Tuesday, 11 June 2013


This was it. Nintendo's big chance to quieten the naysayers and confirm the old adage that good things truly do come to those who wait. Yet somehow, they blew it. For the third year in a row the Mushroom Kingdom has underwhelmed and perplexed its devoted fanbase, which is becoming increasingly frustrated with a company that refuses to evolve. Today was the day I expected to be vindicated in my decision to purchase a Wii U at launch but instead all I feel is a sense of impending doom. Though it’s perhaps still too early to judge at this stage, it’s impossible to ignore the stench of death surrounding their latest console. Now, you may rebuke my claims: after all, the 3DS had a similarly shaky start and look at it now.

Well, three hours ago I’d have been inclined to agree with you. But now that the dust has settled, I can appreciate one rather crucial difference: No one ever doubted the 3DS.

Sure, we had to suffer a six month drought, but an impressive line-up meant there was always a light at the end of the tunnel; it was simply a matter of remaining patient. The Wii U on the other hand has persistently failed to pique people's curiosity or demonstrate the obvious gameplay potential so readily apparent with both the Wii and the 3DS. With Nintendo having long ago given up the fight with Sony and Microsoft in the tech department, the focus on quality games has become key to its survival. The 3DS is a perfect example of this; a machine which offers a diverse range of experiences to suit all player types. Yet this is something the Wii U severely lacks - and if today's line-up is anything to go by, it will do for the foreseeable future. Also notably absent has been a 3DS-like ambassador program to reward early adopters or the addition of Gamecube content to the decidedly empty Virtual Console; points which only further the disparity between the Wii U and its handheld counterpart.

Today’s Nintendo Direct was seen by many as a make-or-break moment and while a single press conference does not a successful console make, it has failed categorically to instil enthusiasm at a time when it is so desperately needed. Yes Donkey Kong Country Returns was a fantastic, vastly under-appreciated game, but do we really need to wait three years for a sequel which essentially offers more of the same? Do we really want more 2D platformers and Wii Casual titles to show off the capabilities of a HD console? Do we really care about a Mario game which abandons the Galaxy formula in favour of a streamlined approach that we already experienced on the 3DS?

A new IP isn’t necessarily the answer (though it wouldn’t hurt to have a few), but neither is a reliance solely on what worked before. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to proven franchises provided that each iteration offers a new experience. Very little of Ninty’s line-up appears to do that and come the inevitable purchase, I’ll be playing not necessarily because I want to, but because that’s the way it’s always been.

And yet for all my blind fanboyism, this years E3 violently yanked the wool from my eyes and exposed me to the very uncomfortable realisation that this company is far too safe. The gulf between it and the competition appears insurmountable and unless they reverse their standing policy regarding cheaper technology in order to make a profit, it’s difficult to see how the gap can ever be closed. After having watched the PS4/Xbox One conferences, Nintendo appear to be even more of an anachronism than it did during the last generation. And as much as Mario and friends may be loathe to admit it, they are in the console race; if they don't engage their rivals, they won't be for much longer.

As the great Jeremy Bentham once said: Shit or get off the pot.

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