This is a piece I wrote in August 2011 over in the IGN Boards about the 3DS. I was surprised how current it still is today relative to the WiiU.
Rumor and Speculation
This week, some rumors hit about the possibility that Nintendo is preparing to announce a redesigned 3DS. According to 01Net, the system will not only undergo hardware alteration, such as adding a second analog pad, but will also be severely downplayed in the 3D department, even to the point of it being removed altogether… and have its name changed. Essentially, they’re launching a new handheld.
The rumor is absolutely insane, and it’s sort of a last straw for me when it comes to the onslaught of crap stories based on absolutely nothing. Can all of us in the gaming community just chill out for a minute and take a deep breath?
Ever heard the expression “a stopped clock is right twice a day?’ That’s essentially what the gaming rumor mill is. Of course Nintendo is working on a re-design! They’re always working on stuff like this. Heck, they’re R&D department is probably working out ideas for the WiiU2.
But to spew nonsense like Nintendo announcing a redesign just weeks after making a huge public apology to their loyal customers, essentially repeating that same cycle with all those who have just purchased the 3DS, is absolutely ridiculous. On top of that, to say they’re going to essentially remove 3D and change the name. Come on. Really?
Those who are criticizing the 3D element of 3DS’ features, as if it has had a role in the 3DS’ rocky launch, just haven’t really spent any time with the system. The 3D has never been the issue here. Its awesome, adds to the gameplay, and makes the experience more immersive. I would be severely upset to not have it supported by developers in the future, as I think a lot of 3DS owners would be. In fact, one of the things I’m most excited about is seeing more of my favorite franchises rendered in 3D. And if you say its not for you, that you don’t like it, then turn it off.
I believe that constant rumor and speculation is actually destroying the things that we love. We live in a “now” culture, where we feel entitled to know everything immediately. It’s ruining our ability to enjoy things like we used to. Remember when we used to be surprised by what Nintendo, Sega, or Sony revealed to us? It was like the gaming gods would come down out of nowhere and bestow us with goodies for us to play. Now, we know everything that’s going on months, sometimes years out, we pick it apart, criticize it, and discard it before we’ve ever experienced it. Its old hat by the time it hits store shelves. I hate it, and I think its having a negative effect on the companies we rely on to be creative and innovative.
My evidence is the 3DS itself. I was not an early adopter because of the price-point. I just couldn’t scrape up the cash for one. Having never really had time with the system, my impression became increasingly negative toward the handheld because of its poor reception and all of the criticism I was hearing. Purchasing one became a less exciting prospect. I knew I would eventually still pick-one up, but its like all the fun being squeezed out of it.
Then came the price drop. I picked one up, started messing around with it, played a little OoT 3D, and fell in love with this thing! It an amazing piece of hardware, and I hope people start realizing it sooner than later. Yes, there is still a lack of games. Its the major, major error that Nintendo made in this whole ordeal. But they are coming, and Nintendo is working hard to correct the mistakes they made. I think the 3DS has a bright future.
I guess all I’m asking is that we do ourselves a favor and stop trying to constantly predict the failure or success of this or that product, game, or company, and all of the random guess-work that goes along with it. Lets stop trying to get the jump on everyone else predicting every possible action they might take along the way. In the end its irrelevant, but also damaging. There seems to be this underlying desire in a lot of people to see Nintendo call it quits. Its completely irrational, and I don’t even think they’d be able to explain it to themselves if they tried. Success for one company doesn’t necessarily mean failure for another. Nintendo can do well right alongside Sony and Microsoft, and we’re all better for it.
As an update, the 3DS became the top selling console in 2013. The funny thing is they did end up releasing a 3D-less 3DS called the 2DS late in 2013, almost a full two years after these rumors. Either there was a kernel of truth to it, or they just got lucky on that particular guess. I’m inclined to think the latter because of incorrect assumptions about other things, like the addition of a second analog pad, as well as the fact that the 2DS was not a response to poor sales, which was the environment these 2011 rumors existed in. Who knows. Regardless, the point of this piece was more to discuss the echo chamber of criticism that exits in gaming today.
Last week Nintendo announced they are drastically lowering sales projections for WiiU for the fiscal year, ending March 31, 2014. What followed was a firestorm of news articles about WiiU’s tumultuous first year on the market, it’s failure to resonate with mass consumers like it’s older brother Wii did, and what Nintendo needs to do to repent of its sins against gaming. At least that’s the vibe I’ve been getting. Journalists and industry analysts have been tripping over themselves to offer sage wisdom to a Japanese toy company that has been making games longer than most of them have been alive. They exploded out of the gate like a pack of race horses at the Kentucky Derby. Yet the despite all their vigor, the debate was stale and well-trodden; Nintendo needs more third-party support. Their system is underpowered. They need to appeal more to core gamers. Scratch that, they need to appeal more to casual gamers. They need to stop making hardware and just make games for Sony and Microsoft (sigh…that one is so dumb it’s hard to write). Mario needs to be on the iPhone. They’re losing kids to Angry Birds…Mario needs to be in Angry Birds! Nintendo needs to kill the WiiU fast and bring out something that can easily port next-gen titles. Two years ago they needed to stop making dedicated handhelds because they couldn’t compete with iPhone. Now, after the massive success of the 3DS, handhelds should be all they do. Finally, and only if they do all the above, they need to apologize to all of us for not being Sony or Microsoft.
