[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.