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E3 2012: Can The Wii U Satisfy Both Core And Casual?

Matt Gardner
E3 2012, Microsoft, Next-gen, Nintendo, Nintendo Direct, Opinion, Sony, Wii U, Wii U GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller

E3 2012: Can The Wii U Satisfy Both Core And Casual?

Nintendo have work to do, that much is clear, but at the very least it's promising that they seem to realise that. After messing up the Wii U reveal so utterly last year, they could ill afford another poorly managed E3 this year.

Last night's Nintendo Direct presentation was both an admission of the need to set out the Wii U stall clearly, and also the first step on the way to recovery. It's clear that Nintendo are treading new ground, but much of that has to do with the fact that they're making a considered return to the core market, having skipped a generation with the Wii. It's precisely because of the unique nature of the Wii that Nintendo could afford to sit on their laurels while Microsoft and Sony , not to mention Steam and Origin, further consolidated online player bases, grew their audiences, and rewarded loyalty.

Once the pioneers of frontline gaming, Nintendo now find themselves playing catch up.

It's encouraging, then, that the Wii U is bursting with ideas - so many, in fact, that an entire half hour preview was required before the Nintendo press conference kicks off on Tuesday. But the point was clear, as Iwata said himself that it will hopefully be the Wii U's games, and by extension the way that they make the most of the unique gamepad, that form the core of Nintendo's show this year.

E3 2012: Can The Wii U Satisfy Both Core And Casual?

The video showed off some impressive connectivity options - with the Miiverse and Mii Wara Wara looking very interesting indeed. But it's one thing to put together a slick-yet-cheesy video as proof of concept, and another to have that running exceptionally smoothly. Nintendo must provide something that's interesting, intuitive, convenient, and reliable. At the moment we only have the first one to go on. That'll be enough for now, but not for long.

The notions of linked devices across the cloud, and a network that's accessible from multiple types of platform are attractive indeed. The concept of "together better", as espoused by Iwata, is tantalising. And the tablet gamepad itself, flinging data between screen and TV, offering huge input opportunities and alternative perspectives, is the jewel at the heart of the Wii U. The ease of use presented in that video is exactly what we want...but we've been burned before.

The sad irony is that the console company who've been around the longest no stand faced with the task of convincing everyone that they can still cut the mustard in three key areas: online, casual, and core.

The casual market won over so emphatically with the Wii U cannot simply be spurned. This is perhaps why the branding has not been changed: as the second console in every home, the Wii became synonymous with that uniqueness Iwata spoke of last night. Nintendo need that - to be able to set yourself apart from the competition is to be able to offer USPs - and to a casual crowd who buy on brand identity, that will be important.Mind you, references to motion control were notably thin on the ground.

E3 2012: Can The Wii U Satisfy Both Core And Casual?

If anything, the presentation last night hammered home the concession Nintendo is making in order to appeal to a more discerning "core" audience. The revamped thumbsticks on the gamepad, along with ergonomic tweaks for longer play periods, points towards a redesign conducted with that audience in mind. So far, so good. But then came the announcement of the Pro Controller.

Look, Nintendo said. The Wii U can be exactly the same as your traditional home console.

On the one hand, it sends a very clear statement out to its potential audience - that the Wii U is designed to appeal across the board, and can support multiple styles of play. On the other hand, it might be seen as a jack of all trades and a master of none, eschewing the focused appeal that gave the Xbox 360 and the original Wii such good starts, and muddying the watersby overextending itself.

The impact on development needs to be considered too. With still no word on whether or not it'll be possible to tether additional tablet controllers to the same Wii U, laziness and complacency will set in. In an age where the purse strings are tighter and dev costs higher than ever before, it's difficult to see Wii U ports taking advantage of the system's bell and whistles if that can be avoided. Nintendo have clearly made concessions to try and make the Wii U as easy to develop for as possible, alongside other platforms, in the hopes of enticing third parties back, but this casts the tablet and its features as optional gimmicks for multiplatform games. After going through all of the trouble to make a gamepad that's not only unique and offers new exciting options, but also contains all of the buttons you'd expect, to throw a conventional controller in there as well undercuts the gamepad's importance. If devs don't have to use it, they probably won't.

Which rather puts the spotlight on three things. Online connectivity is huge for Nintendo. Xbox LIVE has been crucial for Microsoft, and remains the finest selling point of the Xbox experience. The convenience of it all cannot be understated - it is why gamers are prepared to pay £3 a month, why Sony need to up their game when it comes to patches and updates, and why Nintendo are facing an uphill struggle. Everything needs to be at our fingertips, across several platforms, and easily navigable. The Wii U could have swathes of online trinkets, but it will count for nothing unless Nintendo can provide a competitive, consistent, convenient service. If they fail at that, this return will probably be for naught.

The second thing is games. If Ninty come out with a mind-melting launch lineup, bolstered by solid, fresh third party titles and sprinkled with outstanding first party material, we'll be in the queue on day one. We say it time and time again: games are the most important consideration in this situation.

But actually we're wrong: quality games don't necessarily equal sales, marketing has far more to do with things like that. The crunch will come when Nintendo announce one thing: how much the Wii U costs. If it's cheap enough to be a viable impulse purchase, they'll have a headstart immediately. If it balances out against the launch lineup, and can provide worth as a curiosity buy then that'll help too. But Nintendo cannot afford to make a mistake here at all. Make a mistake and the early sales will dry up, forcing them into a huge price cut in six months time as MS and Sony start breathing down their necks once more.

One thing's for certain, no-one's going to want to miss that Ninty presser.

Add a comment2 comments
socialjeebus  Jun. 4, 2012 at 13:29

Wow, they've made a few token adjustments to that Xbox 360 controller...lol.

Korma  Jun. 4, 2012 at 14:59

Wow, they've made a few token adjustments to that Xbox 360 controller...lol.

Meanwhile Microsoft are trying to go the other way and abandon the controller for Kinect and a new tablet/phone app to control the xbox, maybe vaguely similar to the Wii-U controller


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