Nic's Response to Josh's Recent Wii U Article

Josh is a fool who doesn't know what he's talking about.

OK, that may be a bit much. But hey, that's sort of the point of sensationalism, isn't it?

In truth, I think Josh makes some good points in his article. But there are a few areas where I think there's either room for difference of tastes or interpretations, or where I think some context would be helpful. So this is my response to (or smack down of) Josh's article. If you haven't read it then this article won't make sense. So go and read it, then return.

Alright, caught up now? Groovy.

I'd like to publicly thank Josh for giving his article numbered points, as it makes it easier for me to respond. So, get ready Josh, here we go...

1.  Although "strongest" is a relative term, subject to personal subjective preference, there's no doubt the most high profile launch titles, especially from the point of view of the 'core' market, were ports of games either already available on the PS3 and 360, or launching almost simultaneously on them.  But let's do two things: get specific facts in front of us as opposed to generalities, and put this in historical context.

The Wii U launched with 23 titles (both retail and eshop). Of them, 11 are third-party exclusives (games not available on another home console): Scribblenauts Unlimited, Tank Tank Tank, Rabbids Land, Nano Assault Neo (eshop), Game Party Champions, ESPN Sports Connection, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013, Chasing Aurora (eshop), Mighty Switch Force Hyperdrive Edition (eshop), Little Inferno (eshop), and ZombiU. No doubt there's some varying quality here (a.k.a., some of these games are good, some are so so, and some are straight up stinkers). And in the case of ZombiU, people have widely differing takes on it (some folks, like Josh, aren't that impressed by it, while others really seem to like seems to be a "love it or hate it" kind of game).

From the perspective of someone who is exclusively a 'core' gamer, there is indeed not much here. Most of these titles don't fit that rather narrow mold. But for someone who is simply a gamer, one who likes games if they are enjoyable without requiring them to be of a certain genre, art-style, or tone, there are some worthwhile titles here. Scribblenauts Unlimited (which I have, and am really having fun with, especially due to the object creator), Mighty Switch Force (which I also have, and find to be a great mix of platformer and puzzler, with great art style and music thrown in), and Nano Assault Neo (which I don't have, but hear is good) all jump out in particular.

Of the remaining 12, half of them (Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition, Trine 2: Director's Cut, Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper, and Darksiders 2) are enhanced in some way over other versions, either with tweaked gameplay (NG3), new game modes, characters, levels, or character abilities (Batman, Tekken, Warriors, Trine 2), or previously released DLC being included at no extra cost (Darksiders 2, NG3).

As for some historical context, let's examine the launches of the past generation. The PS3, which came out last, launched with 15 games, 3 of which were 3rd party exclusives (Genji: Days of the Blade, Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire, and Ridge Racer 7). The Wii, the middle child as it were, launched with 21 games, 6 of which were 3rd party exclusives (Red Steel, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Tamagotchi: Party On!, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, GT Pro Series, and Rayman Raving Rabbids). The 360, which came out first, launched with 28 games, 9 of which were 3rd party exclusives (Amped 3, Call of Duty 2, Condemned: Criminal Origins, FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup, Perfect Dark Zero, Quake 4, Ridge Racer 6, Tetris The Grandmaster ACE, and Bankshot Billiards 2).

So the Wii U numbers aren't that dissimilar, and in fact hold up pretty well.

Something else worth noting. The Wii U and XBox360 have something in common: they were the first system of their generation to be released. Looking at the 360's launch lineup, one finds that, much like the Wii U, a large portion of it (at least 9 titles) consists of games that were also available on the systems of the previous generation. Being first out of the gate seems to do that to you.

I point out all of this not to say Josh is somehow delusional for wanting more 3rd party games on Wii U, but to remind us all that console launches aren't usually overly-impressive. A lack of mind-blowing exclusive 3rd party games at launch does happen with some frequency. And the launch titles are usually not a reliable indicator of what will happen over the system's launch title.

