Monday, July 18, 2011

Nintendo Today

I've been a fan of Nintendo for about a million years. Aside from the 16 bit generation, I've bought Nintendo consoles first and other consoles second. (If I had my time back I would probably pick the SNES over the Genesis, even.) My first console ever was a Game Boy when I was 6.

I bought a Nintendo 64 and was pretty satisfied. Sure, I had to borrow a friend's PS1 to play games like Final Fantasy, but I had Mario and Zelda and I was happy. The GameCube was a similar thing. Again, I played those PS2 games on friends' consoles but preferred my GameCube exclusives overall. I did eventually buy a PS1 and PS2 of my own, once the price was right, and had a nice back catalog of games to pick from. It worked for me.

The Wii changed things, though. I did buy a Wii first, but it was obvious before it was even released that my days of primarily playing a Nintendo console were over. The Wii was doing its own thing, and that was cool, but there was a lot more going on that I was missing out on by being a Wii owner exclusively, so about a year and a half after launch, I bought a PS3. The two consoles compliment each other well. Each brings things to the table that the other doesn't. I don't have a "primary" console. I have these two and I play them both as games I want are released for them. I don't have to decide which version of a game to get, because there are so few multiplatform games that exist on both the PS3 and Wii, and the ones that do are usually just cheap, inferior ports on Wii.

So, I don't primarily game on either console, and it turns out, that's a good thing, because I am North American. Nintendo of America's localization decisions for a good chunk of this generation have been questionable at best and outright hateful towards gamers at worst. I've played Hotel Dusk. I've loved Hotel Dusk. I've recommended Hotel Dusk to other people and they've bought it. As I understand it, Hotel Dusk sold pretty well in North America. So why do I have to import the sequel, The Last Window? The sequel which already exists in English because it was released in Europe?

At least I have the option to import The Last Window. It's a DS game and DS games are region free. The same can't be said for the good half-dozen Wii games Nintendo could have localized but hasn't. Fatal Frame 4. Another Code R, the sequel to Trace Memory, a DS game North America did get. Disaster: Day of Crisis. Pandora's Tower. The Last Story. Xenoblade Chronicles. Five of these games have something in common. Aside from Fatal Frame 4, all of these games have been translated into English and released in Europe, or will be.

They funded the development of all of these games. They exist in English. So why won't Nintendo release them in North America? Why is the cost of localizing games seemingly too much of a hurdle for Nintendo of America, next to the cost of developing them in the first place, which they already did? I don't know. Nobody knows. Nintendo refuses to say.

For many, many, many people, especially this generation, Nintendo consoles exist to play Nintendo games and not much else. Unfortunately, it seems that Nintendo of America can't even be counted on to release Nintendo games any more, so what's left? At their past few E3 press conferences, Nintendo has insisted that they're trying to reconnect with hardcore gamers, including this most recent one last month. Actions (and inaction, in this case) speak louder than words, and right now Nintendo is saying they're not trying. They currently have a grand total of three announced first party Wii games coming before the Wii U that hardcore gamers might care about. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Kirby, and Rhythm Heaven Wii. They're keeping games like Xenoblade away and not releasing anything in their place. This is very anti-hardcore.

Speaking of the Wii U, I don't have very high hopes for it. For the first time since the SNES, I'm considering skipping a Nintendo console. I don't feel like I can count on Nintendo to release great first party games any more, outside of Mario and Zelda. The Wii U is comparable in power to the PS3 and 360. It is trying to compete with those consoles. This is a very short sighted strategy. I already have a PS3. I don't need a console that will play the same games. When the PS4 and Xbox 720 are released, they will likely be much more powerful than the Wii U, and Nintendo will see a repeat of the Wii in certain ways. The Wii U will be forced to do its own thing while the PS4 and 720 compete with each other with similar game libraries that the Wii U can't handle.

Nintendo is already abandoning the hardcore by refusing to release the games they want to play, and I believe they will scare off the casual gamers with their new controller. Casual gamers like the Wii Remote because it's simple and unintimidating. The Wii U controller is the most complicated default home console controller ever made. It has as many buttons as a PS3 or 360 controller, but it also has a motion sensor, a giant touch screen, a microphone, speakers, and a camera. That's every input method ever included in a default home console controller or handheld. Try describing that to someone who is afraid of directional pads and see what they think of it.

So, I think Nintendo has made some very bad decisions lately. I think they've alienated hardcore gamers and are about to alienate casual gamers too. All that will be left are Nintendo diehards, and if I'm any indication, maybe not even us.