Shaky legs. Mildewy sweat forming along the top lip. Eyes dilate and breathing becomes labored. It’s your first day and you’re absolutely sh****g yourself.
Being new is hard.
It’s not often in life that you have to literally become a juxtaposition to survive; the very idea intrinsically denotes a bizarre paradoxical death. When you’re hungry you cannot both eat and not eat, when you meet someone you cannot be both polite and rude, when you’re falling you cannot both float and fall. Each time you will die, be it from malnutrition, a beating or nature’s biggest bitch: gravity. When you’re new however – whether in school, a job or even a public toilet (maybe) – you’d best be ready to bend a scientific principle or two.
Being new requires you to do two things with one hand while running backwards. On a treadmill. At night. In the snow.
You must, unfailingly and definitely, fade far enough into the background that no passing-by pre-existing folk decides to pound upon and – potentially, lets not rule anything out – violate the unwitting ‘ noob,’ to borrow one of the Internet’s most detestable terms. You must also however, do enough to stand out, be distinct and generally bask in the evanescent glow of individuality.
These two things cannot possibly co-exist. And these are the reasons why school can suck my arse.
Being New in Video Games: It’s Like Dying Forever
The Wii-U is the dictionary-defined ‘new kid on the block’ of the video game world. The first foray into the mythic ‘next generation,’ it arguably hasn’t got those detestable pre-existing dweebs to deal with. The Wii-U is a first, right? The very embodiment of the magical new era ahead of us. Like Columbus and his other colonizing murderers it has the heavenly ordained freedom to craft and mold the video game ether into whatever it deems fit. Right?
Well, no, as it turns out. Video games are like a school that never quite finishes. Albeit one with, y’know, a bit more of that ‘fun’ thing. Whereas in school you bounce up through the years until you finally emerge gasping, mewling and ruined on the other side, video games are an industry of constant evolution. There is no end point, no ‘graduation.’ Just a steady spiral of the similar consistently advancing upon itself. In other words: it doesn’t matter how new you are, the old boys will always be ready to knock you down a peg or ten.
Considering the intrinsic challenges imposed by an increasingly entitled society and the whole ‘EVERYBODY’S BROKE’ thing: how will the Wii-U possibly survive? Especially with a name that sounds more like a urinary infection than ‘magic box of fun.’
The Wii-U: Always Use Protection
Much like it’s predecessor, although with less schizophrenic vigour, the Wii-U is hitting our fleshy faces with a smorgasbord of creative impetus. But will these come together to craft a experience to be welcomed with open arms, or create a Frankenstein hybrid destined for life face down in a toilet bowl.
Case the first – the Gamepad:
Looking like an I-pad on Atkins, Nintendo’s newest controller creation stands out like, well, every other controller that’s ever popped out of their zany heads. It was, at first, met with symphonic derision, labeled as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘unwieldy’ (despite not having been wielded) and generally treated like overly enthusiastic first years at school or uni, too eager to assert themselves as either original or interesting. Stupid unmalleable humans.
However, much like with the D-pad, joystick and motion sensors that so characterize Nintendo’s previous generations, the Gamepad is – shock horror – proving successful and popular. As featured on Kotaku last week, a couple of famously sharp critics have sung the praises of Nintendo’s newest gimmick as – OH CRAP – a superior experience to PlayStation and X-Box’s silly old man controllers. Come on guys, what isn’t better with a screen in it? Except Dreamcast but let’s not go there.
Case the second – magical transferrable play:
Not only does the Gamepad look like a techy’s wet-dream it performs like one as well. Through what can only be assumed is some degree of magic or wizardry, the Wii-U can take a game off the television and transport it purely upon the Gamepad’s screen. Now you can play games and watch TV! Whereas the Wii promoted healthy waggling like there was no tomorrow, the Wii-U veritably promotes sedentary ogling, two screens worth in fact.
