We've been dealing with the Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3 for far too long now. Seriously. About 7 years in and save for a few games (I'm looking at you Last of Us and Halo 4), the current generation of consoles haven't been able to facilitate games that are interesting anymore.
We've come to a point where, for the most part, creativity has run dry. At least once a month, we get a first person shooter with a level based, experience points driven multiplayer progression system. Companies are afraid to release new IPs, sticking to what works and squeezing as much as they can out of their existing properties. Introducing let-generation motion controlling devices with the aim to enhance the longevity of their consoles, only to be extremely lacklustre. We've come to a point where Sony and Microsoft need to, and are in the midst of, working on the 'Next Generation' of consoles. And it took longer than usual for them. 7 years isn't that bad.
Unfortunately, in my eyes, Nintendo dropped off the game way earlier than that.
The Wii had a lot of promise. A crazy new way to play games was its promise and people were skeptical. Fortunately for Nintendo, Wii Sports, what became the Wii's flagship title, was such a phenomenon that the Wii sold gangbusters. Even today, I look at the Wii and what it had at launch and I'm surprised it managed to survive past that. But they got through it and slowly we got the games that we wanted.
Super Mario Galaxy. A New Mario. Check. Super Smash Bros Brawl. Check. Metroid Prime 3. Check.
But even then, I felt no compulsion to get a Wii because it just wan't very exciting. Out of the gate, it was failing to live up to its potential. Red Steel was a wash, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess really failed to impress much and besides the swarm of party games and casual games, the Wii, I felt, never really spoke to me.
Good for Nintendo, I suppose. Their console, seen to be the most casual out of the Big 3, proved to be very successful for the company. I was happy for Nintendo, even if they weren't making me happy. And then E3 2010 happened.
Oh man. Donkey Kong! Kirby! Mario Sports Mix! Goldeneye! Epic Mickey! Zelda!
Suddenly, it all clicked. Nintendo was exciting me and there were enough amazing games in the back catalog that it now made sense to me to get a Wii and delve into all those games. Suddenly, it seemed like Nintendo was back! They knew who their audience was, knew what their audience wanted! And they were coming back with a vengeance! I played those games, I had a great time. I was so, so satisfied. It could only go up from there, right?
About a month and a half before E3 2011, we started hearing rumours about "Project Cafe", Nintendo's next console.
Wait, what? Next gen? The next step in the evolution of gaming. A Gamecube to Wii like leap? Damn straight, I was excited.
E3 2011 comes by and the Wii U is revealed. Not the name I would have chosen, but sure. Still very early and all they showed were tech demos. But the promise of the tablet controller and the second screen was exciting. And god damn, the graphics on that Legend of Zelda demo... that truly was next gen. The gameplay possibilities, the "next generation" graphics and the promise they made at E3 2011 that the Wii U will mark the return of Nintendo's appeal to the 'hardcore' gamer: It all sounded great and I was ready to jump onboard the Nintendo train. E3 2012 would be amazing. The Wii U will signal the start of a glorious new generation of console gaming.
Aaaaand E3 2012. Watching the press conference at about 1am in the morning on a live stream, wrapped in my blanket, I didn't exactly know what was going on. Pikmin 3 was a good start. Another New Super Mario Bros? Its getting a bit old but okay sure, I like Mario. Rayman Legends? Sweet!
But nothing else. No price. No release date. No clear indication of what else the console had in store. No real exciting game announcements. All I was left with was Nintendoland and an overly long, heavily armoured out version of a game that I had played and finished a year ago that actually looked worse than it did then. Graphically, there was nothing "next generational" about it. Power wise, the reports were saying that it was similar to the Xbox 360 and PS3. And again, at the biggest gaming event of the year, Nintendo had no games to show.
Fast forward to yesterday. Nintendo holds a conference for the Wii U. Price, release date, games blowout. This would be Nintendo's chance to show us that the Wii U would be worth giving a damn about.
I'm not sure how everyone else feels, but I am still unmoved.
1. The Price. $300 for the standard and $350 for the Deluxe? For a console that power wise is on par with what we have today? Where the bulk of the cost seems to come from the amazingly (expensive) priced Wii U gamepad (estimated $170 based on conversion from Yen). I'm not sure what Nintendo's strategy is here but they've felt what happens when you overprice before, with the Nintendo 3DS. Hell, they've even commented following that debacle saying that they've learnt a lesson about pricing that they will apply to the Wii U. Then, what happened? We live in a day and age where gaming is most popular on a tablets and smartphones, where people are expecting to pay less for their games. And here we have a relatively featureless game console with lacklustre power at a $300 price point? How is that attractive?
2. The games. Surprisingly enough, some of the announcements that came out of this were not too bad. Bayonetta 2 as a Wii U exclusive? Thats an amazing get! Black Ops 2 on the Wii U. Really smart and very interesting. Even Nintendoland was starting to look a bit more exciting with Metroid Blast.
And then Reggie comes on stage and says "Besides New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendoland, we can't confirm any other games for launch"
What? Here we are, mere months away from launch, and you don't know what games are coming out for launch. You can't tell? Instead you give us the expansive 'launch window', a 5 month window for 50 announced games to come out. Firstly, a launch window is the time immediately after launch, not something that spans for half a year. And secondly, how can you not know what games your platform is going to have in about 2 months? Surely, for your flagship console, you would be more concerned about getting games out on time, yes?
3. Features. Nintendo TVii (Amazingly ridiculous name, but thats besides the point) seems like a neat feature but that alone is not enough to carry your console. I mean look at Microsoft and Sony. They have the media partners now, they have a wide catalog of games and their online capabilities are outstanding. We still pretty much have no idea how online games operate on the Wii U besides the promise that there is online.
And, really, as I sit here typing this out, I just feel bummed out, just so very bummed out. Because the Wii U should be this big magnificent thing! Its Nintendo's new console! Its the first shot in the Next-Gen console arms race. And all we have is a weak console that runs on par with current-gen consoles, made by a company who, frankly speaking, doesn't really know what its doing. Sure its got some games, sure it has some media functionality. But... thats it?
Nintendo is playing catch up, and even then, its not doing a very good job. Microsoft and Sony figured online gaming out. They figured media services out. They figured out how to get new and exciting games out on their consoles. And they're doing it now. They've been doing it for the last couple of years. And Nintendo is still struggling to get there.
And even if in the next year, the Wii U manages to build up some momentum, we'd probably have seen Microsoft's Durango and Sony's Orbis by then. Pushing console gaming further. And the Wii U will be stuck in the same place the Wii was: Outdated, outmatched, with no one really wanting to make games on it other than Nintendo.
Its not that Wii that has failed to impress me. Its not the Wii U that has failed to impress me. Its Nintendo. And its not that I don't want to be impressed. I want to love the crap out of what Nintendo is doing. But, to me, it seems like Nintendo doesn't share the same sentiments and until they do, I might have to skip Nintendo's console for another generation.
But it doesn't matter, I guess. Wii U's come bundled with Monster Hunter in Japan. Which means, just like the Wii, the Wii U will sell very, very well. And if thats all Nintendo's after, then perhaps I don't have to be impressed. Because they don't seem to want to impress me, anyway.