Nintendo’s having a tough time with the 3DS, but the Wii U could be about to open up a door to a new world of gaming. It’s got our opinion split, so we’ve decided to duke it out with words: should Ninty pull the plug on hardware altogether?

Nintendo needs to focus on games

Adam Bunker, senior staff writer

Over the weekend I spent a little while trawling through the App Store on my iPhone for a game. A specific sort of game. I wanted a racing game that wasn’t all gung-ho and po-faced. I didn’t want NOS injections and engine differential tweaks; I wanted bright colours and mad weapons. I wanted Mario Kart.

Only I can’t get Mario Kart, can I? And I didn’t buy anything else for that very reason. Yes; there are a few Mario Kart clones on the App Store, fronted by the recognisable cast of Crash Bandicoot games or Shrek films or whatever, but they’re all clones and nothing more.

They’re probably not bad as Mario Kart clones go, but everyone – including the developers – knows what they’re trying to emulate, and knows that it’s almost impossible to do so.

The kind of brain-dissolving, shame-inducing creativity that routinely spurts out of Nintendo HQ is unrivaled. Mario Kart, Mario platformers, Metroid and Zelda games are all in a class above most other franchises.

These games are the primary reason that people buy Nintendo’s hardware; Ninty fans are loyal because that loyalty is uniformly rewarded with gaming excellence. Which got me thinking…

I realised that I love these games, but I fundamentally dislike every attempt Nintendo’s made to produce hardware since the SNES. The N64? Had one, loved it… but what in God’s name was the trident controller about? And cartridges? You’ve misjudged the industry there, Ninty old boy.

Still, the games saw it through. Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Ocarina of Time. Sheer, undeniable class. Although a handful of games does not a good console make.

The same can be said of the GameCube. I had one. I liked its unique oddness. This time the controller was pretty comfy in the hand, but the format was the issue once again – Nintendo completely glossed over a current trend for the second time running. If DVDs are gaining ground, enable your console to play them. It’s hardly crystal ball stuff.

The next generation is where my views will probably differ from yours more wildly, but stick with me. In my view, the Wii and the DS are both a complete mess. The DS turned into a top option when it shed about a stone of unsightliness and dropped to £100, but when it launched it looked like this:

Yeah… you forgot about that, didn’t you? What is it?! A horrible, Fisher Price slug, that’s what it is. It’s like the Gameboy Advance, which was constantly tweaked and redesigned after launch.

The same can be said of the Nintendo Wii: game-changing concept, but it’s as if Nintendo’s gone into a rut of releasing consoles still in the beta stage of development. Why not just wait a bit and stick the Motion Plus add-on in as standard?

I’d rather have the finished product, thanks. I’m not going to argue that the Wii hasn’t changed the market significantly, but I will argue that it’s not as good as the subsequent PS Move, thanks to a lack of foresight. It doesn’t even have HD graphics.

This trend continues up to the so-far disastrous Nintendo 3DS. Have you seen the gargantuan Circle Pad Pro add-on? I can’t look at it without thinking that someone very high up at Nintendo has properly lost their mind.

Again, why not wait and launch the console with the thing that you probably knew it needed to begin with? And tie it in with your Mario games, like… at launch? Doing things the way Nintendo actually has done is just embarrassing.

To my mind, when a company’s hardware insight goes this far off the mark for this long, it’s time to do a SEGA and take a giant step back. The gaming market is very different now to what it was when the DS launched. It’s an entirely different space thanks to the sudden and enormous success of mobile gaming as a genuine platform for excellence.

Given that Nintendo’s never really put massive emphasis on graphical oomph, you could probably port any Mario (Kart) or Zelda game to the iPhone or any dual-core Android handset without losing anything.

And more to the point, if you did that you’d sell absolutely f***ing millions.

Imagine if Nintendo just pulled both feet out of the sticky drudgery of hardware manufacturing to focus solely on what it does best: making amazing first-party games. Games which could then be launched on PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Android, iPhone and everything in between without limitation.

I would buy Mario Kart on both my phone and on my home console without a moment’s hesitation, as would pretty much everyone. …Because if you don’t like Mario Kart, you don’t possess a human soul.

Look, it’s this simple: if at first you don’t succeed, try a different tact. Nintendo outstrips the world in terms of game design, but in my eye falls short when it comes to machinery. I know that the Wii’s sold more units than the Bible, but how many of them are now just gathering dust? And if that’s the case then what’s the point at all?

If you’ve got gaming franchises that sell just because of the name on the box, why not let Microsoft, Sony or Apple worry about making and selling the expensive kit?

To me, this road is overwhelmingly the right one to take, and I’m confident the numbers would still stack up in Ninty’s favour. Perhaps more so if 3DS sales are anything to go by.

Now, if you excuse me, I’m off to spend £2.99 on Shrek Goes Karting, or some other such cheap knockoff, since I’ve no real alternative.

We need Nintendo kit more than ever

James Holland, editor

Either Adam has been at Mario’s mushrooms or we need to beat some sense into him using a Wiimote. The boy’s missed the point to the effect that it might be time to revoke his Mario Kart driver’s license. Nintendo’s hardware is, and always has been, amongst the tech industry’s most important.