Pardon my rant, but I’m starting to think that gamers may not be smart people. If we were, it would reason that at least a majority of our ideas would take into consideration the long term implications of these shotgun fixes. I don’t want to talk about any of those dumb ideas though. I do want to focus on one suggestion that keeps popping up, which on the surface seems like a decent option for Nintendo to consider. Of all the criticism that has been leveled at Nintendo during the past year regarding the WiiU, most begin to coalesce around a particular element. The WiiU GamePad.
This is One Divisive Piece of Tech
I’ve heard some of the more level-headed commentators putting forward the notion that dropping the GamePad would be a positive, allowing Nintendo to sell their system at a lower cost. After all, no one really “gets it” anyway, and it’s not essential. The GamePad would cut about $100 of the price tag, and a lot of games can use other control methods. If for a split second you read that and thought that it seems like a reasonable idea, I don’t blame you. But think about it for two more seconds. I’ll wait…Ok. It’s a flippin’ terrible idea! Simply put, anyone who would suggest it hasn’t brought one home and experienced it, or they just don’t care about the WiiU in the first place.
For me and my house, the Gamepad is the WiiU. Nintendo has done something truly awesome with the GamePad, and sadly, it’s not a revolution you can easily share with others, even in advertising. It’s not the asymmetrical gameplay championed in games like NintendoLand, or the second screen touch gameplay making it much like a living room Nintendo DS (Hint: That’s what Nintendo is going for here). No, it’s the entirely personal experience of off-screen, GamePad-only gameplay that makes this system truly glorious. To illustrate, if I estimate the time I’ve spent playing WiiU, I would wager at least half of that has been spent with my TV turned off. And before you start saying that you wouldn’t need this feature as much because you don’t have kids vying for the TV, let me tell you that I don’t have kids either, and I have a very understanding wife that would let me use the TV if I wanted to. That’s the point. Most of the time I prefer sitting in my reading chair a good 20ft from my TV, headphones in, playing my games in my own bubble. The WiiU Gamepad allows me to do that. It’s like having a home console and a handheld in one device. It’s this experience that gave me my first “Aha moment” with the WiiU. The challenge that Nintendo has with this system is an age old problem. You have to know to understand. If you don’t own one, you don’t know, and I can see how it would seem reasonable for you to suggest that Nintendo drop the GamePad. I was like you once.
Personal feelings and experience aside, there’s a very practical and obvious reason why dropping the GamePad would be a terrible move by Nintendo. Not only would it be a huge middle finger to those developers and publishers who have gone out on a limb to create games utilizing the functionality of the Gamepad, people like Hideki Kamiya of Platinum Games, who created the stellar title Wonderful 101 and the upcoming Bayonetta 2 for WiiU, it would also be stripping the system of the one element that separates it from the other consoles and creates unique game experiences unavailable anywhere else. Remove a Zebra’s stripes and all your left with is an ugly horse. Love it or hate it, the WiiU is the GamePad, and the GamePad is the WiiU.
What can Nintendo do to improve sales? I don’t know. I’ll leave that to the company that’s been beating odds since 1889 and survived more than one rocky console launch. My only hope is that more people will give this console a chance to win them over.
Though it’s library of games is still on the rise, the WiiU has already proven that great game experiences are where it’s at, and Wonderful 101 is another example of Why WiiU has quickly become one of my favorite consoles. As I stated on twitter:
You play as a team of 101 heroes (yourself included) who are fighting to defend a cartoonish future earth from alien invasion. Your heroes unite to form a variety of unique special abilities, like a giant fist, sword, gun, whip, etc. The game is frantically fast paced and full of humor and creative battles. It can be challenging and more than a little frustrating on higher difficulty levels, but dial back the difficulty and it’s a joyful ride. If you find yourself bemoaning the lack of creative original games these days, you shouldn’t miss out on Wonderful 101.
If you like games designed from the ground up to make you happy, then buy a Wii U and play this game. It’s about a group of cute alien astronauts who are on a deep space mission to collect fruit. After crash landing on an alien world, they find that the only way to get home is from the help of strange little creatures called Pikmin, who are more than willing to lend a hand. Beautiful, heartwarming, puzzle-solving fun.
It was stunning. Up the side of the mountain it rose, straight, unending steel like a bright star cuddling an enormous misshapen thing, adding to the notion that this was far from an alien space plane. No, this was something all too native american, without even a hint of human craftsmanship too hold its footing in this reality. How it came to be in this place, resting unmolested for more than eight full days after the invasion of Thit, was what we are here to investigate. My men are scared about it. I have to admit, the thing makes me pretty scared too. I have lost two biologists on the journey here, and four more men have been complaining. It’s enough to make me question why I agreed to this mission in the first place. Perhaps it was my desire to know what’s beyond the boundaries of our understanding, or perhaps it is to find my wife. Whichever the reason, there is no turning back now, because something just came out of it.
An excerpt from the often published Thit Saga War Trilogies written by Jarbird