Why Nintendo lost me as a customer




Since I was a kid, gaming has always been synonymous with Nintendo. Here was a company that for me had awesome graphics, huge libraries of games and timeless franchises. However this relationship unfortunately ended with the Game Cube and while the Wii has been a runaway succes it got me thinking why did they lose me as a customer?

My first gaming system was a Commodore 64, a system that looked enough like it might be educational to fool my parents, however for me it was purely for games. While I spent many hours with Treasure Island Dizzy (one life and no saving!!), bubble bobble and Rick Dangerous, my first experience with what i believed to be 'true' gaming was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

I would accompany my parents on trips to Makro and immediately split from them and head to the gaming isle where they had a Nintendo wall with NES systems running Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt. These Instant gaming machines let you slip in to a simple, colourful and oh so  rewarding world with Princess's in need of rescue and excitable plumbers only to happy to oblige. My friend who owned one of these wondrous devices would taunt me with demos of more Princess's in need of rescuing, this time from an Elf type character loaded in seconds as if by magic from a golden cartridge. Alas I never owned a NES, however I more than made up for it with the amount of hours I spent on my friends system.
Which brings me to my first Nintendo console the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), 16bits of sheer joy, with audio and visual capabilities that put Sega's Mega Drive to shame, it was cutting edge and had a back catalogue of gaming franchises ready for 'Super' adoption.
Instant classics like Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Super Bomberman, The Legend of Zelda: A link to the past, Secret of Mana and Street Fighter II to name but a few kept me gaming for years. The SNES was top of the pile at the time, the visuals were clearly superior to the Mega Drive when comparing the same game on both consoles (Street Fighter II springs to mind) and they also pioneered 3D gaming with the Super FX Chip imbedded in certain games like Starfox/Starwing. By todays standards these graphics may seem tame but at the time it had me staring in wonder. For me this was THE console, the joy of which has yet to be replicated and to this day i still crack open Super Mario World with Richie to complete all 96 levels in a day. All be it on a tv so huge that the mushrooms are the size of your fist!
Next up was the Nintendo 64, 'Project Reality' as it was dubbed for its breathtaking graphics and supercomputer rivalling performance which was technically far in advance of the new kid on the block The Playstation(PS), from their ex partner Sony.
Now I never bought in to the PS, it seemed to represent the Megadrive of the 90's, it had titles like Madden and Fifa, when Nintendo had immersive classics like Ocrarina of Time, Mario 64, DonkeyKong64 and The amazing GoldenEye. Now I know the Playstation was a gamechanger and there were many many great titles, however for me i was sold on the Mario exclusives and the technical prowess.
To this day Orcarina of Time's visuals astound me and the game play and interactions were far beyond their time and the deathmatch multiplayer of GoldenEye was a precursor  to Halo and Call of Duty, before console internet gaming really existed.
This console also had arguably the best controller around.

With expensive cartridge prices (£50 - £60, expensive in todays market) and poor support of 3rd party developers, Nintendo lost its market lead and when the Game Cube was released in 2002, faced with the Playstation 2 and the new player from Microsoft, The Xbox, things didn't improve.

Again, i bought a gamecube, however for the first time started to lose the faith with Nintendo.
While i was kept relatively happy with the Mario and Zelda outings, I started to look at other types of games like GTA and Call of Duty, suddenly the Game Cube seemed to be aimed at a younger audience.
There also seemed to be a lack of innovation, while the PS2 essentially championed DVD as a format and the Xbox revolutionised the concept of online gaming, the Game Cube's big selling point was its small size and range of different colours.
The Gamecube also had limitations around the Optical media, the 'mini DVD' format meant it couldn't play DVD's (something that was important at the time) and many games were either multi-disk games or had features removed from the PS2/XB versions.

Which patient readers, brings me to Nintendo's latest offering, the Wii...

Now despite the Game Cube being my least favourite Nintendo console, i still loved it and as a result was still very excited about the Wii.
When i got over the name (doesn't seem so silly on reflection does it?) and first poured over the specs and read about the 'revolutionary controller i was slightly sceptical.
With the might of the triple Core Xbox 360 and the ridiculous hyped potential of the PS3's Cell Processor, the hardware of the Wii didn't seem so 'next generation'
With approx 1.5 times the power of its predecessor, the graphics of the Wii seemed to have little or no gain over the Game Cube.

