Sibley Put: Oh God Nintendo, Please Don’t Fuck This Up

June 5, 2011

‘Sibley Put’ is where Josh Sibley, real American hero, boldly and unabashedly dissects the hot-button issues of modern video gaming and its surrounding culture. Everything he says is to be taken as personally as possible, so get those brows ready for some serious-ass furrowing. You babies.

I know we’ve talked about this on the podcast recently, but Nintendo’s Wii2 is slated for this Tuesday’s press conference. I figured I’d elaborate on what I think the future holds.

This kind of mental exercise is something that I very much enjoy.  Predicting where Nintendo would head after the DS and Wii were initially announced was maximumly thrilling, if not an altogether depressing affair. While I was super, ultra wrong with my predictions about the DS, I was pretty much spot on with what I foresaw with the Wii: while everyone else swore it was the second coming, a utopia where Innovation would reign supreme and those with not-so-deep pockets would get to show the big boys what’s what, I saw that Nintendo was basically doing the exact same thing they did with the Gamecube, only this time they had advertising and a gimmick behind it.

Pictured: Gimmicks, advertising.

It took a while, but the novelty of the Wii has dropped off dramatically, finally validating what I’ve been saying since the first WarioWare reared its ugly head: If you want people who traditionally don’t care about videogames to change their tune, and change it for good and for real, the way to do that is not with some retarded, back-of-a-cereal-box mini game pile of shit. If people get exposed to videogames that way, they’re not going to hop on over to Legend of Zelda or Metroid; they’re going to play one or two WarioWare games and then never touch games ever again.

This fucker is the exact point at which Nintendo realized they could substitute hard work with being wacky and make just as much, if not more money. Fuck this guy.

Nintendo’s grand scheme earned them planet-loads of cash, but the gravy train has finally run its course. Nintendo’s posted dramatically falling profits for three quarters running, polls indicate that most people have either sold their systems or have relegated them to the backs of closets, and third parties have either abandoned the Wii for the tinier, shittier pastures of various mobile devices and Facebook or were never on the thing to begin with– because a technologically advanced controller doesn’t make up for the fact that the box behind it was filled with stone-age technology, turns out. There isn’t an artist on the planet who wants to be forced to play with glitter crayons when he could actually have art supplies at his disposal.

“I don’t know what mom expects me to do with this bullshit. HEY, YOU GET OUT WHAT YOU PUT IN, ASSHOLE. What? Oh come on Susie, don’t be a suckup.”

With the release of the 3DS and its starting line up, in addition to the reports that the Wii2 is going to try and win back the hardcore market (what I call “the actual videogame market”). This is Nintendo’s first chance to actually be on top for the first time since the SNES. The stars are aligning and events have coalesced in such a way that Nintendo has the best chance of a shot at the title they’ve had in years.

Not that title.

This isn’t to say it’ll be easy. Nintendo’s got a long, hard uphill battle ahead of them, but it’s really the only option they’ve got. To help them along, here’s a list of what I think Nintendo has to do if they want to win this next gen:
1: Make a mission statement and stick to it.
This might seem like a silly no-brainer, but last gen Nintendo had a clear mission, and they accomplished it well beyond what anyone could have reasonably expected, namely “create a new market for videogames.” Their follow-through left a little to be desired, but still. Nintendo needs to have a clearly defined goal here again, especially now because they’re between a rock and a hard place: On one side, they’re coming out of sudden, massive, record-breaking profits that are undeniably unsustainable and largely over. On the other side, they’re faced with once again trying to compete in an industry that has manhandled their ballsacks like a priest who is also the Hulk for going on fifteen years now.

I had no idea this picture existed when I wrote that joke. I literally said out loud “No Fucking Way” when I saw this, on the first page of image-search no less. God loves me sometimes.

