Let me preface the rest of the article by stating that this is of my own personal opinion and not necessarily that of the site.
Both the Xbox One and the PS4 are going to be released this year, that means that in less than 4 months the next-gen of gaming will be upon us. From the social interactivity of Watch Dogs to new shooters like Destiny, many new adventures await. But wait, it seems like we’re forgetting someone. Yes, that’s right, Nintendo’s Wii U is indeed a next-gen console, and offers some great and innovative games and ideas. I feel that because the Wii U launched early and because of its relative lack of power compared to Sony and Microsoft’s upcoming consoles, many are discounting the Wii U. Nintendo hasn’t always been the powerhouse of graphical engines, nor has it always been one to offer the latest and greatest games outside of their own IPs. Still, it is a mistake to disregard Nintendo as a failure for this coming generation. They’ve always delivered fun games on new and exciting platforms.
First off, the Wii U is the only backwards compatible console. Yes, Sony and Microsoft have been talking about some sort of cloud service, but details have been vague at best. What about the games we still own physical copies of? The Wii U not only lets you use any of your old Wii games, but your old Wii peripherals as well. And though it is not unique to Nintendo, and despite some hassle on the new system, they’ve done a great job at offering their back catalog of games online and will soon be offering GBA, N64, and Gamecube titles. No details have actually been released about both Sony’s and Microsoft’s inclusion of backwards compatibility, but neither will actually allow you to re-use your old physical discs. While certainly to some degree this is both a relevant maneuver in terms of saving space and increasing use of cloud and streaming services, it does say something about Nintendo’s strengths. To best illustrate the point, take a look at Sony’s mascot. Let’s not even bother with the Xbox as Microsoft doesn’t really seem to have any strong focus on making a gaming focused console. Sony’s official mascot is Toro Inoue, an anthropomorphic cat who appears in a handful of games. In the West, perhaps a character like Nathan Drake or even Sackboy could be considered a mascot, but Sony has done very little to place them in this role. Now, look at Nintendo: Mario, Link, Samus, Kirby – the list goes on. The list of iconic and memorable characters is one of their strengths and perhaps one of the main reasons that Nintendo will still be more than relevant in this coming generation.
It’s clear that Nintendo cares about their public perception and how their games are experienced. What this means, and what I would argue, is that the fact that they actually let you play old Wii games through a physical disc as well as their attention to their back catalog and love of their characters is more important than it might seem at first. Nintendo has never really held the title for cutting-edge gaming. The original NES was certainly revolutionary, and the SNES had much better specs than its competition, but neither of those systems sold games based on graphics. The reason they continued to do well with the N64 and the Wii (both systems were technically well behind the competition) was its software library. And not just this library, but the respect Nintendo has for it. While to some degree Nintendo has overused the title characters, the fact that we are still more than excited for the next Mario, Zelda, or Smash Bros game is amazing. For the most part these games and their ongoing iterations have felt fresh over a few decades, something that isn’t always found from Sony or Microsoft. Obviously the Wii U isn’t going to be the console people buy so they can play the next Call of Duty or Mass Effect, it will indeed be where gamers go to see the next Pikmin, Mario, or Metroid.
And let’s not forget about handhelds. While certainly not quite as interesting as the main household consoles, Nintendo has certainly been at the top in terms of the portable gaming market. Sony’s Vita, though a pretty cool little device, lacks any cohesive marketing or software strategy to make it take off. Not only is the 3DS technically impressive, but it continues to be a platform for Nintendo to feature their beloved characters in more portable adventures, as well as introduce aspects to compliment and contrast the Wii U counterpart. Microsoft is obviously busy with tablets, but only Sony is any sort of competition, and not much at that rate. Just as Nintendo’s home consoles are iconic, their handheld legacy is of great importance. The most recent Mario & Luigi series is a great example of how Nintendo has managed to still maintain the importance of its older properties as well as keep them fresh.
So don’t write off Nintendo quite yet. Of course the Wii U isn’t going to offer the greatest graphical experiences this gen, nor will it be the only one with cross-screen play, but Nintendo does have plenty that the others don’t. Our childhoods were surely dominated by the massive cast of Nintendo’s best , and they know this. They’ve always maintained a sort of respect to these original franchises, but they’ve also slowly been adding in new and fresh elements to not only enhance the original games, but to create new fantastic memories for a generation to come. I personally am excited to see what all of the new consoles will bring, but I know that it has always been Nintendo to not simply play on our nostalgia but use it to make bigger and better games.