sony’s got next, which means my next step is to reach for the liquor closet.