Reality Check: The Dangers of Gimmick Gaming

Is Nintendo's way the right way?

Back in the early part of this century, Nintendo was going through hard times. Sony's emergence in the console world wrested away Nintendo's ironclad hold on the industry, and disappointing sales for both the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, along with mediocre third-party support across the board, left many people wondering if Nintendo still had a future as a hardware manufacturer. When Microsoft established itself as a beacon for Western game development, it became clear that Nintendo needed to do something to separate itself from its competitors and lure consumers back into the waiting arms of Mario and company.

Everything changed when the Nintendo DS was revealed. In that era, new systems were typically more powerful versions of older platforms with a few extra buttons or sticks on the controller. But the NDS went in a completely different route. By implementing touch-screen controls and two screens, it opened the door for a new way to play games. Once developers realized the wealth of possibilities at their fingertips, the quality of games soared, and the system flew off store shelves. Moreover, by creating games such as Brain Age and Nintendogs, Nintendo tapped into a market that previously ignored video games. And with their runaway success in the casual market, Nintendo had found a new area to place their focus.

Are you not entertained?

You can see these beliefs manifested in the Wii. Like the NDS, the Wii went a different route than what you would normally expect from a new console. Although the console was underpowered compared to its peers, the motion control system was indeed a revolution. Nintendo also started focusing on the casual segment in a huge way. The Wii Sports and similarly titled series of games hooked people who normally turn their nose up at the very thought of playing a video game, and it was almost impossible to get your own Wii because stores couldn't keep them in stock.

Still, Nintendo has set off down a scary road with its more recent batch of hardware--trying to repeatedly reinvent the wheel is just not a sustainable idea. By establishing that new systems have to come with a unique hook, Nintendo has to match people's expectations for a mini revolution with each new announcement. The Nintendo 3DS continued this trend by offering 3D gaming on a portable screen, but this is a significantly smaller leap than its previous systems. Instead of changing how games are played, the 3DS offers a slightly different view of the action, so it has a much more difficult time convincing new and veteran gamers why they should jump into the 3DS fold. Systems are ultimately bought and played because of their library of games, and we have yet to see anything from developers that suggests the 3DS can open up new gameplay possibilities.

Then there's the Nintendo Wii U. Once again, Nintendo couldn't just announce a more-powerful system with a traditional controller and call it a day. People now expect gaming to change forever when a new Nintendo system is announced, and the Wii U tries valiantly to live up to that idea. But it doesn't. From the details that are available now, the new controller seems similar to what we already played with the GameCube/Game Boy Advance connectivity. It's telling that the premier demo at E3 was Chase Mii, a variant of Pac-Man Vs., a game Nintendo released almost eight years ago. The Nintendo DS and Wii offered new control inputs, which immediately changed how people interacted with games. But fundamentally changing video games every couple of years is an impossible prospect. There are only so many ways to control a video game, and we have more options now than ever before.

Touch screen, motion controls, cameras, microphones, buttons, sticks, and who knows what else already exist. Game development now is about making games for whatever system offers the best control scheme, so Nintendo is backed into a corner when it comes to new ideas.

Behold the future!

The most disappointing thing about the announcement of the Wii U is that Nintendo focused on the pedestrian hardware instead of showing off previously unheard-of games. One of the reasons Nintendo has flourished through the years is that it's a game company first and foremost. Creating imaginative and exciting experiences is the sole reason it exists, and Nintendo uses the power of fun to sell people its hardware. It sounds cheesy, but that's the truth.

At its press conference, Nintendo needed to show why the Wii U needs to exist. It needed to introduce a new IP that could exist only with this tablet system, or an innovation for an older game that showed off all the neat tricks you'll be able to pull off. Imagine if instead of showing us the evolution of Pac-Man Vs., Nintendo had demonstrated a new Animal Crossing that did for the Wii U what Wii Sports did for the Wii--a demonstration of how the tablet controller can change how you play games. Instead, I'm left wondering how it's different from the 3DS. A touch screen, camera, gyroscope, two screens, and all the rest are already on Nintendo's latest handheld, so what new experiences is the Wii U capable of?

