Why the return of hardcore old Nintendo is looking increasingly likely

Oh Nintendo, you wily, wily, tricksy sods. When will we ever be able to work out what you're up to? Just as soon as you think you know where the house of Mario is going, is always pulls the rug out from under you and reveals that it was actually heading in the opposite direction all along, and that in hindsight it was all very obvious and that you're basically a bit of a big silly-head.

The latest in its continued waltz of wrong-footing and subterfuge? The on-going drip-feed of ambiguity regarding its stance on the hardcore and casual gaming markets. A fan-baiting, old-school Nintendo message has been visible between the lines ever since last year's E3, and now with a new, probably fully-powered HD machine set for reveal at this year's show, there's yet another hint from Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime that this one might be for 'us'.

Speaking about the recently-announced Wii price cut, Reggie explained that $149 has previously been the sweet spot for boosting console sales, citing that "the leading system" last-gen (that's the PS2 for those of us not bound by company PR etiquette) sold 50% of its install base when sitting merrily within that price bracket or lower. The really interesting bit? His explanation of how he expects the Wii and Nintendo's new console to compete in terms of their respective audiences.

When asked what the point of boosting Wii sales is, with a new, supposed successor on the horizon, Fils-Aime explained:

"When we launch our new home system sometime in 2012 we think the consumer buying in will look very different than the consumer who's going to be buying a Wii now"

With the new machine strongly rumoured to be more powerful than an Xbox 360, that innocuous little statement suddenly becomes the touch-paper for a whole lot of excitement fireworks. And with Nintendo's E3 2010 conference having all-but ignored the casual market it has courted for the last few years, in favour of giving its core fanbase a big sexy game massage (not to mention the emphasis on core franchises when revealing the 3DS), that touch-paper is tied to a box of fireworks sitting right next door to a nuclear power plant.

But let's throw in a bit more context. Because, you know, context is fun. Nintendo's mantra this generation has been that casual gamers don't care about horsepower. It has also said that it won't release a new machine if it can't provide experiences that the Wii can't. If even half of the rumours about the new machine are true, then we're looking at a beast of an HD console that can provide the sort of experiences the Wii can't, by simple nature of having up-to-date technology. Nintendo knows it has partied with the casuals at the expense of the core fans who have kept it going over the years, and the extended nature of this generation provides it with the opportunity to pull some of that back, by putting out a 'current-gen' machine with lower production costs than in 2005, while still having enough time to make an impact.

So if Nintendo expects the Wii to continue selling (and it clearly does, in big numbers), and it doesn't believe that those buyers care about processing grunt (86 million sales to date proves that they don't), then why release a powerful new home console so soon? And who for? There seems to be only one likely answer. It knows it has a big market to recapture before the next Xbox and PlayStation arrive in a few years' time, and now has an affordable solution with which to do that.

Above: Note the lack of mums and grans in this launch night crowd. Photo via The3DSTribe

Reggie followed up his previous statement by explaining that early adopters think differently to the folk who buy machines later down the line, but that still only feels like half the story. If this new console isn't going to bring about an era of self-cannibalisation given such an overt plan of overlap, it has to be gunning for a different demographic. The PS2 might have lasted a good while into the PS3's life-span, but the two machines' audiences were very different by that point.

Do I think Nintendo's new console will be gimmick-free? No. It has to have something to differentiate itself from the two well-established HD power-bastards it's going up against. A head-on tackle just wouldn't make sense. But will it pander primarily to a casual market still happy with the Wii, a market which Nintendo openly intends to sell a whole lot more waggle-boxes to from this point on? A casual market which is already facing product over-saturation, having recently been courted very successfully by Kinect and Move? No. No that just wouldn't make any sense at all.

The more likely option? This new machine will not be a souped-up Wii. It won't even have the word Wii in its name. It will be branded, designed and marketed as Nintendo's alternative, complimentary home console and the distinct third leg of a new hardware tripod, standing alongside the Wii and 3DS. And while NIntendo certainly won't alienate any casual players who want to pick it up, it will provide a whole lot more for we of a traditional hardcore persuasion with this one.

Fingers crossed for E3, yeah?


Mat 05, 2011




  • scaler2000 - June 7, 2011 10:07 p.m.

    sorry to bring this up but so much for "not having wii in the name" :P but on the whole completely agree with you
  • MikeOkizard - May 9, 2011 1:57 a.m.

    They claim to be catering to the hardcore crowd, yet everything I have heard thus far points to a console "slightly more powerful" or on par with the PS3/360. That technology wasn't that impressive 5-6 years ago. I really don't know a single hardcore gamer that would pony up 3-400 dollars for a new current gen console, even if it was slightly more powerful than their current one. The only next gen console I would even consider is one that is on par with the absolute best PC's available currently. Having the screen on the controller could be cool if you could stream full games anywhere and play them portably, but it still needs to be much more powerful than more PS3...
  • AuthorityFigure - May 8, 2011 8:06 a.m.

    The author writes "Nintendo knows it has partied with the casuals at the expense of the core fans...", but how does he know what Nintendo knows? What sources does he have that we don't? Also, I believe there's a typo in the quote from Reggie.
  • NeoTechni - May 8, 2011 6 a.m.

    Why would Nintendo care about the hardcore when the hardcore bought PS3/360, which lost sales-wize compared to DS/Wii which aimed for the casuals? It'd be a stupid business decision, copying the competitors who lost.
  • lovinmyps3 - May 8, 2011 3:19 a.m.

    I really want to see Nintendo go back to the hardcore market. Now I can look forward to E3 just that much more.
  • gfhkj - May 8, 2011 1:25 a.m. Fashion Female attire spring, personality Men's clothing + Shoes, Travel bag that grabs an eye coat + Chao packet Free transport
  • mentalityljs - May 7, 2011 3:51 p.m.

