Before you read anything else about this article, before even a single letter more ran across your eyes and into your head, you already knew what this was going to be about. With November 2013 giving us a handful of beautiful games and two very successful console launches, only one console has been labeled as so up-creek-without-a-paddle that even a flawless 10/10 game could barely move units.
And no, I'm not talking about the Vita.
Nintendo has had a rough way going for a while now as far as the console business goes. Sales for the 64 were alright, but nothing mind-boggling. The Gamecube? A beautiful, beautiful system with a library of games that is cherished more and more as time goes on, but also a noteworthy misstep that sold just a fourth as many units as its biggest competitor. Only with the Wii did good ol' Ninty find a large audience for their consoles in the modern era, yet even then they found a backlash from gamers who screamed against the mountains of shovelware titles.
Despite this, with more money in the bank than ever before, Nintendo was ready to join in on the HD gaming era after a full generation of lagging behind. However, clearly wanting to ride off the success of the Wii in order to maximize sales, they decided to re-use most of the Wii controllers, use similar icons by keeping Miis around, and using a name reminiscent of the hundred million unit-selling system.
This is where things took a turn for the worse.
That's pretty obviously a Wii U, right? Looks pretty different to me than the Wii. It's black, for starters, and it's shaped a bit differently than the Wii. As far as new consoles go, "a big, black box" is pretty much all you need in order to say that it's actually new. That's all they would have had to have shown, and everyone, EVERYONE would have known that the Wii U is something new.
It's never that simple, though.
"It's a new controller!" some people cried after seeing the uninformative trailer.
"No, it's a new console!... I think..." stated some, confused by the higher-resolution Miis.
"But it shows people playing with the old controllers, too! It must just be a new controller... with a screen..." said the vast majority of consumers.
It saddened me to hear this confusion from the people around me. I certainly couldn't say it was obviously a new console, but it was enough! Or, at least, it was for me. Needless to say that few people shared my sentiment, with only four million people owning the console worldwide after the year of fun I had been having with it. Probably just my bias, though.
Really, what made me sad wasn't the fact that people weren't buying the console. Rather, it was seeing Nintendo become the laughing stock of the business, if only for a brief moment. To me, it was like seeing an old friend you had looked up to for so long make a stupid mistake and end up ridiculed. You can't really do anything about it, because they really kind of deserve it for trying to pull something like that. It's just... why did it have to come to that?
My love for the publisher is really the source of all of my feelings about the Wii U. I didn't grow up in the Super Nintendo years, but it was still my first console because my parents got it for cheap and didn't trust the life span of anything above the price of $50. I wasn't athletic at all, and being an introverted kid meant I didn't have much else to do as far as entertainment, so I immediately fell in love with it. I had four games: Super Mario World, Kirby Super Star, Donkey Kong Country, and Turtles in Time. I don't think I could have asked for a better gaming childhood. To top it off, I also had acquired a Gameboy Color and a copy of Pokemon Yellow over the course of my youth, instilling in me a pride of the games I played and of the publisher that brought them to me.
Time went on and as it did, my library expanded. Zelda became my favorite game franchise ever once I played Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, the Gamecube showed me the current classics like Wind Waker, Sunshine, and Luigi's Mansion─games that I loved even at the time, despite everyone's hatred of them─and even the Wii gave me years of entertainment, shovelware and all.
The Wii U came out, and I was there on day one to purchase it and support my old friend. I went home, played NSMBU, and had a blast, just like always. However, sales reports started coming back shortly thereafter, and... the rest is history.
I still love my Wii U, and I'm glad I bought it on day one despite the very real reasons that people didn't buy it alongside me─particularly, the lack of a better library of games up until very recently. As a huge fan of Nintendo, it saddens me to see the path that Nintendo has gone down very recently with their HD console, but in the end, it doesn't matter. I love the games Nintendo makes, and as long as they keep making them, I'll still buy them. Even if I'm the only one.
On the bright side, though, there's still the 3DS.
“Woes of the Uninitiated”
A (hopefully non-pretentious) poem by Jesse Satterwhite
‘Twas once a series called Shin Megami Tensei.
The question “From an obscure series?” was met with “Nay.
It's now a portable sequel
To the last console three-quel—
A series with rightful acclaim."
‘Twas once a curious but sheltered fan
Of Nintendo games of any span.
As sheltered people tend to be
Had little experience with games focused on Japan.
‘Twas once a boy, though perhaps not a fan
Of the acclaimed SMT series’ plan
To introduce worlds
To both boys and girls
In ways only RPGs can.
‘Twas once a great group of gamers
Who gave the boy a rightful disclaimer,
For his ignorant hype
Towards some odd western shite
Made him, in simplest forms, lamer.
‘Twas once that boy previously stated,
Who, not by choice, was unrelated
To games like this
Which his parents told him to miss
In the days of his youth, not debated.
‘Twas once a website called Destructoid,
Known best for its refusal to void
The opinions it stated
On games that it rated
That people, at all costs, should avoid.
‘Twas once a contest on said site
That promised its people a good sight.
For the gift that it presented
Was best represented
As SMT IV, a game of true might.
‘Twas once a hope for the boy
To play something far more than a mere toy,
And as a result
To avoid more insult
He entered the contest with joy.
‘Twas once a requirement for the contest
That required its entrants to contest
Their love for the series
In any old dreary
Fashion that would let them pass the test.
‘Twas once the same boy who had a thought—
A simple one, yes, but curious at the meaning it brought.
