Nintendo!?  Are You Breaking Up With Me?

Nintendo!? Are You Breaking Up With Me?

I still remember the day I got a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas.  From that day forward, it was a steady stream of classics like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, NES Open Golf, Mega Man, Blades of Steel, Dragon Warrior, Tetris, Base Wars, Punch Out, Battletoads, Baseball Simulator 1000 and more…

I loved my Nintendo.

As I grew up, Nintendo remained a huge part of my life.  I saved up for the better part of a year to prove to my parents I was responsible enough with money to merit a Nintendo 64.  As a result, Super Mario 64 will always remind me of summer.  My friends and I would alternate swimming and N64 all day for weeks at a time.  I can’t tell you how many hours of Goldeneye & Perfect Dark we played but it was enough to concern our parents.  Which is why we supplemented Nintendo time with swimming.

Then came The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  The single game I’ve probably played more than any other.  The game that inspired me at a time when I began writing screenplays and short stories of my own.

My Nintendo 64 was with me right up until the end of the consoles life cycle.  Even then, I raided used video game stores and compiled a library of the greatest games released on the system. To this day, it remains my favorite video game console of all time.

Fast forward to my adult years.  There I was, standing in the rain with a friend of mine waiting for EB Games to open.  It was the day the Nintendo Wii was released.  I remember an employee of the store handing out cards that guaranteed you would get a system.  I was second last to get one and absolutely ecstatic.  I walked out of the store with a Wii and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

I’ll never forget bringing the Wii on a trip home to visit my parents.  My entire family played Wii Sports for hours with a table full of pizza in the middle of the room.  That system made many trips home by popular request for years after that.  In between visits, I spent hours lost in Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime, Mario Kart and more.

Like many in my generation and beyond, I’ve played thousands of hours on Nintendo consoles in my life.  Nintendo is front and center in many cherished memories with my friends and family. There’s nothing like a rainy day with a good video game and I grew up appreciating the gameplay, stories and experiences to big N delivered.

My wife bought me a Wii U the year it was released and I had high hopes for the system despite the clunky controller and lack of next gen features.  The issues began the day I hooked it up. The system was unplayable without a day one update and Nintendo’s servers were constantly crashing.  It took two days before I was able to sit down with the machine and play a game.  The game in question was New Super Mario Bros U…  A solid game but not the innovative Mario game I hoped for.  Every generation of Nintendo brought something unique like Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy.  Super Mario 3D World came and went without much excitement for me and that’s the last we’ve heard from everyone’s favorite plumber.

Through it all, I waited as a new Zelda game kept getting delayed years at a time.  In fact, many big franchises Nintendo is known for were absent during the consoles launch window.  For months, I waited for a true killer title that never came.  Sales of the Wii U suffered and it became clear Nintendo had a giant flop on their hands.  What happened?

The video game industry is always evolving and so are gamers.  Multiple generations of Playstation and XBOX systems came along and changed the way we play with powerful boxes and online functionality.  Along with those features came strong third party studio support with vast catalogs of amazing games.  Nintendo has always been a little different.  The company has been notably hesitant to implement online features and a unified account system.  They’ve never embraced the idea of Achievements or Trophys.  They never truly won over third party studios with the Wii U or the Wii for that matter.

This hurt the Wii U a great deal.  Without innovative third party games and popular franchises, people who bought the system had to wait for Nintendo’s in house development teams to deliver.  Eventually, we got Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros U but it was too late.  Many gamers had moved on.  So did Nintendo.

Slow sales and a lack of buzz of any kind has made the Wii U a failure in many ways.  With respect to Splatoon, there aren’t many new ideas on the system and the potential of the console’s gimmicky controller was never fully realized.  Truthfully, it was over before it began.  I remember the E3 presentation when we first got a look at Nintendo’s next console.  No one knew what it really was and it was clear even Nintendo didn’t know what they had or how to sell it.

Along with mobile devices, the Wii did a fantastic job introducing video games to the ‘casual’ gamer.  But casual gamers evolved beyond mini game collections and waggle based controls.  People wanted so much more from the Wii U.

As a hardcore gamer, I desperately wanted the Wii U so I could play the great games I’ve come to expect from Nintendo and it’s partners.  But I was extremely disappointed in the lack of ‘big’ games and new experiences.

However, I don’t want to paint the Wii U as a total failure.  Super Mario Maker is certainly innovative.  Games like Splatoon and The Wonderful 101 showed tremendous promise moving forward.  We got worthy sequels in the Pikmin & Donkey Kong Country franchises.  And the aforementioned Kart and Smash have sold well considering the small install base of Wii U owners.

The games they released have been great.  It’s the low powered and limited console that killed any momentum Nintendo generated with the original Wii.

I think Nintendo realized this early in the Wii U’s life span and held back.  To a certain extent I agree with their decision.  Why would you waste a AAA Zelda or Mario title on a failing console?  Combined with the dwindling sales for Nintendo’s 3DS, it’s easy to understand why they would make that call.

