I would keep some of that sympathy for Microsoft and Sony who will also be entering an apathetic market - especially if all they have to offer is the same half-baked range of dance games , further refinement of tired franchises and HD remakes all anyone seems to have been able to use their technology for. Nintendo's inept promotion of the Wii U has been baffling, the firmware seems to be very much beta, and 3rd parties don't on the whole seem to be up to the challenge the platform provides (nothing new there then) - but even without those problems I'm not convinced that big sales would have been likely given the environment with high street game stores clinging on and turning into purveyors of used DVDs and tat (in the UK at any rate) - and really if you want big mainstream market penetration for hardware you still need a healthy high street. I think Microsoft and Sony have a hard sell to make to Joe Public offering mainly incremental improvements for the first time and with all the other gizmos now available to compete for Joe's money and time.
Tablets/smartphones for gaming are great if you are into solo gaming with free knock-offs and endless clones and remakes - and until big IP producers like Nintendo and others find a way to publish their wares via the new media while making money there won't be much more to enjoy. I like what Popcap are doing so it can be done even if most of what they do is refinement of ancient genres for a new audience for whom they look like new ideas.
Hardware is fine but the money is with content - and whomever can create that and publish it with the right model will adopt successfully. For a company like Nintendo who have relatively low overheads ,and have a record of adjusting to new tech over the last 100 years, I'd be pretty confident they will find a way.
I pray they do because personally speaking they are the main reason I'm interested in modern gaming in a post-Sega world. But then I'm weird - middle-aged and set in my ways so what I want is probably not that relevant.
On a bit of a tangent - The obsession with tablets is somewhat disturbing and in all honesty is a symptom of the problem with the global shortage of coders - even China and India are running out of programmers. Tablets are consumer devices - not for creating real - and I mean real - content - and the education sector needs to get its finger out. I've started attending coderdojo sessions as a mentor and I recommend as many people as possible get involved.
I'm also feeling sorry for Nintendo these days. They really scored big with the DS and the Wii, but can't seem to get anything else off the launchpad. I think it will take more than the usual round of Mario and Zelda updates to really get the Wii U rolling (it certainly didn't make that big of a difference with the 3DS).
I think Bill had the right idea (several threads back) about how the mobile gaming is eating up Nintendo (and others, but I think most especially Nintendo). That casual gaming crowd who might have gone for a DS or been intrigued by Wii sports--they're like, eh, I've got all the games I need on my phone or tablet. Nintendo might have been better off making a tablet or, dare I say it, a Nintendo phone. They still have enough clout that I think there'd be a decent demand for a really nice mobile phone with Nintendo branding, some nice controls, strong parental control (locking down the phone and browser, etc.), and of course some solid launch titles. There are a lot of kids between 5-10 getting smart phones these days, and perhaps parents would be less worried if it was Nintendo.
An example of one of the advantages of a tablet:
(Octa Tablet Positioning System; basically it's one of several options to allow you to position your tablet device anywhere you might need it for whatever reason)
When you have a computer inside a thin screen, there are suddenly a lot of possibilities for versatile usage. It's not necessarily an either/or proposition, but it's about having an effective ecosystem of devices and using the best device for any particular use case.
It will be fine once the 1st party library picks up a bit.....If Nintendo do a good job on their franchises (look at Mario KArt Wii for example which is still a viable online game - think it sold 30-odd million copies?) then they will keep trundling along.
I have windows 8 at home. Me and my wife love it so far. I use my television as my gaming monitor, and I can navigate so much easier than with Windows 7. On television, it's a God-send.
So yeah, I agree with you completely on Microsoft. I really see the next round of Surface tablets turning some heads. THIS round of Surface turned MY head, but the cost is just too great to justify the purchase for what would still be, for me, a portable web device. The Office pre-installation is tempting though. I really wish my Android tab would sync with my work outlook.
Actually, tablet sales are projected to overtake worldwide PC sales within a few years. Those are big numbers we're talking about.
Here's something to consider... The average person will of course say that they basically use their tablets for "a portable Web device" and a few key apps because that's all they use their computers for. A tablet is simply a more convenient replacement for basic computing functions. People like us are in a different class of user and will of course always err on the side of MAXIMUM power. Hoo-rah!
With all of the above in mind, I can't help but think Microsoft is onto something with Windows 8 even if the devices out there right now are still in something of a 1.0 state. Windows 8 is scalable to a variety of device types, including tablets, and can even function as a tablet, albeit with far fewer apps than the iPad or even Android. That app gap should lessen over time, though. It's quite possible once Windows 8.1 (Blue) hits and the next generation of devices with even more power and less power requirements hits, Microsoft will have the last laugh once again. Of course, there are still significant advantages in normal usage to something like a current generation iPad or Nexus 7...
