Monday, September 12, 2011

IGN strikes out again...

IGN for the record seems to not get anything when it comes to anything Nintendo related. This is completely prevalent in the editors and their approach to anything Nintendo related. Case-in-point; This article posted about how Nintendo has to force an entire relaunch of the 3DS based on the simple lack of an analog nub.

As to not give this person any more steam than he has, I'll be posting this up on the guys know the drill. Instead of posting the article first I'm just going to post with commentary included. I'm going in for the kill, i'm doing it for a thrill.... i'm hoping you'll understand...


While Nintendo has established a long history of releasing new versions, designs and models of its hardware, it's now entering dangerous territory with the Nintendo 3DS. Inside a year of its release, the system is seeing a peripheral that can and will fundamentally change the way companies approach game development.

XXSP: I don't see how one analog nub fundamentally changes things, but whatever. DS owners have got along well without the second nub for years now. It's not like you couldn't make adjustments with the touch screen or anything... I mean it is a DS after all....

The market for the Nintendo 3DS will soon be fractured, split in a way that the GBA SP, Game Boy Color and DS Lite never were. This peripheral is, of course, the circle pad expansion. A second circle pad was certainly necessary for the 3DS, but now Nintendo is faced with a critical choice – relaunch its system or fail to truly keep the peripheral viable in the long term. 

XXSP: Fractured..... The DS has had constant revisions and iterations as have the GBA, as the Gameboy and it's not like the revisions really did anything to split the fanbase ( More like provide more options to suit different gamer's needs ). A device that adds a second analog is not going to break a fanbase. If you want it you want it if not you don't have to go out and get it... 

Additionally, This isn't a critical enough choice to force a relaunch. The 360's issues were critical in Microsoft implementing a change in the design. No Wifi, bad circuitry and inadequate heat sinks are a big deal. a lack of an analog nub is debatable at best.

Nintendo's lack of foresight in packaging the 3DS with a second circle pad is a critical failure on the part of the company. Virtually all modern games require a second analog input, and movement and touch-based solutions are inadequate replacements. Moreover, the PlayStation Vita features two sticks and is more powerful. Although it's (now) more expensive than the 3DS, it could still potentially prove more alluring than the 3DS if Nintendo doesn't fix its error. That the publisher is attempting to do this now is certainly reassuring, but the fact that Nintendo has to do it speaks volumes about how it approached this system in the first place.  

XXSP: I can't even begin to take this paragraph any seriously. No that's not a critical failure. It's a slight oversight. Not all games require a second analog input. It's vital to some polygonal 3D games, but there are suitable work-arounds. 2D games don't obviously need them. Music games don't. Puzzle games don't. So why is this critical failure, again?

The Vita features two sticks, and that's fine. The DS and the GBA and the GB did not, and that was fine. If developers find the Vita more attractive they'll do it for the features it provides not just because of one feature in particular. The PSP had analogs and the DS didn't and the DS was still successful regardless.. so I'm not seeing any sense in this logic. 

A number of poor choices have plagued the 3DS since its launch, and in some respects the system's first year will be remembered as one of Nintendo's roughest ever. The question now is what to do about it. A price drop, expanded content and a functioning eShop go a long way, and certainly have had an impact, but the circle pad is a fundamental product feature unlike any of the other "upgrades" Nintendo has provided. It changes how games are made. Now the company faces a tough choice – support the add-on full force and accept the consequences, or watch it fade into oblivion, giving its competitors a significant advantage in accepting ports and remakes of modern titles.

If Nintendo wants developers to support this extra circle pad, the first model of the Nintendo 3DS must be replaced immediately. It cannot remain on store shelves, because its continued presence furthers a splitting of Nintendo's marketplace. Developers will be forced to either support a platform of millions with only one circle pad or a platform of few with two. 

