Nintendo broke a combo that the video game industry had built itself around over the past decade or so. They released a console during a time when it already had a home console that was still performing pretty well, and at a time when no competitor had a rival console on the horizon. A conscientious decision to set itself apart. Nintendo has proved to us with the Wii that new ideas on how to play and develop games (motion controls and touch screens) are useless if they don’t have new ideas on how to market and sell them (embracing more family and casual markets). I’m a Nintendo fan and have been since I first started playing games. Not just because of their games but because they continue to set their own path. That’s why I believe the biggest difficulties for them in the coming console generation won’t come from Sony, Microsoft or whoever else throws their hat into the ring, the difficulties will come from themselves. Specifically, the lasting effect the Wii U will have on it’s lesser sibling; the 3DS.
We Need to Talk about the 3DS.
Many developers will be asking themselves why they would choose to make a dual screen game for a spec limiting handheld when they could make a Wii U version that reaches a larger audience, demands a higher price and opens the door to cross platform release on PS3 and Xbox 360. The effect is already being felt. After just shy of 2 years, the 3DS has worryingly began to dry up of big name 3rd party games. Like many gamers, I bought the 3DS at release. I love it, but honestly I hardly play it anymore. Yes I know Resident Evil: Revelations is good and Professor Layton is good etc but where are the rest? There simply aren’t enough great games and the ones that are, are mostly Nintendo games.
This year we can at least look forward to Pokemon X and Y, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow- Mirror of Fate, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon with hopefully more top games to be announced and released through the year. It’s not a big list though and typically 5 of those are Nintendo’s own properties – and I counted Pokemon twice.
On the 3rd Party front, for every Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate there’s at least 5 efforts like NCIS 3D: The Game or Farming Simulator 2012 or whatever to stink up the platform. If I tried to list how many lazy ‘Jewel puzzling brain fitness doctor mystery babysitter fashionable sudoku expert’ games were on the DS at it’s death, it would probably take the rest of my life. The unflushable shovelware that overwhelmed the DS and Wiiware store has migrated to 3DS and is only helping to drag down the overall level of quality games appearing on the system.
The Wii U is new and has yet to be afflicted with the same blight, which currently presents it as a more attractive prospect for makers of high caliber AAA games. It is those games that make or break a console. On the portable side of town, it couldn’t be easier for major 3rd party developer to turn their nose up and turn their attentions to the Vita or iOS. The rep of the 3DS among developers hasn’t been helped by reports that it can be hacked. The ghost of the R4 card isn’t good for business.
These are not good omens given the shaky start of the 3DS. Weathered by a pre-mature release with far too little games to show for itself for far too long at a far too high price, only to receive an immense price drop and upgraded version soon after. Now the Wii U is likely going to steal the stage, because as systems go, they’re too similar.
The Gap Between Handheld and Home Console is Closing.
Nintendo is closing it. Say what you want, the Wii U GamePad isn’t solely a controller, it’s a handheld. In fact when I saw an image of the Wii U GamePad, I thought; “Great, I have to buy the 3DS XXL now”. Well turns out it’s a Wii U controller, but if you can use a GamePad to control the Wii U then why not just use the 3DS? Similar things have happened. Why not do that full time this time? Just a thought.
The GameBoy existed on a tiny screen in black and white (ok green and another type of green) right through the NES, SNES and N64 generations. It shone on it’s own. It couldn’t have been anymore different in ability and presentation to those systems, that’s why gamers fell in love with it. A main console and a portable option, this is now a familiar old school trope of console production and one now being used out of habit and appearances rather than innovation or progress.
I like that 3DS is 3D and that I can take it anywhere, but there needs to be more than that. There are games on 3DS that could just as easily be Wii U games with very little changed. Where’s the ingenuity? Looking at New Super Mario Bros U and New Super Mario Bros 2 or even Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario 3D Land, I find it hard to believe that a Mario Kart on Wii U will be that much different in presentation and approach than Mario Kart 7. I don’t doubt it will be great but I do doubt that the parallels really extend further beyond 3D visuals and motion control. I want to see Nintendo think and evolve further. It has been proven that they can.
What to Do, Nintendo?
More third party games for a start. This hasn’t escaped the attentions of Games media anywhere. A subtext to every Nintendo E3 conference for years now and with good reason. There needs to be more. Although Wii U seems to have the support, the 3DS needs it more. I realize Nintendo were launching a new console at E3 but the lack of 3DS representation was telling. Sell your system guys!
Nintendo are not a company to cut off their nose to spite their face. I know innovations will arise from them in the future. This shouldn’t just mean new hardware, they can do it with what they have now. The 3DS and Wii U are similar, so rather than ignore this and let the weaker one die why not do the opposite and embrace it?
We know there’s connectivity through Wii U and 3DS through the MiiMaker. We know that there’s a version of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate coming to Wii U and 3DS in Mar with rumors of how intended link play may work. Nintendo needs to nail this and then do it again with another game and then another and so on. The peripherals and connective handhelds need to be used frequently this time around with the Wii U. Nintendo need to move away from one hit wonders. I stay awake wondering how many Wii Fit boards are being used as make shift sledges, dinner trays and skateboard ramps right now.
Remember the Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures on GameCube and GameBoy Advance? Remember Pokemon Stadium on the Nintendo64 and GameBoy, made possible with a trusty Transfer Paks before that? Remember the Super GameBoy way back when? It’s time for the 2013 take on the inter-connective Nintendo Megazord dudes!
I’m sure there’s plenty of current gen secrets under Mario’s hat ready for us to lose our minds over at the next Nintendo Direct or whatever but let me leave you with some ideas for free, Mr Iwata.
Make the 3DS compliment the Wii U rather than inadvertently compete with it, because it can’t win. Make both consoles shine for their owners, the way GameBoy repeatedly did with it’s more advanced cousins. These may just be ideas but a few good ideas can make the 3DS something to Swapnote home about again.