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Wii U, Wii Mii, Wii Us Together

Nintendo’s press conferences remind me of the movie Signs. Keep in mind that Signs was made prior to last year’s The Last Airbender and long before the novelty of the twist ending wore off. Specifically, I’m reminded of the scene where Joaquin Phoenix’s character is revealed to hold both a home run and strikeout record. No matter what the coaches told him that he should do, he insisted on swinging as hard as he possibly could.

And that’s where I associate Phoenix’s character with Nintendo. He’s being mocked in the movie by another member of the town for his penchant for always trying to hit it out of the park. As the scene comes to a close, he utters a line that feels completely in line with Nintendo’s current design philosophy, it “felt wrong not to swing.”

If you can’t look at the hardware brought to the table by Nintendo over the past decade and imagine these words coming from Reggie Fils-Aime, you probably haven’t been paying enough attention. Throughout every launch, every single one of them, there have been some speculations as to whether Nintendo’s finally gone crazy and shot themselves in the foot.

For example, ditching the Game Boy brand for the untested Nintendo DS seemed daffy at the time. But in retrospect, Game Boy carried just a little less weight than Nintendo, so clearly, Nintendo would be the better brand. The DS has gone on to sell in boggling numbers along various iterations. Even if the 3DS seems kind of an odd place to go and may not be fairing too well at the moment, it definitely wasn’t a conservative approach to handhelds either.

It would be hard to talk about Nintendo hardware launches without also commenting upon the Wii, the console everyone loves to hate. Be it the change from being the Revolution to Wii, the gimmicky nature of the motion controls or the lack of regular third party support, there was something for everyone to severely dislike about the Wii. Again, that didn’t stop it from shipping millions of units either. Obviously, there’s some kind of disconnect here and it’s a pretty obvious one.

Nintendo knows what it’s doing better than you do.

There’s really no simpler way to put it. Nintendo’s been in the business of pleasing customers for years now and somehow manages to stay afloat both because of and regardless of consumer reaction. You don’t like the Wii? Tough noogies because tons of people are going to play the heck out of that console. Not a fan of the Wii U? That’s unfortunate. There’s pretty obviously going to be people who are ecstatic to play console games while their significant other employs the use of their television.

One of the major problems here is that Nintendo is notoriously bad at presenting their enthusiasm and determination to the world. This isn’t the first E3 press conference that’s left viewers scratching their heads and seriously reconsidering their future purchases. As one of the people who were in attendance, I can safely assure you that the demonstration of Skyward Sword at E3 2010 was just as painful in person as it was televised.

So, while the recent news may have felt stunning — and not in the good way — let me assure you that it’s merely the first salvo in a coordinated assault. Nintendo’s determined to, more or less, go big or go home. There’s really no middle ground for them. They aren’t really trying to keep up with Microsoft or Sony; if they were they would be trying to push the graphical limits of their new machine to something past what the PS3 or 360 could achieve rather than meeting them. They’re trying to push past both companies in terms of concept and design.

And speaking purely in terms of concept, this is far and away from what Sony or Microsoft are doing with their consoles. If survival means differentiation then I don’t expect Nintendo will be going away at any point soon.

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