This is the kind of situation that makes shareholders shit themselves and force companies to make bad decisions, like, say, trying to be both casual and hardcore friendly at the same time. If Nintendo doesn’t come out of the gate realizing that’s an impossible task and instead picks a side and sticks to it, they’re going to lose before they sell their first game.
The two markets want fundamentally different things. To try and please both would be like trying to sell the same food product to people who want popcorn and people who want steak. This article is going to go ahead with the assumption that Nintendo’s going to try and win back the hardcore side this time around, because honestly, it’s their only option. They’re certainly welcome to try to get that “Blue Ocean” group back, but literally every dollar they’ve made since the DS came out is thanks entirely to Apple. Instead of asking for royalties for all these years, Apple’s just decided to beat the absolute stuffing out of Nintendo in their own market. If Nintendo tries to pull a Sith and strike down their  master, they will quickly learn just how accustomed people are to playing 99 cent digital games on a device that can do everything else as well in this day and age.

You don’t know the POWER of cheap garbage mixed with digital distribution! No, seriously, you don’t. You should look into that.

2. Realize you were wrong about the value of technology.

Nintendo made a large gamble that increased power isn’t what people look for in a new game console. They bet that the future was with clever gameplay innovations, and that increased power was just expensive baggage that no one needed. They have since been awarded the Congressional Medal of Holy Shit Were You Wrong.

Awarded for Outstanding Achievement in What The Fuck Were You Thinking

Well, that’s not entirely true: their target audience, i.e. people that didn’t know better didn’t seem to mind, but those people have since moved on. People who actually matter (actual game fans and the people who make games) want advanced power if they’re going to spend the cash to upgrade. Of course, this is up to a point. As Sony will tell you, increased hardware specs reach a point where the price tag outweighs the benefits. Nintendo has to find the sweet spot: advanced enough to where it gives an obvious, first glance benefit over the current generation, and cheap enough to where the price tag isn’t through the roof. If Nintendo releases a system that’s only up to THIS gen’s standards, people will start laughing at it and never stop. The combination of sweet spot of advanced technology and coming out first is what made the PS2 the powerhouse that it was.
3. Realize that you were extra wrong about the features people want in a game console.
Nintendo wants the hardcore audience back, and to do that it has to compete with the big boys. The only way it can do that is to be better than them. Nintendo cannot bargain with the industry, saying “we’ll leave this out but you can have this instead”. It doesn’t work like that. Nintendo has to bite the bullet and implement things that the other guys have had for years, and then some. Remember, they’re asking you and me to upgrade, to stand with them as they endeavor to become the big, go-to name in videogames. They’re trying to prove that they’re the future. Both competing consoles now have wireless, hard drives, streaming movies, and media hub capabilities standard, in addition to online stores with various amounts of content and near-seamless integration into online play for years now. Nintendo’s next console has to have AT LEAST all of that. It doesn’t matter if you personally don’t care about this little feature or that little feature: Nintendo has to prove that they’re not a “backup” system, that they can be a system that developers build major titles for, first and foremost. You don’t develop your blockbusters for the backup shitbox with last-gen features.

It’s pretty much this, but with a controller that barely works and friend codes.

Online is especially important. Nintendo, at this point, basically has to suck it up and admit that everything they’ve ever done in regards to online has been a universally piss poor effort and throw it all out the window. The friend codes have to be gone, period. Microsoft and Sony have had services using actual screen names for many years that have been ultra successful, and it’s just simply the standard now. I’m also worried that Nintendo is under the impression that the WiiWare and DSi stores have ever been anything of any value whatsoever, and will continue to run those services like they’ve been running them, i.e. lamely and terribly.