Nintendo’s gameplan has never been to release technically advanced kit. Instead it favours gadgetry that improves experiences, makes games easier to play or more eye-widening. In a way, its hardware division is similar to Apple’s, with a golden rule of keeping it simple.

Unlike Microsoft (HD-DVD add-on, anyone? How about an Xbox Live camera?) Nintendo picks its battles and concentrates on how its hardware affects the slack-jawed kids who’ll do anything to get their hands on it. The secret’s not in the lustful wanting, it’s in the long-term owning.

My first taste of Nintendo was with monochrome-screened Game & Watch machines. They were fiercely addictive, but beautifully simple. They lasted for months on a single watch battery, and bleeped away countless hours of adolescent boredom. Then I got hold of a two-player machine.

It was a typically ludicrous setting for a game, with Mario and Luigi performing tasks that would struggle to earn them minimum wage: Passing parcels from a machine in a factory to a waiting delivery truck, but my underage brainbox didn’t care. I might as well have been super-glued to the thing.

Nintendo’s genius was taking two Game & Watch machines and sticking them together. The player had the option of gaming with a friend, or operating both sides simultaneously for an mind-melting challenge of dexterity. It was a playground sensation, and with a bit of practice so was I.

This was a gadget of no greater simplicity than its single-player counterparts, but with an enjoyability factor multiplied by the hundreds.

Nintendo’s gameplan is exactly the same now: take some average technology, add some ingenuity and great gameplay, and you’ll get a device that is more than the sum of its parts: The Wii blew away the competition when it took its first steps into our lives for this very reason.

When I first got hold of one, just before release in the UK, I took it home for Christmas and set it up. It was the first time I’d seen my parents play a computer game other than Solitaire or Minesweeper. Nintendo had pulled off a magic trick of the highest order.

My dad was playing tennis in the living room, and that was due to the controller’s non-existent learning curve, and the software’s simple-is-better design.

Within minutes my family were hankering after high scores and buzzing about achievements. My dad even showed off his carefully crafted Mii to some visitors.

For the first time, I saw a games company transcend the generation gap and use humble components and code to unite a family. It was a beautiful moment.

And the 3DS continues to do the same. These days, I see kids waving their Nintendo machines around, but quite often they’re not playing a game at all, they’re using AR apps or taking 3D photos and cooing at them with friends.

Nintendo’s technology has always been about joyful experiences with friends, not gaming hunched over in a darkened room on your own. It’s hardware is the medium, and as much an important part of the delivery as the game itself. It doesn’t need to be HD-capable, NFC-enabled or have the latest spec-laden silicon under the bonnet. It’s purer than that.

And now, more than ever, the world needs a pure and powerful Nintendo.

The Xbox just received an update that makes it more on-demand TV receiver than games machine. The PS3 is following suit, and Sony has promised we’ll see more media services out of their stables soon. Whoopee. Just what I need: another dozen TV sources to watch in silence.

Sony and Microsoft are busily squeezing more features out of their hardware, and waiting to see which one sticks.

But Nintendo? The company that had iPlayer on its console before any of the others? They’re putting in the brainpower where it counts: Games, and making sure they’re the best in the business at hooking players and keeping them entertained.

The Wii U is a stroke of genius. Unlike any next-gen console before it, gamers can bring their entire Wii set-up (and games) with them as they upgrade. Those well-worn controllers needn’t be tossed away. They can live on in harmony with the Wii U’s upgraded hardware, and mean you’ll end up gaming with even more people at once.

I don’t want to play Wario Ware: Smooth Moves on a PlayStation 3. Its raw power and clinical execution works great for shoot ‘em ups, but it’s not the friendly console I want to huddle ‘round the friends or family.

Adam, I agree it’d be a happier world if I could play Nintendo games on my iPhone or PS3, but the experience really wouldn’t be the same as pointing a cutesy Wiimote at the screen or jigging around on the reassuringly chunky Balance Board.

It’s about friendliness; accessibility not stopping anyone getting in on the fun.

Last Christmas I had to explain what the Sixaxis’s PS button was for to both parents, and that was just to watch the BBC iPlayer. By the time the programme had finished, they were asking if I had any new games for the Wii. I think that says it all.

 

Into gaming? Read these:

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  • Anonymous

    Tough call. You could easily argue that Sega’s hardware had reached its critical (not commercial) nadir with the Dreamcast – and now look what’s happened to them, flogging their wares to all comers. They’re the village bike, a joke.

    At the same time, I hate my Wii. What good is an intuitive controller if there aren’t great games to play any more? Gamerankings.com’s top 10 for Wii says it all: just three out of the top 10 games on the platform were released after 2008.

    I think Ninty needs to persevere with its own hardware, and focus on getting developers back on board. Making games for iOS is a slippery slope that quickly descends into a race to the bottom.