    I always felt that Nintendo intentionally dumbed down their consoles an order to retain some sort of nostalgic feeling you get when playing their first party games, as well as to retain a younger/family audience. Which brings me to my next point, that most third party games have never really done well on any current Nintendo console. And because Mature rated games aren't anywhere near Nintendos agenda, this leaves the Wii with mostly just "kiddy" games, and only a select few third party games that are even worth playing. IF, however, the new system is as powerful, or more so than the 360 or PS3, I don't see why third party developers wouldn't cross-platform to it. So you could have all the good fun-ness of Mario and friends PLUS play all the major cross-platform titles on the same system? That's a win in my book, assuming they can market all of those games year round.
  • Siion - May 7, 2011 12:31 a.m.

    I will be interested if this thing has a controller and a less stupid name, then i can actually maybe buy my first Nintendo console and see what this crazy Zelda thing is. =P
  • Limbo - May 6, 2011 8:22 p.m. more gimmicks. Unless it's something that will actually not get annoying after the first week, like the DS touch screen.
  • CitizenWolfie - May 6, 2011 2:18 p.m.

    "It knows it has a big market to recapture before the next Xbox and PlayStation arrive in a few years' time" God I hope not. Both of the above are really hitting their stride in terms of quality games and extra services now. I don't think another new console is really needed for a while. Nintendo, yes, as the Wii is a dated machine in terms of its capabilities, but not the Xbox or Playstation.
  • philipshaw - May 6, 2011 11:56 a.m.

    Can't wait until E3 to see what it is going to be, I just hope that it isn't another Dreamcast where at launch it's more powerful than previous systems but the Playstation and Xbox launch in a couple of years and are more powerful
  • city17fan - May 6, 2011 11:49 a.m.

    If this Nintendo console cannot be more powerful then the 5+ year old Xbox360, why are these guys even bothering?
  • shawksta - May 6, 2011 10:03 a.m.

    @NeoTechni Actually Reggie would be the perfect one to present it, he's awesome. @jmcgrotty Thats mainly because Nintendo are great with making gimmicks part of the gameplay, and it doesnt bother us, plus they already mastered the touchscreen, its hard to believe what their gonna make it do, all we know is that they arnt going that way after an interview when Iwata said that the whole "Pad" thing is cool but they dont want to tamper with it.We'll wait and see, who knows. @d0x How can you not be? The fact is, the wii still had a ton of great games that seperate it from the 360/PS3, we get, its underpowered but its games are what makes it stand out, Im suprised you said that it didnt be happy with it, Dont use it and you would your 360/PS3, use the wii for its special exclusives that only Nintendo(or a third Party) can master and you shouldve been happy those 3 years, I know I did and I have a 360 myself.
  • d0x - May 6, 2011 9:13 a.m.

    I dont see why anyone would believe that Nintendo will focus on hardcore gamers. First off the system is rumored to be just a bit more powerful than current consoles so they are going the old tech route again to keep costs down. Im fine with that honestly because I'll get new tech from MS and Sony in due time. My real issue is Nintendo has been promising to cater to the real gamers since mid life of the Gamecube. They (or a third party) end up delivering a couple games or ideas for a couple months and then its right back into kid friendly or casual gaming. Nintendo always throws around the promise of better support of third parties as well and at first it always looks strong but then it falls apart. With the Gamecube it was a lack of really good games and a lack of ok but not great games. With the Wii its almost the same thing. There are a few really good third party games and then a metric ****ton of shovelware. Im not falling for it again. This time Nintendo has to prove it in the long run. That doesnt mean I wont buy the next system on a gamer and thats what I do so chances are ill be there day 1 excited and happy like i was with the Wii. The question is will I still be happy a year in...3 years in?
  • jmcgrotty - May 6, 2011 8:25 a.m.

    The controllers with the touch screen are guaranteed to be the most significant reason that this thing bombs. I understand that it is still in the rumor stage of things, but I have yet to hear any implied use for the new controller that sounds like a good idea. Additionally, why are people being so accepting to the rumored design? It sounds horrendous, awkward and ultimately useless. People are giving them too much of a pass on this. Here is an exercise to do: Grab a ruler and measure out 6 inches (15.5cm if you wanna be one of those people). See the size? That is the rumored size of the screen alone, not even taking into account the actual control parts of the controller (No, touchscreen is not an acceptable way of controlling a game. Don't let them get away with that crap), and it's ridiculous. So glad to see the Jaguar rejuvinated.
  • NeoTechni - May 6, 2011 7:23 a.m.

    They'd have to fire Reggie for that to happen. And isn't that yeti the president?
  • Robusken - May 6, 2011 2:54 a.m.

    Time to wait for E3 it seems.
  • sharker - May 6, 2011 1:47 a.m.

    The wii 2, now with BETTER GRAPHICS, hory sheet!
  • taterboob - May 6, 2011 12:22 a.m.

    I'm SO looking forward to E3 this year. I'm adding this to my list of things to watch for, alongside Kojima's game announcements (ZOE3 please) and what's new from Valve (HL3 pretty please).
  • shawksta - May 5, 2011 10:29 p.m.

    Nintendo is serious, I agree,Nintendos first party is still for their Hardcore audience,the shovelware is whats throwing them off and keeping the RARE Great third parties in their shadows. I agree with clam aswell, the hardcore/Casual crap is nonesense if people think Fps and bloody killing games are hardcore, DKCR IS more hardcore than COD because its a hard game and needs careful timing What I also hate,is that Mario,Kirby,and DKs,and skyward swords cartoonish style,is considered Kiddish, pe(ple who think that are the kiddish and immature ones.

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