Currently, questions flow in the mind of game enthusiasts everywhere. Will the Wii U deliver on its promises? Will there be third party support? Will Nintendo ever learn to incorporate online features that aren’t mindlessly roundabout?
Why doesn’t everyone think it’s cool? Why does anyone think it’s cool? Everyone has a position, negative, positive, or mildly skeptic. Any trek into gaming site articles concerning the shiny new white/black box is tainted with strong opinions and decisive indifference. Reminds me a bit of 2006.
In the end, the trajectory of the game industry is going to be shaped by what Nintendo does, for better or worse. In fact, it’s already happening. Microsoft’s Smartglass incorporation and Sony’s PSVita planned connectivity likely wouldn’t have ever been considered had Nintendo not gone in it’s peculiar direction. But whereas these features are implemented simply for Microsoft and Sony to market their consoles as having checked off features from Nintendo’s oddball toy (see Kinect and PlayStation Move as examples of this in the recent past), the Wii U was built from the ground up for tablet integration. It’s not an add-on feature. This is the axis by which the console lives or dies.
Let’s talk about it.
Before I write any more, I’ll admit to some bias. It should come to little surprise to those who read my opinion piece praising the Wii despite its shortcomings that I’m optimistic about Nintendo’s latest offering. Many disqualify Nintendo from any serious discussion of video games because of the reputation Nintendo has for making games for children. But that’s fair. Nintendo’s games are made to be accessible by children. But to me, disliking Nintendo is like disliking Pixar or Studio Ghibli because they too make entertainment designated primarily for children. You lose the potential to see some truly spectacular work and innovation doing that. And you can certainly have both mature and wide audience-appealing games coexist in your library.
So yes, I like Nintendo. Despite my love for the Grand Theft Autos, Mass Effects, and Fallout 3′s of the gaming spectrum, I can’t deny my undying appreciation for Zelda, Mario, and all the quirkiness of the Nintendo empire. The Wii U will be home to the next Super Smash Brothers, Legend of Zelda, and goddamn Pikmin. You can bet all the money in the world I’m excited.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not realistic. The Wii U has plenty of opportunity to fail. If Nintendo plays its little game right, thing’s be fine. But the world might not have the same capacity for enthusiasm that exploded in 2006. New tech is the mainstream now more than ever, and we’re all on IV drips. Oh okay, the Wii U has a tablet. That’ll go great with my family’s other five tablets, smartphones, touch screen laptops, and smart TV’s. Just as the Vita was not the hot tech splash it would have been five years ago (not once has any random person commended me on my high-tech literacy for using one in the open, which TOTALLY happened with the DS in like 2007. THE DS!), average, non-”hardcore gamer” folks won’t likely talk about this newfangled device with quite the wide-eyed awe that they did back in the day for the original Wii. Truth is, we’re inundated with new technology. Waving around a stick in front of a crowd and proclaiming that this is the revolution only really works once, and Nintendo’s had its moment. The Wii U is not going to be the hot item the Wii was. But that’s not the devastating blow it sounds like.
Considering the audacious number of Wiis in consumer hands, saying the Wii U isn’t likely to match its success is not that bad. After all, the PS3 and Xbox 360 are nowhere near the Wii’s widespread success, but they are FAR from unsuccessful. No, the Wii U’s innovation has already proven to have subtler public appeal. In my mind, the tablet controller is a better and more useful innovation than motion control ever was, and we have greater room to benefit from it. And the fact that motion isn’t the selling gimmick this time around, we’re likely to see less motion based festivals of stupidity.
Sure, there will definitely be shovel ware. Especially once the next major console cycle begins and companies will be able to save lots of development cash by downgrading their graphical ambitions on what will surely be the lowest end console in terms of graphical power. But waggle is largely a thing of the past. Will the tablet controller have any implementation even as remotely annoying and wasteful of potential as waggle? Only time will tell.
But let’s think for a minute about what could truly be done with a console such as this. The maximum innovation possible with motion control was always limited to just adding motion control to games. And its implementation’s benefit to us harder-of-the-core game enthusiasts is dubious at best. But with the touchscreen tablet controller at developers’ hands, there will likely be some truly unimaginable ways this technology will change our relationship with consoles. Already, a number of journalists with pre-launch consoles are.
In the grand scope of things, we players will benefit from this, far more than we did with the larger integration of motion control to our favorite consoles. The innovation this time around is far more conceptual than the specific, concrete uses of motion control. Finally, I can game as long as I want into the night without worrying that the blasting light from my TV bothers my roommate. Finally, my sister and I won’t fight over whether to watch TV or have her watch me play video games on said TV. Finally, Call of Duty fans everywhere can get up in the morning, reach for their gamepads, play CoD all day, put it down at night, sleep, and never have to leave the bed.
My god, the Wii U will be the death of us all. But that’s not a bad thing. Innovation is really just leading to one ultimate demise: our mass extinction at the hands of seven billion individual pleasure rooms for us to sit in and live our entire lives in fantasy worlds of our creation (and not mate with other human beings, most importantly). The Wii U is just another step in that direction.
Seriously though, the success or failure of the Wii U will prove to be endlessly interesting. No company sees more of its ideas repackaged and reimagined than Nintendo, and even though the Wii U may not be the console for all, it will likely come to affect everyone who plays regardless of console preference.
Come sunday, I’ll be there to see it firsthand. Will you?