The next worry for me was resolution...
This thing has a maximum output of 480i/p (576i PAL), thats standard definition, no HD love here people. Does that matter though?? Well in my opinion absolutely!
HD brings far more detail to gaming, more room on the screen for a detailed HUD, better draw distances and represents exactly where the AV market was at launch and is today. The Wii was the only 'next gen' consol to shun HD.
Even if you take to one side the extra detail and real estate that higher resolution gives you and argue that  SD is just fine, what about the huge trend of consumers buying HD TV's?
Most peoples first reaction to HDTVs is disappointment, primarily as initially there were few HD sources available. This means the HDTV has to scale the source input up to 1080p or 720p (768p if you want to get technical on most 'HD Ready' sets)
Now the problem with this is that depending on the quality of your set, the image scaling can greatly differ, affecting the final image quality. That £200 bargain you picked up while you were buying milk doesn't do such a good job at IP conversion and scaling as sets at the higher end of the market.
Even if you put that to one side, and declare resolution isn't everything, maybe you have a top end HDTV, don't notice the digital fragments left by the poor scaling or maybe you still have a CRT SD set and are quite happy with 480 lines, there is also the quality of the connection.
The 360 and PS3 shipped initially with HD connections in the form of Component and HDMI respectively. The Wii, however shipped with composite output as standard, a very low end analogue output that sends an interlaced signal (think flicker).
Now even with an SD source there are benefits to using a higher quality connection. With component the light and colour are sent separately resulting in higher quality and more accurate video reproduction. Component is also capable of progressive scan, giving a smoother higher quality image with less 'jaggies' and since all flat panels are progressive, this takes out the need for the tv set to convert the signal from interlaced to progressive. Nintendo do offer a a component cable as an optional accessory, however that seems a modest compromise at best.
But maybe it looks fine??
Well in my opinion, far from it. When my flatmate hooked up the Wii to my 720p Sony set i was very disappointed. The colours appeared washed out and the graphics of Zelda seemed very much last generation. Despite pouring over all the advanced scaling settings my Sony had to offer, I just couldn't get the result i was looking for.
Even a simple comparison of cross platform games will shock you. No More Heroes is a prime example of this, a really fantastic game for the Wii, though with obvious graphical differences.






So what about the real 'Revolution', the motion controls...

Yes Wii Sports brought some genuine fun briefly to my living room, it was fun to play bowling, tennis and boxing with the motion controller, it even briefly made me think about the endless possibilities of gaming interaction, however this fascination was quickly relegated to a game suitable for drunken groups of friends. Watching my cousin destroy me at the boxing by simply 'waggling' the controller and not at all simulating the act, also made me realise the limitations of this 'revolution'
For me the controller was fun, but a novelty; for real games I had no desire to flap about like a crazy person fighting an invisible wasp. Even my beloved Zelda couldn't lure me in.

While this console has sold insanely well, i feel it is a sign that Nintendo has moved on from the core gamer and sold it's soul to the mediocrity of the masses. Unfortunately, for every 1 customer like me Nintendo have lost, there are most likely 10 casual/geriatric/drunk idiots out there flailing about in their living room, ready to offer it a dusty spot under their T.V.

Đ

Comments

Cunzy11 said…
It is depressing to still see this rhetoric four years down the line. If you are that into games then have a PS3, Xbox 360 and a Wii.

Sure, you're not missing out on all those fitness titles and mini game compilations in the same way that you aren't buying all those mediocre 3rd/1st person shooters or Xbox Indie crap on the Xbox 360. However, opting yourself out of Super Mario Galaxy, Little King's Story, Sin and Punishment 2, Battalion Wars 2, Super Smash Brothers, Dead Space Extraction, Zack and Wiki and Metroid prime 3 not to mention the quality titles on VC and Wiiware etc. because of a 'feeling' then that is your decision and your loss.
My issues were the lack of power, the lack of embracing modern trends, the novelty of the controller and the pushing of stupid simple 'party' games to lure in everyman at the expense of core gamers. I'm not denying there are great games out there, in fact its because of these games that it bothers me so much.
I watched the intro for Zelda while writing this, which stirred something inside me making me look at Wii prices and thought about buying one. So it's not a Nintendo hating exercise, it's more self reflection on whether I abandoned Nintendo or they abandoned me.
Cunzy11 said…
Well that's fair does and ultimately I can't argue that you don't feel this way or that way about it.

However, what is the cost to core gamers? http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/97923-Casual-Games-Not-Taking-Away-From-Core-Market-Says-Analyst

And isn't this kind of feeling just part of a transition for the gaming community? We just have to learn to share, right? Surely it's a good thing that theres a little less social stigma about being a gamer these days?
It's a good point, anything that brings gaming closer to being an accepted art/media/past time is a good thing overall. I just miss Nintendo, and for all the reasons in the post haven't gone back to them. I think if I can ever accept that attracting casual gamers and enjoying Mario/Zelda etc are not mutually exclusive I'd be better off.
Cunzy11 said…
I can see where the frustration comes from. Carnival Games topping the charts might irk most oldcore gamers but let's not forget that there are 'Carnival Games' games on all the other consoles (and the PC is swamped with the damn things) it's just they aren't selling by the bucket load and so it isn't so easy to point and wearily shake the head at.

