Nintendo is not infallible. An obvious truth, it would seem at first, but a disturbing trend is emerging among certain industry professionals and Nintendo fans, a train of thought that places the Kyoto based company upon an untouchable pillar. The Wii is a runaway hit, it sells out as soon as new stock arrives, and it is the current game industry media darling. Wii Sports is becoming a pop culture icon, and once again non-gamers are coming out of their GTA stereotype induced fear and trying something new.
So what’s the problem?
The recent Game Developer’s Conference made me realize three things: Playstation Home is a very, very cool idea. Little Big Planet is more than a cool idea. And, Nintendo is disturbingly silent in the face of such opposition. Sure they were in a silent period but they could have at least given us something small. These are the types of innovations that Nintendo has been bragging about since the Wii was unveiled as the Revolution, and once again Sony is upstaging them. It’s no secret that Sony makes a habit of ripping off competing ideas and improving upon then, and there’s no real shame in it either—it’s been a legitimate business practice in capitalism since the beginning. Sony has gone to ludicrous speed in terms of PR nonsense, and they’ve gone plaid and overshot Nintendo by a week in the foolish boasting department. But they’re turning around, understanding their follies and repairing the bridges they damaged with their fans. Nintendo only continues to brag about its past accomplishments.
Nintendo doesn’t necessarily need to compete with Sony to succeed. Playstation Home looks to be a cleaner, more organized Second Life. I’m sure sooner than later it will fall prey to the same aristocratic caste system that plagues Linden’s attempted metaverse, and it’ll be interesting to see how Sony feigns fairness and equality in their virtual world. But Nintendo doesn’t need to build their own digital metropolis to stay afloat, they just need to maintain quality.
Nintendo continued to stress that they are not competing with Sony or Microsoft anymore, and gamers are finally coming to terms with that. The Wii is far and away different, the inexpensive “and”console that truly offers something gamers can’t get anywhere else. What Nintendo has to sustain, is that “different” aspect. They have to make sure that the Wii stays enticing and viable years down the road, so that the people who pick up a PS3 for Home, or a 360 for Live, will spend the extra cash on a Wii for the controller. And right now Nintendo is doing a piss poor job of that.
Nintendo speaks of simplicity as a way to reach the casual crowd, but where they indicate simplicity, I see laziness. They talk of uncluttered interfaces, of a console that is attractive to non-gamers. I see PR doubletalk and a company that is ignoring its core audience. In all honesty it’s a smart, proven business decision, to give as little as possible and get as much money for it as you can. The Wii is doing this beautifully right now and unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo is actually making a profit on every console sold and bringing in cash hand over fist.
But it can’t last. The novelty will fade, the public adoration will fade and consumers will realize that their shiny white box is filled with half-baked features and watered down ideas. It’s time for Nintendo to step up to plate and cut through on the PR smoke-blowing they’ve been doing for the past year. It’ll take time and a lot of money, but considering the Wii’s strong launch and the DS’s continued success, I’m sure Nintendo can spare a good amount of both. It’s time to go the extra mile. Nintendo has to make the Wii a quality, option rich product that stands on its own and uses its abilities to the fullest. Its various features must be capitalized on so that gamers and non gamers alike feel comfortable with them, but also feel that they’re getting their money’s worth.
You may recall an editorial I did last year about the Wii’s possible failure. Well, I’m back to gripe some more, to call out Nintendo on their inconsistencies, take them to task on their promises and offer some constructive (if surly) criticism. I’ve outlined below several areas that require drastic improvement.
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