That's the biggest problem the company faces – convincing developers to start over. The current system is just now gaining steam, selling over 200,000 units in August after its price drop. For Nintendo to introduce a seismic change to its system's control interface could potentially undo all of its progress thus far. For all intents and purposes, the 3DS would be starting over, barring some sort of massive recall or free distribution of the expansion device. Quite obviously, both of those would have huge financial implications.  

XXSP:  Let's disregard the thousands of handhelds out of the market... That's not really a logical solution. The best Nintendo can do at this point is support the console and make it affordable, while emphasizing what the benefits of the 3DS is. This is one more instance that 'journalists' (Especially those at IGN) aren't good businessmen.

Recalls cost money - not just a couple thousand dollars. like whole profit losses and a damaged reputation for the company. The moment IGN-Tendo decided to do that, not only would they be struggling to get out of the red financially, but they would be constantly ridiculed and hounded by both investors and angry consumers. In imagination-land this might fly, but in reality this is a really bad move.  

Of course this is to say nothing of consumers. Millions have already invested in Nintendo's 3D world, many at the system's original $250 price point. This is, of course, the danger of even suggesting a relaunch or uttering the words "3DS Lite." No doubt many gamers were holding out for a revision to the system's hardware, particularly considering the portable's rather anemic battery life, but many were willing to be early adopters. Now the other shoe drops. Not owning a new 3DS model could potentially cut existing 3DS owners out of a whole range of titles. Attempting to keep the existing version results in an awkward attachment that at best resembles a prototype still in development.

The choices before Nintendo are not easy, and are damaging regardless of the path selected. Heavily and entirely supporting two circle pads might sway some developers, but Nintendo's most loyal fans will certainly feel burned. Plus more casual gamers will likely be confused by the messaging. Didn't they just buy Nintendo's new system? Now they have to buy another one?  

XXSP: Look at the history. The 3DS lite and other revisions are inevitable. It's the same story with all devices; Once the technology drops in price, the devices get smaller and gain more in functionality. This isn't a brand new idea. So it's expected that the early adpoters will be the most likely to be 'screwed'. Even in the face of the price drop, though they still were being treated to added value in having a boat load of free games. Nintendo has been pretty gracious in providing that to their customers (whom they still hold in high regard, naturally ).

The last paragraph is more confusing than the situation being presented. Expanded market gamers were quite fine with the handheld revisions because each one provided something unique and interesting for them. The DSi had internet functionality, the XL had a larger screen for older gamers and people who had issues with seeing graphics on smaller screens. The premise of this revision only benefits maybe a vocal fraction of total users and does almost nothing for the expanded market. Also loyal fans of the company wouldn't really care either way, as they haven't really cared. It was suggested by some users, but in the end the problem could be solved by utilizing innovative thinking.  

The alternative is, of course, going the route of Wii Motion Plus, which is to say watch a necessary add-on dwindle in support and consumer interest. Who wants to support or require the use of something that only some can play? Why not make a product for everyone? It will truly be interesting to see how The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword sells, particularly considering it can only be played using only Motion Plus, and only the limited edition actually supplies that necessary hardware. 

XXSP:  Someone is forgetting that all Wiis purchased after November of last year have remote plus included, and the motion plus dongles are cheap to purchase (especially on the second-hand market). Secondly, the bold statement could apply to this particular argument of rehashing the 3DS for something only some of the people will use.

A less-than-optimal scenario is to attempt to straddle both paths. Release the circle pad expansion alongside a major game like Monster Hunter, but commit only to that game – for the time being. Then add in the feature to a new version of the 3DS, and market the system as if the success and feedback from the debut of Monster Hunter caused this change. That still begs the question of influencing developmental efforts, and that's something Nintendo will likely have to fund itself with cold hard cash and marketing support.

XXSP: Actually, this kind of makes sense, and it does remind me of the classic controller pro bundle of the Monster Hunter Tri release. I still refuse to believe that one game will warrant a hardware revision this soon out of the gate. Maybe 2013 or 14 but not right now.