Case the third – Mario’s HD moustache:
‘Nintendo goes Hi-def!’ To those brought up on the muddy browns and burly men of Sony and Microsoft this statement will mean as much as a stock fluctuation in Guam. To others – like this writer – this is reason enough to commit murder in the name of celebration. For the critical minded, it’s a brutal shame that the Wii was not in HD as it was by far the console best suited for it. It’s graphical limitations demanded that its games (the good ones anyway) moved away from realism and instead towards artistic interpretation, melding art styles, colours and filters to create an experience that was visually engaging without relying on the basic expression of digital reality. Those colours, those styles: it was for that that HD viewing was destined. Take a quick look at New Super Mario Bros. U or Rayman Legends for all the evidence you’ll ever need that the Wii-U has the tools for visually enthralling experiences. Which leads us to…
Case the fourth – it isn’t built on a fiscal volcano:
Video games are getting damn expensive. A million units doesn’t mean anything anymore. Some games (Battlefield 3) are targeting 5 million units sold to make a profit. Video games are at the stage where even critically and commercially successful games like L.A. Noire can lead to the death of their studios (RIP Team Bondi).
This vast ridiculous expense partly (mostly) stems from the fact that the graphical demands of modern games are so hideously expensive even Mitt Romney would balk (ha ha, political satire). Not to mention the sheer people power required: Resident Evil 6 had over 600 people working on it, that’s more people than my country’s national population.
So what in the name of Diggidy Dan is going to happen when Sony Microsoft release their new and even more powerful devices? Costs are going to blow Mario’s moustache clean of his face is what’s going to happen.
The Wii-U then, with hardware mostly equivalent to current-gen HD consoles, is best poised to not hemorrhage money and die a horrible, drawn-out, deathly death.
It isn’t all Sunshiny Happiness However
Despite a strong start in North America (selling 400,000 units in its first week) and sell-out preorders for its UK release last week, the Wii-U’s success will live and die on the strength of it’s software. We can of course expect strong first-party support (Mario, Zelda, Samus, Pikmin and all those charming chaps…and lady) but what about third-party support? A huge amount (note: most of) the negativity pelted against the Wii was predicated on the fact that 3rd parties treated the device like the spawn of the bubonic plague. The Wii-U has, thankfully, had a decent start with Batman and Ninja Gaiden 3 releasing with the console and others – Aliens: Colonial Marines, Darkstalkers 2, Mass Effect 3 – penciled in for release in some foggy future. That these are all ports (and shamelessly lazy ports in some cases) is cause for concern however.
A lack of identity may prove to be an issue as well. The Wii quite quickly found itself a previously untapped market of older gamers and every other bugger who got turned on by the notion of virtual tennis. While it’s competitors kept hold of the traditional ‘hardcore’ market.
Where is the Wii-U going to sit?
It can’t possibly abandon it’s gargantuan Wii-founded market without risking going the way of the Gamecube and yet it seems resolute on trying to pick up a piece of the ‘hardcore’ gaming pie. Head of Nintendo America, Reggie ‘the Bulldozer’ Fils-Aime, has already – incorrectly – stated that ‘the specs are quite different than the competitive systems, much more graphically intensive’ going on to fabulously state that games look better on the Wii-U than they do elsewhere. Well…that’s just wrong isn’t it Reggie? At least for the time being. The point here is that already the Nintendo bigwigs are investing time and energy into pushing the Wii-U as a superior ‘hardcore’ experience whilst ignoring the casual market that their empire is currently built upon. Where will the Wii-U go without the casual lot? Probably down a certain rancid creek without a paddle, but that all remains to be seen.
Overall, the Wii-U seems set to be like the kid who gets it right. Intelligent but personally so, sporty but without the arrogance, friendly but not superficial. Ultimately, regardless of your console allegiance and even your feelings towards the Wii-U itself we all, as one and as gamers, should wish it all the best.
Its success is the industry’s success and than can only be a good thing.