Now it’s 2016.  The Wii U continues it’s slow decent with no ‘big’ titles on the way unless you’re a hardcore Star Fox fan.  Nintendo fans around the world now wait for the company to reveal it’s future.  A future codenamed ‘NX’.

Thanks to the Wii U, my relationship with Nintendo is damaged.  I’m a married man with a daughter and free time is at a premium.  I’ll admit I cheat on Nintendo often with my XBOX 360 and recently XBOX One.  If I could begin to justify enough time and money to purchase another console it would be a PS4.  So while a new Nintendo console is exciting, it just doesn’t seem like they build consoles for me anymore…

Unless…

Early rumors about the console claim it’s the more powerful than the XBOX One and will feature seamless gameplay between multiple devices.  A console and hand held device in one.  Behind the scenes, Nintendo has worked tirelessly to simplify their accounts.  The next generation of Nintendo on all devices with be centered on one login.  One account.  One password.  One Nintendo.

So far so good.  The new console will DEFINITELY launch with the new Zelda title. (Alongside a Wii U version I hope.)  My guess is the next generation Mario game will come along for the ride as well.  They need a reason to get Nintendo fans excited about their games again.

Along with the impending announcement of a new console, Nintendo has also branched out into the world of smart phones with several games coming in 2016 and beyond.

All of this is encouraging but my vision of Nintendo’s future is a bit outside the box.  Or is it?

THE NINTENDO NX IS A GAME CHANGER?

Nintendo has always been innovative but it’s difficult to predict their intentions when it comes to design.  How they have resisted creating a super powerful and ‘somewhat’ future proof console is beyond me.

Nintendo has a unique opportunity to get back in the game with a super powerful console capable of running next gen third party titles.  Why not include 4K support while you’re at it?  It’s well documented that Nintendo is sitting on a war chest of profits in the billions.  Perhaps it’s time to invest in something truly impressive.  A system that can attract big titles from well known studios as well as independent titles from creators around the world.

Imagine a Nintendo console as powerful as PS4 or XB1 that runs giant open world Zelda games AND all the biggest franchises that support multiple platforms?

Imagine a Nintendo console that can deliver an online user experience gamers demand.  Nintendo has long maintained closed systems with full censorship on language and inappropriate behavior.  As a father I can respect the approach but as a gamer?  I can’t even imagine interacting with my friends on a Nintendo device like I do on my XBOX.

Lose the waggle!  It was fun while it lasted.  Casual gamers may have embraced it but Nintendo lost a lot of their hardcore fans when they doubled down on the Wii U.  People want to hold controllers in their hand.

Launch the NX with GAMES WE WANT TO PLAY!  In my opinion, the Wii U launched without a true killer game.  A console seller.  A title that makes me want to stand in line in the rain.

Yet still…  Even as I type this, I can’t help but feel a little hopeless.  Even if Nintendo delivers the full featured powerful console I want, will I even buy it?

I’m beginning to think there is only one way to save my relationship with Nintendo:

THE NINTENDO NX IS NOT A CONSOLE?

Throughout this column, I’ve mentioned multiple times how Nintendo ALWAYS delivers incredible games and experiences.  But when it comes to consoles, we’ve drifted apart over the years.  They simply don’t make consoles for me anymore.  Did I grow up? Or did they lose touch with gamers?

Here’s another big question: What if the Nintendo NX isn’t a console at all?  Stick with me…

Nintendo now has a unified account system.  The normally ‘closed’ Nintendo system is now open to mobile devices and platforms.  I don’t think they are done yet.  I think we may be on the cusp of a future of Zelda and Mario on XBOX and PS4.  How can that work!?

It’s all in the controller.  I believe Nintendo can bypass the new console altogether and sell their games on all platforms at one time.  The catch?  A monthly fee and a brand new controller.  The new controller would work on XBOX, PS4 and PC but remain proprietary to Nintendo and would double as a handheld gaming system so you can play anywhere.

With this type of system in place, Nintendo could focus on GAMES and deliver them through an APP on every device.

You read that right.  To me, the future of Nintendo is an APP and a state of the art controller.  Buy the controller and pay a monthly fee for the app and BAM, you’re playing Mario.  Nintendo doesn’t need to make a physical console if they can agree on a deal with Microsoft and Sony.  Having said that, I’m happy to say this prediction comes with a 2% chance of actually coming true.

Nintendo is a CONSOLE manufacturer but they are also the best game makers on the planet.  Maybe it’s time to leave their console roots behind.  An announcement like this would change the games industry forever and that’s what Nintendo does best.  Innovate.

Will the Nintendo NX be a powerful console?  Will it be something entirely new with a Wii-like control gimmick?  Is it possible for NX to simply be an online environment playable on any device?

The answers will come when Nintendo delivers their message in a few months.  Most likely at E3.  In the mean time, I’ll continue hoping Nintendo hasn’t truly forgotten about me.  I don’t want to break up.  I f*cking love Nintendo!

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