Systems take time to develop and it's a bit stunning that Nintendo didn't have the foresight to include a second circle pad with the 3DS. The proximity of the two products makes it almost impossible to believe the publisher wasn't aware that its system was missing a critical feature. Consoles have featured two analog sticks for a decade. The notion that a portable powerful enough to support ports of these 10-year-old games wouldn't feature an equivalent control scheme is a bit astonishing. Truly, if Nintendo rushed the 3DS out the door without pausing to consider the repercussions of its choices, it is potentially about to pay the price in perception and possibly developmental support. In some ways it already has. 

XXSP:. I hold this into the "theory of good enough" which states that if a product meets the needs of it's audience then it's good enough (going beyond the needs of the customer may often backfire in some cases). Think back to the PSP. One analog nub did enough for that during all it's iterations, despite a hardcore bemoaning of it's inadequacies, then again the PSP's major flaw was always the games.

As far as ports go, OOT's camera was influenced by both behind the back views which I prefer, and Z targeting, which i also thought was innovative and still holds true, today. Starfox's camera controls are gyroscopic which I'm not sure is a benefit or a hazard (haven't played it yet), but followed similar guidelines. So i don't see how they're going to cause backlash for looking beyond the lack of one thing. Also, let's also consider that the 64 controllers only had the one analog nub to begin with, and they were the ones who brought Analog controls back to consoles for the sake of improving controls in 3 dimensional space. So in saying this it's not really that much of an issue in releasing the games on the 3DS as they're continuing to use the same controls albeit in a different configuration. Again, this reasoning confuses me.   

It's not that the Nintendo 3DS is necessarily doomed without a second analog stick. Had Nintendo never mentioned the idea, it could have likely made do. Some games developers would have probably passed the system by in favor of the Vita, but even Monster Hunter survived without two analog inputs – look at the PSP versions. But Nintendo decided to open that door. It has now openly suggested its launch hardware design is flawed. It's introducing an awkward patch to a portable design that is clearly inadequate in its own eyes. 

XXSP:  Or perhaps they're just giving people more options, much like the multiple control schemes they have provided with the Wii?

Whether the company even wanted to launch a 3DS Lite in 2012, it almost certainly must now, if for no other reason than to get the 3DS looking like a polished product that isn't being cobbled together bit by bit. Let's just hope that if a timetable is being accelerated, no other important features are left on the drawing room table. 

XXSP: Yes, because clearly no other company has ever released peripherals to improve functionality with hardware..



Now to an extent I understand the gravity of having a second analog as consoles from the PS on have shown that they can be very beneficial to FPS games and other 3D based games (In fact the analog has saved my thumbs from certain doom on a number of occasions when playing quite a few RPGs). However, with the functionality that's already there, I cannot say that there couldn't be other ways to provide adequate camera control or anything of the other benefits. You logically don't just don't scrap things when you've already invested so much money in something. It's certainly not like knocking down a lego structure that you built in about ten minutes, only to rebuild it again differently. This is a business, and this second analog solution definitely helps to placate the fraction of  irritated users demanding this feature.

The other part of this is that we're declaring the Vita a superior product and it hasn't even be released yet. It's going to take an awful lot of time before we even know if the Vita is both worth it's salt, and worth the automatically lofty pricetag it's toting. Meanwhile we've tested and proven that the 3DS had potential, and Nintendo is very much willing to give players what they want, but in a way that doesn't financially sabotage themselves in the process.

I'm not surprised that IGN editors fail on a basic level when it comes to providing thought provoking content while being mindful of the things Nintendo does understand and get right. This is almost expected, but this also makes them less credible with each passing article. It's no wonder why Rupert Murdoch bought them up.. They're basically the Fox News of games.


Note: So I decided to put up at least one article to keep some sort of a momentum going during my short hiatus, but I will return with more content.

Game On!

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