Sibley Put: Nintendo, What The Hell Was That?

June 6, 2012


[As always, Josh Sibley’s opinions do not reflect those of the JKP! group at large or, indeed, most reasonable people. Gird your loins.]

I’m a couple of minutes out from watching Nintendo’s E3 event, and I’m sitting here trying to piece together in my mind the series of events that could possibly lead up to what I saw on stage.

Nintendo had a pre-E3 show to talk about all the outside features of the new Wii-U, ostensibly so it wouldn’t clutter up all the time Nintendo could talk about games at their actual presser. You know what? I was on board. Slightly humorous-yet-still-insulting skit notwithstanding, I could see the benefit of the Wii U as, if nothing else, the first real, decent way to combine the internet and an entertainment center. Even as far as games go, the low-rent Justin Timberlake was playing a violent zombie game that we later found out was a real thing and the first big Wii U exclusive, but in the video is marketer short-hand for “actual videogame, not Angry Birds”. Of course, there’s the fact that Nintendo had nothing good or far enough along to put in there instead of “CG fakeness”, but I digress.

No. Stop smiling. You have nothing to smile about.

Then their actual press conference showed up this morning and they demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are completely out of touch. And I’m not talking about Wii Music Cammie Dunaway “made-a-press-conference-for-the-wrong-audience” out of touch, because at least back then they didn’t even want or care about our money. They could have shot a baby on stage and no one who was buying their products would have seen it anyway.

This is what it looks like when a huge corporation makes fun of you for supporting them.

No, this was a different out of touch. This was Nintendo debuting for real a new system to us, to Joe and Jill videogamer, and utterly and completely failing. Failing on every conceivable level, failing at even basic knowledge of how the game industry works. Nintendo is working with a system that has more power than they’ve ever had in their history, and the first thing they show is a Mario game that, aside from it being in HD, looks identical to the last like three Mario games they’ve done. No lush, colorful Mushroom Kingdom to run around in. No Mario 64/Sunshine/Galaxy jaw dropping gorgeous environments. Just the same game they’ve done over and over, but crisper now. I’m not saying making a game like that is easy, but indie developers on steam and beyond have been making side scrollers for years now that are unique and visually impressive. Even beyond that, Rayman for the Wii U has already blown the game out of the water with how fun and charming and innovative it is, and none of it is even out yet.

Hey there guy, we’re flat out better than everything Nintendo’s done in the last fifteen years. No, I know it sounds like bullshit.

Then they make a big show of spending valuable stage time talking about the new version of Batman: Arkham City that’ll be for the Wii U. New controlling options aside, are you fucking kidding me Nintendo? It was kind of embarrassing yesterday when Sony devoted a large chunk of time to showing the impressive-looking but decidedly non-assassin-y ship battling of Assassin’s Creed III, after two other press conferences had shown all the stuff we actually care about. Nintendo is trying to impress us with a game that everyone has already played, discussed, and shelved four months ago and gave us zero reason why. In comparison, Sony’s a dignified future man on the bleeding edge of Super Cool.

I found this in the dictionary under “unnecessary”

Even an amateur video-game journalist such as myself  will tell you that if a game doesn’t sell within the first three months of its release date, it’s written off as a loss. Mostly thanks to the used market, games sell at launch or not at all. Nintendo proceeds to show us a sizzle reel of Wii U games that are at least that old as of today when they’re being announced, much less whenever the fucking system decides to come out. There was a Tekken game which isn’t exclusive and there’s Aliens: Colonial Marines, which apparently will look the best on the Wii U, is still also not an exclusive.

coming 3rd quarter 2015

Nintendo then proceeds to try and wow us yet again with what basically amounts to a karaoke app. I think this, more than anything, shows just how much Nintendo doesn’t pay attention anymore. Singstar is a huge PS3 thing that has mostly come and gone. Lips was a moderate success on the 360, again years and years ago, that now has a massive library. Music games as a whole shit themselves about two years ago, and the only place you see anything close to them is in the bargain Wii game aisle, or Dance Central which only works even sort of thanks to the benefit of the Kinect. Anyone who had any sense in the entire company would bury any karaoke mic-peripheral party game deep down in their list of releases, and you CERTAINLY don’t want it on your fucking stage when you debut a new console. That’s like debuting a new truck model with GIT ‘ER DONE and FEDERAL BIKINI INSPECTOR bumper stickers, Calvin Pissing in the window, and Nude Woman mud flaps already affixed to it.

A computer simulation of what the dignity of your average party game looks like.

Then it’s a new Wii Fit! Nintendo, look. I know Wii Fit sold a shitload. I understand you don’t want to let that go. But first off, you almost got in trouble because studies showed that the Wii Fit program did jack shit for your overall health and well being. It was about as effective a workout program as thinking about going to the gym, but at the very least the commercials for it showed something that sort of looked like a geriatric shuffling workout.

Hey, thanks for making sure grandma is interested in my hobby by making the worst games possible. Hey, do you have any ideas on how to make porn awful and bland so it gets her attention as well?

The new Wii Fit showed me a woman standing on her tiptoes, a man laying down stiffly, and then him kneeling or something. I get more of a workout getting up in the morning and going to the fridge, you guys. That is straight up flim flam, you marketing robbers. Not only did you waste yet more valuable presentation time with garbage that no one at the show or online cared about, you did it using full on untruths.

