So it’s been a couple weeks since E3 and I decided to jot some thoughts down here. I watched all the big name conferences and as much of the other streams as possible. Why? Because I love games both AAA and indie and despite the large number of E3 protesters on my twitter feed (which is not representative of the entire planet’s POV obviously), I was interested in what all the big publishers were *cough* churning out and whacking into massive boxes along with 12 inch statues of men with guns fresh from the conveyer belt. There’s no denying that the big players will always make the most of the biggest live marketing opportunity in the games industry calendar by showing off the same gameplay we’ve seen each year but slightly updated with more guns, dogs or jet bikes; but I’m not writing this to have a go at big franchises - in fact, I think Advanced Warfare looks like a lot of fun. We were actually treated to a lot of 1st and 3rd player gunplay options releasing over the next year. Both Tom Clancy IPs look impressive, and both taking different directions, Rainbow Six: Siege in particular takes me back to a time where strategy and communication played a bigger part in the FPS genre - very promising for what many people may call ’the same old thing’.
So both Microsoft and Sony had very impressive shows, focusing on the games with actual gameplay and less hype - plus the new playstation hardware (despite having ‘TV’ in the name) looks like a big advancement in the way we actually play games. Nintendo however, surely came out on top.
Nintendo have always been risk takers, experimenting with how we interact with games and having the guts to try something new. We’re all aware of the ‘trouble’ Nintendo has had financially despite the excellent sales of the 3DS console, and their archaic POV of new media and gameplay content on youtube has arguable done some damage to their reputation and (again arguably) their sales. Let’s try to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially since other big publishers have done the same (if not worse) in the past with copyright claims on youtube. Also Nintendo have been in it for the long haul, they are in the business for the love of games, the protection of children (with their restrictive social interaction) and in my opinion are committed to NOT milking human kind of all our hard earned money. They do however have pressure to keep up with some of the profitable aspects of the games industry business model that they have been fairly lax with up until now.
Nintendo’s recent foray into the ‘free to play’ model resulted in ‘Steel Diver: Sub Wars’ on the 3DS, a game which frustrated the share holders because of how the ‘incentive to spend money’ aspect of the business model was almost totally ignored. No buttons with ‘Buy 10 Monopoly Monies’ for £2.99, instead you can spend £0.89 on a submarine - with the total number of subs currently on offer being 10. You can also upgrade to a premium version which allows you to unlock more submarines for £8.99 - but let’s be honest, you can buy a full game and play as intended or play a lesser version for free - developers do need to earn money for their craft and I believe this is totally reasonable. I think many people would agree that in the current mobile gaming climate, this is a bargain and it’s obvious the developers have concentrated on the most important aspect of making a game: gameplay (who would’ve thought!).
Now back to E3, pressure was on for Nintendo to deliver and they did not disappoint. E3 promised fans everything they have been waiting for, new Zelda (with another Zelda themed game to play while you wait for it!) which looks absolutely gorgeous, the standard quality of Nintendo franchises reborn into the current console generation and new alternative IPs such as the 3rd person shooter Splatoon which looks like lots of fun. The big news at the conference for me was the new Nintendo version of the Skylanders and Disney Infinity style models launching with Super Smash Bros. The amiibo! Now I will admit when I heard it I flew off the handle on twitter - how dare they make me spend £40 on a game only to have to then spend £12 (estimate) on what is essentially a Skylanders model in order to unlock them all. My outbursts were foolish and uninformed and I imagine a lot of angry twitterers had a similar opinion. I don’t need to buy all these models to play the game, instead it opens up a whole new set of possibilities within multiple Nintendo franchises. The idea of buying your one favourite character model, and then levelling them up among all your games is actually a pretty neat way to improve your bond with the WiiU console and I am all for it. I would assist Nintendo and argue that from a design point of view this has been the goal all along since the Super Smash Bros concept was based on models becoming ‘alive’, but I imagine a lot of people would dismiss this. I can see many people collecting them all, but I would pick one and stick with it for the lifespan of the console. What’s more is that Nintendo didn’t need a physical stage, expensive A/V hire and pyrotechnics to represent their brand and to show of their games (with the exception of the Super Smash Bros live tournament which I was transfixed by).
Why does this mean they’ve won E3 though? So what that they are just late to the party and are mimicking existing business models. Well I think they have taken a new risk, the risk of being on the back bench when it comes to the console wars by watching and learning. They have taken heed of how money is made in the industry by manipulating and tricking people into ‘pay to win’ and they are offering another option, an option which I believe to be fair in the current climate. I won’t stick on the subject of ‘collectibles’ and 'micro transactions’ as I didn’t want this article to be a rant based on my hatred for the publishers who do the business model an injustice by offering poor quality gameplay. All I will say is that Nintendo seem to have the right attitude to offering additional content in order improve longevity of gameplay and your enjoyment of their products. There will always be people who will argue that Nintendo just do what everyone else does, churn out new incarnations of the same IP year to year. I can understand that, but out of all the developers who do the same - Nintendo surely do it with the most love and care. They are behind the times in order to be ahead of the times, slow and steady wins the race, [insert another cliche here]. The WiiU sales have been slow since it’s release but with the release of Mario Kart 8, sales in the UK have increased by 666% and I foresee this is as only the beginning.
My opinions of Xbox and Playstation remain unchanged, But If you’d asked me before the event if I would consider buying a WiiU - I would’ve answered ‘no’. Ask me again now, the answer is definitely a maybe! - oP