Warning: Do not look directly into the light, your teeth will start to glow and you'll turn into a zombie!
After months of speculations and rumors, Nintendo finally unveiled their brand new console last week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The device, clumsily named the Wii U, seems to ditch the motion control for a large iPad-style screen with two analog sticks. The result is an intriguing unit that will no doubt make a lot of gamers very happy.
But what about that name? What does Wii U even mean? According to Reggie Fils-Aime, the president and COO at Nintendo of America, the "U" makes perfect sense. "It was clear how much fun WE all had playing together, even with people who weren't gamers before," he explains. "But in thinking about a new Nintendo system, we knew the prevailing thought would be this: Yes, the game would probably be right for all of us, but would it be a perfect fit just for YOU? And the answer to that question is an emphatic absolutely. In fact, we're so convinced of it, that we put that pronoun right in the name."
The Wii U is a system "tailor-made for you," Reggie explained. This is a device for the games journalists and the hardcore gamers that tend to watch these sorts of press
Believe it or not, the Wii U is not some fancy new controller!
conferences. For a second it felt like Nintendo had taken a new leaf, perhaps even addressed some of the criticisms hardcore gamers had about the Wii. And then they showed us the video montage. I sat there horrified at what I saw, pinching myself to confirm I wasn't in the middle of some terrible dream. When it comes to the "YOU" in Wii U, Nintendo has clearly missed the point.
To prove my point I want to show you the first eleven things Nintendo said about the Wii U. I did not flip this order around; this is the chronological list of each bullet point Nintendo hit. I dare you to tell me that the target audience is the hardcore gamer. I double dog dare you!
Point 1: New Super Mario Bros.
This is the system of the future, the game console that every hardcore gamer wants. So how do you sell this very particular segment of the buying public on your brand new game system? Apparently Nintendo thinks you'll be enticed with New Super Mario Bros., a game that has appeared on both the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii. Why do those systems sound so familiar? It's because those two devices were marketed at daughters and grandmothers. What a perfect way to convince the hardcore gamers that this exciting piece of tech is made specifically for them.
Point 2: Drawing Tool
Hardcore gamers like to draw, right? Maybe they do, but I have a hunch they like getting headshots in Call of Duty more than drawing cute images of Link. I know who likes to draw -- your girlfriend. The truth is, there's absolutely nothing wrong with drawing. I love making art, even if I'm no good at it. But this is literally the second thing Nintendo showed us about the brand new Wii U. The "U" in the title suggests that it's made for YOU, the hardcore audience. Drawing is certainly fun, but it's not exactly hardcore.
Point 3: Board Games
Maybe they think hardcore gamers are so old that they'll actually remember classic board games. As a way to play simple two-player games, I'm intrigued by the Wii U's interface. But playing a round of Othello is hardly the thing that makes this console appealing to the most hardcore among us. These days it's the casual market who is spending their time with Scrabble, Monopoly and Clue, not hardcore gamers. Playing a round of Risk is what my parents want to do, not my Xbox Live friends. As fun as this idea sounds, I fail to understand why Nintendo would think this appeals to traditional gamers.
Point 4: Sporty Tech Demos
The lesson Nintendo learned from the Wii: Everybody loved Wii Sports. While it's true that many gamers (casual and hardcore alike) were impressed with Nintendo's pack-in game, most of us quickly moved on to Twilight Princess and other more substantial games. Wii Sports was still fun at parties, but the novelty (and simplicity) wore thin over time. On the other hand, the casual market largely thought of the console as a Wii Sports-playing device. Now we have a new batch of gimmicky events that will be wrapped up into one small 25 GB disc and completely ignored by hardcore gamers. Lesson learned?
Point 5: Staying Fit
You know who likes to stay fit? Gamers. I'm always hearing stories about how much exercise they do and how physically fit they are. Wait, no ... that can't be right. I've been to video game conventions and, let's be honest with ourselves, gamers are largely overweight. Is there an argument to be made that staying fit SHOULD be on the top of every hardcore gamers mind? Of course, but that's certainly not the case in the real world. Maybe the Wii U will magically change how gamers think about their health, however I have a hunch that most hardcore gamers will ignore the warnings and pawn this feature off on their girlfriends (assuming they have one).
Point 6: Shooting Mii Characters
Hey look, it's another tech demo. This gimmicky shooting game (an adorable remake of Konami's Silent Scope) is just the kind of game that will no doubt appear on a new Wii Play disc. Much like the sporty tech demos above, this is the sort of software that perfectly shows off new hardware and is instantly forgotten. Perhaps I'm still feeling burned from the never-ending parade of mediocre mini-game collections found on the Wii, but I'm not exactly hyped about the idea of buying shallow tech demos. But there's good news. I know a few people who might be interested in such a collection ... they're called casual gamers.
Point 7: Making Video Calls
You know who likes to make video calls? Your girlfriend ... and she's not very hardcore (at least when it comes to video games). Even if you're into looking at people when they talk, chances are you already have a phone, computer, game system or picture frame that will already do that. Yes, you do have to be hardcore to want a feature like this in the new Nintendo game system; Hardcore against keeping up with modern technology, that is.
Point 8: Browsing the Internet/Pictures
Everybody loves browsing the internet and showing people your most recent photos, which is why pretty much every device in your home can do that. These days you will be hard pressed to find an internet-capable machine that doesn't do that, which makes this announcement by Nintendo all the more curious. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of using the Wii U control/screen to read online newspapers and (hopefully) watch YouTube. However, I still don't see how any of this appeals to the average gamer.
Point 9: Use it as a Second Screen
You know, like the Nintendo DS. Or like what Sony demonstrated with the PSP, PS3 and an F1 game. Or like the Dreamcast had a dozen years ago. Or like the Nintendo 3DS has. Wait, I think I might be repeating myself. Of course I am, because so is Nintendo. I can see a use for having a second screen, but there's nothing to suggests this is a feature hardcore gamers have been pining for. At least this will make that completely fake Zelda game a teeny tiny bit easier to play. Thanks Nintendo and your $100+ controller.
Point 10: Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 Games
Nintendo knows we like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games. They know this because we already own Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games. The entire reason Nintendo is forced to introduce new hardware is precisely because many gamers are choosing big budget first-person shooters over Nintendo's own releases. The facts are simple, casual gamers aren't interested in buying a game every month. If Nintendo is to sustain a console, they're going to need more hardcore gamers. And yet this powerful company waited until the end of the montage before talking about Battlefield, Aliens: Colonial Mariens, Darksiders II, etc. They chose drawing, video chatting, mini-game collections and board games over showing us the titles some of us might actually buy.
Point 11: Face Painting with Tekken
Nintendo is just screwing with us, right? This is the coup de grace of the Nintendo press conference; proof positive that Nintendo doesn't "get" the hardcore gamer market. Here they have one of the most popular fighting games of all time and what do they do? They put makeup all over Jin Kazama. Wait ... WHAT? This is the first time a Tekken game has ever come to a Nintendo console and you choose to showcase the art elements of the game? It's baffling, just like everything else about the Nintendo Wii U announcement. Clearly Nintendo doesn't have its finger on the pulse of the hardcore gaming community, because the average Tekken fan has absolutely no use for face paints. What was Nintendo thinking?