Community Corner: Nintendo – State of the U-nion

Infendo

Welcome to Community Corner where someone from the Infendo Community has come to us with a guest article, if you would like to write a guest article for us, please email us at contact@infendo.com, The following was written by Jason Novak ( RisinDevil )

Why the Wii U’s problems are not due to the GamePad

So, let’s face it: the Wii U is struggling. It’s no real secret. Sales are sluggish, support is dropping, and the most recent Nintendo Direct gave the vague impression that there is at least another MINOR software drought on the horizon. But like I said, we already know all this, but what no one seems to realize is that it’s not the GamePad’s fault. So where does the blame lie? Well let’s take a look. (Author’s note: this is an opinion piece. There is no real need or desire to look up links or sales figures: those are all readily available elsewhere. )

 

Space matters

Wait, what? To truly appreciate this statement, you have to put it into context: this doesn’t apply to Nintendo’s handhelds. The N64 changed the gaming landscape forever by moving to analog controls with the controller, and including four ports four controllers really jumpstarted multiplayer gaming. The ONLY failure was the insistence to stick with expensive and proprietary cartridges that limited storage space. Heck, the onboard RAM could’ve been lived with if more data could’ve actually been put onto disks. Then, just when it seems like Nintendo learned the lesson, they release the Gamecube sporting MINI-DVDs, once again limiting storage capacity (compared to the competition). Then you move onto the Wii where Nintendo embraced standard DVDs (finally) only being beaten in disc storage by Sony. So what does Nintendo do? Include virtually no system memory (no storage space), HEAVILY limit digital title sizes (due to and another example of no storage) and enable ONLY SDHC card storage (no USB drives) with a later software update (STILL NO STORAGE). Now here we are with the Wii U offering to SKUs (similar to their competitors did LAST GENERATION), but BOTH options being unacceptably inadequate (but hey, at least we have external hard drives). Here we have two sets of sequential console generations establishing patterns that are not friendly for NEARLY EVERY OTHER developer in the industry.

 

Nintendo simply doesn’t understand the Western/US market

This began to be evident with the Gamecube. DVD players are becoming ubiquitous? Well, we don’t need to include standard DVD capability (remember, MINI-DVDs?) because everyone already has a player. Who cares that Americans like all-in-one devices. Time for the Wii to step up: standard size DVDs but still refuses to play DVD movies. Here’s another repeated mistake. The American trend is all about looks and graphics. The weaker system could’ve been forgiven if only it could push 720p, but no. American developers, for good or for ill, were embracing large games with large installations to squeeze out performance, but we can’t give them that either.  Most of these problems were repeated generation after generation, pushing Western developers who were making games that catered to their Western gamers further and further away. Heck, look at the design priority in the Wii U: small size/footprint, quite operation, and low power consumption. I’m glad Japanese consumers are more conscientious than American’s, but don’t be mad when it simply doesn’t resonate.

 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

The Wii U launched with a robust selection of games (sure, a healthy number of games were outdated ports) but the games WERE there, and the Wii U launch figures showed this. The Wii U moved units impressively, but dropped off as no new games showed up. Every time there is a major release there is a spike in sales. But now, there aren’t enough units in the wild to justify development costs, so no new (big) games are coming, so no one is seeing the benefit in purchasing a unit. It is a vicious cycle that only snowballs. (Amazingly, this is the only problem that, while difficult, can be entirely fixed by Nintendo.)

 

Options hurt NO ONE

See, here’s the thing. As a developer or a gamer, there is NO HARM WHATSOEVER in the GamePad existing. Don’t want to use it? Pretend its just a big controller. It’s almost criminal that Nintendo is the first company to make a game that simply turns off the GamePad screen since there is no use for it (DKC:TF, looking at you). It’s just a shame they are doing it so…poorly.

 

PEOPLE like the GamePad

Let’s end with a bang, with something that is very difficult to find information to either prove or rebut: PEOPLE LIKE the GamePad. Don’t believe me? How many returns or trade-ins have you seen? While I understand that experiences will vary. I haven’t seen any. Rewind seven years ago (right after Christmas 2006) and you couldn’t go to a retail store without seeing people lined up returning their PS3s for Wiis. This was with a system that had a nearly identical controller to its previous generation, was pretty much the best (and most affordable) BluRay player on the market, and was priced high enough that only truly dedicated enthusiasts ran out to purchase one. Yet still the lines for returns and trade-ins wore on to extended lengths. But maybe this is too broad. Maybe THOSE people were dissatisfied by multiple “features” and Wii U owner’s are just dissatisfied by the GamePad, so they aren’t returning it? Search most gaming sites, especially forums. ACTUAL owners all seem to love it. ACTUAL adopters all sing its praises: off-TV play is wildly convenient and useful; games that actually use the GamePad in unique ways are received with critical acclaim; games that simply move some features (map, HUD, etc) to the GamePad are still appreciated for this basic convenience. As a matter of fact, the ONLY detractors I’ve ever heard are people who have only “tried” one, or simply haven’t given it a chance based off the premise.