Honestly, there's no reason that our smartphones and/or tablets can't morph into our everything computers at some points. All you have to do is dock them into the right stations for the job (gaming dock, keyboard dock, multimonitor dock, etc.) and you can do all the same things us power users crave. That's most likely the future, one or two highly portable devices with tons of power that we have with us 99% of the time and interface with various things easily (Google Glass, smart watches, etc.).
Great read Bill. I wish the brass at all three major console companies could read and process that entire post.
I would like to comment on the tablet market and expand some on your paragraph. I have one (android, Acer Iconia Tab). I think the Tab market is going to be a separate offshoot of the gaming market as a whole - probably gobbling up the entire handheld market in the process. The commercials sell these things as work horses. I often quiz down my coworkers on their tablets - and the prognosis is always the same: "Yeah, it's basically a portable web device".
They are basically big, expensive toys. I've found the main uses for them are: light web surfing, sub-par gaming, reading. That's about it. I even find web surfing irritating on them due to the lack of keyboard and wishy-washy browsers.
One day they'll likely also gobble up the laptop market. The Surface I think is the future of this - it's like a streamlined tablet/laptop in one. The desktop gaming market will continue, though smaller.
People are going to figure out what tablets are really about (basically scamming you into buying worthless apps), and decide that one tablet is enough. I don't feel compelled to buy a new tablet every time one comes out. I haven't seen a need for "more power". The games seem stuck in this weird SNES and PS1 technology level zone.
With this in mind, I'm predicting that tablet sales are going to slow down considerably, laptops will slow down CONSIDERABLY (if not disappear / morph into something else), and desktops will even out.
I have not played it since the 2nd day of ownership.. it was that underwhelming.. I haven't even had friends interested. I normally have the new stuff and when they see it we fire it up and play.. the other night a friend of mine was over (we still are racing with Hard Racing to beat each other) and he said Hey, is that the new Wii? I replied, yep, wanna take a look , its got a couple ok games .. his reply was, nah, no reason or anything, just zero interet.. The Wii, everybody was hyped about.. But even talking about eh New Wii he did ask if i was getting an new ps4 (im know as a Demons Soul and rpg nut and the sony decks have the most RPGS) so i have 5-6 friends who game (no where near like I do) and none have had any interest in it. zero.. I am a Monster Hunter fan.. and was annoyed on the Wii version.. so am hoping hte new one is better on the Wii-U (dont have it yet)..
I find it somewhat sad almost.. while i am 95% PC guy.. I always have had interest in consoles.. My lack of skill with a gamepad in FPS has alienated me in the last gen, not to mention the use of 3 buttons at once to do things in games. The last gen underwhelmed me completly.. as a huge PS2 fan ( rpg) i was very excited for the next gen.. 360 was first so i grabbed it, but with little expectations (sorry the original x-box was just so-so) but the online stuff was interesting.. my honest assessment of it int he end.. almost zero interest.. I play PC game all day with a mic an headphones and hae heard the worst mankind has to offer.. but sadly the 360 Live player base makes the PC player base look like brain surgeons.. Maybe its age.. (im almost sure it is). I care less if you rant on me.. but have can these 10-15 year olds ( assumption, its even worse if they are older) talk this way.. is there nobody in these homes? or calling somebody a F*g, AzzRanger etc.. considers ok in kids homes nowdays.. (and those are the nice ones).. I would never let any child In my house on live.. While I admit the games i play (FPS) maybe should not be played by kids to start.. I am amazed how young some kids are.. No.. in the end it was just sad.. again.. i can take verbal abuse all day long ( i have had GF's).. who cares.. but it makes my stomach a little sour when I hear kids doing it so .. "who cares" i said shit and Fook a few time when i was young too.. but with a head on swivil so i knew I wasn't going to get slapped by a parent or adult.. I didn't say it 300 times in a 6 minute match. And to this day maybe say it 1 time a week if that.
not my interest in this next gen will be at an all time low..and i find that sad.. It might be the first ones i don't buy.. I KNOW i wont be in line release day.. (and the Wii shortages has promised us one thing from here on out.. nobody will ever ship the correct amounts on lunch ever again.. low supply creates demand which makes good headlines).. the end of a era for me.. I may not own um all.. but dang close since the 2600 days... i guess the good news.. there is a whole new set of players out there to take my place.. bit ruder ( i think).. bit more causal but .. they are out there, the big 3 wont notice my absence (well big 2.. Nintendo got my money on the Wii-U)
I've made my feelings known several times, but I'll state them again (good responses so far, by the way). First off, I jumped on the chance to work on a Wii U book, fully expecting reasonable, if not blockbuster, sales of the console. The turning point for me with realizing that sales were not going to recover was the massive post Holiday drop off in console sales in North America, combined with complete European disinterest (it's basically the equivalent of how the Xbox 360 is treated in Japan over in England), combined with a shockingly muted response in Japan, where they've long been DS/3DS crazy. That's when I made the decision with the publisher to stop work on the book until if/when sales/interest pick up for the actual console and there's some prospect of an ongoing audience. Christina and I put a lot of work into the Vita book and sales have been miserable. It's no coincidence since the Vita itself is not selling, and, with a similar trajectory in place with the Wii U, I just couldn't justify the massive undertaking to put out a book no one would care about (this particular series of books requires tremendous amounts of work in comparison to other types of books), particularly since I'm presently working on two other books and helping to (finally) put finishing touches on the documentary. When a ship is sinking, sometimes you just have to get off.
