by Owen Scrivener
It seems Nintendo’s console division has been sitting on its hands this whole time. Last E3 we got embarrassing Jim Henson-ised Reggie Fils-Aime, Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto wandering around the offices of Nintendo’s HQ acquiring the characteristics of the anthropomorphic heroes of the Star Fox crew. This was an announcement to Star Fox Zero, the [then] not so graphically polished obscure Star Fox entry to redefine the studio-fatigued franchise. This title was teased in the 2014 E3 Nintendo Direct.
For this year’s announcements, we don’t even get that. For the most part because the only exclusive console game in plan had already been released and it stank.
Zelda U was announced in 2014 for 2015. In 2015 Nintendo’s developers pushed it back to 2016 (the thirtieth anniversary of the series). In the same week in 2016, Nintendo’s official investor statements set the game for a 2017 March window, with the release of NX, the next major console/handheld/microwave. Bomb drop!
Nintendo also announced within a short time of that announcement there would be no sight of the NX at E3. Not only that, but there wouldn’t be a Nintendo E3 conference, there wouldn’t even be a Direct. Something Nintendo’s western gamers in particular, look forward to. The reason for this absence?
Nintendo don’t play by no rules. Much to its own detriment.
As far as press presence goes Nintendo tends to be outshone by Microsoft and Sony, whose powerhorse consoles push technology to its limits to guarantee the best third party support. They lack in first party content, but rely on their few first party turds to give them an edge over one another in their console cock fights.
Nintendo doesn’t bother with that. And in many ways they can get away with it. They have a strong population of first party IPs (intellectual properties) that each gain their own religious followings, they sell cheap fun consoles and focus on good quality games. When they have an abundance of first party support, it works.
Wii was severely under-powered, it was not something third party developers cared to port their projects to. But Nintendo’s first and second party developers supported it enough in its prime (towards the beginning of its life) that it sold to the core gamers. Even though it was marketed more generally. Why did this console outsell its competitors? Because it wasn’t targeting gamers, it was targeting everyone else. It was targeting the elderly, middle aged health-conscious mums, toddlers who could pick up and wiggle the nun-chuck about.
It wasn’t a bad console at all, with the most impressive first party lineup Nintendo’s thus-far had. Mario Galaxy was a brilliant game that properly utilised motion control, as was Metroid Prime 3. The problem isn’t that the console was. The problem is that the console targeted a temporary market.
The previous console doesn’t really occupy a peak in gaming history’s most influential choices. It didn’t need to, really. The Nintendo Gamecube was perhaps the last wise (though not ideal) decision on Nintendo’s part. A game box that played games almost as good as its competitors. Sure it was purple, it looked like something you’d find a toddler trying to cram star shaped plastic disks into, but it played a good chunk of first, second and third party games that spanned the consoles.
Why is it so important to have third party support? When you have a console with an abundance of third party support, it can avoid collecting dust. As the Gamecube’s life came to an end, third party support continued. It was the Wii that changed that. A console with little more power that its predecessor, like an Ikea Gamecube.5.
Opting for innovation is fine, it works if you have a market for it. Never mind that the market is superficial, has a short attention span, didn’t know who Captain Falcon was when they bought the damn thing, and now they’re playing Flappybirds on a pocket sized super computer.
But ever the stubborn innovator, rolling around in a surplus, Nintendo attempted to replicate the Yen vacuum that was the Wii’s heyday with the WiiU. Because an underpowered gimmicky console marketed to a demographic that has largely moved onto Farmville is going to ring in the cash…try the worst selling console with a Nintendo stamp on it
The sad thing is that it’s really not that bad a console. Sure the whole asymmetrical gameplay cripe is a mess, half the games on the console don’t use the game pad, but Splatoon and Mario Kart 8 are so visually immense it seems worth it to waste money on a dying platform. And yeah, it seems like Nintendo’s first parties have abandoned open world games for f*cking side-scrollers. But even those are some damn good looking games.
The support for the WiiU has dried up. Third parties treat it like poison, first parties haven’t the tech experience to develop good games for it. It’s floundering. A lack of reception to fans, a poor PR job and just plain bad ideas have culminated in a Titanic failure. And it’s so disappointing to see it happen. It’s a wonderful console that just happens to be the victim of its developer’s divorce from reality and the free-market’s ruthless forward leaps. I honestly hope the tide changes for Nintendo.
Screen shot Smash Bros 4, Nintendo (Kotaku)
Screen capture from Nintendo Direct E3 2015 (IGN)
Promotional art from Mario Galaxy 2, Nintendo
Screen shot Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog