Wednesday, June 06, 2012
The Wii U - Darkness on the Edge of Town
I'm still sitting in a chair and scratching my head. "Is that all there is?" I have been a critic of Nintendo's Wii U since it was first unveiled, but I was still hoping that Nintendo could prove me wrong, persuade me to the merits of their case, share their grand vision for this bulky tablet controller. Always expecting a massive software library, I am surprised and disappointed to discover so few titles. Nintendo is a very lazy company. They've been that way for years.
In 2006, Nintendo unveiled the Wii with a large and highly impressive library of new and exciting games that took advantage of the revolutionary controller - Wii Sports, Wii Play, Red Steel, Elebits, Cooking Mama, Excite Truck. Add in gameplay teasers for Super Smash Bros, Metroid Prime 3, and Super Mario Galaxy, and innovative features like Virtual Console, and the Wii was a guaranteed smash hit.
In 2012, the Wii U has been unveiled with damn near nothing. Another Wii Fit. Another collection of mini-game tech demos. Another vanity project for Shigeru Miyamoto (Pikmin 3) that will never sell. And a new 2D Super Mario Bros, which is easily the system's strongest title. Even then, doesn't it just look like Nintendo has recycled the art assets from New Super Mario DS and Wii? Lazy bastards.
Meanwhile, the hyped shift to "hardcore games" was met with a whimper. Here's last year's Batman, and last year's Assassin's Creed, and a couple more gun games that are identical to the other 50,000 gun games on the market. That's all? The game industry threw a collective tantrum for six years, bawling for Nintendo to provide them another PS360 clone to publish their horribly bloated cinematic games. Eventually, Nintendo folded, and bent over backwards to support third-party publishers. The industry will now respond with nothing.
And the hardcore whiners on internet forums and video game media, the babies who screamed and cried as Nintendo made billions selling to grandparents and soccer moms and lapsed gamers, will they now show up? No. Hardcore Gamers Never Deliver. Have that message bronzed and hung on the company wall. Any company that plans their business strategy around this community is doomed to failure. "Give us another Zelda! Give us another Metroid! Give us another Goldeneye! Give us another NBA Jam! Give us another Donkey Kong!" Nintendo provided the sequels, exactly as demanded, and none of those games sold worth a damn.
The hardcore set will find an excuse, any excuse, to back away from the Wii U. You can release every AAA PS360 title on Nintendo's platform, and none of them will sell. Comic Book Guy will find a single hair out of place somewhere, and then everything will be ruined this sucks I want my money back!!
This leaves the Wii's traditional audience, the ones who did pony up the cash for Wii Sports and Wii Play and Super Mario Bros. They're probably still waiting for Nintendo to do something about that Wii Remote. Remember that gadget? Was supposed to revolutionize video games, but instead was only used twice before being tossed out?
How much do you want to bet the exact thing happens to the Wii U tablet? One or two demo titles, a Miyamoto vanity project, a sequel of classic hit adapted to the controller, and then....nothing. Miyamoto will be bored, take it away, bring in the next trinket to amuse me! Bring me...Hassenpfeffer! Nintendo appears lost, confused, laying out several bets at once and hoping one of them hits big. This is not a winning strategy. It's a strategy for an industry in terminal decline.
I've written and talked about the idea that video games could someday go extinct, just go the way of pinball machines and drive-in movies. This idea has never felt more real to me than now. Microsoft is adapting to a post-video game future, as Xbox evolves into the set-top box Bill Gates has dreamed of for decades. Sony is trying to follow suit, but they're in such a colossal mess that it's unsure they'll ever dig themselves out. Have they quietly abandoned the PS Vita already? It's about to be shoveled into a grave next to the Move controller. And software publishers have shrunk down to a handful of major players, who churn out the exact same content over and over, with no variation or innovation. There is only the need to extract more money from the suckers by any means necessary.
Oh, look, another gun game with zombies. Another video game sequel that's only half as interesting as the one that was made in the 90s. Those new customers who loved to play Wii Sports Bowling? Screw 'em. And so here we lie, at the darkness on the edge of town. No one here gets out alive.