Age of the Geek

 

Nintendo's Woes

 

     I've always had a love/hate relationship with Nintendo.

     They've made some of the greatest games ever created. Their characters are among the most recognizable in the world.

     And yet, they can be incredibly dumb sometimes.

     Their current system, the Wii U, is meant to compete with Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One. This in spite of the fact that the system is nearly two years old and running on technology that was barely up to the industry standards of the previous generation.

     But "behind the times" doesn't just describe the Wii U. It appears to be Nintendo's company motto.

     In the age of Internet gaming, Nintendo's online infrastructure is almost embarrassing. In 2012 Nintendo came up with the Nintendo Network ID, which finally brought Nintendo's online social experience up to the standard set by Microsoft's Xbox Live in 2002.

     And while it's possible to purchase games digitally from Nintendo's E-Shop, the fact that those games become locked to the console you buy them on shows Nintendo truly doesn't understand the full potential of the Internet.

     In comparison, I could go to any random PC with an Internet connection, log on to Steam, and download anything I've ever bought. If my computer explodes, my library and even some of my game saves will still be there waiting for me when I get my next computer up and running.

     On the other hand, if my 3DS explodes, I lose not just it, but every game I've downloaded onto it.

     Nintendo has even been slow to adapt to the world of video game streaming. The number of people who watch other people play video games doubled from 2012 to 2013. Twitch.tv reaches 45 million unique viewers per month. YouTube videos of people playing games are, by far, the largest audience builders on the site.

     So naturally, Nintendo has gone out of their way to alienate as many of those people as possible. First by strong-arming ad revenue away from the people who showcase their games on YouTube, then by attempting to shut down last year's "Super Smash Bros." tournament at the annual Evo convention. Backlash caused them to retract their demands and the tournament generated a record-breaking 100,000 concurrent viewers.

     So is Nintendo hopeless?

     Well, not quite. There is hope. In fact, in the last year or so it seems that Nintendo has realized that it isn't 2004 anymore.

     The newly released "Mario Kart 8" allows players to upload replays of their races directly to YouTube. Granted, that's a far cry from the sharing features of the Xbox One or PS4, but at least it shows that Nintendo is aware of YouTube's significance among their audience.

     Another positive sign is the upcoming "Super Smash Bros." game. Although the game has been played competitively for years, Nintendo has never really embraced that community. Until now.

     Along with the latest version of the game including features dedicated to the hardcore crowd, by the time this column sees print Nintendo will have hosted the first Super Smash Bros. Invitational. Sixteen of the top Smash Bros. players will compete in the first authorized contest, streamed live on Twitch.tv.

     Nintendo has a long way to go to get out of the tailspin they are in. Some of their problems, like the inferior technology of the Wii U, are just things they're going to have to deal with for the time being.

     Other problems, like the Wii U's $299 price point and the unnecessarily necessary game pad, have solutions, but they will be painful in the short run.

     But more than anything else, Nintendo needs a heavy dose of reality.

     This is nothing new. Nintendo has been their own worst enemy since 1996 when the company stubbornly chose to stick with expensive cartridges to contain their games when its competitors moved on to CDs.

     The best thing Nintendo can do at this point is take a page out of Microsoft's book. Listen to what the user-base wants, and give it to them.

     Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and will probably break down and get a Wii U once the new Zelda is announced.