My Thoughts on the Wii-U (Pre-E3)
When I first saw the Wii-U at Nintendo's Press Event last year at E3, I was pretty amazed. The controler looked cool to me, and the possibilities seemed endless. The way that action can seemlessly transfer from the controller to the screen was something that I hadn't seen before. Not to mention, the whole idea of having a DS-like experience on your TV is great. A Touch screen for item management, maps, and alternate views would make the gaming experience much easier. Not to mention things were being discussed that I hadn't thought of before. Imagine playing a driving game, and while driving, an accident happens to you left, and instead of turning on the main screen, you look to your left with the controller. You can pretty much see things that arn't on screen. Its an exciting feature in my opinion. The promise of a new Smash Brothers that would be compatable with a handheld version for the 3DS made my insides warm and fuzzy. And then there was the Zelda HD concept demo *squeals*
Despite all of the great sounding possibilities, many were not as sold as I. There were tons of varaibles that weren't and still haven't been confirmed. What are the specs? What is the price? What is the online going to be like? What kind of support can we expect? How many controllers can work with the console? (And to some) What does the console even look like? All valid questions, and reasons to be skeptical about the console. A lot of people didn't know if the controller would be comfortable or not. A lot of people flat out think that the controller looks stupid, and even that the ideas behind it are stupid. I surprisingly found myself part of a minority, rather than the majority. The harsh reality of the situation makes me think that Nintendo's future might be a lot bleaker than I initially thought.
When I got my hands on the controller for the first time, my mind was somewhat put at ease. Why? Well the controller was surprisingly comfortable. With the exception of the placement of the shoulder bumpers and the choice of Circle Pads instead of Analog Sticks, I thought the controller was a good fit. The demos that I tried were all interesting demonstrations of the controllers technology, while most were, I admit, gimmicky. I also feared how the controller would fair with a dual analog shooter, and that fear was put to rest when I tried the Ghost Recon Online demo, which played well, and made good use of the controllers functions (like the remote controlled helicoper, that you control with the Wii-U controller). Overall, I came out of my demo time a pretty happy camper, looking forward to the future ahead.
The problem here, and a possible huge problem for Nintendo lies in the doubt that everyone shares when laying eyes on the Controller and the system. Most gamers have been burned by the Wii and the Gamecube so their patience with Nintendo is quite thin. Not to mention, it's yet another console that will rely on a spectacle rather than specs and software. Nintendo claims to have a surprising list of games upcomming for their new console, but until we learn their launch listing, we cannot be certian. A lot of their launch titles are games that have been out for months, like Ninja Gaiden 3 and Batman: Arkham City. Others look like quick rehashes, like New Super Mario Bros. Mii. Unless there is some killer app that we are all unaware of (which i'll be discussing in my next blog) Nintendo is going to have a tough time competeing with the competition. Both the 360 and PS3 are already well established consoles, with pretty big install bases that use them on a pretty frequent basis. Not to mention time has made it so they both are affordable machines and have huge sofware librarys full of amazing games.
Survey's are already showing that (at least amongst the gaming population) that more people are looking forward to hearing about the PS4 and Xbox 720 than the Wii-U. Heck, people are saying that they aren't even willing to spend $350 for the new console, a price that I predict to be the launch price for the console. Nintendo's main hope will be the casuals, which presents its own problem. The casuals could barely tell a DSi from a 3DS when that launched and even now I have customers asking if they can buy a 3DS game for their child's DS or if there is an attatchment they need for the DS to make 3DS games work for it. They don't understand that the 3DS is the next generation of handheld, which is part of the reason for its slow start. Wii-U, having such a similar name to the Wii is likely to share the same fate (unless the rumored name change takes place this year). In general, the system will be a tough sell to most consumers.
I personally am going to do everything in my power to get one on launch day, heck I'll probably camp out just like I did for the Wii back in 2007. Thing is, I'm an avid lover of Nintendo franchises and will blindly buy their consoles in hopes of games like Metroid, Zelda and Super Smash Brothers. While thats enough for me, its not quite enough for everyone else. Some want basic, or standardized controls and not the Wii-U tablet, Wii Remote, Nunchuck, and Classic Controller that the Wii- U will be compatale with. Some want amazing, graphics. Some want an Xbox live (or at least PSN) -like online experience. Some just want quality games and not shovelware meant for the casual audience. While all of these are possible on the Wii-U, Nintendo is going to have to work hard this E3 to prove it can be done. Show that there can be a game where you have the option to play with the Wii-Remote if you choose, but also have the option to play with the Wii-U tablet or even the Classic controller if you want. Give gamers options, so that they wont be forced into using a "gimmick", no matter how well it may be implemented. For example while I feel Skyward Sword made a great use of the motion plus controls, many were bothered and would much rather a standard pad. Nintendo has to respect that opinion if they want to succeed with a broader audience of gamers. Thats only one of many variables that needs to be considered of course.
I write this in particular because I love Nintendo's games, and their ideas behind their machines. Games like Pokemon and Metroid changed my perspective on gaming as a whole. Games like Smash Brothers showed me a new way to compete. Systems like the DS and even the Wii showed brand new possibilities when it comes to gaming. I hope Nintendo can bring it this E3 and show everyone why they are still in this race. Hopefully fans will have their ears open to hear what they have to say, but If Nintendo slips up I feel they may not be in the race for much longer. Only time will tell...