Tag Archives: hardcore gamers

Don’t Expect Much From Wii U’s Tablet

Above: Not the future of gaming
Above: Not the future of gaming

If you’ve been following Wii U launch coverage, you’ve probably read a sentence like this:

The Wii U, successor to Nintendo’s blockbuster Wii console, presents several intriguing possibilities for interactive entertainment, thanks to a tablet-style controller, the GamePad.

Reviewers are extremely intrigued by the thrilling potential of this tablet. They shouldn’t be. We actually already know what game developers will do with it: not much.

Since the days of the NES Power Glove, gimmick controllers have promised new frontiers of immersion and interactivity they could not possibly deliver. The mighty 8-bit mitt purported to “track the position of your hand in space” with “3-d sensors.”  “Now you don’t just guide the action. You’re in the action,” the ads hilariously lied.

Nintendo’s own Virtual Boy console set the industry standard for chicanery when the futuristic virtual reality of its marketing clashed so violently with the migraine-inducing monochromatic hellscape  of its games. But the main reason to doubt Wii U’s paradigm-shattering potential is this:  Nintendo’s been pushing the tablet’s basic ideas in one form of another for about a decade. Mindful observers will recall the GameCube’s GBA connectivity, which introduced  “asymmetric gameplay” with a game called Pac-Man Vs.;  the Wii U launch showcase Nintendo Land features not one but two barely-disguised versions of Pac-Man Vs. It takes balls the size of late-stage katamaris to promote your “revolutionary” controller with a ten-year-old game, but then this is a console with a 2-D platformer for a killer app. How Will U Play Next? Like U always have.

Sega’s DreamCast, always blazing crude trails, also had a playable screen in its gamepad. But Nintendo is borderline obsessed with offering “second window(s) into the video game world.” The Big N has been making dual-screen handhelds since 2004. Developers mostly use window 2 for maps and inventories. Like the Wii U tablet, the DS and its follow-up 3DS had touchscreensbut the portables pioneered no genres or play styles (Zelda got new controls). Touchscreens revolutionized casual games only.

Which brings us to the Wii-mote. The first Wii was so popular and successful — a bona fide cultural touchstone — that people have convinced themselves its controller didn’t suck. It did. With the nunchuck accessory (usually necessary) it wasn’t even unique, just split in two. It needed more face buttons and a second analog stick. Inputs mapped to the motion sensor ruined games, like Twilight Princess. Enjoying Donkey Kong Country Returns or New Super Mario Bros. Wii meant holding the Wii-mote horizontally, turning it into the world’s least-ergonomic NES pad.Two of the Wii’s greatest hits, Mario Kart Wii and Smash Brothers Brawl, required a Gamecube controller for high-level play. For all its alleged noob-friendly simplicity, the Wii-mote’s synchronizing and calibrating and battery-killing made it considerably higher-maintenance than old fashioned controllers. Only its games were simple. Wii Sports was often called a tech demo, but it was no mere demo — it was the tech entire. 5 years later Skyward Sword‘s fencing fulfilled in a small way the hardware’s promise; it required a $25 expansion to play. Despite its Kinect-spawning sales figures, the Wii didn’t change the way we play games. Microsoft and Sony’s next machines will come with standard control pads. You can buy one for the Wii U, too.

After the Wii U’s underwhelming debut, game journalists (whose job it is to be excited about new products) decided Nintendo just hadn’t properly articulated the new tablet’s wonders. Nintendo favored this interpretation. “It’s a complicated device to explain in words,” a marketing director said. Maybe. Or maybe it’s not that complicated. Maybe you’re just conning casuals into blowing $399.99 on another hideously underpowered soon-to-be-mothballed piece-of-crap flimflam system.

At least Link will be in HD.

The Wii U Won’t be ‘Hardcore’

The Wii craze was a fluke, unlikely to repeat, so Nintendo is (again) courting “hardcore” gamers with its upcoming Wii U. The Wii U, like its predecessor, has a useless gimmick controller and shitty specs. It won’t have meaningful third-party support. It’s a console no hardcore gamer wants, and Nintendo knows it.

(A simple truism game journos never mention: the unending format war is the worst thing possible for gaming. Forcing people to buy three $300 consoles or miss out on titles they want is a major impediment to the medium’s growth, a much more important issue than, say, the rantings of some half-dead semi-retired movie critic, yet it’s barely discussed on mainstream sites.)

By “hardcore” Nintendo means gamers who buy lots of new-release games. So hardcore Wii U better have lots of good games! Here’s Nintendo of America president Reggie “My Body Is Ready” Fils-Aime, madly dissembling:

“What I’ll tell you is that with the Wii we did not have the benefit of multiplatform games from key publishers. I didn’t have The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I didn’t have the best of the Call of Duty games. That’s what I missed.

With the Wii U’s graphics capability, processing power, and HD-output, we’ll get those games. That’s a huge competitive advantage versus where we were with the Wii.”

The Wii U sure will have huge advantages over the Wii (HD-output!) but not over its actual next-gen competition. Nintendo’s withholding CPU and GPU info out of shame, but here’s how we know they’re underpowered:

  1. Shigeru Miyomoto told GameSpot the Wii U wouldn’t “necessarily dramatically outperform the systems that are out now.”
  2. The Wii U launch price ($299) is too low for cutting-edge specs. Nintendo doesn’t sell consoles at a loss (the 3DS price-cut was a traumatic exception).
  3. The rumored leaked specs suck.
  4. The launch titles all look like PS3 games.

So Reggie’s bullshitting us. In a year the Wii U will be as antiquated as the Wii is now.

The Big N hasn’t had “the benefit of multi-platform games” for three generations. There are millions of high schoolers who have lived their entire lives never knowing a Nintendo home console with more than five playable games. Nintendo always promises third-party developer support. It never materializes. You can’t pin all this on 480p.

The Wii U’s not getting Grand Theft Auto VI or the best Call of Dutys. It will, however, have like a new Star Fox or something. Nintendo should probably just go third-party themselves, like every hardcore gamer in the entire universe wants them to.