Gaming has gone to the dogs. It's all DLC now, all third-party accounts, all DRM, all overhyped overpriced sexist racist recycled toxic annualised buggy broken timewasting rubbish. And all the best games are out next year anyway. What's the point? Why bother?
Have you ever caught yourself thinking like this from time to time? Hopefully not considering the great games we're enjoying and have yet to look forward to, but it's small wonder that some of us feel a little down and deflated halfway through the year. Especially when genuine news about quality games tends to take a back seat to sensationalist doomslinging. Misery and scandal make great headlines, I admit.
But with so many shoddy business practices, flops, delays and venomous punditry making front pages every day, you'd be forgiven for feeling just a bit jaded about your favourite hobby, even as it demands more and more of our hard-earned cash while making us jump through increasingly aggravating hoops just to keep up.
Because it's all about the games. We don't care about scandals, sales figures, marketing and services. We want to play games, great games, games that inspire us and are made with painstaking hand-crafted quality -- without all the hassle, the extra accounts, money-grubbing, restrictions and subscriptions. If only there was a console that embraced that philosophy right now, along with a friendly community built directly into the user experience.
Oh wait. There is. Not only is the Wii U the feel-good hit of the summer, but there's never been a better time to buy one.
For a fraction of the price of an Xbox One or PS4 -- as low as £189 in some recent bundle deals -- the Wii U brings the fun and the quality as comprehensively as the new-gen machines bring the hype. Nintendo still delivers games that cater to anyone; deep, meticulously-crafted titles boasting both vintage pedigree and innovation. It's quietly been building up a library of essential software over the last few years, including the likes of Super Mario 3D World and New Super Mario Bros U to The Wonderful 101, Pikmin 3 and The Wind Waker HD, not to mention the increasing number of indie titles and upcoming exclusives slated for Christmas and 2015. Timeless colourful games that feel fresh yet and new, cutting through an industry that has long been obsessed with grey, grit and guns.
If you've found yourself grinding through games because you're chasing ranks, achievements or unlocks, not enjoying the core experience of simply playing them, the Wii U will remind you why you fell in love with this hobby in the first place. And potentially rekindle it.
You won't need to create a third-party account, be pressured into downloading a plethora of DLC packs, encouraged to shell out for microtransactions to get ahead or forced to wait for v.1.2.25 to fix your game. Nintendo build their games to last forever (in terms of content and quality) and do so with tender loving care. If you needed any more proof of their future-proofed design philosophy, just look at the wealth of instantly backwards-compatible Wii titles and downloadable virtual console games. That you can play with the Wii controllers you already own.
Better yet, it brings back local multiplayer in a way that neither new-gen rival seems to have grasped quite yet (LittleBigPlanet 3 and the Master Chief Collection can't come soon enough!), from the big hitters to Nintendo Land, Knapnok's risqué Spin The Bottle and Tank! Tank! Tank! Most games support the GamePad, WiiMotes and Pro Controllers, while the likes of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate even slaves together 3DS units for 4-player online raids. There's a simple yet powerful joy that stems from playing with people in the same room, genuinely together. Within high-five distance.
Or punching distance, in the case of Mario Kart. We've been waiting for a true killer app and Mario Kart 8 is exactly that, uniting a room full of braying racers in time-honoured fashion. Better yet, until the end of July, you can get games like Pikmin 3 or Wind Waker HD gratis just by registering the product code online. I did so myself last week and was delighted to report that entire process takes about 20 minutes... after which your excellent free game is ready to download.
Playing through Wind Waker HD for free put a big goofy smile on my face that still hasn't subsided. 10/10 quality, £0 price tag. Marvellous.
Then we come to MiiVerse, which provides immediate access to a helpful, friendly and active community whether on Wii U or 3DS. A quick tap of the home button will let you instantly post screenshots, join discussions, make new friends, browse intricate user-created artwork, brag about scores and talk shop in a brilliantly moderated forum that filters out toxic griefing and profanity yet still allows you to express your opinion. Compared to blasting out Twitter and Facebook updates at everyone and no-one in particular, it's an absolute revelation. A genuinely nice place to hang out, especially if you're cowering in fear during one of ZombiU's more terrifying moments.
You also have to deal with very little of the usual faff. You don't need a subscription to play online or access your services. DLC is minimal and optional. Hard drive space is painstakingly compressed and rationed for first-party exclusives, requiring small downloads for big graphically-intensive games. You don't have to install every game before you're allowed to play, or register a new account. The GamePad makes navigation and discovery easy, though issues do remain.
The fact that online purchases are tethered to your console rather than your account is bizarre, while the hilariously limited onboard storage can be problematic without plugging in an external USB drive, but otherwise the Wii U is about as straightforward as it gets. Thanks to the likes of MiiVerse and Animal Crossing Plaza, most of the surprises are nice ones. Apart from TVii not being implemented over here yet (seethe), and if we're honest, Nintendo still has to increase the breadth of the library after their false start two years ago.
When you get right down to brass tacks, the Wii U is a cheap friendly box that lets you play truly fantastic games on it. And gives you one of those fantastic game for free if you buy its system-seller before the end of July. Frankly, it's probably time you thought seriously about buying one -- not necessarily to replace a PS4 or Xbox One, but to enhance and enrich your gaming experience. It might not be the system for everyone, but if you've caught yourself feeling jaded and disillusioned over the last few years, Nintendo may have the prescription you need.
Mind you, building a half-decent gaming PC is arguably a better way to enjoy a wonderfully varied gaming diet at a tiny price point. Perhaps bolstered by a handheld or two. But that's an article for another time.