That having all been said, Nintendo seems to agree that it would be good for them to start letting folks know about upcoming games. Hence, Wednesday's Nintendo Direct. Perhaps I'll do a little article dedicated to it in a day or so. But suffice it to say, Nintendo pleasantly surprised people with their presentation. It only lasted 35 minutes, and only focused on 1st party titles, with a spotlight on 3rd party apparently coming relatively soon. And yet, it got people's attention. During the video presentation, new footage was shown for two upcoming games (The Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2). Five previously announced titles were mentioned (LEGO City Undercover, Pikmin 3, Wii Fit U, Game and Wario, and Super Smash Bros), with most of them coming out in the first half of this year (the exception being SSB, though it was confirmed that the first footage of the game will be shown at E3). Eight new titles were announced, some expected and others complete surprises: a new 3D Mario (playable at E3), a new Mario Kart (playable at E3), Fire Emblem X Shin Megami Tensei, a new RPG from Xenoblade's Monolith Soft, Wii U Party, a new Yoshi platformer, a new Legend of Zelda game, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (coming out by Fall of this year). And they confirmed that the Wii U will have a Virtual Console service (with the ability to play the games on the gamepad), officially coming in April but really beginning now (through the Famicom 30th Anniversary promotion).

And, outside of the Nintendo Direct presentation, in recent days Capcom has revealed that the port of Resident Evil: Revelations will be coming to the Wii U along with the PS3 and 360.

One last thing on point number one. I think Josh is somewhat overstating the case when he says not many people care about LEGO City Undercover. It may be true that not many in the "core only" audience are looking forward to it. And Josh, who is not in that audience by the way, is perfectly within his rights to also not care about it. But the LEGO games are quite popular. They tend to be reviewed favorably, and they sell very well. This game in particular is looking to take the LEGO video game concept in some slightly new directions, and many of the folks who've gone hands on with it (like the folks at IGN) say it's shaping up to be a lot of fun. (They also say it's less like GTA than it might at first seem. Yes, there's an open world, and the gameplay is mission based. But they say it's actually more like a detective game, with investigating, tracking, and apprehending. They say it isn't trying to be GTA, but something unique.) Based on their comments, the concept for the game, videos and screens I've seen, the quality of previous LEGO games, and my general enjoyment of the LEGO brand, I'm excited about it. In fact, I've already pre-ordered it at Target and gotten my free Chase McCain (the hero from the game, not to be confused with John McClane, who they're clearly referencing) LEGO minifigure.

That having been said, the LEGO games certainly have a different sensibility to them than, say, Grand Theft Auto. No one can deny that. Not a lot of prostitute punching going on in LEGO games. And not a lot of Shawshank Redemption parodies in GTA games. And, perhaps as a consequence of their light-hearted style and easy-to-play game mechanics, the LEGO games apparently aren't typically "system sellers," nor are they must-haves for the "core" audience. I'm not here pretending like they are.

So I'm not saying LEGO City Stories is going to move tens of thousands of Wii U systems and Josh can circuit. Nor am I saying that its existence should be enough to satisfy any gamer who is wanting more games for their Wii U. I'm just saying its impact may not be as minimal as Josh seems to think.

2.  As for Zombi U, I think Josh makes some good points about how the purported realism of using the gamepad as your survival pack isn't actually that realistic. Indeed, if you were really trying to get something out of your pack in an effort to survive the zombie apocalypse, it doesn't seem you would always have to stop and kneel down in order to do so. As for not even needing to look in the bag, I think that would depend on what you're looking for.

I've only played the demo of ZombiU once, for about three minutes. So I need a bit more time with it before I can even begin to develop an impression of the game as a whole and the use of the gamepad in particular. But I will say using it as a scanner was fun, and having the voice of the guy who's helping you out come from just the gamepad and not the TV is a nice touch of immersion.

