Me and Nintendo: Where It All Went Wrong, And What It Will Take To Repair It

Nov 4, 2012

November 19th, 2006. I drove to several stores and waited in line for hours to be one of the first in the U.S. to own a Nintendo Wii. A console code-named “The Revolution.” At the time, I expected Nintendo to rise above Sony and Microsoft and become the leader in video games once again. Little did I know how right I would be; and yet, also so very wrong. The coming months would prove a trying effort to justify my purchase and expectations. While the years that followed helped transform me into a more open-minded gamer who has had incredible gaming experiences that the Wii cannot duplicate.

So, I was right: Nintendo became a giant following the release of the Wii in 2006. They targeted casual gamers and created a new market. This was a burgeoning market at the time. Apple’s App Store was gaining momentum and Steam, Valve’s PC-gaming marketplace, was also growing. These digital stores make it easy for consumers to impulsively purchase games. While Nintendo’s Wii did launch with a digital store, it did not lend itself to the impulsive buyer. It’s inclusion, however, was a sign that Nintendo had bigger plans than to simply compete with Microsoft and Sony, who would go on to provide more impressive digital content over time. My hat is tipped to Nintendo, who put all their eggs in the causal basket and gave those folks a place to game. Families, elderly folks – many who one would not typically see playing a PS3 were now spending money in the video games marketplace. As it stands today, Nintendo has sold 96.6M Wii units. Their competition, Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 have sold 66.6M and 68.5M respectively. The difference is staggering. Perhaps the most important data to extrapolate from these figures is the number of Wii owners that do not own a PS3 or 360. I wish I had the answer to that vitally important question. The answer would help predict how the Wii U will fair following it’s November 2012 release.

Roughly 6 months following my Wii purchase, I found myself at Best Buy with a gift card – big trouble, for those of you who know me well. Having developed an appreciation for the PS2, I used that gift card to purchase another Sony product: the PSP. And this is when my gaming world changed. For my Wii, I owned Zelda: Twilight Princess, Mario Galaxy, and Metroid Prime 3 – three of the biggest titles on the system at that time. I wasn’t satisfied. Even as a strong PC gamer, I still longed for some different gaming experiences. That PSP became a gateway drug that led me to a place I once feared: true console fixation. I soon thereafter bought a PS3 and a 360 – the competition to my beloved Nintendo. Since that time I’ve played every game reviewed on this blog including non-Wii series such as Gears of War and Uncharted. Totaling hundreds of gaming hours filled with collaboration, laughter, and competition. Activities I once held dear to Goldeneye 64 and Contra – Nintendo-exclusive titles. The tide was changing for me.

Make no mistake – I attempted reconciliation with Nintendo. I bought House of the Dead, Mario Kart and Red Steel. Even with my friends playing alongside me – nothing on the Wii would compare to the ease of playing Gears of War 3 with my friends via Xbox Live. It had become quite clear to me: Nintendo and I have grown apart. My PS3 is the centerpiece of my entertainment room. I stream video from Netflix, watch Blu-Ray movies, play HD games online with my friends, and stream audio/video from my PC without strain. My 360 is a guaranteed portal to competitive multiplayer. While my Wii sits in standby mode patiently awaiting my nephews next visit. These words are not meant to insight anger – this is not a troll fest. Nor are these words meant to be defaming to Nintendo. The Wii did amazingly well – but it could have been more to me. It could have been the only system in my home. Even my PC could have found itself collecting dust. Nintendo’s next effort, the Wii U, could win me back.

This fall, I will not be in line and driving from store-to-store to purchase a Wii U. Based on what has been announced, the Wii U is to the Wii what the iPhone 3GS is to the 3G – just a little more of the same, but not really enough to change the name. I do not want more of the same. I want one console to rule them all. I want a system that has unique offerings (such as the wiggle-waggle controllers) and mainstream HD games that are amazingly easy to play online. Instead, Nintendo has given me a wirelessly tethered touchpad with 2005 technology and the promise of mainstream games I’ve already played. It can’t even play DVDs.