Nintendo's Core Vs. Casual Dilemma: Can The Wii U Really Attract Hardcore Gamers?
Posted on Sunday, November 4 @ 09:20:24 PST by Jonathan_Leack
Nintendo's name has become synonymous with video game entertainment for young people, but it wasn't always that way. Actually, if you look back to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System days you'd find a healthy serving of mature titles including the likes of Contra III, Mortal Kombat II, and two of the blistering difficult Ninja Gaiden games.
In the past couple generations Nintendo has gradually become less inviting for third-party developers andconsequently has become increasingly dependent on its first-party games which, outside of Zelda, can all be considered casual. The choice to move more heavily toward the casual market has come with some wild success (Nintendo Wii is at 96+ million units sold) but also some unfortunate losses. The most profound side effect has been the alienation of core gamers who typically buy more software and are far more vocal.
Nintendo has shown a will to return to its roots with strong third-party support and the release of a platform that is inviting for hardcore gamers. Not suprising, it has stated that the Wii U 'is designed to appeal to everybody', but is that really even possible?
The latest Wii U commercial would lead you to believe that Nintendo is just blowing smoke. Despite being over a minute long with footage of several launch titles shown throughout, not a single core game was advertised. Instead of displaying Assassin's Creed III, Bayonetta 2, or ZombiU, kids and families were depicted playing New Super Mario Bros. U and singing karaoke to Sing Party.
What's especially worrying about this is it's the launch commercial that will played non-stop during release week (November 18th~). It's evidence as to what demographic(s) Nintendo is not only after, but it also shows where its priorities lie.
If there's one thing we've learned in the past it's that a console can't please everyone. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have weaved in several casual experiences in order to gain some of the casual market that the Nintendo Wii has drawn in, but they've never managed to make a lasting impression. On the flip side, the Wii's Xenoblade Chronicles still hasn't sold 750,000 copies despite being a core experience with a 92% rating on Metacritic.
The Wii U wants to be the console that everyone loves, but at the end of the day Nintendo is going to have to choose between casuals or the hardcore. When it comes down to it, the Wii U's internal hardware—disregarding the high-potential gamepad—is already behind the times and its online functionality (Miiverse) is yet to be fully shown. It's a safe bet that while Nintendo will acquire some tasty multiplatform titles that veer toward the core gaming crowd next generation, it'll stick to what it excels at: pleasing casual gamers.
But that's only my expectation, not the fact of the matter. Nintendo still has a chance to spotlight those of us who like to compete with others or experience grueling difficulty. Moreover, Nintendo can make a point that it's been around longer and can deliver even better games than its competitors. We won't know for a few months what Nintendo has up its sleeve, but until then we're stuck watching the Wii U try to make up for two generations of isolation.
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