Pictured: Nintendo’s online strategy thus far

Nintendo also has to jump on the DLC bandwagon: If not for themselves, then at the bare minimum they have to provide a framework so that other games by other companies that might appear on the system have a way to offer it. Rumors abound that Project Cafe is going to feature SD storage and flash memory. While this is worrying, it’s understandable. Microsoft has cried for years about how expensive it is making their custom hard drives. SD cards are relatively cheaper, and Nintendo’s going to try and cut costs wherever they can. As long as they realize that the storage options they’ve been using up until this point are unfeasible and the product of a backwards thinking, mired-in-the-past company, we’ll be good. Telling consumers “It’s going to be a hassle to find a place to put all the things you want to buy from us” is not smart, but telling companies that “You can’t do the thing that’s netted you literally millions of dollars and is utterly commonplace now from all of our competitors” would basically mean instant console suicide. Which brings us to…
4. Realize that you need massive, unwavering third party support at all costs.
Nintendo needs to realize that while their first party games can be excellent and a system seller, they cannot stand alone. They have to realize that one Nintendo game a year isn’t going to cut it, and they need the entire industry behind them in order for them to succeed. Success this time around isn’t just about the initial selling of systems, it’s about making sure that the system lives a long, robust life beyond the initial sale. The only way to do that is by having a steady library of good games, and 85% of that is going to come from people that aren’t Nintendo. Nintendo needs to start *yesterday* lining up launch day and close-to-launch-day titles from major companies and doing whatever it takes to keep those companies happy. Anything less than several major installments of major franchises and/or new IP’s from major, proven studios will be disastrous.
Capcom’s always been a staunch ally of Nintendo, but Nintendo needs nothing less than the next major chapter of the RE franchise to be on their system first and foremost. Not a spinoff, not a side-story, not a fucking experiment where they re-tell RE1 but with sock puppets or some shit. Rumor has it that Rockstar has already entered into some kind of agreement with Nintendo for this new system, and it cannot be anything less than GTA V. Not GTA IV: Bowling With Cousin or GTA IV: Beeg American TeeTees Adventures, but the actual, honest to God GTA V. A Final Fantasy game couldn’t hurt. If it were me, I’d throw as many millions towards Square as possible to make a FF7 remake happen. Whatever they’d end up spending, it’d be guaranteed to make the cash back and then some. Ask Epic games to put their money where their mouth is and release something big and new for the HD Nintenbox. This honestly shouldn’t be hard. Developers *want* to make things for a Nintendo platform, they just don’t want to do it on one that might as well be hewn from stone with a reputation as your mom’s exercise machine.

Perhaps?

Rumor also has it that they’ve shown the box to Ubisoft and EA, so hopefully part of that was, “We want a Dead Space sequel, a major Bioware game, and the next main installment of Assassin’s Creed made for our system,” and the other part of that was, “You can take the Rabbids, ActiveLife, and NBA Ballers and shove them up your ass.” It is imperative, important above all else, that they show both developers and consumers that, without a doubt, this is the place to be for the next generation  of gaming– and, since they’re going to be first out of the gate, they have to do it from day one.  (Yes, I know the shitpiles sell, but you really shouldn’t come out of the gate with a manure truck. There will be plenty of time for that later.) And, speaking from a gamer standpoint, wouldn’t it be nice to have at least a single console launch in the history of the world that wasn’t like a big, disappointing wet fart?

I cannot say this enough: The biggest, most consistent indicator of success or failure in the game market is the library of games, the third party support. This is Nintendo’s biggest Achilles heel. It has buried two otherwise fantastic systems before their time, and before Nintendo rode the GimmickWave to Momville, has relegated them to a laughingstock dinosaur. Even as we speak, 3DS sales are lackluster, and a recent poll in Japan aimed to find out why. Near the top of the list? The lineup currently sucks. I’ll repeat that: The successor to the biggest selling system of all time that features no-glasses 3d and a whole slew of other impressive technology isn’t interesting to the island of Japan because the games aren’t there. If Nintendo does not admit to themselves this time around that pursuit of this support and library is literally the difference between existing and not existing, then they might as well not even bother. This brings us to my next point…

5. Realize that your gimmick, whatever it is, is not a bargaining chip.

The suspicions about Nintendo’s new system run the gamut from a touchscreen controller that can stream games on the fly to a touchscreen controller than can imitate texture and everything in between. The worst mistake Nintendo can make right now is putting too much stock into whatever it is, and thinking that it’s so neat that they can not have other features and no one will notice, or that they’re less important. The danger here is that Nintendo will be so enthralled with whatever this new feature is, they’ll do what they did with the Wii last time: namely, try and force everyone to care about it the most. Nintendo has to realize that,  whatever their gimmick is, it cannot stand in for anything we’re currently used to in this generation of consoles. It cannot make up for lack of power, it cannot make up for shitty online, it cannot make up for lack of a library, it cannot make up for lack of storage space, it cannot make up for anything.  The whole “we have this, no one else does” gambit only works is if they can’t say the same about you.

