Sometime in the next year or two, the Nintendo NX will supposedly be released. We’ve all heard the rumors and while nothing is set in stone, I can say that based on the rumors, I will almost certainly not be purchasing one for a number of years after release, if at all. I’ve had my Wii U for less than three years and a cartridge based handheld that hooks to my TV doesn’t sound like something I want to spend several hundred dollars on any time soon. Again, these are only rumors and things may very well change, but that’s not what I want to focus on in this piece. What I want to talk about is what will inevitably happen to Nintendo with the NX and has happened so many times before in the last few generations of consoles.
Nintendo gets a lot of crap thrown at them, and in many cases this is rightly so. I love Nintendo. I’ve owned every Nintendo home console since the NES and I continue to enjoy their games. However, I have no problem admitting that they continually make a lot of really bad decisions that are outright insulting to the modern consumer. They still have region locks on their consoles and games. They don’t let people post YouTube videos for ad revenue. They intentionally build consoles that can’t stand up to either the newest SONY or Microsoft consoles on a technical level. They make decisions that lead to hugely lacking third party support. It’s no wonder that people complain about Nintendo all the time these days. Now, I am not one of those people naive enough to think that Nintendo will be closing up shop any time soon, but I also think that it’s high time for Nintendo to grow up and start playing the game. Yet all that aside, I would still say that the one thing that constantly sets Nintendo apart from its competitors is the company’s continued dedication to true innovation.
Innovation is important in the gaming industry. In fact, it’s arguably the most important thing in both hardware and software development today. People may buy the same games over and over like Call Of Duty and Madden, but they still want to feel like they are getting something new. Nintendo has and will continue to lead the industry in innovation. What I get angry about is the fact that even as they innovate at the highest levels of variation, they are often ignored or even flat out insulted for that innovation. Then, SONY and Microsoft steal their ideas, slap on a coat of black paint and a new name, and suddenly it’s brilliant. Let’s look at some obvious examples.
Super Mario 64 (1996) revolutionized gaming, that’s not an exaggeration. That one game changed gaming from common 2D side scrolling to 3D open world. Even today it’s still an excellent example of a modern game. Nintendo started that. Then, in time we of course saw Sega and PlayStation copy the idea and now 3D environments are the bare minimum for triple-A development. One could argue that technology was obviously moving that way so there’s really no reason to praise Nintendo for doing it first. That’s technically a fair argument so let’s fast forward to the last two generations of console gaming.
The Wii introduced the practical application of real-time motion based gaming. I’m sure we all remember the first time we saw Wii Sports. It truly revolutionized the industry. Not only did it raise the bar for control schemes but it also showed that on a business level, video games weren’t just for kids anymore. Adults and even the elderly were buying Wiis like hot cakes just to play around with the Wiimote, and it really worked. The Wii Motion Plus only improved an already great technology, then a bit later Microsoft and SONY stole the technology, put their spin on it, painted it black, and released it as something new. I’ve used the XBOX Kinect and the PlayStation Move. Both are crap by comparison to the simple Wiimote. The PlayStation move is the most inconvenient motion game system ever built. You have to re-calibrate the controller every round, you can’t switch players without re-calibrating again, and even when it is working it’s not nearly as responsive as a Wiimote which requires no calibration. Not to mention the Wiimote can be switched between players in real time without pausing.
The Kinect also tries to be effective but it just isn’t. It too requires a lot of calibration and other than Just Dance, the games they make for it are just so lousy. Nintendo is the father of motion based gaming and they give you the technology as a standard part of the console at purchase. Yet instead of applauding them for it, most people just say they make childish games. Whereas Microsoft and SONY over charge for sub-par peripherals, make crappy games to use them, and get credited for going in the right direction. It’s just unacceptable.
I’m also not a big supporter of current/first gen VR. From the first demo presentation, I have not only been skeptical, but flat out opposed to gamers paying more than the price of a new console for a headset without adding in the cost of the console or a new PC to boot. This doesn’t even mention also needing to buy other peripherals like the PS Camera and Move in the case of PSVR. I think that whole situation is ridiculous, but this isn’t just about money. The real reason I don’t support VR 1.0 is that it’s not really VR. These companies keep calling it that to sell units, but the crap they’re selling isn’t actually virtual reality. Virtual reality gaming is a computer generated environment where the player is inside the generated world and able to interact with it in real time via direct contact. Think QuestWorld from The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest (1996). You put on the headset and the game generates a world that you are inside of. When you move your hand in real life, your hand moves in the game, you do not hold a controller. It’s supposed to be a direct interface, you’re in the world. Not just looking at it like in a normal video game today.
Don’t get me wrong, VR is certainly the future of video games and eventually even I will end up purchasing a unit. Probably gen 3. It’s just not the near future. All they have right now is a highly responsive motion detective screen that you strap to your face to play any old first person game with a normal home console controller. A highly responsive motion detective screen? Sounds like a Wii U gamepad to me! Oh wait…that’s exactly what it is.
Current gen VR is little more than a Wii U gamepad strapped to your head while you’re playing the game with a Wii U pro controller. Microsoft (Oculus) and SONY (Playstation VR) just stole the basic technology of the Wii U, made it into a headset, and overclocked the sensitivity and graphics. There is no true innovation as far as gaming is concerned with first gen VR. This is just another example of people ignoring the innovative contributions to gaming made by Nintendo because Microsoft and SONY are better at packaging and naming products. And yes, I’m aware that Oculus was launched on kickstarter and later bought by Facebook late in development. The point is that current VR not only isn’t really virtual reality, but it’s also not an original concept/technology.
It disgusts me that people have become so jaded by Nintendo that they’ll easily fall for any sleight of hand the other two companies can throw at them. From what I’ve, heard, the NX will once again make real leaps forward in gaming hardware through original innovations. Ultimately it won’t sell well and then a generation later, or maybe a half generation the way things are looking now with PS4.5, the other guys will steal the technology, paint it black, and make a killing for a lesser product. I’m by no means saying that we should just blindly follow Nintendo and purchase whatever crap they put out regardless of all the bad decisions they do make, but what I am saying is that we should at least give credit where credit is due and not blindly throw money at companies for stealing those same ignored ideas. Microsoft and SONY do not innovate. In fact, Microsoft, the corporation, was started through dishonesty and theft. Nintendo takes the time to innovate and actually release new products only to get ham-stringed. One has to admit that’s pretty unfair.