As any Nintendo fan knows, having a relationship with Nintendo can be really trying at times. Or often! It's like dating a super hot girl who knows she's super hot and thinks she can get away with anything. And she's mostly right...until one day she isn't, you dump her and she never even sees it coming.
Nintendo, as is well known, is, well, Nintendo. It does its own thing, it ignores conventional wisdom, bucks trends and forgoes the seemingly obvious choices every "expert" swears is the best for them. Stop making hardware! Make Angry Marios for iphones! Make high-end consoles to compete on horsepower!
Nintendo is gleefully oblivious to all that nonsense, with no signs of changing any time soon. Sometimes the Nintendo way fails spectacularly (N64 cartridges), sometimes it succeeds spectacularly (Wii), and Nintendo just keeps moving along. And thank god for that. A Nintendo that is the odd-man out, that tries to find its own way instead of making a carbon copy of the Playstation or leaping sight unseen at the latest gold rush, is a Nintendo that enriches the industry as a whole and makes our lives as gamers better, even for those who hate it with the fanaticism of a suicide bomber. It's easy to forget now, but many, if not most things we gamers now take for granted were either created or inspired (and I say "inspired" in the loosest sense of the word when it comes to Sony!) by Nintendo.
Still, Nintendo could use some listening skills. It doesn't have to drastically change it's business model or whatever it is quarter-obsessed analysts and investors want it to, but it can give gamers what they want without ceasing to be who they are. Or Nintendo risks being dumped by many more.
The Wii U is a fantastic console, but I'm constantly taken aback by how Nintendo seems to go out of its way to make it less interesting or clunkier at every turn. Yesterday my friend came back from the United States with a Wii U and a boatload of games, and we excitedly rushed to play Black Ops together. And it was going great... until his gamepad battery died in less than 3 hours. You know, that battery, the one that only occupies about a third of the battery slot. Fortunately, he had a power socket nearby, but it's still annoying. Some people may not have that option.
Or the voice chat. Hey, cool, the gamepad has a microphone, we don't have to talk via skype. Except... it can't be used for voice chat, for whatever boneheaded reason. Maybe it's to force people to buy licensed headsets, but it seems any headset works, so that kind of kills the purpose. I used an iPod touch headphone, and he used an old headset he'd bought for the 3DS and never used. So again, we got around the artificial limitations just fine, but it didn't have to be that way. And if one of us had to switch to the pro controller while the gamepad charged, well, no voice chat for us.
Or the Eshop. Okay, so Nintendo doesn't see digital games as "having less value". Fine, but does it see them as more value? In Europe, games are €5-10 more expensive in the Eshop than at retail, at least the MSRP is the same in the Americas.
Or online. I really like Mario. So does my friend. Hey, cool let's play Super Mario Bros U, yaaay! Hum... sorry, no online. 90% of my gaming time is spent playing single player offline, and Nintendo still manages to frustrate me with its online neglect, I can only imagine how many online-centric gamers won't go near it with a 10-foot pole. So okay, Mario has never been about online. It's a bummer for me, but online play is probably not a priority for most people when buying a Mario game, or indeed even a consideration at all. But Pikmin? Strategy games have been synonymous with online for at least 15 years, and it might actually hurt them. I hope Pikmin succeeds, naturally, but if it bombs, hopefully it will be made very clear the lack of online had a lot to do with it, and maybe, just maybe, it will bring Nintendo a step closer to getting the message.
Or achievements. I actually share Nintendo's position on this one, I feel they are largely pointless. With the sole exception of Demon's Souls, a game I played so much a got a freaking Platinum, I tend to solemnly ignore them. And yet.. getting that pop up can feel strangely satisfying. Maybe our brains are just that easy to manipulate.
But it doesn't matter what I think. What matter is that achievements are a very big deal to a great number of people. IGN once wrote about the guy with the world's highest gamerscore, and getting achievements was effectively his full time job. The lack of achievements may, and probably does, single-handedly drive away gamers who would potentially be interested in playing multiplatform releases on the Wii U thanks to the gamepad. So why not just give them what they freaking want?
Heck, Nintendo could leverage achievements to make people WANT to play multiplats on the Wii U. Imagine what they could do if they put club Nintendo and their IPs to good use. How about unlocking exclusive Nintendo costumes for your Miis through achievements? Or promotions where the first X number of people to earn Y achievement points or unlock a specific achievement get a cool club Nintendo item? Just as the lack of achievements may drive people away, such carrots could easily draw them back. And they might even bring their friends.
Or... you get the idea. Nintendo is still the beautiful girl with lots of admirers, because she's just too damn beautiful despite being a bitch, but there are now plenty of beautiful girls around, and they all want YOU! Being beautiful is no longer enough, you have to be beautiful AND nice.
Nintendo's independence and originality are truly impressive, just imagine what they could do if only they combined all that expertise with common sense!