That being said, gamers don't exactly help newcomers to find what they should be playing at all. Going into a game vendor on the high street has all the charm of going for a smear test and the gaming community is so insular and vitriolic online it's no wonder that GTA Chinatown Wars bombs whilst Just Dance tops the charts.

But then that's always the way of things. Look at the books and films that are currently charting. Kiddies books and Sci-fi! What is the world coming to?
Jay said…
Đoþþelgänger,

What games do you want Nintendo to make that they haven't this generation? They have released:

Twilight Princess
Warioware
Super Paper Mario
Mario Soccer and Baseball
Metroid Prime 3
Battalion Wars
Fire Emblem
Super Mario Galaxy
New Super Mario
Mario Kart
A 2D Wario Land
Animal Crossing
Punch Out

That list may not make you want a Wii but if you compare it to their GC and N64 releases it's quite similar. You may not like the direction they took the market but Nintendo the developer probably didn't abandon you.
@Jay

I have no real issue with the catalogue of games out there for Wii. While there is unfortunately too much focus from advertising on the 'Carnival Games', I completely understand that my old favourites are very much there in Wii form and I miss them! I also get why they are so heavily advertised, Nintendo has a license to print money at the moment and it is doing that by appealing to the previously non gaming community. Cunzy makes a good point that, this is overall a good thing for the industry and breaks the stereotypes associated with 'gamers'. My 'issue' was more to do with the Hardware of the console.
With the NES, SNES and N64, Nintendo demonstrated that they could be fun AND on the bleeding edge of technological advancement. With the Wii, they seemed to abandon that trend, stalling technical advancement and instead producing a less expensive machine and opening it up to a new market. This absolutely worked for them and they are the only company making a profit from the hardware and doing so to a greater demographic than Microsoft or Sony thought possible.
I don't dispute the quality of the games you mentioned, however I feel technology has moved forward and Nintendo should too.
I don't think it's unreasonable that a console pitched as 'next generation' should in fact have moved forward a generation. While there is definitely games I'm missing out on that i would enjoy in the Wii platform, I think it's not always about the content, the delivery should not be ignored. I could watch Pulp Fiction on VHS, but I'd far rather watch it in DVD or Blu-Ray.
Jay said…
"With the NES, SNES and N64, Nintendo demonstrated that they could be fun AND on the bleeding edge of technological advancement."

This is not really the case. The NES was inferior to my beloved Master System, the SNES had a better palette but a crappier processor than the Genesis, and the N64 did 3D better than the competition but hit huge walls regarding the cart format (limitations on voice acting, in game videos and content in general), not to mention the terrible textures every game had due to memory constraints.

I think Nintendo has always stayed close enough to the head of the pack hardware wise before the Wii but the games on the systems were what really made them stand out in peoples minds and memories.

People tend to side with games at the end of the day. No one cares about the Jaguar, CDi or 3DO and the Neo Geo has about a dozen supporters globally.
@Jay
Very good points. The SNES did have a processor approx half the speed of the Genesis/Megadrive, however they added unique features beyond raw power with impressive scaling, rotation, and tiling effects. And as you say a colour palette that could display many dozens more colours. While the raw numbers here may favour the Genesis, the video outcome favoured the SNES. The audio on the SNES was also regarded the 'Gold Standard' from a cartridge console.
Regarding the cartridge issue, I completely agree it hindered Nintendo in many ways, however I am not arguing that Nintendo was leading in every technical aspect, rather that it was very competitive technically and undoubtedly lead the way in some areas. My problem with the Wii is that, in my opinion it isn't technically competitive at all. Even today Nintendo are dismissing HD like its some passing fad and not a very real and popular evolution. And yes the quality of the games is what sells consoles, but lets not ignore that with every generation of console there has been technical improvements, improvements which have led to new types of games. If we were content with purely the fun of games and not the technical advancement of the platform , we would still be playing Dizzy and have no 3D (and i dont mean stupid glasses), online gaming or advanced game physics allowing interactive environments. I guess im asking what has the Wii brought to the evolutionary table beyond the motion controller? Yes as Cunzy says it has evolved gaming from a social angle, but unlike its predecessors nothing tangible.
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