As the holiday season draws near, game companies have begun their big holiday releases. Every one of the three powerhouse companies — Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft — has just released a slew of new games and hardware. Sony has “PlayStation® All-Stars Battle Royale,” a four-player free-for-all fighting game. Microsoft released the highly-anticipated “Halo 4,” a nice addition to Microsoft’s thriving first-person shooter genre. Nintendo had the biggest releases of all: the release of the Wii U and the lesser-known Wii Mini in Canada.
Ever since the Wii was released in 2006, Nintendo has become known for its use of innovative motion controls. Back in 2006, the Wii shone through with its motion control games in the form of “Wii Sports,” which previously always came bundled. “Wii Sports” allowed players to explore the Wii’s motion control capabilities. The combination of “Wii Sports” and other well-known Nintendo titles, including “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess,” “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” and “Mario Kart Wii,” allowed Nintendo to thrive by expanding its fan base to families and drawing in loyal Nintendo fans.
Because of the loyal fan base and the shift to more gimmicky and family-friendly gameplay, the Wii was able to survive as one of the top-selling consoles for months. Unfortunately, as the months progressed, Nintendo began to lose its loyal fan base because most of the games on the market were gimmicky, motion control focused games, like “Carnival Games Wii.” This deterred the loyal fans, since Nintendo’s games weren’t challenging and some tried to overuse the motion controls.
The Wii U is a good example of how Nintendo has overly embraced the gimmicks. Long before the release of the console, Nintendo had continually hyped the inclusion of a tablet controller called the Wii U GamePad. This was more of a calculated business move, since many people are turning toward mobile gaming. Nintendo has been preaching that the Wii U GamePad will change the way gamers interact with games.
The ideas that Nintendo has talked about in recent press conferences have promise to change the way people game, but the current Wii U GamePad is lacking the ability to make those ideas work.
The tablet itself is awkwardly big and hard to hold. One of the main selling points of a tablet is that it is a touch interface. The Wii U GamePad has one of the worst touch-tracking touch screens of today’s tablets. For a company that has made successful touch screen-based handheld consoles, like the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS, the quality of the Wii U GamePad Touch Screen is inexcusable, especially when there are already products, especially those by Apple, that use touch screens well.
The implementation of the Wii U GamePad Touch Screen should improve as manufacturing continues. Until that time, Nintendo is riding on the hopes that all of the big name games they have lined up for the Wii U will continue to sell. This shouldn’t be an issue since a lot of the games already have a fan base, like “Mass Effect 3,” and the family-friendly games sell decently well at release.
Nintendo has moved even further away from its norm by allowing the Wii U GamePad to have apps. A gaming company has put mobile apps on its console game system. There is no adequate way to describe how much of a business move that is. Nintendo has been in the gaming industry since the 1970s and has been a powerhouse ever since. If they would focus on making games catering to gamers as well as families, they wouldn’t have to put apps on a console.
The addition of the apps to the system allows for increased revenue and allows for a wider appeal. Overall, it’s an unfortunately solid move from the business perspective. Then there is the second business move Nintendo plans to make this holiday season: the Wii Mini.
The Wii Mini will be released in Canada in early December. It’s still a Wii, but it’s a Wii without Wi-Fi, without GameCube compatibility and without a slot-loading disc drive. The Wii Mini was actually created because online components like Netflix are not as popular in Canada as in the U.S. Keeping that in mind, Nintendo decided to create a nice-looking alternative for the usual Wii system.
This system is an interesting move with the Wii U being released at essentially the same time. If people want to play a Wii without all the bells and whistles, then the Wii Mini is a good fit. The Wii Mini revisits what a gaming system used to be: A machine that just plays games. It is cheaper than the Wii system and could potentially take the place of the Wii on store shelves.
It seems that Nintendo intends to give people two options this holiday season: get a Wii U with all of the apps, internet and video-streaming or get a Wii Mini for casual gaming. These options will increase Nintendo’s sales, but Nintendo still needs to create the gamer-style games they used to in addition to the family-friendly games if it wants the systems to continue to sell.
Christian Moberg is a junior at UW-Madison studying computer science and Japanese.