I don’t think Nintendo ever had any idea what it was doing

Infendo

The Wii and the Nintendo philosophy of 2005—the console and company with such promise—are dead. They just don’t know it yet.

Nintendo itself confirmed as much today with one of the most strange and rudderless E3 press conferences in recent memory. What’s that mean? I think Popular Mechanics said it best during its head-scratching recap of whatever it was Reggie, Iwata and Miyamoto were talking about earlier today:

That hardware complexity is partly why the U didn’t make our stomachs drop like they did when the Wii, with its simple controller full of unlimited potential, was announced. The Wiimote was one of the most intuitive, simple control schemes ever imagined—the TV remote reinvented to support natural human movement. Five years later, Nintendo has built something that’s completely opposite of the Wii’s original design philosophy.

Indeed, it was confirmed today on this very web site that there will only be one magic touchscreen controller per console. Just one! Sorry. No More. Cave-dwelling, keep-that-in-the-basement single player gaming is back, baby! Hell Nintendo even actively showcased a feature that depicted TV watching supersede gaming: When someone wants to watch TV, it kicks the game to the controller. Sounds great, except it was coming from a company that previously wanted MORE people to game.

The community and party atmosphere created by amazing feats like Wii Sports are gone or are, at the least, hindered by the fact that there’s going to be a “master” controller and four Wiimotes. Maybe gamers can pass the touchscreen around like a hot potato. Won’t that be fun.

I’d say it pisses me off and makes me mad, but I haven’t touched a Nintendo console since January. “I guess I’m disappointed,” I should say, sounding like my mother. From the looks of sales in Japan and of the 3DS pretty much everywhere, I’m not alone. Has anything worth playing even come out for the Wii since Christmas? That wasn’t made by Nintendo?

One can’t help but wonder if Nintendo really had no idea what it was doing all along. Back in 2006, the company could do no wrong. Or so it seemed. Faced with a frothing mass of ignorant, short-sighted “hardcore” gamers who decried them as a company that “abandoned” true gaming, they stood their ground and offered up a braindead-simple Wiimote. Wirelessly connected to a DVD case-sized Gamecube 2.0 console, this TV-remote styled David easily defeated the PS3 and Xbox 360 to the tune of sales that saw the Wii outselling the so-called “HD Twins,” combined.

Now, thanks to what I saw today in Los Angeles (via video feed), that simplicity has been taken out back and shot in the head. GoW3 style or Halo… your choice, but whatever it is, Nintendo has caved. In its place? A gigantic, $300 multi-button tablet (no multitouch) that requires two hands and, let’s be honest here, puts an end to all those silly-but-fun situations where people are standing, laughing and waving their arms around in a slightly dangerous, haphazard fashion.

Are third parties on board? Of course they are. Sort of. You saw their talking heads paraded out in front of a somewhat subdued audience in that theater doing pretty much the same thing they’ve done for new Nintendo consoles and portable since the dawn of time. Trouble is, after that initial deluge of games on launch day, they kind of just go away, mostly back to the Microsoft and PS3 camps, where clearly defined hardcore strategies and sure-fire blockbuster hits will support their bottom lines.

But perhaps you’re of the mind that Jack is being his ol’ pessimistic self again. You might be right. Maybe I’m getting jaded in my old age. Or maybe I see things like this and realize every game showcased as a launch title today was actually being played on an Xbox 360 or PS3:

In a bizarre twist to an otherwise exciting news day, during an interview today just following Nintendo’s showing of its new Wii U system and games, company honcho Reggie Fils-Amie told GameTrailers that the sizzle reel of games shown today were not actually from the Wii U. Instead, when asked if they were from PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, Reggie replied “Absolutely, because we’re talking a year away from when the console will launch.”

One wonders why Nintendo, a company that literally created a new market for gaming with the Wii and did so predominantly by word of mouth Ambassador Parties, would even show a system at all under these conditions. No game play. No grassroots marketing. No games!

Could it be the resurgent Xbox 360-equipped Kinect, with its amazing sixth-year sale bump? Apple, and it’s oft-unacknowledged game-friendly iOS platform? Probably, as history shows a glossy new portable from Sony never made the Big N sweat much&,dash;especially so for one partially named after a processed cheese product, so we know it’s not them.

Remember when the Wii was officially revealed? The Glory Days? The lines that formed immediately afterward? The absolute dominance of Wii Sports from the first second it was available for game play sessions? Remember how “Wii” meant “we” and gaming was starting to mature and become more mainstream and all-inclusive and less headshot counts and dick-measuring? All gone. Not present this time around. But at least Darksiders 2 and some Tom Clancy games with realistic blood splatter are present and accounted for, right? Hell, there was even a GTA rumor kicking around before the crap hit the white plastic this morning.

In a smoking Wii-shaped crater smoldering in LA this evening is a psuedo-tablet that will live in a 2012 and beyond world that will be inundated with cheap, multitouch mobile devices and tablets tethered effortlessly to HDTVs and cloud-based services provided by companies that understand what online services are all about (save Sony, which, come on, shouldn’t be trusted with anything online ever again).

But hey, enough negativity. I hear ya! At least Wii All About U is 1080p. Nintendo finally delivered on that. No more complaining about heigh definition. And EA Sports told me that the HUD is coming off the screen and landing on my tablet screen. Well, for Player 1 it is anyway. Player 2 through 4 can go screw and play with their Wiimotes.

Wii U? More like F U. Play what we want you to play. Guess I’ll check back in a year. Ish. When’s this come out again?

Image note: The above image was apparently sent out post-press conference because there was some confusion about whether the controller was the new console, if there was a new console at all, or it the controller was meant for the Wii. Or something. Anyway, it’s a great sign they had to clear things up like that.