The console Nintendo should have sold

Did you hear about this console that Nintendo has developed?  It was a game system that had a new and unique control system designed to maximize the fun for new gamers and veterans alike.  It had a neat optional motion-controller system that created all new gaming possibilities for it to appeal to a cross market of new and casual fans that maybe never enjoyed console games before.

But more then this….

The system was also fully compatible with traditional controllers as well, so hard core gamers weren’t left in the cold feeling like Nintendo was abandoning them.  A whole line up of games was planned for use with traditional controllers and Nintendo was maintaining it’s commitment to hard core games and hard core gamers with solid 3rd party support.

But they’re not stopping there.

Nintendo has decided through it’s online store to open up a huge catalog of it’s old gaming library and made hundreds of titles that existed on older systems like the NES, SNES and N64, available for download and play on this system.  It will be the largest library of video games on any platform ever.

Some would complain that they have to re-buy all their old games on this new system, but you know what? Nintendo feels you guys too:

Thanks to it’s wonderful engineers, the backwards compatibility of the system with Gamecube controllers will allow you to not just play the way you want, but also play any and all games that you had previously owned on the Gamecube, out of the box.  That’s right, a whole generation back, out of the box.

And while there are complaints floating around the internet about this system’s lack of processing power as compared to other consoles on the market, Nintendo points to it’s crazy successful history of games from Super Mario Brothers, to the Legend of Zelda, to Final Fantasy, to Duck Tales.  Nintendo believes in creating a wonderful user experience for ALL of it’s users, not just some, and it’s commitment will show through in all of the games that are developed for it, regardless of whether or not some internet haters complain about pixel space or cpu cycles.

Does this console sound like a dream?  Is this some random fantasy I’m teasing you with, never to be made?  Cruel Cruel LockOn.

It already exists.

That above console I’m describing for you is the Nintendo Wii.

Lies!  Blasphemy!  LockOn, how dare you!  How can you sit there and market a system that’s now a generation old and completely on the out.  Besides that, there’s no way that system did everything you say.  No console maker would never make a system that great.  They’ve got touch screens to sell now!

And you’re right, Nintendo has moved on to touch screens now.  But, that doesn’t change the fact that everything I wrote above is basically true.  Every last bit of it.  The Nintendo Wii really was fully backwards compatible with the online Nintendo library, and while later machines were engineered without the capability, the first Wii’s produced would allow you to plug your Gamecube controllers (all 4 of them) right into the Wii itself and play Gamecube games right out of the box.

The Wii always had support for multiple controller types.  And certain games like Super Smash Bros Brawl actually allowed for the use of the Gamecube controller instead of the traditional motion brick the system came with.  That game, along with multiple others, would also support the motion block plus nunchuck attachment, as well as the classic controller, an add-on peripheral that was similar to the Gamecube controllers.  One game, 4 different controller options, based solely on your preferences.  And like I said, that game was not the only one to offer up this kind of support.

So why did no one ever hear of any of this?  Because Nintendo made a conscious decision to focus solely on the motion aspects of the Wii and basically disdained it’s entire audience in favor of “new and casual blood.”  And while it was arguable that they were successful with that strategy for the Wii, the fact that the Wii could do all these other things as well just emphasizes the fact that Nintendo doesn’t really care about customer retention, or value, or self-respect.

At this point, it’s clear that the lack of hardware muscle in the Wii was in fact a problem.  But it’s maddening that the Nintendo marketing team completely threw all of the other amazing capabilities of the Wii under the bus in favor of this grab for casuals.  Especially when hyping up both concepts at the same time could have been so easy and would have been a hit out of the park with a lot of people.  Are hardcore and long time gamers really that hated by the Nintendo staff that they’d shoot themselves in the foot to avoid them?  It would seem Nintendo thought so, and sadly the market rewarded them for this strategy as well.

Unfortunately, the gimmick is all out of steam.  While sales for the Wii U rebounded this Christmas (no doubt thanks to a huge marketing campaign and the screw ups of the other major console launches in 2013), it’s sales are still dismal compared with the original Wii.  I don’t own a Wii U and will really try hard not to if I can help it.  While the Wii U has maintained backwards compatibility with the Wii (something that the other console makers would laugh in your face at if you asked them about it), I’m reasonably sure that Gamecube compatibility has been lost (though I can’t confirm this).  And while I love the idea that Nintendo is making it’s consoles backwards compatible for at least 1 generation, the fact that they can’t ever seem to talk about it, frustrates me greatly.

The Wii could have been an amazing gaming machine for ALL gamers, and given consumers a tool to not only step forward boldy into the future, but also opened a window back to their fondest childhood memories.  It was a console that stood out for it’s ability to not only reach forward with new and exciting capabilities, but could also easily reach back and pull all of it’s past up along with it at virtually no cost.  A strategy like this could have elevated the entire company, if not the whole industry.

Sadly, the lessons that Nintendo has learned from the Wii appear to be the wrong ones.  Gimmick controllers will only work up to a point, but don’t think that people haven’t noticed that the touchscreen on a Wii U looks and acts like a standard Gamecube controller once you cut that screen down to size.  Building a console on gimmicks and new ideas only works if you’re the first and you do it the best.  The Wii U is a sequel to a machine that needed a hardware upgrade.  Instead it got a gimmick upgrade and it’s not enough to solve the problems Nintendo has created for itself.  Here’s hoping that the next console that Nintendo launches after the Wii U, will abandon the gimmicks and get back to making great games with access to a legendarily great library.  Or at the very least, stop treating it’s core audience like it’s a crazy uncle who just got out of jail that we avoid at all costs.  Given current rumors, I’m not encouraged.

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