 

Yes, I’m a fan. I daresay I’m a fanboy. The Wii U is hurting, but if we don’t really understand why, or just try to find the easiest scapegoat, we will NEVER change the current situation.

 

VIVA LA GamePad!!

 

Many thanks to Jason Novak ( RisinDevil ) for the above article, if you would like to write a guest article for us, please email us at contact@infendo.com.

Lewis Pugh is a game developer at Leuvsion (www.leuvsion.com) for mobile platforms, born and bred on Nintendo gaming. Being a developer gives Lewis a unique perspective on Nintendo news, especially relating to the eShop and Nintendo Network. Today he plays Wii U and 3DS enjoying their distinctive gameplay offerings. Looking into what the future holds for Nintendo is always tricky, even with its established heritage, but that’s exactly what makes it so fun. NNID: Leuvsion

9 Comments

  1. Great article!

  2. You – and this article – are a major reason why Nintendo is in the shape they’re in. Let me ask this – how’s it working out for you? You keep cheering on the gamepad, and still no one is buying the system. Yet stores are having a hard time keeping the PS4 in stock, and it has a pretty simply interface. It’s about to pass the Wii U in sales and hasn’t even hit Japan yet.

    The Wii U is underpowered, has no blu-ray support, terrible online support, a weak lineup of games (ports people have already played don’t count), and the gamepad is simply a disaster.

    Meanwhile, the smartphone market is exploding, and they can’t contain copycats.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-20/copycat-mario-game-lures-users-as-nintendo-resists-smartphones.html?cmpid=yhoo

    Fanboy all you want. You’re hurting the company more than you’re helping.

  3. Lou – Thank you for missing the entire point of the article. (Though I will say it’s not entirely your fault: the original article held the subtitle “Why the Wii U’s problems are not due to the GamePad.”)

    Yes, the Wii U is performing abysmally (poorly, at best), but it’s not the GamePad’s fault. No blu-ray: how is that the GamePad’s fault. Underpowered: please tell me how to blame the GamePad for that. Terrible online: right, that one is because of the GamePad, right? A weak lineup of games? FINALLY, something that COULD be blamed on the GamePad, but only by short-sighted or narrow-minded people and developers (or anyone wanting a quick whipping boy). Don’t want to actually use the screen, THEN TURN IT OFF (like DKC:TF). With the screen off, you have pretty much the same, standard, dual analog weilding controller that everyone wishes the Wii U had.

    Lastly, anyone who has not bought or spent any real, significant time with the GamePad CANNOT say it’s a disaster. You can say that the idea of it doesn’t appeal to you so you refuse to even truly try it, but nothing more.

  4. Quick correction: the tag line was just moved out of the title to the start of the article.

  5. Great article and it agree totally with everything. People keep saying drop the Gamepad, but it’s just fantastic. I love it. I use it for browsing the net while I’m watching TV, off TV play lets me play games while my fiancé watches TV so we can still spend what precious little time we have together in the same room not being forced to watch what she wants or her having to watch me play. Playing a two player racing game is great when I can have my own screen be it the TV or Gamepad. It really is a brilliant device, and when I eventually do get a PS4, it’s something I will miss having right there at my fingertips.

