I grew up with Nintendo. I remember playing Super Mario Bros. on my best friend's Famicom almost a year before NES came to North America. His dad brought the system back with him after a trip to Asia. I think we spent that entire summer just playing Mario. Hey, the game can be pretty challenging when you're only six years old. I had switched over to online PC games like Quake and later Counter-Strike by the time Nintendo released the GameCube, but I still managed to play few of the top titles. I didn't buy my own system, but I still managed to play and beat The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Metroid Prime on a friend's machine.
I'll be the first to admit that my game-playing and –buying habits have changed quite a bit since I was a kid. Instead of buying a new game every month or every other week, I now stick with a single title for months or even years at a time. Games like Counter-Strike have awesome replay value since the game only needs to provide the environment and structure while the players themselves provide the interaction.
I'd still be playing the original Quake in 4-on-4 deathmatch mode right now if there were enough servers and good players around. The only reason why I switched from Quake to Quake 3 to Counter-Strike was to follow the player population. Now, like many others, I've been playing World of Warcraft and it looks like it'll be playing the game for at least several months if not years.
Most of the console systems have come around to embrace the multiplayer point of view. Xbox live has been phenomenal, and I love the fact that a million people have played Halo 2 online since it'll encourage more game developers to create games with better online multiplayer support. I just wish Nintendo could be included in that group. I was talking with Jeff about the GameCube online adapter a while ago and he commented that it "pretty much started and ended with Phantasy Star Online." That isn't right.
Nintendo has all of these great properties. Why not make a massively multiplayer Zelda title? I'm sure Hyrule would be a fun place to adventure once you get over the problem of having a million Kokiri players with floppy, green hats running around. Metroid is an obvious choice for online FPS play, and I'm glad to see that the Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and the Metroid Prime: Hunters DS demo have at least some kind of multiplayer mode no matter how mediocre.
However, the more I hear and read about the Nintendo Revolution, the more I feel like there's a chance this next system will be where Nintendo finally leaves me behind once and for all. Granted, Nintendo has released hardly any information about the system, but the hints have been far from heartening.
While confirming that Nintendo will release details about the new machine this May, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata stated that the Revolution will cause a "paradigm shift" in video gaming . According to Iwata, "The concept behind our new console, tentatively named 'Revolution,' is the same as the DS. We want it to broaden the [video gaming] audience range, and we don't want it to be something that people will see as too irrelevant to them, too difficult to use, or as something that wastes space."
To me, it sounds like Nintendo is retreating from the core gaming market in favor of a more general audience. I imagine Nintendo will still try to make the next generation console appealing to its current audience, but I don't like it when companies change products to appeal to a wider demographic. You end up with New Coke and Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football.
It doesn't help that Nintendo is moving away from the simple formula of improving graphics and pushing more content. While commenting on the Sony PSP, Iwata said, "In the past, the video game industry grew on high-quality graphics and data volume." However, "We decided to move into a different direction, since we believe that those days have ended."
Of course, that statement might just be pure spin since I'd say something like that if I showed up to a fight completely overmatched: "You know, in the past, fighters relied on using weapons with longer reach and devastating damage potential, such as that sledgehammer you're holding, but I think we're on the cusp of new era in weapons design. The fighters of the future will win with imaginative equipment such as this plastic slinky. Just give me a staircase and I'm trouble."
As far as I can tell, graphics processors are still improving year after year, and storage media capacity is also increasing. I can understand the argument that cutting-edge technology isn't necessary for great games, but I'd argue that great visuals and a massive amount of quality data are necessary for the games I want to play.