Editorial #08: Nintendo’s burden of proof

Lyndsey Mosley

Lyndsey Mosley, editor

Multiple gaming outlets reported Monday that Nintendo would push to the marketplace in 2012 a successor to the Wii. Codenamed Project Cafe at the moment, the new console is being trumpeted in some circles to meet or exceed the current generation of hardware.

Now, that’s all fine and well, but honestly, we’ve heard that song and dance before from Nintendo. I was around for the Wii launch, and I remember the dark days of no third-party support in the N64 and GameCube era. Call me cynical, but I don’t have much faith in the statement that Nintendo intends to do better. I’ve been burned one too many times with the level of commitment from Nintendo regarding its consoles from 1996 onward.

I sold my Wii not that long ago, and you can read the reasons why in my first online editorial (which can be read here). I’m not jazzed about the announcement, and the new system is definitely not a day-one must have for me. I can do without anything that Nintendo is passing off these days as games and that’s not meant as a diss to the company. It’s meant to serve as a reminder that growing up with Nintendo for so long and feeling pushed aside by the company in favor of the fringe margin of gamers this generation means I don’t care and my dollars and respect will have to be earned again.

While I don’t love Nintendo anymore, I do wish them well. In order to get me to pay attention again, the company has quite a few things I need for it to do.

1. Robust online support: I want to be able to get online with my friends, play games, chat and share experiences. I want to compare our games, what we have in common through Nintendo, what we don’t have in common and be able to participate in the world over the Internet that includes tournaments. That also means no friend codes, too.

2. Support from third-party developers: I want some decent marketing support for great titles like Mad World. I want to be able to enjoy full good versions of the latest games that also are made for Microsoft and Sony. I do not want shovelware and only one good game per year, courtesy of first party only.

3. Familiar franchises done correctly: Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – screw up your marquee franchises with mediocre sequels and incomprehensible team ups with strange companies. Nintendo has a great stable of characters that gamers care about. These characters – Mario, Samus, Link, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Fox McCloud, Yoshi and Pit – can sell games if they’re done correctly. In particular Mario, Metroid and The Legend of Zelda are multimillion-plus sellers by name alone. That kind of built-in marketing buzz has to be developed over time but can be destroyed overnight if enough damage is done to the brand. Nintendo’s stable and reputation for quality has taken a hit with subpar installments (see: Metroid: Other M), and Project Cafe is a way to correct this.

4. Lose the gimmicks: Nintendo should take the hint from its most successful time and apply it to today’s market. When it was on top of the heap with the Super Nintendo, it didn’t need gimmicks to be king of the hill. It had sterling third-party support and a dedication to quality gaming with great technical specs, know-how and engineering. Sure, the music sometimes left a lot to be desired and the graphics sometimes weren’t pretty, but at least you knew Nintendo was trying to be the best it could be. And it didn’t take a remote and waggling controls to do it. If I were Nintendo, I’d revisit the old days and not just for Virtual Console ideas either.

5. Consistent peripheral support: It seems every generation Nintendo worsens in its support for its introduced peripherals. Instead of tricking consumers into buying pieces of add-on hardware that will never be fully encouraged, Nintendo should stick with ideas it knows will be used. A classic controller, much like the one released with the Wii, was a brilliant idea and should be kept. Throwaways like the e-Reader, GameBoy Advance Player and ancient SNES Mouse and Super Scope need to stay off the roster.

As a longtime gamer I’m hoping to see suggestions from this list make it into the corporate philosophy of Nintendo by the time this system is introduced. Here’s hoping for a great show and even greater new console.

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04 2011

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