6. Realize that a chance like this will not come for at least another 7 years, if ever again.

Sony and Microsoft, while they reaped massive benefits from their respective consoles eventually, both had massive pains in the ass to deal with this generation, and I’m not just talking about the red rings and the network breaches. I’m talking about how releasing a major new game console in this day and age is a massive, massive, expensive undertaking. That’s half the reason for the Move and the Kinect, to extend the life of their consoles so they don’t have to do that shit again anytime soon.

But Nintendo just ruined all their plans. While Microsoft and Sony were fumbling around in the dark, trying to find something, *anything* to do with their bullshit motion controls, Nintendo announced a new system was coming, and it was coming soon.  Nintendo has a safe zone of a year and a half, possibly more, where they can do whatever they want with the next generation to no competition. This is the kind of opportunity that makes empires, but you can bet the Big Two won’t make the same mistake twice. If Nintendo squanders this lead by having the same kind of attitude that brought us Wii Music and genuinely thought it would be a smash hit, then the advantage will have flipped. Developers and consumers will be perfectly happy to stay with their massive investments and libraries in the face of the same old same old from the Big N, and you can bet that the current big boys on the block will take what Nintendo did, improve upon it, and give us what we actually want when the time comes to upgrade. The last three Nintendo systems, regardless of gimmick or initial popularity, have died 2 years or more before their competitors, so don’t think it can’t happen again.

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I am so excited for E3 this year.  I can’t wait to see if Nintendo will actually wise up, or if this will be another disaster.  Either way, it’s going to be extremely entertaining and I can’t wait for it.

Use Your Keyboard to Yell at Us

5 comments on “Sibley Put: Oh God Nintendo, Please Don’t Fuck This Up

  1. Tyler Jun 5, 2011

    Man, I love “Sibley Put”s. They always make for entertaining read, and you make some great points, Josh.

    I often feel like you are too hard on Nintendo in the podcast, but you’re argument here is very thought-out and hard to disagree with. We shall see what E3 holds!

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    • Thanks a bunch Tyler. Since the Gamecube, I’ve gone from hopeful, to angry, to dismissive, to laughing. People may say “Oh, Nintendo’s fine”, but they used to be king. They weren’t making “we fooled grandma” money, they were making “Microsoft before the anti-trust hearings” money. They did it by being better and smarter than their competitors, not by taking their ball and going home. This is the first time since the SNES died that they have the chance to be that again. Let’s hope they take it. Only a couple of day left to go!

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  2. This is a great article Josh, you bring up some really good points. I think Nintendo will have a very good (and smart) E3 this year. Luckily, we’ll get to see what the future holds for Nintendo in less than 48 hours. Also, don’t wait another eight months to write your next article.

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  3. Justin Jun 7, 2011

    Nintendo did less than half of the things that (you said) they needed to do. Nintendo failed to impress me, and a lot of people with the Wii U, it’s technically just a slightly more powerful X-Box 360 with a gimmicky touch controler. I was looking forward to getting the Wii U, until I saw how disappointing it was, now I’m going to save my money for the PSVita instead

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  4. The 3DS had a strong showing, and that’s the only reason that Nintendo didn’t completely fail today. The Wii U is lame, gimmicky, and much less powerful than everyone was expecting.

    “The Wii U will rival the graphical power of the Playstation 3” -Satoru Iwata Really Nintendo? It took you five years just to be on par with the PS3?!? I think I’ll just stick with my XBOX 360.

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