Recently Ron Gilbert, the guy who gave us Monkey Island 1 and 2 and then fortunately stepped away so Larry Ahern and Jonathan Ackley could give us Monkey Island 3, expressed the same kinds of general concerns about use of the gamepad as Josh did, although he did speak with some optimism. He said the that he doesn't think developers have yet really figured out how best to use the second screen, and believes it will be about a year before we see games that completely nail it.

I'm curious to see what uses developers and designers come up with. I think we'll be impressed.

3.  The question of system power (how the Wii U will stack up against the new Playstation and XBox, and what that will mean for the Wii U going forward) is, it seems to be, the big unknown, for at least three reasons.

1. We don't really know the specs for the Wii U. The hacker who released some specs a few weeks ago obtained them while running the system in Wii mode, and we just don't know if the system performance adjusts depending on whether the system is in Wii mode.

2. We don't know how powerful the new Playstation and XBox will be. All we have is speculation, and the beginnings of rumors. For example, just the other day some possible specs for the PS4 were released onto the internet. Four dual-core processors, etc. etc. But who knows if there's any truth to it.

3. We don't know certain economic factors, like how much of an increase there'll be in production costs for new PS and XBox games, and how, if at all, those increases will be passed on to the consumer.

I don't think there's any real question about it. The Wii U will in all likelihood be the least powerful system this generation from a raw hardware standpoint (barring Josh's "turbo-boost" speculation turning out to be true). But what does that mean for Nintendo? Nothing conclusively, it would seem. The last two generations of consoles have demonstrated that being the least powerful doesn't necessarily lead to the lowest hardware sales. Wii was the least powerful and yet it outsold its competitors, and the same was true of the PS2. Having the most power wasn't the deciding factor. For the PS2 it was the system's diverse software library. And for the Wii, it was the appeal it had with more mainstream everyday consumers, those who might typically have been described as "non-gaming."

Because it wasn't its diverse software library, that's for certain. Even though it sold large numbers, and even though it did have a number of quality titles in a variety of genres that fans of gaming would do well to partake of, even Nintendo will now acknowledge that the library of games for the Wii was not as diverse as many game players would have wanted. Under normal circumstances a deficient software library is disconcerting news both for the console manufacturer, and for the owners of said console.

Two things that gamers care about: One, what games they can or cannot play on their systems. And two, even more so, whether the game companies they like will still in business in the future. Given how well Wii and the line of DS's were selling, there was no reason for that smaller range of games to have caused Nintendo or Nintendo gamers to worry about whether the big N was about to go the way of the dodo. So with that concern off the table, they were free to focus on something else: just the fact that the Wii didn't have a broad and wide range of titles, and notably missed out on many of the big name titles from that time period. Although there was a bit of snowball effect to blame (it didn't have a wide range of games, so many gamers didn't purchase it, so developers didn't often put their AAA titles on it, thus it didn't have a wide range of games, so many gamers didn't purchase it, etc.), the factor that got the ball rolling in the first place was likely how large the power gap was between Wii and the 360 and PS3. Developers had ideas for games that the Wii just couldn't handle, so they didn't develop those games for it.

I'd say that, to some extent, both of those concerns are in play with the Wii U. The 3DS is doing quite well these days (better than the DS was at this point in its life-span). The Wii U is also doing well, but it isn't currently the mainstream runaway success that the Wii was. And so, the security of Nintendo's future, though I think nowhere close to anything resembling in doubt, is slightly less rock solid than it was in late 2006 / early 2007. And, as always, consumers want a steady flow of varied and quality titles for the systems they own.

How will the power gap between the Wii U and the other guys play into all of this? That's impossible to say for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we simply don't know how much less powerful the Wii U will end up being. There's a lot of speculation out there, but only time will tell.

Well there you have it. Josh is a fool. If you want to hear Josh and I continue this discussion in audio form, then keep a look out for our next podcast, entitled "Josh vs Nic: A Battle for the Ages." It's going to be brutal.

I think we're also going to talk about a guy named J.J. Abrams.

Hoping you all have a great weekend, I remain,

 - Nic

Posted on January 26, 2013 .