When it comes to video game hardware, there probably isn’t a more divisive name in the industry than Nintendo. On one side of the fence, there’s a number of gamers who would say this company has lost touch with reality, likely citing the lack of third party support, as well as their inability to effectively market the Wii-U as a standalone device. Some would go as far to say that they produce little more than kiddie games, and who wants to control a cutesy pink marshmallow when you can hollow cranial cavities in the latest installment of CoD? On the other side of the fence are the fans, of course. They’re happy, proud, and loyal – some to a fault – mainly because they respect the big N for staying true to their vision. These fine folk understand that while the nearly photorealistic graphics on competing machines are impressive, it all amounts to spit if the gameplay isn’t fun. Me? I guess I’m fated to straddle, because I love video games of all sorts. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what form they come in; as long as there’s fun to be had, I’m a happy guy.
But my position atop that fence – where plenty of others reside, by the way – comes with its own set of frustrations. While I’m free from the squabbles of ‘mine is better than yours’, that freedom also allows me to easily see things that are unfair, or flat-out bad for most consumers. , I was disappointed to see Nintendo resort to selling trinkets and DLC. The latter especially, considering Mr. Iwata and Reggie Fil-Aime are both on record stating they didn’t want to take that route.
Unsurprisingly, my opinion wasn’t viewed in the most favorable light. Believe me, this wasn’t a surprise. I expected people to roll their eyes and say, “Oh great, here’s yet another Nintendo hater that just doesn’t get it.” And yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Objectively speaking, yes, I think Nintendo are a terrible company… but I don’t dislike them. I know that probably makes me sound like I’m chasing my own tail here, but overall, I think they’ve done some wonderful things in this generation of gaming.
Over the last year or so, a majority of my time has been spent bouncing back and forth between my PS4 and Xbox One. The games were fun, problematic as they were, but the machines themselves were a constant headache.
My PS4 would only save game clips on occasion, and it’s still missing at least one core feature that was promised months before launch (suspend and resume, which the Xbox One does exquisitely well). The rubber on my DS4 sticks were showing signs of wear after mere months, certain ‘stability updates’ have caused my disc eject button to be unresponsive (it’s since been fixed), and let’s not forget that PSN has been nothing short of a joke.
My Xbox One WANTS to be my ease of access terminal, but… oh, wait. Why isn’t this thing working right? Damn it. I guess I’m going to have to do a hard reset. Just give me a second, alright? Actually, better make it five, because I have to hold the power button down. 1… 2… 3… 4… Ah, there it goes! Alright, time to turn it back on. Pressed the power button, it’s lit, and… aaaaaaand… Guh. This thing takes a while to boot! Once the console is actually fired up, what do I have to look forward to? A user-interface that has trouble handling all that it’s supposed to. One of the only things I actually snap is Twitch, and every time I do it’s a blasted nightmare.
But oh, my Wii-U. It just works. I’ve never had a problem with the gamepad, the user-interface has never been sluggish, and games run like a dream. And speaking of games, I purchase them with unparalleled peace of mind. When it comes to Nintendo, I KNOW my games are going to work as intended. No day 1 multiplayer struggles, no patches or updates, nothing. Oh, and it’s backwards compatible, too. Regardless of their faults, this company STILL provides the quintessential ‘pop in and play’ experience. It’s sad that I can’t say the same for Sony and Microsoft.
At the end of the day, the most important gauge for enjoyment should ultimately be how much fun we’re having, and in my humble opinion, Nintendo is the undisputed MVP of the industry.
Which is precisely why my love/hate relationship with them is so frustrating.
From a consumer standpoint, I’m constantly rolling my eyes. Take, for example, the Wii-U’s gamepad. It’s a great piece of hardware, but the battery it’s saddled with lasts a paltry three hours. That’s two gaming sessions for me, tops. Fortunately, Nintendo sells a higher capacity battery… but not in stores. You have to get it from them directly, which is fine, but it sold out shortly after release and wasn’t restocked for months. Want to know the real kicker? If you unscrew the gamepad’s rear compartment, a large, empty slot’s been carved out specifically for this battery. All signs point to them shoving a weak battery down our throats, only to shake us down for the better one later… so, why has stock been so sparse?
There’s also a situation with the Amiibos. These bits of DLC posing as figurines only saw the light of day two months ago, yet diehards are practically drooling over the fourth wave and beyond. In the meantime, average consumers have been discouraged from getting involved with the collection whatsoever. March from Fire Emblem, Villager from Animal Crossing, Wii Fit Trainer from Wii Fit, Pit from Kid Icarus, Captain Falcon from F-Zero, Fox McCloud from Star Fox, and Little Mac from Punch-Out!! are rarities now… but why? I mean, if these things are meant to accentuate your experience in various 3DS and Wii-U games, why should ANY of them be collector’s items so soon after launch?
Super Smash Bros. for the Wii-U kicked off on the same day as the Amiibos, and with it, a Gamecube controller adapter. That’s right, if you’ve been used to the Gamecube controls for over a decade, Nintendo has encouraged you to stick with what works. Unfortunately, a short while after launch, the $20 adapter was nowhere to be found. Well, you COULD get it through Gamestop’s website, but they required you purchase no less than FOUR Gamecube controllers with it (for a grand total of $140). Fortunately, a third party has stepped up with their own adapter.
