A few things went through my mind during Nintendo Direct’s Wii U livestream this morning. Not a lot of them were great. The underlying theme of the presentation, however, seemed to be something put into words by Iwata himself: “not ready yet.”
We’d like to show you Bayonetta 2, but we’re not ready yet.
We’d like to show you our new 3D Mario game, but we’re not ready yet.
We’d like to release the Wii’s entire Virtual Console library on the Wii U, but we’re not ready yet.
We’d like to ship a game before March, but we’re not ready yet.
But you know what, Nintendo? We’ve been waiting for years. We are ready. If you don’t cater to your fanbase in a timely manner, they will get bored and find something else to do.
So let’s talk about today’s Nintendo Direct, yeah?
First, Nintendo has made it clear time and time again that they are playing by nobody’s rules but their own. Instead of a huge press conference in front of hundreds of screaming game journalists/fans, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata stands in front of a white screen and speaks directly to us. He apologizes for the lack of software. He says they’re working to fix the Wii U’s issues with slow loading. He wants us to be patient with a console that was obviously rushed to market without any strong prospects beyond the first two months.
Did you notice that instead of “gamers” and “players,” we were referred to as “consumers” and “customers?” I understand – Nintendo is a business. You stay in business by giving your customers what they want. Yet the first half of the presentation was spent showing us how much the Miiverse will evolve into a glorified GameFAQs forum. And how taking screenshots in Pikmin 3 will usher in this glorious new wave of social sharing. And how the online modes of Wii U Fit will most resemble the online capabilities of Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS, not exactly the kind of inter-connectedness that you want – that you need – to emulate in the current gaming landscape.
The show had an air of apology, like Nintendo is finally recognizing and owning up to their past transgressions. However, it’s a very “sry-not-sry” attitude this time around. When they released the 3DS for too-high of a price, they made it up to the early adopters by giving them a LOT of free games to apologize for overstepping their boundaries. This time, though, there is no such prize. It’s an apology with no repentance. This time, Nintendo is allowing us to repurchase the software we’ve already purchased with the Wii U Virtual Console Games.
Here’s how it works: if you had already bought a particular game on the Wii then transferred your system to your new Wii U, you will now be able to re-download the Wii U version of that same game for $1 for NES games and $1.50 for SNES games (instead of the normal $5-9 each). The Wii U versions have save-anywhere capabilities, Miiverse communities, and the ability to play on the GamePad screen only… but that’s it. And if you didn’t transfer your Wii to the Wii U (like me, because the new interface is so clunky and weird), then you’re out of luck. There will still be no over-arching network ID letting you flip to-and-fro between your various crossplay-free Nintendo consoles.
Even the freshly announced Famicom 30-year anniversary deals will still cost us 30 cents. Balloon Fight? At 30 cents… couldn’t you have just given it away? Seriously. The incredible value of PlayStation Plus is single-handedly putting the 360’s Gold subscription to shame by making gamers feel appreciated, and you still want to charge almost a third of a dollar for a game released in 1984. True, that’s not a lot. But is Balloon Fight enough to make us bother filling out all of our credit card information for it?
But what’s this? A ray of hope? We’ll soon be able to browse the Miiverse on our smart phones (in-browser only at first – see “not ready yet” first paragraph), implying an eventual shift to full online transferability between the 3DS, the Wii U, and maybe even the good ol’ fashioned Wii. “Just give us more time,” Nintendo says, “and all your dreams will come true.”
At about the 20-minute mark of the 35-minute presentation, we finally get to hear about what people wanted to hear about: new games. At first, I wasn’t sure we were going to get any. We heard some new info about some previously announced games like Pikmin 3, Bayonetta 2, and a title that seemed incredibly promising before this ‘cast, Platinum Games’ The Wonderful 101.
But then, finally, some new stuff! There’s a new Yoshi game from the creators of Kirby’s Epic Yarn that looks very pretty, if not too different from its spiritual predecessor. And a new Mario Party! A new Xenoblade Chronicles-esque game from Monolith Soft! And a Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem game which I’m sure will be all kinds of weird. These seem okay. But the real heavy hitters, the new 3D Mario title, the next Mario Kart, and the next Zelda (one which finally promises to shed some of the tired conventions that have plagued the series for years, although “single player” is one of the conventions they are hinting at shedding and that worries me)… all “not ready yet.” They promised we’d have something by E3. But it’s only January.
We are, however, getting an HD update of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, which, admittedly, looks beautiful, and which, admittedly, is about as innovative and exciting as Ocarina of Time on the 3DS.
Listen. Nintendo. Buddy. You spent literally years of your life working on this new, incredibly promising piece of technology, and your grand idea on what to do with it is to re-release another Zelda game? Don’t you realize— sigh… Can’t you understand that when the Wii first came out, gamers and developers were looking to you to show them what kind of amazing and exciting things they could do with this new motion control technology? That, as the inventors of the console, it was up to you to lead by example and innovate, like you used to? When the launch title that utilizes your technology best is delivered by a third party (Ubisoft’s ZombiU), you are failing as both a leader, and as what used to be one of the premier game developers in the world.
It feels like you’re trying to be different just for the sake of being different, Nintendo, while continuing to make the exact same mistakes you’ve been making for the past three console cycles. The time for being sorry is over, Nintendo. It’s time to remind us why we all loved you in the first place.