  • Nintendoro

    There is a lot of point in this article. Nintendo exclusives are too damn much the same and they are getting very old lately. The same stories, same bosses (mario, metroid… same old “save the princess Peaches or Zelda from some fat stupid dragon or evil what ever” idea). Nothing new, nothing fresh. I love some of Nintendo characters but there’s a lot of room for new ones. More adult ones this time. I am still Nintendo fan, but if Wii U fails, I’ll go to M$ camp instead. Of course I’d be unhappy seeing Ninty go multi platform, but It is totally up to them to pull this off. If rumors are true that Wii U is going to be priced at £400, this could be the case. Who on Earth is going to pay this much for console that doesn’t even have a bloody HDD or Blu ray? I mean, common Nintendo, you  need to get serious this time around

    • James Holland

      I agree with you there – if the price is way too high, it’ll be a no go, especially as most Wii owners will be upgrading from a machine they’ve paid peanuts for once it became massively popular.

    • http://profiles.google.com/chrissomerry Christian Meredith

      I agree with high price concerns, but it’s been the same every console generation, which used to be closer together – “we’re not gonna buy that, it’s way too expensive! It’s $700AUD!” (PS3 for example). Yet these overpriced TV-destined gaming-computers sell like hotcakes and my family was always going “damn, all the good games are on that expensive platform we didn’t buy but heaps of other hyped up people did”. In the end we wait for it to go on sale or wait for its sequel console to come out (basically skipping generations until the price is right).

      I suspect many other families would do this too. Those who missed out on this generation or didn’t have to spend much money this time round might be OK with the big purchase this generation, and be more frugal the next, while other families will be more frugal this generation, and spend big the next one.

      This generation admittedly has screwed things up though, people expect consoles to be cheap now since they’ve been out for so long without successors, but since everyone’s gonna have high prices next generation anyway, Nintendo might have the (embarrassing) upper hand by releasing early – they get to guage the market like with the 3DS, if they cop lots of flack they can drop the price, and in the end it all looks good (it’s working in Australia at the moment with the 3DS at least, they’re still failing at teaching parents that the DS can’t run 3DS games though, so some people aren’t upgrading thinking Mariokart 7 will run on the DS just without 3D ;) )

  • http://twitter.com/chrism_scotland chrism_scotland

    I’d love to see a Merger of Sega and Nintendo, imagine some decent hardware married to the classics from Nintendo and Sega, Nintendo could even maybe make a decent Sonic game……

    • http://twitter.com/adambunker Adam Bunker

      Or we’d end up with even more Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games type nonsense. I had a Mega Drive and loved it, but Sonic’s never been the real gamer’s choice and the more I think about it, the less I like him. He was invented as a retort to Mario, and the reason Sonic games have been rubbish for several years is because there’s not much you can do with a game premise that boils down to: ‘hold down the run button and occasionally press jump’. 

  • Mighty Shouter

    First of all, Nintendo isn’t struggling with the 3DS as of now. It has surpassed the 1st year sales of the DS in only 8 months, not to mention it’s almost sold out in the UK. So you saying it’s so-far disastrous doesn’t really make much sense. And you’re saying that the Move is better than the Wii? Cool story bro. Nintendo has already proved that you don’t need HD graphics to have a great gaming experience. If you wanted HD, you should’ve switched to the PS3 or 360. And Nintendo will NEVER have iOS versions of their games! It’s not needed!

  • Mighty Shouter

    First of all, Nintendo isn’t struggling with the 3DS as of now. It has surpassed the 1st year sales of the DS in only 8 months, not to mention it’s almost sold out in the UK. So you saying it’s so-far disastrous doesn’t really make much sense. And you’re saying that the Move is better than the Wii? Cool story bro. Nintendo has already proved that you don’t need HD graphics to have a great gaming experience. If you wanted HD, you should’ve switched to the PS3 or 360. And Nintendo will NEVER have iOS versions of their games! It’s not needed!

  • http://twitter.com/stsh SuperTrainStationH

    If you don’t want Nintendo’s games enough to buy and use the hardware that allows those unique, high quality games to exist, you simply don’t like Nintendo’s games enough to play them at all.

    Seriously, Nintendo isn’t the only choice for gaming. If Nintendo can’t make games that justify the price of their hardware than that’s their own fault Don’t covet Nintendo’s games and complain that they exclusive to Nintendo hardware.

  • Anonymous

    You would lose something porting Mario or Zelda to the phone – buttons.
    Kind of essential when playing a complex games like that which require precision.

    The 3DS might have been in trouble a few months ago, but since the release of the Marios, its flying off the shelves now – in the UK, it’s getting increasingly hard to find a shop that sells one.

    I hate the look of the second stick add on, a lot of people don’t seem to realise that it is still only optional. There’s not a single game that actually requires it.

    While a lot of people desire Nintendo to become a third party like Sega, most people seem to forget the quality of the games Sega has released since doing that have severely suffered. I really don’t want Nintendo to suffer the same fate.

    The fact that so many people want to play Nintendo games on other systems is exactly the reason they shouldn’t do it.

  • Gamerfreak77

    If it wasn’t for Nintendo I feel there would be another gaming crash just like what happened in the 80s. They are the only company that is trying to push things forward with new ideas. Nintendo has always been about innovation, whether it be bad or good. 

Hot chat, right here!


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