Ok, the title is very much hyperbole. I do not hate Nintendo, in fact I really like Nintendo, I am just frustrated from my disappointment with the game company. If at anytime this rant seems like nothing but Nintendo bashing, it isn’t. This is more like constructive criticism of a concerned friend. My bona fides is that I more-or-less grew up with an Atari 2600, NES, Super NES, and a Gameboy. I have owned (and in many cases, still own) an NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, Gameboy, Gameboy Pocket, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, Gameboy Advance SP, DS (original), and 3DS. I have been there from the beginning (ok, late 80’s at least). Since then I became primarily a PC gamer but also own and game on PS2, X-Box and Xbox 360. I am not some Nintendo fanboy, nor am I some young, inexperienced hater.
It isn’t that I think that Nintendo consoles are bad, on the contrary they are great, but their potential is so unrealised that it is just sad. First, let’s look at the Wii. The Wii was touted as being a console that was designed to give the user a reason to turn it on every day. After creating a few fun, if not forgettable, channels they have seemed to abandoned adding any features to the Wii in support of that goal, in favor of going after the homebrew crowd (many of whom were adding valuable features). What does the Wii offer in terms of features? News, Weather, Everybody Votes (a channel where people answer survey questions and guess as to what the majority of people will answer), Photo Viewer, Store, Web Browser, Check Mii Out (a Mii sharing channel that lets Miis compete in a popularity contest), and the Nintendo channel (a channel with videos from Nintendo that also has DS game demos). In terms of features, it isn’t a bad offering. What about social features? There is an email messaging system that doubles as a play log and there is the Wii Speak, a voice chat accessory that has been pretty much abandoned by Nintendo and developers alike. That is it, just email and an abandoned voice chat accessory.
Why should I turn on my Wii every day? The occasional email from Nintendo, a weekly survey, the crappy offerings from the Wii shop, an AP News feed, Weather, crappy commercials hosted by douchebags (I am looking at you, Nintendo Week) and the latest celebrity and pop-culture look-alikes designed by children? Give me some updates (If Microsoft can update the user experience every year, so can Nintendo)! Give me some social features! Say what you want about Steam and Live, but it kicks the ass of Nintendo’s online social offerings. Give me a reason to want to turn it on everyday! Smash Bros, Mario Kart, Metroid and Zelda are great games but they can only sustain ones enthusiasm for so long before they become just another game sitting on the shelf.
Just as important, integrate the features that do exist into games. I am not just referring to Nintendo, but third parties as well. I took the time to make a Mii, use it. I have a collection of Mii’s (including Stephen Colbert and Dr. Zoidberg), use them. I have weather data from the forecast channel, use it instead of random weather (I know Madden did). Implement voice chat. I know that most games do not need to use all of these if any of these features, but at least try to utilize the capabilities of the console. Just don’t shoehorn them in for the sake of having them. (Waggleware anyone?) Use the console’s features but use your head!
Now, I will bitch about the 3DS. It seems that the 3DS has some problems in that it just won’t sell. It had a horrible launch with a crappy game line-up. Yes, the current game line-up sucks but it is getting better. The second major problem is that it needs to be experienced hands on. The screen can’t be experienced via TV commercials. Because of the narrow viewing angle, even the store displays don’t show it that well. I first saw the 3DS as a display in Best Buy. The screen was crappy, there was no real 3D effect (it was bolted down at a really bad height and angle) and it looked like crap. Then, my cousin showed me the one he bought and it looked great. Aside from the game lineup, I feel the biggest problem is that (practically) no one has one. From a sales perspective, if people seen an actual 3DS with a good game, I am sure there would be more sales. Playing with my cousins 3DS pretty much sealed the deal. The Demo units just plain suck because you can’t pick it up and hold it in your hand. Most importantly, apart from the 3D, Its biggest features are the social components. It is hard to use the social parts (Streetpass, PuzzleSwap, FindMii, local multiplayer) if there is nobody to interact with.
The 3DS also suffers from the same problem of the Wii, I want more features. The firmware sucks. Ironically, I was hoping for something more Wii-like. I want as many of the Wii features on my 3DS as I can get, and then some. First, where is the messaging system? It is certainly not the status updates, which are OK (if not really short) for status messages but not anything like the Wii message board feature. Second, where are the Nintendo, News, Weather, Everybody Votes, and Check Mii Out channels? Third, the store is horribly disorganized with different categories every week — Just give two (or three) basic categories: Virtual Console, DSware, and maybe videos (if they don’t want the Nintendo Channel). Lastly the web browser sucks. If they can’t give us flash support, they can at least make like Apple and give us a YouTube channel.
What can Nintendo do to satisfy me? First, they need to double-down on the social aspect and introduce more social features like wireless and internet chat, more social games, and more and better use of Streetpass and Mii Profiles. I want a single Mii Profile that includes my username, friends list, status (personal message and what I am currently playing), achievements, email messaging (like on the Wii), instant messaging / Pictochat and optional voice chat in games. I would support chat in friend matches only, with no chat in anonymous matches so as to solve the problem of screaming foul-mouthed children that plague Xbox Live. I want a single integrated gaming ecosystem between my 3DS and Wii U. I want to use my 3DS as a standard controller, sync my play coins and streetpasses to my Wii U, see what Wii games my friends are playing on my 3DS and vice versa, and connect my 3DS games to my Wii U games and do cool stuff. Give me a modern web browser with HTML5/MP4 support and flash support that isn’t crappy. Give me media functionality. Let me stream movies and music from my PC to my TV, Wii U controller screen, or 3DS (Nintendo channel, 3DS Video Channel, and Netflix don’t count). Most importantly, give me a reason to turn my Wii and 3DS on everyday and make me want to take my 3DS with me everywhere I go.
On a slightly off-topic note: Where is my Earthbound / Mother games? Give me something, release on Virtual Console, give me a DS / 3DS compilation, a remake, SOMETHING!