I still believe Nintendo could revolutionize gaming with the Wii U, and maybe it's just holding its cards close to the vest. But that belief stems from my stubbornness. I want this system to be great, so I'm cautiously optimistic that it will pan out. The problem is that Nintendo has put too much emphasis on being different rather than being good. Its focus used to be on making the best games possible, but now it's so invested in offering up gimmicks that I fear it has lost its way.

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235 comments
moviequest14
moviequest14

Nintendo's system that was the most like the competition and the least like..well..nintendo was the gamecube,it had your average controller and worth-while graphics..but you know what record it holds? The LEAST successful Nintendo console to date.Whenever Nintendo tries to be like the competition it fails,but when they go their own route they succeed immensely.If I wanted to buy a system that was plainly focused on better graphics and nothing more I would.(With no offense to either as it is their own choice and works well enough) You can use practically the exact same controller for every single playstation system..for the most part Sony and Microsoft are even more by-the-book and lack change than even the wii-u..while not as innovative as the wii the wii-u does have some innovation...

LightRebellion
LightRebellion

The point that you're trying to make is that Nintendo has to become more like Sony and Microsoft, when both of those companies simply copied Nintendo's innovations in motion control. Nintendo is focused independently on making gaming both fun and innovative, and they do so with every new hardware release. I wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo pioneered holograms and full immersion virtual gameplay in the generation after Wii U. I can't wait to see how you b*tch about that.

LightRebellion
LightRebellion

"Pedestrian hardware?" Tom, you sound like a real moron. Nintendo is its own company; they've always said that gaming and fun are their top two priorities. I apologize to you if the new Nintendo console doesn't have Blu-Ray support, the "gimmick" that sold so many PS3s as it wasn't available as standalone hardware until about a year later. It's unfortunate that you can't see the cool potential a full HD Nintendo console with tablet controller that offers different viewing screens brings to gaming. Nintendo's press conference featured mainly third-party games in response to critics like yourself b*tching about weak third-party support. Despite them responding to your requests, you still found something to b*tch about. Congratulations. And yes, we've all heard "lolol Nintendo sux they used XBAWX N SUNY DAEMOZ" before; perhaps the point in doing that is because the system was still in its beta stages and information about it was never released to the public. Perhaps the companies who have slated release games for the console haven't been given a chance to use it yet due to Nintendo's hush-hush policy when it comes to new hardware. That resolution is so simple, even a GameSpot journalist could come up with it.

moviequest14
moviequest14

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Double_Wide
Double_Wide

The last 2 sentences of this article sums up exactly how I view Nintendo at this point!

707107
707107

I half agree Iujanr32, I think that sony is following in nintendo's footsteps and certian people also say that the Wii U is following the PSVita and PS3 conectivity.

lujanr32
lujanr32

i love how people in the comments are telling Nintendo to keep up with Microsoft and Sony...when obviously it's the other way around

pinicolaroxa
pinicolaroxa

E3 2012 And this its the new movescreen controller for the ps3

PlyrMava
PlyrMava

What brought my optimism up is that Nintendo might already have a staple with the new hardware when it is released (which I still think that it should be released in 2013). Nintendo experts showed off a feature where, for some games, you are in an invisible sphere. The game is around you, and the controller is the eye to see that world that's right there but you can't see. How fun would it be to play that way? That could work very well with FPS games.

