Nintendo is rushing full-speed towards a Gamecube disaster
History will soon forget the reality behind the Wii's purpose and its market success. To some, it was just a casual machine, aimed at casual grandmas. To others, it was a decent Nintendo console that was held back by its outdated hardware. To others like myself, the Wii was a great system ultimately held back by Nintendo's own unwillingness to go the extra step with the hardware's capabilities.
Regardless, the Wii was/is a stunning success, all the more stunning because of how much more successful it was compared to its predecessor, the Gamecube. However, with the WiiU, Nintendo seems to be abandoning the ideas that made the Wii in favor of the failure-prone ideas that created the Gamecube.
Back in 2005, Nintendo's Iwata said that "the game has changed, and the way the game is played has to be changed". He was referring, of course, to Nintendo's upcoming console, dubbed the Revolution. At the time, Nintendo had been elbowed out of the console-market limelight by Sony for two generations in a row. Additionally, a new upstart called the Xbox had also managed to defeat Nintendo's purple lunchbox. Nintendo's console division NEEDED something fresh, something new, something that would put Nintendo back on the map. Keep in mind that the DS was already a blossoming success by the time the Wii launched.
So, we were given the Wii. After it hit store shelves, everyone wanted one. It was sold out for several years in a row. The "hardcore" just sort of pointed their fingers and mocked, but that little white VHS tape continued to sell like gangbusters. As the years went on, Nintendo tried to attract the "hardcore" with games like MadWorld, No More Heroes, Metroid Prime 3, and so forth, but the overall lack of AAA, 3rd-party support stuck out like a sore thumb.
And yet, the Wii still sold. A lot of this had to do with Nintendo's philosophy on game design at the time: make a game that everyone can enjoy. Some called it "casualizing". Nintendo called it "leveling the playing field". Nintendo wanted to make games for everyone.
And this idea worked.
Of the Top 10 Selling Games of the Wii/360/PS3 generation, the Wii is home to more than half of them. Certainly, Nintendo was on to something with the Wii.
But when the WiiU was announced, I was a bit confused. Nintendo began talking about "going after the hardcore". They began talking about complicated controller setups (the tablet), integrated Miiverse functionality, and so forth, stuff that never really helped the Wii at all. As more and more game announcements began to trickle out, I was even more confused. Why is Nintendo focusing on these sort of games? Where's the Wii Sports equivalent (no, Nintendo Land is not nor will it ever be like a Wii Sports to the general public)? Why does Super Mario Bros U (formerly SMB Mii) look like it was phoned in by the B-team? Okay, Zelda, that looks cool.
When I saw Nintendo's most recent Nintendo Direct conference, my confusion turned into disappointment. Wind Waker HD? Another 3D Mario? Yoshi's Yarn-ball? And wow, the realistic-looking Zelda demo we saw when the WiiU was announced has been exchanged for a cel-shaded Zelda? What is going on here?
I think Nintendo has lost sight of what made them a huge success in the Wii generation. They are focusing on games that made the Gamecube fail. Let me repeat that: they are focusing on games that made the Gamecube fail. I don't care how rose-tinted your nostalgia goggles are. The Gamecube was a failure for Nintendo. It sold horribly. It butchered franchises like Star Fox and 3D Mario (Mario Sunshine? Blech). It is not the sort of system that I want Nintendo to make, and based on its barely-20-million-lifetime-sal es numbers, it is clear that not a lot of other people want a Gamecube-style Nintendo console, either.
So, why is Nintendo making Gamecube-style games again? Wind Waker HD should be a dead giveaway for Nintendo's intentions for the WiiU. So should Yoshi's Yarn-bomb. So should cel-shaded Zelda. I at least hope that Smash Bros and Mario Kart are good games on the WiiU, but I'm not sure it will be enough. Where's my 2D Mario? The market has obviously spoken. We like 2D Mario. Why can't Nintendo make more of it? SMBU is the only game really driving the WiiU hardware sales right now, anyway. Why not make more of it?
Before you say it, I already know what you're thinking: "duh! I'm glad Nintendo is trying to be more hardcore. It's about time!" Really? Is your memory so limited? The Gamecube was mocked and shunned by the "hardcore". And it had nothing but "hardcore" Nintendo games on it. There weren't any of those filthy "casual" minigame collections like Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and so forth. Where was your support then for the "hardcore" Gamecube? And, hey, if you hardcore gamers are SOOOO in love with what the WiiU is doing, why aren't you buying it? It seems to me that the "casual" Mario Bros players are the only ones buying a WiiU and buying games for it. Where are the hardcore gamers? Are you playing Black Ops II? What about ZombieU, Assassin's Creed III, Darksiders II, or Batman Arkham City? Are you buying a WiiU for these games? No? Oh, so where's your hardcore support NOW that Nintendo has made a system for you? That's what I thought...I say all that not to mock my fellow gamers, but to point out that Nintendo's focus on the sort of games the "hardcore" demand hasn't worked out for them in the past, and it isn't working for them now.
Nintendo's own reasoning behind their direction with the WiiU is perhaps a topic for another blog post, but I do not like where they are trying to take the WiiU. It will cause the WiiU to crash and burn. I would like the WiiU to be a success, but it won't be a success simply because it has "Wii" in the name. Nintendo needs to look at what made the Wii and DS (their two most successful platforms) a success instead of going back to the Gamecube-era of gaming.
1. Focus on games, not features (like Miiverse and TViiiiii)
2. Give your games a universal appeal. Yoshi Crayon, Celda, and Pikmin are not the sort of games that made the Wii a hit
3. Get your act together with the Virtual Console. Honestly. It's 2013, not 1998.