If an enlightened fan was the winner
And the uninitiated a sinner,
Why let the pre-established fans enjoy the plot?
‘Twas once a theory quickly dreamed
By the boy, who sought to be redeemed.
If the initiated were true
And wished to enjoy this game, too,
Then would they not purchase this entry, so highly esteemed?
‘Twas once a contest that this non-fan attempted
With high hopes that judges would be contented
To find a young man
With dreams of becoming a fan
And grant him this prize, unresented.
As I'm certain you all know, the gaming industry is nearing a state of crisis; with AAA game budgets rising to unrealistic levels, heavy reliance on focus groups, and publishers ignoring the core gaming market just to name a few of the problems. One problem in particular that has reared its ugly head as of late—but one that hasn't received a lot of attention—is the use of buzzwords in gaming conferences to generate hype. To the few of you who perhaps are unenlightened, buzzwords are flashy-sounding terms that speakers put emphasis on that subconsciously ingrain themselves into the minds of those listening. They may not mean much of anything, but speakers could care less—their sole purpose is to cause an audience to gasp and applaud at the mere mention of these words. While in normal speeches these buzzwords may be used sparingly as a clincher or a method to rile a crowd during a pivotal moment, the gaming industry abuses them to a despicable extent, hammering and beating them into the ground as if each time they are spoken another console will be sold. Though this isn't true, it makes for some ludicrously repetitive presentations and laughably predictable reveals. Though Sony's PS4 conference is also guilty of this, I'm going to focus on Microsoft's console reveal because—let's face it—that conference was not for gamers. Therefore, I feel more obligated to tear it limb from limb. Harsh, perhaps, but so was getting left at the altar known as the Xbox One reveal.
Microsoft's press conference for it's next generation console was a bit of a mess, being a conference for the masses attended only by the few. The few, of course, referring to the millions of gamers waiting for a glimpse at the next generation of gaming. However, they were met only by a conference dedicated to showing the "all-in-one" features that Microsoft designed for the masses—or, rather, the millions of families across the globe that they are attempting to reach. In the end, gamers were disappointed, and the buzz from gamers that Microsoft expected to relay the news to larger audiences never came. A lose-lose situation for everyone. But, you knew that already. What you perhaps didn't notice at the time was just how much Microsoft truly shoved into your mind about the console during the reveal without showing more than a few minutes of gameplay. Microsoft's use of buzzwords during the gaming conference rose to levels of pure ridiculousness. Words like "innovative", "engaging", "emotional", "cinematic", and "integrated" showed up time and time again, while people continuously referred to the Xbox One as "future-proof", the "new generation" of gaming, "redefining" of the entire industry, as well as many more. The corporation didn't reach many people without leaving a sour taste in their mouths, but those who did come away with a positive feel for the console came away able to relay these buzzwords to anyone they may speak to about the reveal. Doubting the occurrence of these marketing ploys? Truly think to yourself: what words come to your mind when thinking of the console? It may be "really stupid reveal", but you are now outside of the market Microsoft is trying to reach—you are now the assumed market. The market Microsoft is trying to sell to would say more along the lines of "simple" and "instant", as is the buzzword-filled slogan of the new hardware.
These buzzwords don't necessarily work unless the buyer is idiotic and can easily be manipulated into thinking whatever a corporation wants them to think. Microsoft, like most corporations, is too far rooted in their own arrogant beliefs to realize that consumers are smarter than this. This belief is what makes these buzzwords so humorous, and so much a problem. They stand as a belief by all of the gaming industry—not just Microsoft—that consumers can be told what to buy by being seduced through a series of flashy terms. It shows fear in the industry that a product cannot speak for itself by showing strength and quality, and must be told what is "innovative" and "redefining" of the genre. It's a disgusting assumption by the gaming industry, and one that deserves as much attention as all other problems plaguing gaming corporations today. Now, onto what makes to title relevant. Though buzzwords are a problem, they do provide humor in just how predictable they are. As certain as death and taxes, buzzwords WILL be present in any and all public appearances. In events as simple as a Killzone demo on the morning news where the presenter states how the graphics are "super-charged" to as extravagant as the new console reveal detailed above, buzzwords are looming, waiting to snatch up any consumer ignorant enough to be pulled in by the shiny language. This predictability allows for a game that many have performed, and one that I would like to share with you: Buzzword Bingo.
The concept is simple. Before the upcoming E3 conferences (specifically Microsoft's for this template), place the words in the boxes and wait for speakers to confidently state the "advancement" of the industry through their product, then mark your card. There is no prize for winning, but I would like to suggest an experiment: see how long it takes to get Bingo. See how long it takes to fill the entire card. Watch and see just how pathetically predictable the gaming industry has become that gamers know these ploys well enough to smack them down before the gate opens. It may surprise you how quickly you can win this game—my bets are that it takes no longer than fifteen minutes from the time the first word is said for someone to get Bingo. Although this game may yield some hilarious circumstances, I would like to point out again that the point of Buzzword Bingo isn't to be a funny parody of any press conference. Rather, it should strictly be seen as a huge problem in the industry. The fact that words can be pulled from previous conferences and predicted for future ones is a travesty. Buzzword Bingo shouldn't HAVE to exist, but because the industry feels so insecure in its product that it feels the need to rely on flashy words to draw in consumers, I feel as though this game of Bingo MUST exist. It won't do much, but if it raises awareness on a little-seen issue, then that's all I could ever ask for.