The Legend of Zelda has also been a pawn in the game of ‘too bad, so sad’. On January 6th, without any prior notification, pre-orders for the Limited Edition of Majora’s Mask 3D – which includes a Skull Kid figurine – went live at about 8AM EST… and sold out in a matter of hours. Yes, HOURS. There wasn’t even a release date yet, and the Limited Edition was GONE. That means a good number of people on the West Coast were still nestled in their beds when this went down. They didn’t even have a CHANCE to pre-order before the well went dry.
Additional stock appeared in drips and drabs after the fact, but they’d disappear in a matter of minutes.
On January 14th, the same thing happened with the Majora’s Mask themed New 3DS XL. It was announced during a Nintendo Direct, which began at 9AM EST, and had sold out less than an hour later. Best Buy had some on their website in the evening, but all were spoken for within half an hour.
And that New 3DS is a source of controversy in-and-of itself. People were genuinely excited to get their hands on Nintendo’s latest handheld, especially the smaller model, as it features swappable faceplates. So, naturally, Nintendo confirmed only the LARGER handheld would be available in North America. They still haven’t reversed their policy on region locked hardware, so importing isn’t much of an option.
Understandably, North American consumers are upset. Some didn’t like the original 3DS XL because extended periods of use would cramp their hands. Some argue the XL wasn’t as portable, which defeats the purpose of a handheld. Regardless, the real kick in the teeth comes from the fact that every other region WILL have both versions of the New 3DS, while for some reason, North America is to be left in the cold. I’m not affected by this personally, as I prefer the XL for my massive gorilla hands, but that doesn’t make it any less a slap in the face to Nintendo’s fans.
That aside, I think the biggest problem – one the rest of the world has been familiar with for some time – is that the New 3DS doesn’t come with a charger.
No need to do a double take. You read that right: No. Charger. Their reason? It costs them money. How much? Less than two bucks.
How have they been allowed to get away with this? That’d be like Microsoft selling the Xbox One without a power brick.
I guess the answer is, unfortunately, consumer complacency. That’s why I said some Nintendo fans are loyal to a fault: It’s because no matter what this company does, all is forgiven. Wii-U gamepad has a shit battery? “It’s no big deal. Charge while you play!” Amiibos hard to find? “I pre-ordered mine. If people wanted them bad enough, that’s what THEY should have done!” Gamecube adapter missing-in-action? “The hottest game of the Wii-U JUST launched, and it’s the holidays!” Limited editions sell out in a matter of hours? “Well, it’s not limited if EVERYONE gets it!” Nintendo stops providing charges? “Doesn’t everyone have one of these by now? If you don’t, they’re only $10!”
It boggles the mind.
I mean, what’s the first thing a company like Nintendo should do? Get their products in consumers’ hands, right? Right. They’ve clearly dropped the ball in this respect, and HARD… but people are so consumed with ‘want, want, want’, they’ve not stopped to ask, “Why?”
Some have accused Nintendo of intentionally limiting stock to increase demand, and I agree. When people are forced to scramble to get this, that, or the other thing, a panic induced awareness will spread like wildfire. It’s an effective way to sell product, sure, but it also neglects the core Nintendo fan. Now, people who wouldn’t have paid the Amiibos any mind are snagging them left and right, hoping to turn a profit. That means escaping your 9-to-5 in search of that rare item is probably going to be a fruitless endeavor.
I’ll go as far as to say Nintendo couldn’t care less. Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t think they’re playing the ‘evil corporation is evil’ card. This company has hemorrhaged money for a long, long time. As a result, I think they’re simultaneously pinching their pennies AND capitalizing on the collector’s mentality.
While a higher concentration of product would benefit consumers, it would probably hurt Nintendo. The ultimate goal for ANY business is to sell their merchandise, and sell it quick. If the amount of product exceeds demand, the excess won’t sell. If the excess doesn’t sell, then it’s a waste of money for the company that produced it. After having ‘fell on the sword’ this time last year, I can see why the minimalistic approach is so attractive to them.
Still, there’s such thing as playing it TOO safe. When it comes to business, you have to consider a certain amount of calculated risk, but Nintendo want nothing to do with that.
Simply put, they’re no longer above nickel-and-diming us.
Think about it. Where are the ‘best’ consumers in the world? North America. Is it a coincidence that this is the only region that HAS to buy the larger, more expensive model? Probably not. As far as the ‘we’re not including a charger’ move… Nintendo owns the handheld market, and they know it. This has given them the confidence to say, “If you need one, you can fork over an extra ten bucks. But, don’t forget to play our new freemium Pokemon game after you do! That’s right, we’re in the microtransaction game now! Give us your money!”
Despite not willing to make calculated financial risks, I hope they understand they’re testing a far more dangerous one: The loyalty of their fans. Again, Nintendo were respected for sticking to their guns, and not conforming to the bullshit we’ve come to expect from Microsoft and Sony. Unfortunately, that dividing line is getting blurrier by the week, and the longer their fans feel neglected, the easier it’ll be for them to walk away.
Gaming shouldn’t feel like joining a club. It should be all inclusive, and NOT a designation for the scalpers who couldn’t care less.