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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Nintendo: All The Right Moves

Let's just come out and say it: The Gamecube was a mistake.

The mistake wasn't so much in the system. It's as solid a piece of hardware as you can get. The controller is good. You wouldn't think it is, but it's intuitive, more than you would expect.

No, the mistake is in the games. Nintendo has made fantastic games, just not enough of them. They constantly changed formats when Sony was championing backwards compatibility. Microsoft went the way of multiplayer gaming, completely taking over in that sector.

So, Sony had variety, Microsoft had multiplayer, and Nintendo had...what again? Oh yeah, some good games every once in a while, and you could plug your Game Boy Advance into it, if you wanted.

However, to quote the movie Elizabethtown (just watched it, loved it): No true fiasco ever began as a quest for mere adequacy. Nintendo shot high, and missed.

Fortunately, with the Wii, they seem to be atoning for past wrongs. Consider: Nintendo realized that they need backwards compatibility. That's a huge jump for them. Nintendo has the most history of any company, save Sega. Sega didn't know how to leverage that history and they died. Nintendo was fast on its way. Now, with the Virtual Console and downwards compatibility with the Gamecube, they've started to repent of their sins in a big way.

Second, the wacky controller. I tried this controller a bit, and I can't really say I'm impressed. However, just because I'm not crazy about it doesn't mean it's a bad idea. Considering how many people love it, it's a fair statement to say they made the right decision by going in a completely unexpected direction.

The biggest reason, though, is Sony's total lack of competence regarding their own launch. How you screw up a launch that badly is beyond me. Chimpanzees might have made better work out of that launch, frankly. It was theirs to lose. When you consider what Sony had - momentum, brand recognition, and downward compatibility - there really should have been no ceiling. But the creepy launch commercials, the typical design problems, the lack of TRUE backwards compatibility, and the parroting of all the successful ideas from other systems was their downfall.

The thing that really made me laugh was Sony's attempt at downloadable games. They copied that idea from Microsoft. A good idea, worthy of copying. However, then they decided they would get Neo-Geo games, parroting Nintendo's Virtual Console. Then they added the motion sensing to their controller, once again parroting Nintendo, which also destroyed the vibration function that Dual Shock users are so used to.

Combined with the increasingly positive press from Nintendo, it signalled an end to Sony's domination, at least for one quarter. Does this signal the end for Sony? Ha. Ha ha.

Remember which company had arguably the worst launch last time around? That's right, Sony. Hardware failures, lack of must-have games...sound familiar? Sony has proven they can bounce back.

So, in other words, Nintendo had a great launch. A really, really great launch. Nintendo made all the right calls, and the right decisions, and figured out what their audience wants, and had just the right amount of luck.

Don't count Sony out, but Nintendo, to this point, has made all the right moves. The Wii deserves the accolades it's getting. Let's hope it continues.