Hardcore or Not: Nintendo’s Difficulty in Recapturing the Core Gamer

A video was posted on YouTube last Thursday coming from the Arabic gaming site True Gaming. In this video Noah Hughes, Tomb Raider‘s Creative Director, talked about a number of topics including the fact that the latest reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise will not be playable on the Wii U. At first blush this might seem to make sense, especially in light of the associated commentary Hughes offers on the decision:

I’m always a fan of the Nintendo systems, that in particular they really push interface design, and from a game design perspective its fun to play with new interfaces. Having said that, its something that I think we would want to tailor the experience to if we were going to do it. Currently we’re offering it on PlayStation 3,  Xbox, and PC, and all three of those are really trying to deliver roughly the same experience, but deliver it best on each platform. I think something like the Wii U often kind of asks you to do something unique based on a unique interface, and so that’s something as a gamer I love, but it’s something that you don’t want to do halfheartedly as a developer.

This was an interesting and carefully worded response to the question at hand. I understand where Hughes was coming from, but the more I thought about the response, the less sense it made. Beyond that, it seemed to be an inconsistent treatment of the Wii U.

Consider for a moment the suggestion put forth. The Wii U, by virtue of the tablet interface of the GamePad, creates design challenges if you want to take full advantage of the hardware. This certainly seems like a fair assessment. The demand for a thorough treatment of the hardware and the desire to offer a fully featured experience on the console similarly garners respect. The problem lies in the suggestion that each console experience is tailored to be the best experience that console can provide.

If the input is the fundamental issue at hand the Wii U does sport the Pro controller, which looks conspicuously like an Xbox 360 controller. Surely the input form factor cannot be the only detractor.

The presence of the Pro controller on the Wii U isn’t the only item that is inconsistent with the commentary at hand. The fact remains that the Wii U *does* have a similar standard controller while the PC does not. Certainly, PC gamers can purchase handheld controllers for such gaming, but that then invalidates the followup to the availability of the Wii U Pro controller - that it is a bolt-on piece that may not be available for all Wii U owners.

The flip side of the same suggestion is that it is difficult to offer an experience that fully utilizes the available hardware of the Wii U. While I recognize the difficulty in implementing for the Wii U tablet controller, this argument is fairly inconsistent for a game that, as of yet, has not announced Kinect or Move support. I realize this may be simply because Crystal Dynamics didn’t feel the investment was worth the payoff - But that then in turn suggests they could have released for the Wii U with Pro controller only support.

Essentially, the arguments presented for not offering Tomb Raider for the Nintendo Wii U clash with each other. There are simple and plausible responses for each of them while still offering Wii U owners the ability to experience what could be one of the more exciting reboots in recent memory, provided the massive consumer appeal of the Tomb Raider franchise.

Of course, it is always possible Nintendo is requiring the tablet be the primary control scheme presented to the user for any game to be present on the console. I don’t have a Wii U, so I couldn’t speak to the universal use of the tablet controller across all games. If indeed this is the issue Nintendo is doing a vast disservice to themselves by hamstringing organizations that may not have the time and\or desire to tailor an experience to a secondary screen.

If this artificial requirement is not in place from Nintendo there is another quite fair argument that Mr. Hughes did not present. It is a common assertion casually tossed around message boards filled with gamers, but the kind of suggestion a creative director would be understandably reticent to make.

The Wii U, despite Nintendo’s best efforts, has already been labeled the “Kid” or “Family” console.

It didn’t matter that the launch window lineup featured titles like ZombiiU and Darksiders 2.  It doesn’t make a difference that excellently crafted games like Batman: Arkham City - Armored Edition and Assassins Creed 3 lead the way for Nintendo’s flagship offering.  Even Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, the favorite choice for the “typical hardcore gamer” is available on the console. The fact remains that the stigma associated with Nintendo’s products is decidedly puerile.

The question that remains, of course, is how to “fix” it.  If the Pro controller were included in box, thereby guaranteeing every Wii U bearing household had the peripherals on hand to game in the same way the other consoles do, would this be enough? If recapturing the hardcore gamer is truly a desire of the gaming giant of Kyoto, is a complete corporate paradigm shift necessary to attain the hardcore attention it lacks?

The views and opinions expressed on this web site are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of The Married Gamers staff, site owners and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Source: True Gaming via: Polygon

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Author: Andrew Smith View all posts by

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