My nephews surprised me by telling me how they cannot wait to see the Wii U. They were unaware of the new Mario game, but they liked the controller concept. How surprising.
The Wii U is very exciting to me but it is surrounded with fog.
“Why is it exciting?”
It has Super Mario Brothers 6. (OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG) A Nintendo console without 2d Mario is not a Nintendo console. Just by having a new 2d Mario game, the Wii U feels ‘right’ that it should come from Nintendo. I never got this feeling from the DS, 3DS, Gamecube, or N64 when they launched. (We all assumed 2d Mario would be appearing on the Wii anyway. Remember that NSMB DS launched in 2006 which blew up the American DS sales and likely translated that excitement to the Wii in great part. We all thought Nintendo was returning to its classic ways.)
The other reason I am excited is because of the Account System. Of course, much of this depends on how Nintendo does the E-Shop and the account system. Game websites and the Gaming Message Forums will completely miss why anyone would notice the account system or be excited by it. Don’t other consoles have the account system? Why is this any different?
This is Ultimate Backwards Compatibility. Remember that the Wii was the first Nintendo home console to offer backwards compatibility (with Gamecube games). The Gamecube, N64, and SNES offered no backwards compatibility. And yes, this was a big factor. Many people complained that you couldn’t play NES games on the SNES. If they have to buy a brand new console that couldn’t play their old games, why not try out that Genesis machine?
Backwards compatibility increases sales and every gamer loves it. Even our hardcore friends love backwards compatibility. As small as the Gamecube install base was, many of those customers were preserved and transitioned into the Wii. Did not the Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance and DS have backwards compatibility? Looked what happened there. (Not sure I’d count 3DS’s ‘backwards compatibility’ since it is so awful.)
Nintendo offers an advantage beyond any other console company. They can offer backwards compatibility to the 80s. Sony can only go so far to the 90s. And Microsoft has to rely on remakes of old PC games for Xbox Live. The idea of owning much of the NES, SNES, etc. libraries and having it always there on any Nintendo console you own is incredibly awesome.
“But will that sell the console?”
No. What it will do is create sticky customers. If Nintendo offers this perfect backwards compatibility, I will purchase every Nintendo console from here to the end of time. Why shouldn’t I? I can keep playing all my favorite games.
The reason why I, and so many other people, stopped buying Nintendo consoles is because it felt like Nintendo was declaring war on the games we wanted to play. If you were a fan of 2d Mario (which includes many people as that is the most popular video game ever made), you were out of luck after the SNES.
The SNES never felt like it was at war with the NES. It felt more like an evolution of it. The N64 felt very cold and hostile as did the Gamecube. Nintendo handhelds always felt like successors to the Gameboy, even the DS. The exception to this came with the 3DS where the 3DS felt like it was declaring war on everything we loved about handheld gaming. It felt like a hostile platform.
So no matter what oddities or warts future Nintendo consoles have, I will always be able to play Super Mario Brothers on each and every one of them. And that makes me feel very comfortable.
I don’t know about you, but my game collection gives me great comfort. It is like the games are your friends, and it is always nice to see them. It may be why gamers hold on to our games and keep them safe. When we do drag them out of the closet and play them again, it is always with great joy.
You know why I hate buying new game consoles? It is because I have to say goodbye to my gaming collection. My NES collection goes bye bye when the SNES comes out. My SNES collection goes bye bye when the N64 comes out. Backwards compatibility has fixed some of this, but it is only a temporary measure. Only with the account system does it truly solve this problem. The account system won’t lead to ‘omg Wii sales’, but it will remove much of the risk from the transition phase. And in the console game business, that is a Very Big Deal.
The reason why I love PC gaming is because I can still play all my old PC games. Yes, even the DOS ones. If I have a hankering to play Super Metroid or Link to the Past (because nothing like it has really been made in terms of being a comfort game), I can do so on the current game console instead of connecting my 1991 yellow stained game console to a TV that doesn’t offer connections to it anymore.
“But what about the fog?”
E3 2012 doesn’t reveal which way Nintendo is going as both SMB 6 and Pikmin 3 were known to be coming. Pikmin 3 had to be made due to Miyamoto’s big mouth. While it is no F-Zero or Pilotwings, it is not a bad encore game to launch with a system. It shows off the graphical beauty of the Wii U (which I wished SMB 6 did but alas).
Nintendo Land… sigh. The more I learn about Nintendo Land, the less I want to know about it. I perceive value from games to be from substance. No matter what Nintendo says in that these Nintendo Land games will have value, you cannot create enough value with a multi-game collection pack. It just cannot be done.
What type of single player experience will Nintendo Land offer? Shut up about the ‘asymmetric gameplay’ stuff already. Can I play these games in single player? Since the Internet offers Nintendo infinite broadcast time, why not show off these games more via the Internet? Just show people playing them. “But we would ruin the surprise if we did that.” No, you wouldn’t. Watching videos of people play the game is how most of us determine the value of the game. It is what got me to buy Minecraft for example.
Since Nintendo Land is the ‘launch game’ to show off the hardware features, it doesn’t tell us about Nintendo’s direction either. So we are left with fog. We are still left at a crossroads.
If Nintendo goes the correct path, the Wii U will be remembered as one of the best game consoles ever with SMB 6 and Pikmin 3 as just the start of the awesomeness (not unlike how Super Mario World and Pilotwings were). But if Nintendo goes the incorrect path (e.g. Aonuma Zelda, emphasis on 3d Mario, etc.), then the Wii U will be remembered as one of the worst game consoles ever with the decent start with SMB 6 and Pikmin 3 before the descent into mediocrity.
Which path will Nintendo choose?
And what is the E-shop going to be? What third party games will be offered on the E-shop? I am greatly interested in this as my interest in the PlayStation 3 goes so far as Dark Souls and PSN games and with the Xbox 360 as nothing but what is on Xbox Live Arcade. Some people are fine with every console game being large steaks which they take months to eat. But people like me want more soup. I like my console games being smaller and easier to get into. What games will the E-shop offer? And do we have to suffer the nonsense of staggered Virtual Console releases again?