Agelu
Agelu

Still too new to see any actual good games for lunch. I mean what, the thing has months of time until it launches. But not to worry, they are in development as we speak. Besides, if they showed so much stuff of how games play on there, it would have been GREAT, sure, but it would have faded by the time the console got out. It's wiser to show those things as it nears launch, to build momentum, and capitalize on it. Honestly the writer sounds a little short-sighted to me. Finally, if there was no innovation, are we then meant to be playing in just more powerful hardware every generation from now on and nothing else? Pretty limiting for new ideas if you ask me...

mario-nin-freak
mario-nin-freak

@JLCrogue Well I'm glad you agree with me on that(Some people don't). But I meant anything in general. What it's made of doesn't matter. What matters is who owns it, and whether they require for you to apy for it or not.

senjutsu
senjutsu

wiiU is a gimmick that I won't buy. I was waiting on the news before getting the wii (I wanted to be sure I woudn't want the next one at the start). So I just bought the wii today (I already have my old ps3/x360 at home too, but I wanted some new kind of games). Still, I'd prefer buying some games than buying a wiiU that will give me nothing new but a uDraw board included in the box...

LitterBoxHero
LitterBoxHero

I found the announcement of the Wii U to be significantly underwhelming, especially compared to the Wii. I find the idea to be interesting, but I'd have to say my biggest concern is just that before I think about investing in this thing I'd like to know what sort of guarantee there is that the thing won't just get flooded with mini game collections again, and what sort of neat games there will be. I've been a Nintendo fanboy for forever, and I'm not ready to rule out this console yet. But I'm very concerned that this is going to be Nintendo's Dreamcast and they don't seem to be trying very hard yet to convince hardcore gamers otherwise.

JLCrogue
JLCrogue

@mario-nin-freak Someone's taking it a bit too far. Humans have conscious thought (are sentient beings). Stealing a human is kidnapping or holding someone hostage, stealing information is simply copywrite infringement. The two don't compare.

Keeper_Artemus
Keeper_Artemus

The Wii U is going to be the first Nintendo console I won't get. I want more from my games, not more from my consoles. A console is just a tool, one that I would rather not get in the way of the gaming too much. Also, Sony and Microsoft can copy Nintendo's innovations easier than Nintendo can copy the amount of games they have, even though Nintendo's innovations seem to be better on the whole. Therefore, any talk of Wii U for "hardcore" gamers is a con, or, in the words of Admiral Ackbar, "it's a trap!"

Koushin
Koushin

I wish the same level of innovation and fascination that Nintendo has created with the Wii-U controller could be put to use in making more IPs and better gaming hardware. Why can't they piece it together like during the NES - SNES era?

Acetoxic
Acetoxic

i still don't see why they make there consoles so small considering all they do is sit near our tvs, there not exactly portable. they could use better hardware and run cooler at the same cost or reduce the price using same similar specs if they made it as large as the ps3/360 size who cares if it takes up a few more inches of your room...

megasuper1
megasuper1

@BlackSnake123 I love how you say that when it's NOT FREAKIN' OUT YET!

megasuper1
megasuper1

@aimanfire I agree,but I can adapt

nasaman23
nasaman23

ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS FOCUS ON GAMES IF THE GAMES ARE FUN THEN I WOULD BUY THE SYSTEM! and im not talking about just 3 or 4 good titles im talking about 20 or more. 3rd party support is key! the games dont all have to be high end either 2d games are as fun as ever! drop the gimmicks make the gamesss

aimanfire
aimanfire

the only problem i have with the WII U is the size of the controller. everything else rocks my socks. :D

mario-nin-freak
mario-nin-freak

@JLCrogue And food is just atoms, and people are just flesh, and.... So now we can just steal anything, even people.

OllieBrown
OllieBrown

We owe a lot to nintendo being 'gimmicky'. This was most evident to me when I fired up Ocarina of Time on the 3DS. There are so many subtleties in the controls, the way the camera moves, the battle system, so many small touches to keep it from breaking down that we consider pedestrian but were freaking people out back in the 90's. We control our 3rd person games today the way we do because of Ocarina and because of Mario 64. "There are only so many ways to control a video game" ... yes, infinitely many! They aren't all worthwhile but we can't simply extrapolate out from the old joysticks and D-pads and expect to reach new heights of interaction. Could you have honestly envisioned touch controls or motion controls or the Kinect while simply holding an Atari 2600 joystick in your hand? If that's the foundation of all gaming then yes, we have found all the useful ways to control a video game. The kind of forward thinking that the Wii U represents helps broaden the search in this infinite space and while it may not be the revolution you're looking for, I for one am glad that Nintendo is still searching in uncharted territory. Microsoft and Sony are content to grow off of the seeds of others. Nintendo is planing entirely new ideas and weather they fail or succeed is only relevant from a business standpoint. As a gamer, I want them to try EVERYTHING! Even their failures are more exciting than most other developer's successes!

