A long time ago in DS fairyland
A long time ago, Nintendo brought originality to the masses and innovation to the gaming industry: The DS and Wii made non-gamers into casual gamers, opening the mainstream’s eyes to the potential of this often-called “childish pastime”. On public transport systems one often saw people with their DS, but not just children or male young people. Nintendo finally found a foothold on different demographics with their diversified games: Be it Nintendogs, Dr. Kawashima for DS or Wii Sports for Wii, everyone seemed to have fun…for a while… except for the hardcore (even if the DS finally offered and still offers some great games for both).
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Then came the Wii and gone was the hardcore, replaced by mobile gaming
Nintendo’s introduction of new control systems (motion control and touch screen) was not revolutionary as the ideas were tried before and would be superseded later, but it brought on immense sales of both hardware and shovelware. The latter became the biggest problem: Too many party games, too many mini games, too many same-old gaming experiences even casual players suddenly lost interest in. Hardcore gamers had already given up hope on the Wii as dust settled on the console.
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The DS was still going strong, but it didn’t help that a new form of gaming took over: smartphone gaming.
A big library of quick-to-play-on-the-go games with prices like 69p or for free, mini games on Wii and DS became more or less obsolete. Why pay 20-40 GBP for a collection of games you could easily find on the App store?
With the rise of indie games, the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN Store, Nintendo’s price policy was questioned.
Of course, the ever ebullient Nintendo spokesperson Reggie Fils-Aime told the world that the prices were justified because it was all about the quality of the games one couldn’t find anywhere else. This might be true for Nintendo products with the names Mario or Zelda in the titles, but like Disney’s monopol, it soon became obvious that people got bored of the same game mechanics, the same formula, culminating in Nintendo’s latest handheld…failure.
3D for the masses, with no new games from Nintendo
Again Nintendo’s idea of bringing new technology to the people, the first 3D-portable-gaming-device without glasses was eagerly awaited. It’s a neat piece of gaming, no doubt, but when one looks at the titles on offer, it seems something is not quite right in the state of Japan: remakes of age-old N64 titles, a 3D effect which brings nothing to the gameplay experience and has to be turned off to save battery life and to prevent eye-straining and headaches?
Of course one can argue that 3D is overused in today’s market. Few movies are worth watching in 3D and having depth added to older movies is questionable as well, so why play a remake in 3D?
What Nintendo achieved with the DS was to really take advantage of the touchscreen technology, but now there’s simply nothing remotely innovative in the 3D effect, other than looking cooler…for a brief period of time.
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Fix it when it’s broke, Nintendo
What is even worse about Nintendo’s reluctance to reduce their prices for games and try innovating is the sheer arrogance shown to the customer. After only one year the 3DS XL version was released. Maybe this is nothing new to first-day-buyers (The big N did it with the Nintendo Dsi, XL), but what is aggravating is the fact that it is missing a battery charger. As if Nintendo presumes that everyone has the original 3DS anyway and wants to upgrade. The same holds true with reducing the price for the 3DS at the beginning: consoling people by giving them some free download games.
And now with the 3DS XL, neither the low battery life (with full 3D, Wifi etc.) is fixed nor does it include the circle pad.
Again Nintendo, this time company president Satoru Iwata, says: “You have to live with that”. Apparently the 3DS XL is not big enough. Well, maybe next time you think a bit more about your console’s specifications and implement a control system which works and doesn’t have to be bought afterwards, Nintendo?
So it seems gamers DON’T want to live with that. It seems gamers are sick and tired of being promised a good library of games which is not there yet and features which are nothing more than gimmicks.
Another thing gamers also have to live with or put up with is Nintendo’s decision to region-lock their system. Import-only games are already out of the question (go buy an American 3DS, why don’t you?), and if one looks at the library of DS games, those weren’t only a few titles European DS gamers were missing out on. Another bad move, Nintendo…
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Sony’s second chance with the PS Vita
Sony’s PS Vita is another example of handheld gaming in trouble: technically superior than the PSP and the 3DS, it suffers due to the lack of exclusive titles which can’t be found on the PS3. It’s true that games like Uncharted or Resistance are a slightly different experience if one sees them in HD on a smaller screen and it’s nice to play them on the go. Still games which can only be found on the PS Vita and which use many of its functions not as a gimmick, but for unique gameplay, are few (like Gravity Rush).
So of course people are reluctant to buy a new handheld console if the games are not there yet. There’s always the question of the price: Even though the PS Vita is an impressive piece of technology, it’s not cheap and the games aren’t cheap either in a world of indie-games and casual titles for 69p or a fiver.
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Wii U or will you not buy it?
Now what about the Wii U? Finally presenting its games in HD (even though the graphics power will already belong to the stone age, compared to the PC, PS4 or Xbox 720 if they ever arrive), Nintendo’s console looks good on paper. But this has a price as well: with a basic pack of 8GB hard drive (there’s one with 32 GB, so the question already arises: will it be enough?) and one gamepad/tablet, it costs 248 GBP. Sounds fair, but what about multiplayer? The Wii remote and Nunchuk weren’t cheap either, but buying additional tablets will probably cost a lot more.
Periphery questions aside, the biggest problem the console might face is third-party games: The Wii had quite a small library of hardcore games which were worth playing outside of Nintendo’s back catalogue, so what’s on offer now? Batman: Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed III? One game everyone will most likely have finished and put back on the shelf or sold…with the only new function having a map in your hand? Same for the Ubisoft’s newest entry in the assassin’s saga. What’s the selling point?
It’s true that there are exclusive games like Pikmin 3 and Rayman: Legends which could be a new gaming experience, but still: Will Nintendo rely on its old mascots like Mario, Link, Samus etc., bring in some games which are or will be available on other platforms, and that’s it?
The future doesn’t look that exciting, even if the hardware could offer something interesting…but wait, it’s a tablet? Isn’t it the same as that big thing Apple released a long time ago?
Better think again…
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Ouya, will you bring the future?
With big companies like Microsoft having a potential Xbox 720 in the pipeline or Sony hinting at a PS4, Nintendo trying to get its disappointed customers with gimmicks back, but forgetting about the games, is it really the same-old struggle of imitation vs. innovation, the same competitors?
Kickstarter says otherwise: Having already discussed the pros and cons of this interesting concept of crowd funding, now there’s a silver lining on the horizon for gamers: the Ouya.
Quite a weird name, but this is actually the first console which was developed with the community in mind. Of course this has something to do with where the money comes from. But it also reflects the current trend of digital distribution.
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the official website
With a retail price of only 99 US dollars, based on the smartphone/Apple alternative Android OS, the most interesting thing is that the downloadable games (no retail, so no physical copies for the shelves) will mostly be free of charge. It’s up to the developers how much of their games they want to give to the player. Like the free-to-play business model, microtransactions are the keyword, unlocking new levels or helping to progress faster in a game.
Of course this is very much like the current App-Store or Android-games situation: a lot of games for free or cheap, a wide selection of different genres and, what is maybe more intriguing, an open source for indie developers to experiment.
As the power of the console will still be a point of discussion (so is the price model), it will be interesting to see how far it can compete with other consoles. A lot of publishers, also big ones, have shown interest, even the streaming service OnLive seems to get on the band wagon. Again what will make or break the console is its variety of games. But unlike Nintendo and Sony, it will not rely on its usual suspects and genres, and unlike Apple it’s more open and easier to get into by small developers.
So the future doesn’t look that boring after all, and it’s pretty close with the release date of April 2013.