Over the past week and a half, details about Nintendo’s next console have been trickling out. IGN has done an excellent job keeping track of all this information here. There’s lots of juicy tidbits to speculate on, like how the screen on the controller will work with the main console, but what I want to focus on is Nintendo’s overall strategy with Wii 2/Project Cafe/Stream: recapturing the hardcore gaming market.
With a system more powerful than PS3 or XBox 360, a price point of $350-400 dollars, and a more traditional controller (even with the added screen), it’s clear Nintendo is going to try to appeal to the hardcore gamer. The key to Nintendo’s success in this area though won’t be the graphical capabilities of Project Cafe or the fact you won’t be “waggling” the controller, it will be Nintendo’s approach to online gaming.
Nintendo’s online approach with the Wii was a disaster. Rather than instituting some common sense parental controls, Nintendo went off the deep end by introducing a “Friend Code” system that killed Wii’s hardcore gamer appeal right out of the gate. Imagine if to find a friend on Facebook, you not only couldn’t search for their name, but you had to enter a 16-digit code that friend gave you, and that friend then had to enter in your 16-digit code as well. If Facebook had followed Nintendo’s model, we’d all still be on Myspace. Oh, and by the way, you also had to enter another Friend Code for every single game you wanted to play with that friend. Seriously.
Wii could have been a hardcore gamer’s dream, but Nintendo’s fear of, or apathy towards, online gaming killed any chance of that. Nintendo released a 4-player side-scrolling Mario game entitled “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” and refused to include an online mode. What other major publisher would release a top-notch 4-player game with no online mode? I certainly can’t think of one.
Rather than using a headset, Nintendo’s solution to online voice chat was to place a microphone directly in front of the television and to have your competing online gamers voices just come out of the television’s speakers. If online gaming was a car, Nintendo’s idea was to replace round wheels with square ones. Nintendo’s entire approach to online gaming on the Wii seemed to be to make it as unintuitive as possible.
If Nintendo is really going to aim for the hardcore gaming market, they need to support online gaming like they never have before. Nintendo’s approach with the Wii was to make online gaming as sanitized as possible for younger gamers and to tell older gamers to just deal with the restrictions. With Project Cafe, Nintendo will need to offer older gamers everything they expect from online gaming and just include some simple parental controls for those impressionable younger gamers. Friend Codes need to disappear, voice chat should use a headset, and every major multi-player release must have a comprehensive online mode. With these simple changes, Nintendo could find the success in the hardcore gamer market that they haven’t had since the Super Nintendo days.
Blog-A-Day Challenge: Day 21