    It does have some bad faults, like being resistive, so multitouch gestures don’t work, but the browser is just so well made that it doesn’t really matter. If I was searching through my vast library of images or something it might be more of a problem, but seeing as that isn’t even an option, it’s no big deal. The battery life sucks. No two ways about it. And I do miss having all analogue buttons and triggers, but I can live without them. What’s strange is, that all these corners were cut to save money on the pad, but it still apparently is the cause of such a high price on the console package as a whole. And despite everything the Gamepad brings to the table, Nintendo are asking new customers to pay a premium price for what is now a last gen graphics comparable machine, with little to none multimedia options, and a laughably low storage capacity. If I could change just one thing about my Wii U it would be to have at least 100gb HDD on board all in the box. Not be forced to have to shell out more money for a separate HDD. My PS3 does absolutely everything. Streams movies and music from my PC, plays Blurays and DVDs, it’s perfect. It’s an all in one box. If the Wii U did all this, and had the same graphical power as it does now, plus the Gamepads awesomeness, the asking price for it NOW would be fair. But it’s just not. Nintendos perceived value of the Wii U compared to the markets perceived value of it is far too great. Nintendo proved with the 3DS price cut that the market won’t pay for what they think is overpriced for what they get. Why they haven’t drastically dropped the price of it by now is baffling. Even if they did it now, I think it’s almost too late. Last year we could have seen a huge surge of sales, and some of the games that have been cancelled or had features missing might have arrived and could keep arriving. If by some miracle, this year sees a large sales spike, and 3rd parties jump back on board, we won’t be seeing any of those 3rd party games until 2015, which would be way too late because this is the year that we need them more than any other. By 2015 the new gen consoles will be well and truly off and running, and sadly, the Wii U will be far far behind. I don’t blame the Gamepad. I blame Nintendo itself for sticking to outdated notions of storage and multimedia needs of western consumers, and the pricing of outdated tech and their expectations for people to pay a premium price for it. We didn’t with the 3DS until the price drop, so why would we with the Wii U? Nintendos biggest fault is that they don’t learn their lessons very well. N64 cartridges, GC mini DVDs, friend codes, etc. Now we have the horrific software tied to hardware instead of account based systems. Surely they could see before they released the 3DS and Wii U that this is where gaming was heading. We have to wait yet another Nintendo generation for them to get rid of it, that’s even if they do. And it’s a big IF. Because of their track record with dealing with things westerners enjoy and expect from their devices all points to them being just as backwards with the next handheld and home console in some form or another. I personally would hate it if they did away with 2nd screen gaming, but if they can’t figure out how to utilise it in a way that captures the imagination of would be customers, then it’s probably going to be gone. I’m still hoping that the next gen Ninty console will be a true hybrid handheld home console. I know it would be a huge gamble for them, but I don’t see any other way for them to go. Their output of games divided over two consoles is just not enough. The software droughts put new and dedicated customers off, destroy third party relationships, and we all suffer as a result. I really don’t think I’m up for another Wii U after this one. The next one has to be great and be a success or I won’t be bothered picking it up. I’m sure I will get by just fine with a Sony machine or two. I didn’t think I would ever say that, but despite my love for Nintendo, there does come a time when enough is enough, and I’ve just about reached it with the failings of the Wii U and 3DS.

  6. You’re making the same mistake others on here make. You’re stating what you want to be true, not what’s actually true. Seriously, if you learn to break yourself of the habit it makes life a lot easier.

    I worked for many years in engineering and now I’m in IT. I can promise you that a large amount of time, money and man hours were spent developing the gamepad. The hardware alone would require many resources, but then you also need an OS to support it and integrate it with the console. It’s a huge project. Break down each component in that gamepad and realize there’s extensive development and testing that needs to be done on each piece. Even something simple like a battery can be very complex.

    Those resources could have been used to implement blu-ray support. Or creating more games. Or a more powerful console. Since the gamepad requires resources from both a hardware and software standpoint, you could have utilized the time, money and man hours on just about anything.

    Instead you have a controller that not even Nintendo is utilizing very well. So what was the point? Keep in mind the original Wii sold around 100 million copies. That’s the bar. The Wii U has a long, long way to go to even reach 10 million. It’s on pace to be the least successful console in company history.

    Meanwhile, there have been some great 3DS games released, far superior to anything available on the Wii U. Bravely Default is fantastic. What other games could we have had if not for the massive waste of time that was the gamepad? Huge mistake.

  7. Pretty much agree with the entire article. There are some great games on the Wii U that make fantastic use of the Gamepad, and some would not have been as good, if not rendered near-impossible, without it.

    On top of that, yeah, the Wii U’s sales slump is not due to the Gamepad, either. If the hardware gimmick and price associated with it were really the things putting consumers off, the Xbox One would have been an absolute catastrophe.

    Sad fact is, it’s just “cool” to hate Nintendo nowadays.

  8. I have 3 different controllers for my Wii U. The gamepad, the Wiimotes and the Pro controller. Nintendo sells three different controllers (well, actually two since they don’t sell the gamepad…), for hardware that’s not supported by third party software developers. That pretty much sums up Nintendo’s commitment to the gamepad.

  9. @BornFlunky – I can’t say Xbone is a catastrophe, but it is being pummeled by PS4, and they just announced their first price cut. It’s losing to PS4 quite badly actually, and I know 360 owners who haven’t bought an XBone specifically because of the bundled Kinect.

    I’m not saying that’s the only reason they’re getting crushed, but it is a factor. With the internet, consumers are smarter than ever. People aren’t willing to pay $100 for something they’re not going to use.

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