Nintendo Trying to Win Back Core Gamers, or Another One of Robert’s Infamous Rants

Excuse me while I play Devil’s Advocate here for a moment (everyone knows I am a huge Nintendo fan, so what I am about to write may surprise you).

*Ahem!* The argument Wii fans seem to trot out most often is this: “The Wii sold the most units, therefore, it is the best games console.” That simply isn’t the case. The Wii is a gadget that lots of people wanted. That’s wonderful, but that doesn’t make it a good GAMES console (doesn’t preclude it from being a good one, just doesn’t mean it IS one).

Nintendo may well realize that a lot of what drove Wii sales was novelty and gimmick factor. That is wonderful — money in the bank. However, that kind of thing doesn’t sustain, as ‘novelty’ implies. They may well be watching sales figures, particularly software sales which is where the big money is, and saying, “Hmmm, we need something that attracts more ‘traditional gamers,’ as the Wii’s charm is wearing off…”

If you have a successful novelty item, the worst thing you can do is to rest on that and say, “This is what we’ll sell forever.” As the term ‘novelty’ implies, it wears off.

What was the Wii’s biggest problem in succeeding in the “core” market? Some might say it was the motion controller. That was boss Satoru Iwata’s response when asked by a shareholder whether the hardcore will accept Nintendo’s next home console, the Wii U.

"Wii was not accepted by core gamers because they did not want to abandon their preferred control approach," he said, as reported by Andriasang.

I will tell you that the Wii’s big problem wasn’t the motion controller in and of itself. It was all those gimmicky games that came along with it! I’ve seen very few solid titles for the Wii. Most of them are silly gimmicks that are designed around messing with the motion controller as much as possible, and in every possible way they could get you to screw around with it. It also got in the way of some of, what should have been, good titles. They focus on doing silly things with the controller (or other peripheral) that makes it harder to play the game than it needs to be, like mapping ‘Jump’ to a shaking motion instead of a simple button press for example.

A good example of gimmicks ruining the Wii in the eyes of the core consumer is, looking at the top selling Wii games, exclude the sports game that came with the Wii (since people didn’t really buy those, they got them as an included deal) and what are your top games? “Mario Kart” and “Wii Fit.” Mario Kart is a legit good game, though it is a rehash of stuff already done, but the Wii Fit? Pure gimmick. And it sold over 23 million copies.

Now before you try to argue, consider this: The Wii Fit is an exercise machine. That is its only function. Also please realize that video games don’t magically change someone’s personality or actions. Now go look up exercise machine stats. You discover they are very, VERY under-used. People buy them, thinking it’ll motivate them to become thin, and then set them aside since the machines do not bring motivation. Same deal with the Wii fit. A girl I know has a Wii Fit, a treadmill, an elliptical, and a stair master, NONE of which get used, despite her wish to lose weight. Motivation is the problem, not access to technology.

Continuing on the Wii’s list, you see the next top games are ALL “Mario” titles.

There’s no arguing it — the Wii badly suffered from having crappy, gimmicky, games (i.e. “Shovelware”). That caused people who are actually into games (the “core gamer” audience) to not be so interested in the Wii anymore. It wasn’t because they said, “Man, I hate this motion controller,” it was because they couldn’t find many titles that they actually wanted to play!

In my observation, Wiis are mostly like board games: People get them, mess around with them a little, get bored, set them aside only to occasionally pull them out at parties.

I know a lot of people who own Nintendo Wii’s (heck, I own one myself). I know exceedingly few that actually game on them regularly. Those that game regularly almost always own another console (an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3) or a computer, and game on them most of the time.

I suppose that’s what Nintendo is trying to rectify with the Wii U. It’s said to be even more powerful (even if it’s just slightly) than the current generation’s consoles (which it better, as if it wasn’t more powerful than what is now over six year old technology, that would be a good cause for alarm, don’t you think?)

But then they came forward with, “Oh, we don’t care about the internet too much,” or whatever it was they said (you can look up the interviews on your own time), and it sounds like they’re being half assed on that too.

And that statement right there shows just how serious Nintendo is about getting the “Core Gamers” back, which is to say, not at all. (I think Operation Rainfall has shown all too well what Nintendo thinks of its core fanbase).

A couple generations back with the PS2 and Xbox1 was the time when not caring about the internet was actually moderately acceptable. Things didn’t really work too well, and the PS2 required special additional hardware. Add that to the fact there was only a handful of games actually worth playing online on either console, it wasn’t a platform killer to not focus on it. In fact, I think the Gamecube actually did have some kind of network adapter, but for the one or two games that used it… yeah, not a big deal.

Now look at Xbox 360 and PS3, where network play has been a much larger focus — in fact, probably the biggest focus. I’d say that overall, Microsoft actually has the best online offering at this point, despite the premium fee to actually use it for anything. Although I have used PSN quite a bit and it seems functional enough (recent hacking trouble aside anyway). In fact, Sony probably should have at least provided some kind of low quality headset right with the system like Microsoft does, although there is the benefit of using pretty much any BlueTooth headset on their system.

Anyway, without Nintendo providing some kind of significant core networking services which 3rd party developers can easily jump on, they are effectively shooting themselves in the foot yet again. Even if the Wii U can stand toe-to-toe with the other consoles on graphics or on control, it will still be the least desirable port of the title to core gamers if the multi-player doesn’t hold its own. No matter how much Nintendo tries to be unique or innovative in other areas, failing to provide some basic services like fully featured, account-based multi-player with voice communication and a messaging system, puts it firmly back in place as the 3rd developer’s most shunned platform.

Only time will tell, of course. It all comes down to the gamers on whether the Wii U will succeed in the core market. Personally, how I see it is, unless they offer some online features that Microsoft and Sony currently don’t offer, I don’t see the hardcore crowd abandoning their current platform of choice for the Wii U.

Among gamers, the reaction to the Wii was intense hype, followed by severe disappointment. Right now, gamers are skeptical of Wii U (as am I). They were already burned this generation, and they don’t want it to happen again. You know, the “Fool me once; fool me twice” kind of deal. We could still be surprised by the Wii U, who knows? But we’d have to see better games than we saw on the Wii, or than we’re currently seeing on the Nintendo 3DS (we’re still waiting for their good collection of games to start filling up on that one).

The ball is in your court now, Nintendo. Don’t drop it. Surprise us.

[Edit: One Hour After Original Post] — The Following article was just published on IGN. Instead of making another post here on shortly after this one, I figured I’d just append it to my rant. This just reinforces everything I’ve been feeling lately about Nintendo: