This has nothing to do with specs.
What makes Nintendo different from Microsoft and Sony is that Nintendo is a gaming company. Nintendo designs everything for gaming. It is no surprise that the Xbox and Xbox 360 had so many hardware problems because Microsoft has little experience in hardware and consumer electronics. Sony designs their console hardware like retarded PCs because Sony makes PCs.
Historically, consoles were about bringing the arcade experience home. While it is impossible to get arcade quality hardware at a cheap price (Neo Geo was the best attempt at this which is why the hardware costed a fortune. Neo Geo was never intended to be a mass market console), it is possible to get ‘good enough’. The dedicated player could purchase an arcade quality controller and plug it in if they truly wanted the entire experience.
The hit software on consoles was quality ports of hit arcade games. Atari 2600 owes its life to the home port of Space Invaders and its death to the extremely poor port of Pac-Man. Street Fighter 2 helped the SNES but the better Mortal Kombat port (it had blood) helped the Genesis.
If the home consoles were ‘good enough’ for arcade quality, all was good.
The reason why classic consoles survive so well is because they were designed to be arcade-like. I still play high action games with my 15+ year old SNES controllers today. They still work!
Gamers who are used to the arcade tradition of consoles end up with a shock and disappointment when it comes to Microsoft and Sony hardware. The hardware is more like a PC and very generic. They don’t seem like real consoles.
One of the expectations of the Nintendo customer is that they expect Nintendo to deliver excellent hardware. By excellent, I don’t mean ‘better specs’ than the competition. They expect the controllers to feel right, to be comfortable, for the hardware not to catch fire or blow up, for the games to load fast, and to be a complete bullshit free experience. When I think of Nintendo, I associate Nintendo with classic console hardware. I expect Nintendo hardware to last the test of time.
Nintendo hardware has lately taken a drastic turn for the worse and is a chief element in driving away consumer interest into Nintendo platforms. The 3DS is very uncomfortable, the D-pad was moved (why? Probably because Miyamoto declared ‘now is the time for 3d!’), and it is easy for the hinges to break. The 3DS doesn’t even close right and the smaller bottom screen can leave markings on the larger top screen. The 3DS sleep mode is terrible compared to the DS or even the Vita. With the Wii U, there are so many problems with the Gamepad. Namely, the battery is poor on the Gamepad. The screen on the Gamepad looks like trash compared to the modern smartphone or tablet. The Gamepad, itself, is a giant ass controller which is scaring people away left and right. Nintendo made the Wii-mote because they found the Gamecube controller was scaring people away. So why make a controller that is scarier than the Gamecube controller?
The hardware experience extends to the account system (Nintendo has none which makes for a shitty experience) and packaging of games. Iwata changed the packaging of handheld games from the cardboard box of the GBA to a more of a small DVD case with the DS because older people aren’t going to buy cardboard boxes. Is game packaging getting better or getting worse? It keeps getting worse.
While I disliked the packaging for Wii games, I loved the Wii hardware and controllers. I loved the DS (original DS was like a tank, DS Lite was more flimsy but had nicer screen, never bothered with the DSi) but especially loved the DS game packaging. I loved the original Gameboy, and its game packaging (they were cartridges that came in plastic cases!).
While the NES games came in cardboard boxes, the cartridges were cool. (Zelda games came in solid gold!) I love the controllers and how rock solid they were (anyone who owned a NES will attest to throwing their controller against the wall multiple times due to the sheer difficulty of some of the NES games). The NES style is still awesome.
While the SNES style sucked, the game cartridges were still cool. The SNES controller was extremely well done.
The Wii style was VERY well done.
Above: So good!
Prior to the Wii’s release, Nintendo used to talk much about the consumer experience. Nintendo doesn’t do that anymore.
The reason why the hardware experience matters is that there has never been a killer app that can sell bad consumer-experience hardware. There ARE no examples of this occurring. Space Invaders sold Atari 2600s because the Atari 2600 wasn’t offensive. Pokemon sold Gameboys because the Gameboy hardware was not offensive. DS hardware was not offensive to old people buying Brain Age or girls buying Nintendogs. Wii hardware was not offensive to anyone.
The 3DS and Wii U hardware are very offensive. The 3DS isn’t comfortable to hold, has ‘omg 3d’ (which very few people want), and the battery isn’t that great. Everything about the Wii U design screams ‘we rejected this to make the Wii’. The Wii U console looks so completely uninteresting that it is easy to miss its presence entirely. The Gamepad is scary looking and looks like a controller for retarded people. The battery and screen on the Gamepad are terrible compared to… everything. Even when compared to itself for the job of gaming it is not good.
I would prefer the next iteration of Nintendo hardware to focus on delivering a good consumer experience and stop doing tricks the consumer doesn’t want it to do. I want good battery, good screens, and good controls. I want the hardware to actually fit my hand. I can’t change my hand, Nintendo! I cannot make my American hand into a Japanese hand! Why are the buttons designed to be so tiny? Compare your NES or SNES or Gameboy buttons to the buttons on today’s Nintendo hardware. What the hell? They are so tiny! If Nintendo wants to have region locking, they should then not require me to buy game hardware designed for the Japanese. The games don’t come in Japanese language, so why does the hardware come in Japanese design? Nintendo should consider a Western design for the hardware then they can go fruity for the Japanese design. This worked well with the NES.
One group of people you don’t hear much from are collectors. Even they don’t care about the 8th Gen hardware. The reason why, I suspect, is because Nintendo’s 8th Gen hardware is so shitty that they aren’t too excited about collecting it. They are collecting it only out of a sense of duty to game collecting.
3DS was released in 2010 so that means the successor should launch around 2016. A prototype should be done and might be showed off by 2015. Now is the time when Nintendo is really designing their handheld. I want it to be comfortable to hold and to stop sucking. Less bullshit on it. Get rid of the 3d wacko-ness. I think it is time to get rid of the dual screens especially with how dated it looks with smartphones and tablets with their large (and each year growing larger) screens.
I also think it is time to retire the DS and Wii brands. In many industries, a well known brand is an asset. In game consoles, a well known brand is a liability. How is Microsoft’s ‘xbox’ brand helping the console? It isn’t helping it. Did the PlayStation brand help the PS3 and PSP? Nope. Did the ‘Nintendo’ brand help the SNES? No. If you look at the big hits with the consoles, they have all come from new brands. Atari 2600 performed well even though Atari wasn’t that big of a brand yet. NES sold very well despite the brand Nintendo being completely unknown. Genesis performed well despite the unfamiliarity of the Sega brand. PlayStation 1 performed well without brand recognition. Gameboy performed well. The DS and Wii both performed extremely well despite the DS dumping the Gameboy branding.
New brand for the console please. I think gamers like a new brand because it gives the perception that the console will go somewhere we haven’t seen before.