WARNING: This is a post about Nintendo. That is all.
So, there’s a few things that are still floating around my head with regards to Nintendo, Revolution (or whatever it will now be named) and, of course, gamers. Firstly, let me talk to you about a concern I have that includes all three of those topics.
Imagine it’s 50 years ago and you own a black and white TV. You read in the paper that a revolution is coming – COLOUR is on its way to TV. “Amazing!”. You’re excited, you talk to your TV-watching friends. Your friends are excited. The potential is huge! There is endless talk of how shows will look and you all decide that you simply can’t wait to watch all your old black and white programs on your colour TV.
Hang about. What’s the point of thinking in black and white? You should be thinking in colour! Right?
So why are gamers thinking in black and white? Those staunch supporters of the Revolution, those gamers who’ve neither seen it with their own eyes nor held it’s controller yet somehow KNOW the future it will have – those gamers typically back up their statements with how Nintendo’s machine with become the best platform for first person shooters (FPS). Explanations spew forth on how the controller will behave and entire control schemes are devised to demonstrate how, say, Half Life 2, might be easily controlled via the Nintendo remote. The problem is that, they’re so caught up in this train of thought they’re unaware of the fatal error they make: they’re thinking in black and white.
You cannot justify a forthcoming revolution by demonstrating how it will repeat recent history.
If Revolution supporters are arguing their case by stating how gaming will go into new and unexplored territory then what is the point discussing decades old games? An FPS on the Revolution amounts to nothing more than an FPS with a tweaked control scheme. A revolution? Hardly.
“Look at my great new TV – its got a huge screen, its got remote control!”
“Yeah, but all the programs you watch are still in black and white”
Here’s a challenge to Revolution supporters – don’t tell me how I can play my old style games on this box of tricks. Doing so does nothing to convince me it’s a better product than anything already on the market. Insisting that it is by showcasing how old ideas can be tweaked just demonstrates how easily you miss the point of this being a revolution, of being new, of being different. But to convince me, you’re going to have to make me imagine something I’ve not imagined before. You’re going to have to work hard at that. You’re actually going to have to think.
This isn’t a criticism of Nintendo – this is a criticism of unthinking Nintendo loyalists. The best way you can prove me wrong is to rise to the challenge. Don’t take the most obvious, easy route. Show me what you’re made of.[and breathe]
Recently, there’s been some less-than-glowing feedback of the Revolution from some fairly large players in the industry. Mark Rein, VP of Epic and chief salesman of Unreal technology gave a pretty damning statement against the machine. I have no doubt that some of his attitude is coloured due to his business with Sony and Microsoft. At the same time, I’m not prepared to dismiss him as a ‘moron’ as so many gamers suddenly have. Unreal engine technology, whilst not necessarily exciting for you as a user of the end product is pretty damn important. It’s middleware and, with today’s lengthy projects and expanding costs, middleware is absolutely crucial to 80% of game development. Leading techonolgy middleware such as Unreal Engine is often developed in conjunction with hardware technology. Epic speak to Nvidia, they share technology, the exploit each other’s knowledge. Mark Rein isn’t some kid who wrote a couple of games in SEUCK. This is a guy who understands the correlation of software to hardware development – particularly in the field of emerging technology. I do believe there is some personal interest and political bias in his statement but his words should not be dismissed just because they don’t sit happily with gamers.
Just as significantly, a news article has reported that THQ, a successful third party developer with enough weight to garner some fairly major licenced properties, has suggested that 20% of their development resources will be directed towards Revolution development. Now, on the surface, this seems to be pretty bad news. On the whole I’d say it’s fairly generous. Consider the three current gen systems. Does Gamecube represent 20% of the Western market? Absolutely not. Whilst 20% is clearly less than one third, it’s considerably more than Nintendo might be worth on a strict development-to-sales ratio. In essence, it’s a reflection of Gamecube’s performance and THQ’s faith in Nintendo. Some feedback has suggested “well, they don’t need as many resources as the Revolution will be based on Gamecube development kit and will be easier to program for than the PS3 or X360”. Whilst I can’t dismiss the comments about that challenges of developing for PS3 hardware I utterly dismiss a gamer talking about how easy or complex game development might be. Sounds harsh, I know, but gamer’s can’t even grasp how much they don’t know – let alone accept they’re ignorant.
Nintendo said well before the Revolution was anything other than vapourware that they expected little in the way of third-party support. This was presented as a positive statement. That Nintendo could handle the demands of developing for their new console but they thought third parties wouldn’t be up to the challenge. Apart from the arrogance and conceit of such a statement it is hype, spin and bullshit. Third parties are, in essence, parasites. The attach themselves to the platform that’ll garner the best return for their investment. That’s not a criticism, that’s how it is. Now, if your platform has the smallest market share and least retail exposure then it’s likely that third parties won’t see you as attractive as, say, Sony. If you care to add being arrogant and stubborn as a company into the mix, the deal looks even less attractive. Additionally, if you release a statement that suggests that thrid parties aren’t as capable as you (whilst hiding the fact that you treat them pretty badly) then it’s only going to sour the deal even further.
Saying something and doing something else cuts both ways – this shouldn’t be forgotten. If Nintendo are going to suggest lacklustre third party support is down to Nintendo being too cool or radical instead of, basically, being a bitch to work with and not very rewarding then you can expect a similar mentality back. There’s been a wave of well publicised feedback from third party developers that have been presented on sites like IGN and subsequently pimped accross Nintendo forums as some proof of vapourware superiority. Sure. It’s nice when people say nice things about you. But it doesn’t cost anything to say something. As with the N64 and the Gamecube – we’re seeing lots of praise. Are we going to see lots of product? Will history repeat itself? It’s too early to tell. But I’m already hearing of disgruntled developers being dictated to by Nintendo about the sort of content they’ll have to include in their products to show off the Revolution’s controller. It’s seems like a lot of hard work for a very uncertain reward.
So, may ever-present challenge to gamers is to think more. Don’t assume an industry veteran is a moron because he said something you don’t like. Don’t dilute your arguments by confusing tweaks with originality. Don’t take your wishful thinking as gospel and for God’s sake, don’t EVER use sales stats or system specs in your argument unless you’re a business analyst or a programmer.
On a lighter note and as a reward for those of you who read this far I can tell you that the image at the start of this post is concept art for Super Mario Strikers. Looks suspiciously chav’d up to me.