How do you define innovation?
Think about this before you continue to read, ponder about this for a moment…
It must be hard in this day and age [to define innovation] when arguably everything has already been done or its on the drawing board waiting to be released. When it comes to gaming consoles, one must ask oneself what route they should take. Go ahead and release a new more powerful hardware of an already established brand, or take the risk and plunge into something new, something that has not been done before in the console market. Risk is a black and white gamble. If it succeeds you might see the fruits of your work and be highly successful, but if it fails the public and media will ignore your product and you might be stuck with something that does not gather enough interest to be successful. It’s a fine line that not many dare cross, for some the reward my not be worth the risk. It is a shame because some of the greater innovations come from people willing to take risk, opening new doors and experiences that did not exist before.
the unconventional console…
The original Wii is a great example of this phenomenon. Nintendo’s Blue Ocean Strategy was truly moving away from the norm, regardless they went for it and we all know how that paid off. The Wii showed the world that there was still room for innovation and that anyone could have a gaming console and play whenever they liked, yes, even your grandma. That’s not the only thing the Wii did however, the motion controls, weather you liked them or not, had really not been done before. This was a non HD console that achieved almost HD quality with games like Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, and games like Skyward Sword proved that Nintendo’s motion controls worked for a game like that, so much so that I feel like coming back to pressing B to attack will be a step back - but that’s for another time. The thing is, the Wii was a success, and I can already see the argument that in the end that strategy back fired on them because the so called hardcore players moved away from Nintendo. But no matter what way you want to cut it, the Wii was successful, it sold over 100 million units and no one can deny that it had some amazing games in its library, some that are still up there as the best games of all times - and yes, I’m also aware that there was a lot of shovel-ware. The Wii printed so much money that even Sony and Microsoft soon saw that there was a market for these types of games and gave it a shot themselves. Without Nintendo, Playstation Move and Microsoft’s Kinect would not have been born, some wish it had not happen, but regardless this further solidified how much of an impact Nintendo had on the industry with the Wii, the unconventional console.
Was the Wii innovative? Absolutely.
even your grandma…
Nintendo is in the console race to give us something different, not to do a copy and paste of what is already there. They seem to understand that horsepower is not everything, and they should bring something new to the table, something new to change the world of gaming. Risk, as I mentioned before is unpredictable, we saw how successful Nintendo was with the Wii, but with their 8th generation console Wii U things did not go as smoothly as they expected. Nintendo once again wanted to innovate with its next console, and the Wii U was introduced. The console would have a controller with a 6’ screen that would allow for off-tv play, touch screen controls, asymmetrical gameplay, and ways to interact with games that were not possible before.
Is the Wii U innovative?
The Wii U had a rocky start, it did not have the must have games at launch, it was not advertised properly, and was missing a couple of features. Someone that has never touched one will probably wonder how can this thing be innovative? The DS formula has been done in handhelds, and there are games that use cell phones and tablets as a second screen. It might not be initially obvious why the Wii U is innovative, but ask anyone that has one and they will tell you that it is. I asked at the beginning of this post, how do you define innovation? Innovation does not simply have to be the latest piece of technology, or the next new thing that will revolutionize gaming as we know it. Innovation is not defined by how structurally different something is or by how it changes the gaming community, but how it gives us a new experience and method to interact with games.
Wii U’s greatest feature is easily off-tv play. I never imagined the impact this would have in my gaming habits until I used mine for a very long time. This is someone that spent last generation with only a Wii (crazy, I know) and had not had or experienced an HD console before. Wii U is also the first console I bought myself, and along with it an HD TV for my room, I had not owned one before. You can imagined how excited I was to finally be able to play, not just Nintendo games, but third party games in full HD glory for the first time ever. And although I still enjoy playing Mario Kart 8 on my TV in order to sink in those beautiful racetracks, my gameplay habits have been changing. My little brother only plays on the gamepad, its that simple. I walk into my room after a long day of work and there he is, rested in bed, playing on the gamepad with a show on TV. If we do split screen multiplayer, he plays on the gamepad, I play on the TV. He now has his first HD system yet he is playing on a non HD screen, fully aware that he can turn on the TV at any time and play in 1080p. His habits have been rubbed off on me. I still enjoy my dose of Mario Kart 8 on TV, but I soon find myself to the gamepad in order to play more comfortable and in any way I want. I am not stuck to a TV, a TV is no longer an obstacle. I can take my games anywhere in my house, and I don’t have to bend over to play Mario Kart - which strains my back. This alone makes the Wii U and gamepad worth it, it makes it innovative.
This notion makes something else very interesting. During one talk I had with my brother, we were wondering how it would be if I bought a PS4, would we now had to buy Call of Duty for example (he is a big fan, and a very good player) on PS4 instead of WIi U and get all the DLC and so on. His answer was very interesting, he thought about it and realized that would mean go back to sit on a chair, stare at a TV and hold a controller in his hand, to which he said “no, thank you.” He would rather have the novelty of the gamepad over better resolution and DLC. And I can agree with him, now more than 80% of the time I also find myself playing off-tv play, even now the gamepad is serving me company as I am writing. This means that no matter how powerful a console might be, if given the option I would rather play on the gamepad. Having the most powerful hardware then would not matter to me, resolution becomes unnecessary, owning a PS4 would only make me wish I could just take the game with me - granted there is the PS Vita but that is another $200 and it does not have all the buttons, makes it rather uncomfortable.
Is the Wii U innovative then? Absolutely. Innovation can be subtle.
I hope the Wii U gamepad does not die and we get another incarnation of it. The rumored Nintendo Fusion could be a handheld/console that could be plug into the TV and taken on the go wherever you like. I really hope the gamepad is here to stay as it is a move forward for games. Not only does it provide the amazing off-tv play option, but it allows the player to clear the HUD and put it on the gamepad. The gamepad itself is a full controller, having all the buttons, rumble, clickable sticks, and so on, all the necessities of a modern controller, Plus the possibilities of extra buttons with the touchscreen, different ways to interact with games, it can be used to draw, have a different view than the one from the TV etc. The possibilities are endless. It really is the army knife of controllers, it absolutely does everything. Here’s hoping this idea stays alive rather than fade away - like the possibility of playing Zelda U with motion controllers. Maybe it can be backwards compatible with the next Nintendo console or at least make it optional. Let me keep this baby Nintendo, what other gaming console has allowed for this?
Seriously though, Wii U is a great console, and the notion of the gamepad is one that really makes this console so unique. I love everything about it, and I wouldn’t change my ability to play on my gamepad over anything, here’s hoping this somehow makes a return later on. And with more people jumping into the Wii U bandwagon now with Mario Kart 8, I can see people coming around about Wii U after finally playing with it. It is a sight to behold, they don;t know what they have been missing. With great deals, and amazing games available now and many more incoming, it has never been a better time to be a Wii U owner and I am not afraid to admit that Wii U and the gamepad is another piece of innovation that deserves to be praised.
Innovation then, is a matter of how you define it.
Back to my trusty gamepad. I’ve got some Pikmin to find.
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