The new console generation has begun, and though AAGH lags behind with no PlayStation 4 or Xbox One in its stable yet, it’s still an exciting time to be a gamer – new console launches are always a hive of excitement. There’s one outlier in this next-gen fight though, one that I believe people are misunderstanding: Nintendo. I keep reading how Nintendo needs to step up to win this latest console race. People have their varying opinions on how Nintendo can or can’t beat Sony and Microsoft’s latest offerings. I think mine is pretty simple: they don’t have to.
First off, ‘winning’ a console race/war is an outdated concept. Seriously, who won the last one? Can anyone really pinpoint which console – Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 – won? I certainly can’t. Previous console generations usually had one major console come out on top as The One.
8 bit: NES
16 bit: Super NES
32/64 bit: PlayStation
128 bit: PlayStation 2
As for the post-128 bit/HD generation, you can make an argument for any of the three consoles. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 duked it out with console exclusives, contrasting online strategies, and strong fan bases, while the Wii sold like hotcakes but had more shovelware than the other two systems combined and lost a lot of fan and consumer good will along the way because of it. Personally my favorite system of the three was the Xbox 360, even if I did have to get it replaced three times for the Red Ring of Death.
Even if you do believe in the archaic concept of winning a console race, it’s really a two system race this time. Microsoft and Sony have purely pitted their new systems against each other, with no thought given to Nintendo. Nintendo likewise doesn’t seem too interested in what they are up to. They’re going their own way, and that’s that. Their only concern is staying stable financially, and right now the Wii U is not pulling its own weight.
I think the screen on their gamepad is killing the Wii U. They won’t get a lot of major ports from the other systems since devs would have to – on top of scaling back the game visually to work on the Wii U – make some use of the gamepad’s screen, and that’s not something you can really just throw together last minute and expect success. They have to dedicate their time to putting something on that screen to make it worth the gamers’ time and I don’t see a lot of devs willing to put in that extra effort (and money) when they will probably sell a more copies on the XB1 and PS4, anyway.
For Nintendo to stay afloat this generation they need to do two things: Market the Wii U as a complimentary system and provide games that aren’t on the other two systems. It’s not big and flashy like the two new kids on the block but it’s a unique experience and that touch screen gamepad is still fun to use. They could market their gamepad to mobile game developers, pointing out its advantages over your average Android tablet or iPad, such as it’s built in button controls and TV connection as a way to get them to bring their creations and talents to their system. Combine that with a more focused digital distribution strategy, and I could see the Wii U selling pretty well. The Wii U is already more of a casual gamer’s console, so this would likely appeal to its existing market as well. A new Zelda or Metroid title wouldn’t hurt, either.
Obviously I don’t think Nintendo will shutter their console business, a la Sega in the early 2000s, but I don’t think the Wii U will be the top system this console generation, either – not that I believe that even matters anymore, if it ever really did. All three players in this console generation will be around for the next one and that’s a great thing for gamers. I prefer having a selection of consoles with varying strengths and weaknesses where the consumer can buy the one that fits their needs rather than being shoehorned on to one dominant system. All three of the new systems have pros and cons, and it’s up to the individual user to decide what they want out of their gaming investment. Just stop calling it a console war, because none of us benefit from console causalities.