Today Nintendo reported to have “an overall loss of 9.4 billion yen,” due to undersales of the 3DS and the Wii U. This is unfortunate news for me, because I love these two platforms – I own both, and, because of the new Mario Kart game, play the Wii U very regularly. But what do I love about the 3DS and the Wii U? In reality, they’re the same things I love about the Wii and the regular Nintendo DS.
I always turn the 3D function off. I hardly ever look at the Wii U gamepad. The two main “improvements” of the most recently-released Nintendo products – besides the vastly improved graphics – are widely, and regrettably, overlooked. What was Nintendo thinking? Well, from an unresearched but perceptive consumer point of view, I believe I can offer some insight on Nintendo’s efforts, as well as insight on why they did not work.
First, let’s look at the 3DS. Graphics have been enhanced since its DS predecessor, it comes with a built-in camera, and it includes a joystick as well as a gamepad so that users can (in many games) choose between either of the two control pads. The 3DS also has online capabilities through wifi. But the 3DS’ biggest claim to fame – in fact, what the 3DS is named after – is its 3D capabilities, which can be easily turned on and off via the sliding control on the side of the system. In my case, the 3D is always switched off. This is for a few reasons:
1. The games don’t look as good in 3D. The 3D display is liney (like… superimposed with horizontal lines?) and hard to look at. The graphics actually appear better without the 3D function on, partly because you can actually see the graphics in this way. This is unfortunate, as the 3D function is an important aspect of the product. The fact that games can be played better in 2D renders the 3D function useless.
2. The rumors that the 3D function can cause blindness. As far as I know, these are indeed rumors, and there has been at least one study proving that the 3D function will not cause blindness in children under 6, but Nintendo recommends that children under 6 do not use the 3D function purely for that reason. In fact, the 2DS was released purely for those consumers fearful of the 3DS’ potentially blinding powers. (New super hero, or super villain?) Even though these are rumors, the 3D function can truly be headache-inducing; I have experienced this myself in an attempt to endure the 3D function on my gaming system.
I understand Nintendo’s eagerness to present a product with advanced technology, but, as 3D TVs have also proved, 3D technology is still very tricky to emulate in a truly 2D setting. In many cases, the 3D detracts from rather than enhances the entertainment value. Perhaps this is because our 3D technology is only in its infant stages; I look forward to a future in which Nintendo and other companies may present us with better and more realistic 3D – after all, the 3D technology is meant to bring the virtual world to life.
As for the Wii U, it suffers a similar dilemma. Besides the impressive graphics, improved with the use of an HDMI cord, the Wii U is unique for the Wii U gamepad. For those who don’t know, here is a picture of the gamepad. It is huge. And it must be kept on at all times. This is annoying, especially because it uses up a lot of power and must be charged frequently. The monitor can be turned off (though it cannot be touched if one wants the monitor to remain off), but the gamepad itself must remain on, not only for games but also for apps such as YouTube and Netflix. The gamepad can be fun to use for Nintendoland, which is a party game that sometimes requires the gamepad user to be pitted against the TV viewers, and thus the gamepad will relevantly display a map or an avatar that cannot be seen on the TV. Perhaps if more party games come out (I am crossing my fingers for a new Mario Party) the gamepad will be used more frequently, but at this point, it seems like an unnecessary addition. In Mario Kart, for example, the majority of the gamepad displays a giant button for the horn, which can be changed for a view of the map, but why reserve map-viewing privileges for the gamepad user alone? I have two sisters, so when we play Mario Kart, there is an extra block at the bottom right corner of the screen that the map used to fill. For Mario Kart 8, there is not a map, but an unnecessary display of the racers from different angles and perspectives. Other Wii U games may indeed utilize the gamepad, but is the function necessary? And if it is, can’t we turn off the gamepad when the display is not needed?
Again, I can see merit in Nintendo’s invention. The gamepad can be useful when, say, Mom or Dad wants to watch TV while you’re playing. No problem – just switch the display from the TV onto your gamepad. And the gamepad has a touch screen, a Nintendo specialty that is also featured in the 3DS. But I think that the cons of the gamepad outweigh and outnumber the pros. My sisters and I did not buy a Wii U until a year after its release because we thought that the gamepad was a strange and undesirable addition to the Wii. Now that we have a Wii U, we have trained ourselves to grow used to the gamepad, which remains on and unviewed during Netflix, during Mario Kart, during YouTube videos, and during internet browsing (though I will admit that the touch screen makes typing much easier on the Wii U than with the Wii).
All criticisms exhumed, this is not to say that the 3DS or the Wii U are bad products. In fact, they are both extremely entertaining and I have had hours of fun with both. I also love many of the new games, especially Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS), Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS), Pokemon Y (3DS), and Mario Kart 8 (Wii U). I also look forward to the release of new games, especially the new Super Smash Brothers for both the 3DS and Wii U. But I like the 3DS for the same reasons that I like the DS, and I like the Wii U for the same reasons I like the Wii. Nintendo products are great party platforms, what with Mario Kart, Mario Party, Super Smash Bros, Animal Crossing, and others great multiplayer games. Most of these games are uniquely fun for all ages, though I also enjoyed some of their more mature games, like Fragile Dreams and Pandora’s Tower (mind you, I am not one to play M-rated shooter games). I love Nintendo platforms more than any other gaming system, so I hope that they can continue to make games for kids and adults alike. Nintendo platforms and games may not be for gamers who love shooters, or horror/suspense, or bloody violence, but Nintendo offers great games that are fun and beautiful, both those that are nostalgic and new. In a world of serious, hardcore gaming, Nintendo games provide fun for individual players and for families and friends who unite to laugh and play, making gaming a fun activity that brings people together.
Questions, comments, critiques? Feel free to leave me a comment below – I am happy to converse!