This is the console cycle that just wont end, both console and game sales have been horrendous of late, stagnation has gripped a once booming gaming industry. We’ve had a steady influx of sequel after sequel, part of the reason for this is that sequels are easier to code for, and if a developer already has an engine, they can easily crank out more in a timely matter. Even though we still get good games, and there is a lot to look forward to in the next year or so, the industry and fans needed something to get excited about, something to break us out of this slump. Nintendo has given us something to truly get excited about, after six long years of the same hardware, we are finally going to get something new.
This isn’t a direct attack on Sony or Microsoft, I still get use out of my Xbox 360 and PS3, the problem is that after such a long console cycle you are bound to get a little tired of the same old hardware. Nothing beats the day you bring home that new piece of gaming hardware and power it on for the first time, you get to explore the dashboard and all the new features. I even like to take a deep breath as I open the box, ahhhhh, that new console smell! I don’t think I’ve been so happy when it comes to gaming as I was the other day when Nintendo held their Nintendo Direct and announced the date and price of the Wii U. I think at first I thought an extended life cycle for the consoles would be a good thing, it’d give more people the chance to buy them, but saturation has really taken hold and with more games coming to tablets and smartphones, the gaming industry as a whole has started to flounder. When a phone is coming out with games and tech that rivals current consoles, you know its time for new hardware.
Nintendo has always bucked the trends and sort of marched to the beat of their own drummer, sometimes it doesn’t work out for them, but more often than not, it works out really well and they end up paving the way. Nintendo said they wanted to launch their console first over seven years ago, unfortunately the Wii didn’t launch first, it was last. Launching last didn’t hurt Nintendo though, as the Wii was nearly impossible to find on store shelves from 2006-2008, and has gone on to sell almost one hundred million units. Nintendo successfully rebounded from the Gamecube, which was a nice little console, but didn’t really capture gamer’s hearts or imagination. When the Wii launched people complained that it wasn’t HD, even though at the time of its launch less than 25% of households even had an HD Television. Over the last couple of years as more and more people have gotten HD TV’s, we’ve been wanting those classic Nintendo franchises in beautiful, glorious HD. This is a huge selling point for the Wii U, people are already excited for the first HD Zelda, Smash Bro’s and Metroid games.
Nintendo has managed to lock up a very core exclusive in Bayonetta 2, this will go a long way in getting core gamer’s on board early with the Wii U. I’ve not really seen this level of excitement around a Nintendo console launch since the Super Nintendo way back in the early 1990′s. How will that translate to sales? Only time will tell really, but early indications are that the Wii U is sold out when it comes to pre-orders here in the United States. If that weren’t proof enough that gamer’s are finally getting excited about new hardware I got to see the excitement first hand when I went to pre-order my very own Wii U. There were no less than fifteen people trying to do the same thing, in talking with some of them I could tell they weren’t blind Nintendo fanboys, but rather gaming fans in general, gaming fans that have gone a very long time without new hardware. I think a longer console cycle could have lasting effects on the industry, the biggest is obviously that there is new competition in phones and tablets, that wasn’t the case when the Xbox 360 launched way back in 2005, or when the PS3 and Wii launched in 2006, now its a huge problem and even simple games like Angry Birds are gathering hundreds of millions of users.
I understand that the economy is a really good reason to hold off on releasing new and expensive hardware, but if we’ve learned anything from Apple, it’s that people will pay for new and innovative hardware. Gaming is a hobby, and hobby’s are expensive for the most part, I’m not suggesting putting out a new console every year, but every five years seemed like it was working, the industry was still growing and we were seeing a lot more new IP’s and innovative IP’s because companies prefer to launch a new cycle with new properties. One of the other issues with the longer cycle is that developers are often left in the dark as to when new consoles are coming, three years into this cycle it was probably hard to justify going into a typical three-year development time frame for a new game, when you don’t know if new hardware is coming out in two years. I actually see excitement in developers too. We’ve been hearing for a while now that current hardware is at its limits, and even though we might see some really nice looking games like The Last Of Us, Halo 4 and Assassins Creed 3, there really isn’t a huge difference between that and what we’ve seen before, and that is a problem.
Gaming is supposed to be one of the more exciting forms of entertainment, E3 used to be exciting in and of itself, but the last couple of years were actually quite boring, you got the sense that companies were biding time instead of showing off new hardware, which should have been showed off in 2011 at the latest. It’s nice to finally see some positive articles and talk going around the internet about gaming and new hardware, I know we will still see negative ones too, but for the most part every true gamer is happy and excited. Nintendo saved gaming in the 1980′s after the video game crash of 1983, they do what it takes to help ensure gaming survives and they are taking a risk by releasing their console first, I have a feeling its going to pay off and others will quickly follow suit. Nintendo seems to be doing everything right, people are enjoying tablets more and more, so they are incorporating a tablet controller, they are also offering a more standard Pro controller and the regular Wii controllers will work as well, they are offering backwards compatibility with the Wii, a new online service that is more on par with Microsoft’s and Sony’s, and they are releasing their console at a very solid price point of $299-$349, and the launch lineup is one of the most impressive in recent memory. If you’re a true gamer, your excited, even if you’re not going to buy a Wii U on the first day, you’ve got to be happy for new hardware in general. It’s a great time to be a gamer, and if your like me, you finally have something to be excited for.