chyng85
chyng85

Nintendo could do better~

tre802001
tre802001

@Skarface_smitty hardcore adjective 1. Intensely loyal; die-hard 2. Stubbornly resistant to improvement or change 3. Extremely graphic or explicit I don't think Nintendo has lost the "hardcore" gamer cause I'm in the Number 1 stage. Those in number 2 will not change. Those in Number 3 will or will not be attracted to the Wii U. So which "hardcore" gamers are you referring to?

Skarface_smitty
Skarface_smitty

oh yeah and one more thing, keep up with Microsoft and sony....... geeezus

Skarface_smitty
Skarface_smitty

so freaking lame.... make something good already. nintendo hasn't been the same since gamecube, and even then I missed the N64. I'd definitely rethink that controller scheme too. Looking kind of terrible... If they want to "see eye to eye" with hardcore gamers then they gotta fix the analog, button placement, etc. cuz that controller sucks some major d**k

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

The Wii U will end up selling between 35-50 million units of hardware during it's entire lifespan. Nintendo needs a killer app. A brand new game idea/franchise that uses the Wii U tablet controller. Nintendo did managed to introduce new control schemes with the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo wii. Both systems I pegged to fail. However Nintendo made them work and ended up with it's best selling handheld and home videogame systems. DS/DSlite/DSi/DSXL have sold 147 million since 2004. The Wii 86.2 million sold since 2006. Nintendo will develop great 1st party games that sell very well. But if the 3rd parties do not support the Wii U then this system will not do as well as expected. 3rd party support has been lacking since N64, Gamecube, and Wii. The Wii U needs to reverse that trend. Nintendo mentor 3rd parties on what to do with this new system. Instead of just saying here is the Wii U. Figure it out.

tre802001
tre802001

The one thing that people aren't noticing is that 3rd Party devs are excited not only to make games for the Wii U but are excited to play the Wii U. They are not just talking about their own games either but games from other developers. People forget that developers are consumers too. Developers' job is too make games but in their spare time they play games and they are excited about the Wii U.

newbie4lyfe
newbie4lyfe

wiiu should get a lot of exclusive games, and multi-platform releases from third-party companies... like the ps3, but more!. I think wiiu gives more tools for companies to use...

ShadowofSonic
ShadowofSonic

@Distinctive_Fin yea,when people saw the Wii they were like ''Nintendo is done!'' and all that and now look.Wii sold so much more than the other two systems!

MasterDalton
MasterDalton

Nintendo fanboys are sooo touchy. "Don't criticize my company because it's never done anything wrong ever!" I think the Wii U looks great and this article was a little harsh but I agree with what it says about gimmick gaming. I don't see why gaming has to completely change... I fell in love with gaming the way it is. I also don't want to play video games with my mother

JLCrogue
JLCrogue

@mario-nin-freak All games, movies and music stored on computers merely consist of megabytes (or gigabytes) of data. Therefore they are all information in the form of ones and zeros, which are translated into higher level programming languages.

thom_maytees
thom_maytees

Without these so-called "gimmicks," Nintendo will not able to survive in the gaming market and it would be unfortunate to have gaming be left with only two corporate behemoths, making the home console market less competitive. At least it is interesting that a Japanese company can bring bold and unorthodox ideas to the gaming table, while its Western competitor (Microsoft) just follows the conventional tried-and-true route.

tre802001
tre802001

I love the way one company can make a huge buzz. It brings out the fanboys, the haters, the people who worry, the confused, and the complainers. Nintendo is one smart company. Wii U (love it, hate it, or undecided) will still launch and will still sale and will have games. People talk about not having any games for the Wii but the Wii definitely had games made by Third parties. Yes those games looked and played worst than the other consoles but they were on the system. I have complete confidence in the Wii U. I'm looking forward to learning games in a new way. The old control scheme was predictable. How many sequels have you played with the same control schemes. Nothing to learn just play the game the same way you played the last game. It was getting boring and felt like Atari all over again. Wii turned that around for me and now the Wii U will keep my attention.