“Whoah, Nintendo tried to say what about Wii Fit? Twice? No man, I’m out. That’s way too dishonest.”

The last super-blunder they had was Nintendo Land, what they call a “Nintendo theme park” but what everyone who’s not a fifth level black belt in corporate marketing beat-around-the-bush-speak will call “Wii Sports But Really From Nintendo This Time”. Honestly, this is the only part of the presentation that actually made sense to me, lame as it was. In order to kind of show the world what the Wii U can do, you need to have a bunch of tech demos ready to put in people’s hands. Of course, you can’t just sharpie the word “tech demo” on a CD-R and shove it into the system box, so packaging it as a minigame collection is the smart thing to do. It worked for Wii Sports, and it’s sure to work here.

Should a minigame Mario Party Wii Sports Again title be something that you spend a shitload of time focusing on? Absolutely not. Yet it was the big setpiece they closed with and the focus of an entire thirty minute presentation after their press conference. Just a quick perusal of news stories on several sites are praising the graphics in it. No, no you don’t guys. You don’t get to spend an entire console generation downplaying graphical fidelity and then praise the first time you see a Mii next to an HD texture, no fucking way.

Just look at the graphical fidelity you’re able to achieve when you don’t have to render the arms.

You want to know the tragic part of all of this? This should kill Nintendo. This thing should be the biggest flop they’ve ever seen, and at the very least make them completely overhaul their entire business structure. If any other company at any other point in time did this, it would sink them for good and be a blunder that business classes would talk about for years to come. This should be the Yahoo Serious of their career, and it won’t. I don’t think it’ll reach the heights that Wii did, but it won’t lose them any money either. Already I’m seeing buzz that people either held off on buying Arkham City for this console, or they’re just going to buy it again because of question mark. They can’t wait for the next slightly different Mario game, they can’t wait for everything at that conference and beyond. That’s all well and good, it takes all kinds, but there’s just enough of those people that Will keep Nintendo comfortably afloat until the heat death of the universe. Nintendo will never know what it’s like to hemorrhage money and have to refocus, have to really create, have to really try again.


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7 comments on “Sibley Put: Nintendo, What The Hell Was That?

  1. Patrick Jun 6, 2012

    “well that certainly was unique” should be on Iwata’s/Nintendo’s tombstone

    great article Josh, you nailed it.

    I honestly think they just made a brand new piece of HD hardware and have no idea what to do with it. Its the wii all over again.


    • You know what? I think they knew exactly what they were doing with the Wii. What they did was a risk, but it was a highly calculated one. Their stated goal was that they wanted to open up the world of video-games to people who normally wouldn’t touch them. A lot of people just assumed that they were aiming for that via their games, but the Wii’s major library wasn’t all that different from the Gamecube’s. The only difference is that no one was paying attention to the Gamecube, so they basically got a do-over.

      No, the way Nintendo was going to do that was purely via hardware. They wanted to sell something that no one had ever seen before, they wanted to sell potential. Whether it worked or not, whether third parties used it or not was incidental, because they were making money on the actual console. The games were the same as they ever were, i.e. really good. The waggle and the Wii Sports was merely a way to break down the walls of stigma, so that people might actually go “Hey, Mario and all these other things are actually fun”. The one flaw in this plan is that Nintendo is trying to stretch a short con into a long one, and that doesn’t work when you’re basically selling flim-flam. The Wii wasn’t a console, it was a novelty. The Wii U is actually a console, so it doesn’t have enough novelty for that crowd, but at the same time they’re loading a console with novelty software, so it doesn’t have enough punch for us either.


      • Patrick Jun 7, 2012

        You know the one thing that Nintendo rarely talks about while sony/microsoft can’t stop talking about is indie developers. I think it would almost be of nintendo’s interest to promote indie devs to come up with games for their “unique” hardware maybe even make a grant/scholarship idea where a dev comes up with an amazing concept and Nintendo promotes the game and the dev behind it that way they finally get games that work with the hardware and aren’t just another assassins creed or batman or (insert franchise game that’s better on the other systems)

        If not like I said, fatal frame or Pokemon snap where the wiiU works as the camera. I dare you to come up with a better existing franchise that doesn’t just use the wiiU as an inventory screen/mini map


        • I agree with both these sentiments, but I’ve wanted a new Pokemon Snap since the first one came out.

          There are a few glorious diamonds in the rough that is WiiWare, such as Lost Winds, World of Goo, and And Yet It Moves from indie devs, but Nintendo does an awful job of promoting them. Same goes for the Eshop on 3DS.


          • Patrick Jun 8, 2012

            I’m listening to the giant bombcast and they had a story about how the new fire emblem is coming out and there was absolutely nothing about it, to the point that the guy from Kotaku asked reggie about new games and he said that should hav been announced. What!?


  2. Patrick Jun 7, 2012

    Also aside from Iwata pointing out the button in the pre announcement e3 video did they talk about NFC at all? Did I have a stroke or did I just imagine that was suppose to be another semi big thing about this hardware?


    • NFC was totally absent. Not a smidge of info.


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