As we have seen with the announcement of the Nintendo 2DS, there are no limits to the lengths that some companies will go to in order to tap into a new market.
The business reasons behind the 2DS are perfectly sound, but it is kind of crazy that Nintendo has managed to get away with making 2D a ‘feature’. It’s a move that only Nintendo could pull off.
Consumers often have to wade through the strange decisions made by video game companies. Sometimes it’s the quirks of the hardware that baffle the mind, sometimes it’s our own consumer behaviour. Often we’ll turn a blind eye to the most horrendous design or business choices just because of our desire to get our hands on the next big (or small) thing.
We look at some examples, old and new, and ask just how did they get away with that?
The Game Boy Advance Screen
The GBA was long-awaited. A considerable step up in power and performance from its portable predecessor. It was a lovely device in so many ways, powerful, sturdy, truly portable and with a great library of games. But that screen… For me it rendered the device almost unusable. I guess if I lived in sunny California I may have stood a better chance. Never mind connector cables or battery packs, the essential GBA peripheral was a decent table lamp.
Even one of the system’s most lauded games, the sun-loving Boktai, is a damning indictment on the screen. Wonderful game though it is, if you need to design a mechanic that makes the player go outside to play the game, you know you have a hardware problem.
The GBA SP solved this issue to a large extent, the washed out backlit lit display did a job, but it doesn’t hold up in comparison to modern devices. In fact the only systems to give GBA games the display they deserve are the DS Lite and the Game Boy Micro.
Nintendo’s Back Catalogue
How do Nintendo get away with it? No other company has the ability to sell and resell the same games, to the same customers, time and time again? Myself included.
The perfect example is Balloon Fight. I own this game on NES, but I also have versions on Wii Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console, 3DS Virtual Console, plus in the GameCube Version of Animal Crossing. In addition, I now have the Nintendo Land iteration of the game. How did this happen? How did I get sucked in? How do Nintendo get away with reselling me the the same piece of software? Of course, this is actually my problem and not Nintendo’s. I could just walk away, have some will power and stop buying them, but……
The Red Ring of Death
It would have been very easy for the RROD to become system destroying disaster. It says a lot about the basic qualities of the console that the Xbox 360 survived its first few years relatively unscathed.
Microsoft dillied and dallied for far too long, but the eventual issuing of 3 year warranties did a pretty decent job of mitigating the damage. Even so, it often took too long to fix or issue replacements, and it took whole new model to eventually solve the problem.
It’s a timely reminder that Microsoft’s product launches are not always that successful. (See also: the Surface, Kin, Zune……)
Full Price Roster Updates
Football loving Playstation Vita owners who are excited about the prospect of FIFA 14 might want to keep their hands in their pockets. It was recently revealed that this years iteration will have a new roster update and feature “the same great experience” as last years’ title. So that’s a palette swap and some name changes then.
Wii owners have suffered a similar indignity for a few years now (The Wii U is maybe the lucky console in this regard).Hilariously, EA are making this a marketing feature by labelling these editions as Legacy Edition. Shame on them. It makes you yearn for FIFA to become some kind of subscription service.
Think back to E3 2009. The demo of Kinect, then called Project Natal, took the industry be storm. The demo was just so strong, body tracking, the ability to scan in real world objects (remember the skateboard), and the prospect of new forms of game interaction (thanks a bunch Milo). The reality was somewhat different.
There are some interesting uses of voice command, but in the main Kinect software has mainly been a series of Wii-type knock offs. Microsoft’s devotion to the device has also had a negative impact elsewhere, with the Xbox 360 dashboard becoming a shadow of its former self. You can’t help think that if we’d had Kinect all along and Microsoft had unveiled the ‘Controller’ we would have shouted Hallelujah. Why are we not up in arms over the unfulfilled promises?
New and improved Kinect is on the horizon, but the sense of apathy about the device is palpable and so far little has been shown to make us give the device another chance. A case of once bitten….
Nintendo’s Peripheral Madness
What Nintendo give with one hand, they take with the other. With the release of the GBA SP we finally got a system that could be played in bed with the lights out. Alas, they took out the headphone jack, so you couldn’t play it without turning down the sound for fear of waking your mistress. Luckily they had a peripheral, the GBA headphone adaptor. Why thank you Nintendo, so generous.
This is only one of many curious hardware choices from Nintendo. Want to play a Nintendo 3DS XL? That’s fine, but don’t expect to be able to charge it. Charger available separately of course. Want to play Majora’s Mask, sequel to mega-hit Ocarina of Time? Fine, but don’t forget that you will need to have the N64 Expansion Pak. Don’t worry, Nintendo bundle one with the game (at a higher price).
You have to wonder why the Nintendo brand is so synonymous with simplicity. Sometimes I look at my Wii U, with its GamePad, Wii Remote and Wii U Pro Controller, and I want to cry.
A console with no games
Let’s not forget that the Wii U had a pretty decent launch line up and sold very well for a few months. But a strong launch line up will only get you so far. Nintendo have been here before of course, and the 3DS proves that this is a position that can be recovered from.
The first year of the PS3 was also pretty desolate, as third parties wrestled with the technology and first parties took their time perfecting their wares. It took the system a year or so to find its legs. And it’s only now, as we approach the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One that we are starting to realise that the post-Christmas the realise schedule is looking somewhat slender. Yet we fall for it every time. Sucked in to buying the latest and greatest without consideration of what will follow.
See you on Day One.
The Xbox One Reveal
How did they get away with that? Oh, they didn’t.