A Step in the Right Direction

As we head into this year’s E3 conference, the rumors about Nintendo’s newest console are hitting a climax. Will it truly be HD? Is there going to be a Blu-Ray drive? Will it have GTA? Can we see Mario and Link in stunning visuals? The questions pile up and get more exciting but much of this could be new ground for Nintendo. Is the nostalgic-driven video game company “growing up” or just catching up?

This generation has been a crazy one. We have seen the meteoric rise of motion gaming. Millions of gamers are now connected through networks. Some of gaming’s greatest hits have released. Unparalleled technologies have propelled up far past the old days of 8-, 16-, and 32-bit sprites. Competitive gaming has soared thanks to digital numbers and tokens. The accomplishments, disappointments, and concerns of this generation of games have all boiled down to one of the most interesting “console wars” we have ever seen.

It is hard to deny that there was a clear cut winner in the race for hard-earned profit. Nintendo’s casual-friend and motion-toting Wii has dominated the console charts since its inaugural day. Selling over 86 million units worldwide, it is one of the most successful video game consoles ever made (the most successful still belonging to Sony’s PlayStation 2 which has sold over 150 million units). That is more than 30 million units more than both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, this generation’s offers from Microsoft and Sony. With all this hardware success, why is it hard to view the Wii as a contender?

The Wii may have taken the world by storm but how many of them stayed around for long after the first strike? Working close to games for the Wii’s entire lifetime, it certainly had many negatives against itself that were hard to ignore. When someone asked me, “I want an honest opinion of the Wii,” it was hard to find out where to begin. The console has perhaps one of the best first party line-ups in gaming history. With heavy hitters like the Super Mario Galaxy series, The Legends of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Metroid: Other M, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and many others, how hard could it be to pick out a great selection of titles to play? Well, as time has shown, it is pretty hard to do. Surfing past the first party titles on the shelves, you will find yourself in a sea of abysmal to so-so to slightly above average third party offerings. Shovelware titles found a home on the Wii with cheap develop and publishing costs. These titles littered the video game shelves on the Wii and in some cases even turned away potential buyers.

When you stepped away from Nintendo-made games, there was seemingly a dip in the performance of the motion controls. While development for the Wii is fairly easy, Nintendo reigned king in how they used the Wii Remote, Nunchuk, and other accessories in their games. While there still are some choice third-party titles on the Wii, such as Madworld, Zak & Wiki, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, No More Heroes, Red Steel 2, and some others, the overall choice of Wii games that leave a lasting impression on a gamer are few and far between. Every generation of gaming had seen games that were deemed to be “important releases” and have stuck with gamers through the years. The Nintendo had Mario, the Genesis had Sonic, the PS1 had Final Fantasy 7-9, the PS2 had GTA, and even this generation is seeings its share of great titles. That list, however, doesn’t mention the Wii much after Super Mario Galaxy. Among titles like Metal Gear Solid 4, BioShock, Dead Space, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, and Mass Effect, the Wii lagged behind.

I have seen many people abandon their Wiis after years of promises of more core games come and go, the motion controls get boring after awhile, droughts of triple A and even double A games, and so forth. This isn’t just a problem seen with core gamers, either. Plenty of families have left their Wiis in favor of another console. As I have said a couple times in this article already, this generation has been crazy. The most successful console has been the most scrutinized. How will Nintendo fix these problems and still maintain the lead? Well, if the current set of rumors prove to be true, I foresee no issues holding NIntendo back once again.

The rumors of a normal controller with a (particularly) big touch screen sitting in the middle of it being the main form of control this time around is a welcome surprise. Nintendo took a big risk going full motion with the Wii. Even though the Classic Controller, GameCube Controller, and a sideways Wii Remote could sometimes be used in games it wasn’t a common thing amongst the games that really needed it. This also made consumers dig into their wallets more than for accessories. If a new controller with a full set of buttons becomes the main stay for the new console, developers will have an easier time bringing their games to Nintendo’s yard. Shooting games will no longer play 3rd string. Sports games can once again be competitive.

Couple this with the HD capabilities (how much capabilities remain to be seen) on the new console and Nintendo has entered themselves in the drawing for all new big releases to include this new console in their release. Rumors on the horizon include Rockstar’s lauded GTA series, Mass Effect, Saint’s Row, and many others. It will be a great feeling for gamers to see a teaser trailer for the newest game and not sit there with a laugh as everyone says, “it won’t be on Nintendo!”

What about online, though? This generation was dominated by online games. Download Content was praised for what it could add to games. Sharing, talking, and playing with friends with ease is something everyone wants. Xbox Live does this very well. PlayStation Network isn’t too far behind Live. Yet, Nintendo has stuck with the Friend Code system since the DS. It kept gamers isolated unless they traded these codes to other people and an agreement between both players was made. Sure, the privacy was great and perhaps even needed with how many kids played Nintendo’s systems and handhelds, but what about older players? Nintendo seemed to do a great job alienating the very set of gamers that helped them be successful from the NES up to now. In an age where other companies were going more mature and still reaching a younger crowd, Nintendo stayed young with an occasional hiccup of maturity. The Friend Codes system hinders online play and has plagued the DS and Wii. Thankfully, the 3DS has one unified Friend Code for all games. Before this, gamers would receive a Friend Code for every online-enabled game they played.

Nintendo has a lot to think about for their newest console. Do they want to stay number one AND have a stranglehold on gamers’ attentions and loyalty? Will abandoning some of the more private features in favor of better networking and mature games leave parents aching for the return of the Wii? Will they be able to create a perfect system for any gamer and keep it affordable?

All our questions will be answered at E3 and for the first time since the N64, I am excited to hear about Nintendo’s new console offering. These rumors have peeked my interest and even made me a bit happy. I love Nintendo. I have owned every system (excluding the VirtualBoy) they have released and faithfully kept my love for their first party franchises. I want to see Link fighting Ganon in wonderful 1080p. I want to beat the snot out of my buddies as Pikachu in an HD Smash Bros. Even more so, I want to play GTA, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Dead Space, Final Fantasy XV, and more on a Nintendo console. How great it would be to see the gaming company I have known since my childhood finally catch up and come full circle. The NES was one of the greatest consoles ever made. I truly hope that Nintendo breaks into the either generation of gaming releasing another.

I’ll end with a look at the other side of the eighth generation. Microsoft and Sony aren’t going to sit by and let Nintendo take first place again without a fight. Nintendo has a great opportunity by launching much earlier than the others but this gap between releases could prove deadly. There is a chance that the technologies we may see in the new Xbox and PlayStation 4 could trump Nintendo’s new console by such a margin that it creates a sub-generation within the eighth generation. Console with power so much higher than what Nintendo releases that it ushers in new ways of gaming, greater levels of graphics, better connectivity, and even more features of the future. This new gen will be one of the most exciting times for gamers.

Nintendo is leading the charge. Will their early attack be enough to fend off the coming storm?

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