UberGamer44
UberGamer44

ive been a nintendo fan all my life but this is sad and nintendo needs to step up they will sell there games yes but as far as the gaming industry... the industry has grown up....so nintendo i think jus needs to do the same....they walking on thin ice. soon theyll make us hold a 32 inch flat screen to play a game....

Distinctive_Fin
Distinctive_Fin

@ShadowofSonic Agreed. Look at how timeless the Mario Series is. People are clamoring to get OOT for the 3DS and play it again. Pikmin is still huge. Metroid keeps getting better (although the Prime series was the best), and although there hasn't been a great Kirby since the 64, I bought a title or two. I just wish Sega would get off it's collective "3rd party status" rears and make a console again. At least we would have worthwhile Sonic titles to play. . .

mariokart64fan
mariokart64fan

this article is garbage because you know all nintendo did was get more gamers into this market , ,and its working and 50 m ps3 360s says that , so get out of town with this article, cause the wii u no matter what direction it chooses will sell well enough to sustain life t ime thanks to more players in the field , if we go back to gc xbox , they have sold half of what 360 ps3 sold , and that is considered bad , so thank nintnedo for bringin these new players in , , lets take a look , people asked for online , they took 1 step in the direction with wii and ds and now have taken it further with 3ds and wiiu no friend code for wii u obviously speaks enough and its still free sure dlc which may be planned ,may noit be free just like 360 ,, but still , i think nintendo is smart enough sure 1 wiiu controller may sound bad but , you can still use 3 c controller pros , to compensate and those do the same thing just without the screen and motion , since people complain about motion they decided in multiplayer to disable that i think by using 3 cpros , and 1 wu controller but ya , good enough market for all 3 no matter whos where and what direction their going

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

Nintendo needs to revive some old titles and make some new ones... They need to let studios like retro start a new IP Im sure they have the ability to do it.

chris9545
chris9545

If you don't pay for games how can anyone afford to make them? it's like voting, votes add up just like dollars spent on movies,games,music, etc. Developers deserve to get paid for their work, is it a little expensive? yes but the market dictates the price. You can say it's all about your interpretation of stealing and whatnot but the law says your stealing, you can't interpret the law to fit your own needs. So get a second job or buy your games used if you can't afford the original price.

pb8185
pb8185

JLCrogue believes in free information, which in his context is tantamount to not beliving in copyright laws.

mario-nin-freak
mario-nin-freak

@JLCrogue A lot of people download free music, but, it's "free":P Free information? what does that have to do with it:| Your stealing games not info.

JLCrogue
JLCrogue

@mario-nin-freak Yeah, but who doesn't download free music and/or movies? It's all the same and it depends on you're definition of stealing. If you believe in free information then you wouldn't consider it stealing.

mario-nin-freak
mario-nin-freak

@montblanc512 Atleast they start a new series of games about every 10 years, not like Sony or Microsoft who rarely make new series. But they are doing better about that lately.

mario-nin-freak
mario-nin-freak

@tre802001 Yeah that's true. nintendo did mention that they quit the Super Mario Galaxy theme because they knew it would get old(Although I really don't agree with THAT certain game). But games like CoD always use the same title, with a number. And that's about exactly what the difference in the games are, a number.

JLCrogue
JLCrogue

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

wesleyca
wesleyca

itd be pretty beast if the legend of zelda had graphics that would compete with battlefield 3 and crysis 2. for now, i can only dream....