Without question, Nintendo is one of the most successful gaming companies ever. With the next generation of gaming right around the corner, Nintendo has taken the first leap with its upcoming console, the Wii U. However, is this Nintendo’s attempt at the next generation or is it an attempt to catch up with Sony and Microsoft before the REAL next-gen gaming experience becomes available? While there is much talk about the Wii not matching up in comparison to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Nintendo’s Wii was the only one of the three consoles that saw an early profit; Microsoft and Sony haven’t seen console profits until recently. Even with the Wii’s success, mostly due to its family orientation and Nintendo loyalists, Nintendo felt it was time to release a new console, not only earlier than its two competitors, but also at a price that they acknowledge is lower than the cost of development.
Sony’s first significant attack on the Wii didn’t come until nearly four years after the system released. Revolutionizing the industry again, Nintendo introduced motion-control gaming in 2006 with the Wii. While the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 saw earlier North American release dates, the Wii was released with a new approach on how to engage gamers in a new way, rather than being a high definition system. Nintendo’s decision obviously didn’t hurt profits, but the Wii hit its ceiling much quicker than the competition. Taking advantage of the low ceiling of the Wii, Sony released an accessory that brought motion-control gaming to the PS3. While Nintendo responded to customers’ dissatisfaction with the Wiimote’s lack of motion detection accuracy with the announcement of the Wii Motion Plus, Sony was busy with their announcement of the PS Move. The auxiliary device was an attachment to the PS3 that featured better accuracy than the Wiimote and could be used with games that weren’t specifically designed for motion-control. Rather than attempt to do battle with Microsoft’s Kinect, Sony replicated and improved upon the Wii’s main feature. Though the Wii continued its success and the PS Move didn’t take off in the way that Sony hoped, it did spark more talk about how far behind Nintendo really was.
Much like with the SEGA Dreamcast, Sony continued its “Anything-You-Can-Do-I-Can-Do-Better” approach. The Dreamcast made leaps that consumers wanted from that generation of gaming, but it lacked one critical thing: a DVD player. Although the Dreamcast had the biggest launch to date with 18 release day titles, it lacked developer support after the launch of the PlayStation 2. Sony was able to offer DVD use in the PlayStation 2, new and old PlayStation exclusives, and even took the idea of gaming online that was originally brought to reality with the SEGA Dreamcast. SEGA was seeing a revitalization of the company’s significance in the console business with the Dreamcast and seemed to have taken the top spot from the Nintendo 64; however, SEGA fell victim to releasing their system too soon as Sony took the opportunity to exploit what the Dreamcast lacked with the PS2. Nintendo may suffer the same fate with the Wii U as Sony has already begun its assault on their system before it even has had a chance to launch, and before Sony has even considered developing a next-gen system.
Unlike Sony which is content with waiting out the start of the next generation, Nintendo seems to feel the need to get its system out first, which will leave Sony and Microsoft to recognize and expose those weaknesses. Expanding upon the idea of the Nintendo Wii, the Wii U has a controller that apparently has it all. This controller has a touch screen, microphone, camera, motion sensing, and dual analog sticks, but Sony claims that their handheld system, the PS Vita, does all of this and more. In another blatant attack on Nintendo, Sony released an update for the PS3 and PS Vita that enhanced the remote play, which allows the PS Vita to be used for PS3 games such as Shadow of the Colossus and the God of War Collection. Where Sony expands upon the Wii U’s capabilities is in the fact that it is a handheld system. The PS Vita has a processor of its own, which allows it to run independently without a home console. While this alone is unlikely to directly create the fall of Nintendo’s console development, it has shown how far behind Nintendo really is.
Randy Pitchford, head of Borderlands 2 developer Gearbox Software, has publicly expressed praise for developing on the Wii U and its controller. In the case of the SEGA Dreamcast, game developers bailed out en masse upon the release of the PS2, but with support from such a big name developer, it can be assumed that Nintendo will not face the same troubles. However, the Wii U is just the world’s first glimpse at the eighth generation of gaming. If their handheld device, combined with an update to the PS3, can emulate the same capabilities of the Wii U, Sony’s PS4 could bring the death of Nintendo’s console production. With Sony clearly ahead of the technological curve, it will be interesting to see what exactly they have in store for the next generation. “We’ve never been first. We’ve never been cheapest. It’s about being the best,” Jack Tretton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment of America has said about Sony’s console practices. The Wii U will shed light on what can be added, only leaving the door open for Sony and Microsoft to counter with a system capable of more. Nintendo is relying heavily on the pending success of the Wii U, and while they have seen tremendous success in the past, it is obvious that Sony is attacking Nintendo consoles and Nintendo has noted that.