Anyway, the Wii U's problems are many. First off, the name was a bad choice. The average person just hasn't been educated that this is a new system. That's bad because for the last few years, Wii sales have dropped off a relative cliff due to the lack of compelling new releases. It doesn't help that the Wii U is required to use many of the same peripherals that the Wii uses. A completely different name would have gone a long way to solving the education issue, and it would have also helped if Nintendo better managed the end of the Wii's lifecycle in terms of momentum for a new system. For whatever reason they've been having trouble delivering games to all of their platforms for the past few years. The old way of doing business is just not working, particularly with spotty third party support. They need to find a way to maintain their vaunted levels of quality by upping their own new releases.
Another issue is that again, Nintendo saddled their console with what will shortly be last generation technology. Sure, when programmed right, it is better than the Xbox 360 and PS3, but it's clearly not built to last against PS4 and the next Xbox. This wasn't a problem for the Wii, but its motion control mechanic was enough to mitigate any hardware advantages of its competitors. Nintendo's strategy was to make it a compelling box for third party developers, but its clear now that many are simply passing the system over for the larger install bases of the Xbox 360 and PS3, and the higher end technology of the PS4 and next Xbox. So they really didn't accomplish anything there.
As for the Wii's hook versus the Wii U's hook, unlike the motion control of the Wii, the general public either doesn't get asynchronous gaming or simply doesn't care that much about it on the Wii U. It IS cool to be able to play many (sadly and frankly, bizarrely, not all) games away from the TV, but then again the controller is also saddled with poor battery life (~3 hours) and limited range (basically the same room as the console). Perhaps it also looks a bit too much like a tablet, which many people already have, adding to the general ennui. Speaking of which...
I think it's clear that smartphones and tablets have not only been devastating sales of computers, but also of traditional videogame stuff. Three lackluster launches in a row (3DS, Vita, Wii U) is not a good sign. It doesn't mean there's going to be another crash (there won't be, but certainly there's been an ongoing "correction") and it doesn't mean that people don't want traditional form factors for their computers and videogames, but it does mean that the market is clearly changing and videogame makers need to evolve with the times. It's a gamble, and sometimes the response simply won't be compelling enough. There's also the elephant in the room of smartphone and tablet technology evolving at rapid paces, something traditional PC and console cycles can't keep up with. For the former, developers have to target some type of common platform spec, while with the latter, the technology needs to age at least 5 years in order to make a platform profitable. In those five years, smartphone and tablet technology might improve 5 - 10 times from the current specs. That's a tough pace to keep up with.
In terms of PC gaming, that's certainly more compelling than ever. It still has issues, but it's clearly one of the best times to be a PC gamer, both in terms of selection/options and stability/ease-of-use. That's another strong competitor (along with all the forthcoming Android and Steambox stuff) that simply wasn't there when the Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3 first hit. Again, very different market.
Anyway, there's obviously a lot more, but the point is Nintendo could have addressed the Wii U's situation any number of ways once they realized they weren't gaining the necessary traction and negative press was spreading. Advertising, promise and demo concepts for new games that get people excited, drop the price, etc., but they're either unwilling or unable to do any of that. Frankly, I think that if they don't correct the situation by E3 in June when Microsoft and Sony hog all the buzz simply by showing off their new systems, we're talking a Wii U console that will be a firm third place for as long as Nintendo can produce them, and may not last through the end of this upcoming cycle before Nintendo will have to try something else. There's probably too much pride (and money in the bank) for them to think about producing software for other platforms anytime with the next 5+ years, but it could mean another new system, or doubling down on the handheld stuff, which again, is a path that may not be worth pursuing after the 3DS. While the 3DS itself was able to recover in the market thanks to a price drop and a growing software library, it's interesting to note that the 3D aspects have been minimized, since again, public reaction to the feature was clearly not what Nintendo anticipated, making it really just a "Super DS" now for all intents and purposes. Nothing wrong with that, but (and I actually like the feature), it's another example of a swing and a miss on a compelling hook.
In terms of the PS4 and next Xbox, obviously there are still lots of unanswered questions and lots of rampant speculation about restricting this or that. I'm not convinced we'll be subjected to such restrictions, honestly. We'll know more at E3.
By the way, it looks like Christina and I won't bother pursuing a PS4 book at this point as planned, but most likely we'll do a follow up to our Xbox 360 book because the publisher wants one. Fingers crossed from my end that it's not another waste of time...
How about they DO SOMETHING with the controller?!?! I decided to wait for my son and I'm glad I did. Sounds like the price is dropping dramatically too...