June 8, 2011
Gamer Rant ‑E3 Edition — Rebuttal
Yesterday, editor AceofNades posted his weekly GamerRant and had quite an argument brewing over Nintendo’s newly announced console the WiiU. I thought it would be fun, with AceofNades permission, to counter his argument with this rebuttal. It’s not so much proving him wrong because at this point no one has a vast amount of details on the system and its odd controller, but seeing the positives of the controller and console in my opinion.
The WiiU is still surrounded with a shroud of mystery. What we were shown at E3 was the tech of the new controller and what will be the final hardware design albeit some tweaks. They showed the controller off first the same way they did with the Wii. If you are introducing a new way to play games the hardware and software take a back seat to the controller. I would want to know how I am controlling this new piece of hardware before the specs. The Wii remote became the symbol for the Wii not the actual console it’s self. The WiiU’s controller will become the symbol of that console as well. Sony has had the same controller for over a decade albeit some tweaks, that is why there is such a focus on the hardware rather than the controller. Nintendo is trying something new, in terms of controllers, with every console lifecycle. This time with the largest and most technological advanced controller we have seen to date, so I agree with them to push the controller first, hardware and software second and let the press and consumers come to terms with what they will be using with the new hardware.
The new controller is an odd, yet large, addition to Nintendo’s stable of peripherals. I remember back in 1996 seeing the huge trident of a controller for the Nintendo 64. After using what resembled a small brick for several years and thinking this is going to cramp my hands and make everything unplayable; what were they thinking? It turned out to be quiet comfortable and ushered in a new era of control with the analog stick. The Gamecube controller with its jelly bean like buttons was the best controller of last gen. The Wiis nun chuck and remote combo showed us a new way to play while developers ushered in the infamous “waggle”, but showed that simple gestures were, at times, better than buttons. The WiiU controller, I believe it will give us something we never thought we needed. With a beautiful 6.2” screen and the full array of buttons we have come accustomed to having on our controllers, maybe Nintendo is on to something. The vibe I get from the controller is the GBA/GameCube connectivity and how much fun it was to play Final Fantasy: Chrystal Chronicles with friends and have your own little inventory screen where you didn’t have to break the action on the TV. The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords is another example of the connectivity. The smaller screen was used for dungeon crawling for certain players and keeping your stats as well. This new controller seems like a perfect fit for any game with an inventory system, like a Zelda or RPG. Sports games also come to mind. I have always hated playing Madden against some one in the same room and all you would have to do is look at the other player’s plays and you have a 1:3 chance of picking the play they chose. With WiiU, the playbook can be in your hands and no one but you will know the play. The Dreamcast had a similar feature with their VMU memory cards but the monochrome screen was not ideal in all lighting conditions. There is a just a bevy of ideas that this screen and controller can be used for and I think we haven’t even scratched the surface of what developers have in store.
I think Nintendo has learned a lot from their time with the Wii. The Wii remote devoured batteries at an alarming rate and the new controller looks to have a rechargeable battery, possibly integrated like the PS3 remotes. I could see battery life ranging anywhere from 5–8 hours of play on a single charge, which is better than the 3DS battery powering a full 3D screen. Heat won’t be an issue because I see you being able to either transfer Wii titles or titles that are less hardware taxing to the controller. If they find some way to have full retail games such as Battlefield or a full on Zelda to this device, I am sold! At that point they have the greatest controller ever developed or some sort of powerful Voodoo. There is no doubt that the WiiU controller is huge. 6.2” screen plus two sticks and all the normal face buttons; it is larger than my girlfriends Nook Color. The N64 had a rather large controller; does anyone remember the original Xbox controller named “duke”? There have been large controllers in the past but not to the extent of this one. If the ergonomics are right and the weight is kept to a minimum, then I see no problems in long play sessions. The controller has to feel right as well as utilizing its functions.
The WiiU and it’s highly advanced, yet large, controller will not hit the Wiis original retail price of $249.99; there is just no feasible way. I can see this launching as one of Nintendo’s priciest systems to date. There has been no talk of price point but from what I have seen and to have more horsepower than the 360 and PS3, the $399.99 price range is what I would price it at. The extra controllers are going to have to be $100 or less. At the peak of their price points the Nun chuck and Remote combo was hitting the $70 asking price, so $100 for a controller that smokes that combo is not unreasonable in my book. They will have a hell of a time marketing this. I agree with AceofNades on this point. Nintendo has done a terrible job at marketing the 3DS and sales have suffered as a result. The 3DS needs to be marketed as the DS successor and they need to cut the DS cord if they want the 3DS to flourish (that and a lineup of games that go from “meh” to “what is this shit?”). The same goes for the WiiU, it needs to be seen as the replacement for the Wii and it needs to stay out of the 3DS’s light. Nintendo has a great family of consoles and handhelds; it just needs to let the consumer know the difference and what the replacements are.
I will end with something AceofNades mentioned and something I think is going through every ones minds; I don’t think this new controller is a gimmick. The videogame industry is a very competitive market. You have companies and development houses come and go and there are only a few major players in the industry that are constants. Hardware manufacturers are constants and there are only three of them so how do you differentiate yourself from the competition when you all have similar products? The WiiU will be going toe to toe with the 360 and PS3 as well as their replacements. Nintendo is finally making a HD console and wants to open the minds and hearts of the core gamers they left behind in their quest for a wider audience. Microsoft and Sony all jumped on to the motion control band wagon when the Wii took off and we have Kinect and PlayStation Move as the result. Now Nintendo is trying to through down with the big boys while going after Apple (and their mindless minions), who they have always seen themselves competing with; now is the time to differentiate. If you have the 360, PS3, and the WiiU all sitting side by side with no labels and similar controllers, you have three almost identical systems that the average consumer will blindly pick one and never look back. Microsoft touts its online structure and the 360 being an online media machine, while having a hand full of exclusives. Sony touts a technological superior console with the PS3, the Blu-Ray disc format, and a handful of exclusives. Nintendo would have a consol with similar hardware, a handful of exclusives, and what? That is where the new controller fits in. It is unique to Nintendo’s console. It is what separates them from looking like everyone else. Nintendo needs more than just Mario and they know it. They are trying to work diligently with 3rd party developers and create something unique, yet familiar, something that “hardcore” gamers will put down their 360 pads and duel shocks and say “I like this, it is different, yet something I would have never thought I needed”. I have faith in Nintendo to bring us a quality product and a complete game changer, because that is what they do best.