A couple of weeks ago we published the first of this new series, where members of the team share their personal views on news stories of the week. Last time around James, Tom and Mike wrote about the only story in town, 3DS XL. Now we start the real business of team members sounding off about different articles, giving their own take on events and no doubt prompting some to disagree. The editorial shackles are removed, so each can tell it as they see it.
This week, community moderator and dragon Desiree 'TBD' Turner tackles Nintendo's online future, retro expert Marcel 'Drake' van Duyn addresses accusations of Wii lacking new IPs, and Pokémaniac Joe 'SpaceKappa' Walker contemplates the future of another of his favourites, the Super Smash Bros. series.
Another view on — Satoru Iwata: 'Deep' Online Services May Have a Cost
We all know Nintendo's in full-blown catch-up mode right now, both with Wii U and the Nintendo Network. Both Sony and Microsoft already offer subscription programmes to their users, so I suppose we should've seen this coming, the idea that Nintendo might join in; maybe I was the only one who didn't, it really caught me off guard for some reason. The problem is that the other companies both have much more robust online services to offer and they've already proven they can secure the third-party online multiplayer games people want to play. As for Nintendo, it's never been known for providing a solid online experience, and recent news about Wii U third-party support hasn't exactly been thrilling.
To me, Nintendo would be golden if it chose to follow the PlayStation Plus model: focus on exclusive or early access to games and demos, discounts on games (and the occasional 'free' game) and maybe offer some exclusive content or DLC for subscribers as third-party support starts picking up. Granted, we've begun to see discounts on games here and there in the eShop, but the advent of the Nintendo Network is is a huge opportunity to roll out some great sale programs and really get those downloads flowing. The XBLA model, charging for online multiplayer play and simple things like Netflix or Hulu+ access — for which you're already paying a subscription fee, for goodness sake! — is a huge potential turn-off, which Nintendo doesn't need as it's already working hard to sell people on the entire Wii U/Nintendo Network concept in the first place. I don't think it'd be wise to take it as far as the Microsoft model at this time.
Marcel van Duyn
Another view on — Wii Has Featured Fewer New IPs Than Rivals
For some reason, the mainstream media often takes any chance it gets to pick on Nintendo for the silliest reasons. Case in point this time: the old argument that Nintendo has had "fewer new IPs this generation than its rivals." So what? Is that supposed to be a bad thing?
What Nintendo does right compared to other companies is developing good to great games almost non-stop. Take a look at any major Nintendo franchise — Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong — and see how many of the games in that series are genuinely bad. For pretty much every single Nintendo-owned IP you'll end up with, in my view, an almost spotless list, and even the "bad" games are generally not even downright terrible, just "disappointing". So why would you want it to make loads and loads of new IPs when the old ones have proven time and time again they still work fine?
Whenever Nintendo does decide to introduce a new franchise, it seems to be another guaranteed hit — the same cannot always be said of other companies. Pikmin, WarioWare, Rhythm Heaven/Paradise, Brain Age/Training, Nintendogs, the Wii X series (Sports, Play, Fit, etc.) and a few others all debuted in the last 10 years and all of them have had massive success both in sales and, arguably, game quality. Yes, we don't exactly get new stuff by the truckload, but when they're consistently good, who cares? Quality over quantity is what I say!
On top of that, Nintendo's been making a nice push to get other great games to their systems lately. Just to name a few examples, a couple of years ago it acquired Monolith Soft, recently resulting in one of the best RPGs of the generation, Xenoblade Chronicles. it now co-owns the Fatal Frame/Project Zero series, guaranteeing Nintendo exclusivity for it, and it's been trying hard to get third party developers to bring their games to Wii U, already resulting in promising looking titles like ZombiU. Great franchises of their own that constantly stand the test of time, plus more and more support from other companies. What more could you ask for?
Another view on — Super Smash Bros. Needs A 'Change of Direction'
I wonder if any Nintendo franchise experiences as much scrutiny as Super Smash Bros., which is impressive considering it only has three instalments. Director Masahiro Sakurai made a comment about the series needing more than just new characters in its next title and the internet ignited in chatter about a game that is little more than a whiteboard doodle at this point.
While people incessantly argue over what kind of game Smash Bros actually is (a party game, a competitive fighter, or both?) the fact of the matter is that Sakurai is in a very tough spot. Expectations are unfairly astronomical and there’s no way to please everybody. While Brawl was almost universally adored, the “hardcore players” (I used those quotes intentionally!) hated it due to removal of glitches that they felt enhanced competitive play.
A quote from Sakurai I find particularly amusing is that there "is a certain charm to games that have huge casts of playable characters, but they tend to have issues with game balance and it becomes very difficult to fine-tune each character and have them all feel distinctive”, because it indicates that he cares about character balance at all. Even those who do not play competitively know that Brawl’s character balance is all over the place, with Meta Knight so completely broken that he’s banned from tournaments.
The new direction Sakurai’s team should be exploring is the connectivity between 3DS and Wii U. Allowing both games to work in tandem and giving each player a more personalized experience would go a long way to breathe life into the franchise. The idea of being able to level up a character on my 3DS while I’m riding the train, then getting home and transferring him to my Wii U to play online gets me genuinely excited.
The roster is the least important thing at this juncture. We know it will grow, especially now that Namco Bandai is involved, and balance is certainly going to be a concern. The real “identity” of the game needs to be formed first and the rest will fall into place after that.
Oh yeah, and bring back Mewtwo.
What news pushed your buttons and got you thinking this week? Let us know in the comments below.