What Nintendo Needs to Do with Its Next Gen Console ‘Project Cafe’

Rumors abound regarding Nintendo’s follow-up to the Wii. Very few actual facts are known but there seems to be a lot of leaked information regarding the new console. Here are just some of the details that have come to light.

IGN.com reports sources who told them: “The new Nintendo controller will feature dual analog sticks in addition to standard d-pad and trigger buttons. It’ll mirror a Gamecube controller in general function but not in specific form.”

French website 01.net says: “The touch capable screen on the controller is 6 inches in size.” IGN followed up by saying sources claim the new controller will be able to stream game contact directly to the controller, having it act almost like a “miniature television.”

There has also been tremendous speculation on the actual tech specs of the system. Some sources claim it could be twice as powerful as the current PlayStation 3, although tech specialists have commented that this could result in an exorbitantly expensive system, a trend Nintendo has veered away from in the past.

One thing remains consistent in all of these reports though, something most hardcore gamers are thrilled about: the absence of motion controls. While the gimmick of the WiiMote helped the Nintendo Wii worm its way into millions of homes across the country, it also alienated the most hardcore of Nintendo fanboys from their beloved system.

Even traditional Nintendo titles were forced to include “waggle” controls. As a result, players couldn’t enjoy titles like Super Mario Galaxy without awkwardly shaking their controller to perform moves that in the past could have been more accurately controlled using a standard controller.

The fascination with motion controls, while leading to high system sales, also lead to a terribly low attachment rate for game sales. Nontraditional players saw no need to buy an AMF Bowling game or a Tiger Woods PGA Tour game when they already had both sports on WiiSports.

Instead, shovel-ware reached high sales with titles like Carnival Games and WiiPlay (which included a lackluster minigame collection alongside another WiiMote). The few hardcore titles like Mad World fell to pitiful sales numbers as hardcore gamers had already abandoned the system.

For the Project Cafe to be viewed as a high quality video game platform and not just as a toy the way the Wii is in the eyes of many, Nintendo is going to have to make some changes.

1. Power

It has been a longstanding joke that the Wii is as strong as two Gamecube’s duct taped together. The more graphics continue to reach their full potential on both the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3, the further back Nintendo titles fall. Titles on the PlayStation 2 in some cases even surpass the quality of Wii games.

To regain the respect of the hardcore gaming audience, Nintendo will need to produce a visually impressive system like they once had. Back in the cartridge days, the Super Nintendo often had games visually superior to their Genesis counterparts. Eventually, Nintendo began falling away from this trend as they stuck to alternative game packaging with the Nintendo 64 cartridge and Gamecube mini disc as other platforms moved quickly to CD and then DVD.

Now, it seems like current trends would dictate that for a HD system to exist for Nintendo, they must embrace an HD format such as Blu Ray since the general public isn’t internet ready yet to do a fully digital system yet.

2. Get Away from the Gimmicks

Yes, the motion controls provided a reason for new customers to enter the video game market but sadly these people aren’t the long term kinds that helped build the company. The original NES had a bunch of gimmicky add-ons and controllers like R.O.B. or the powerglove but those weren’t the accessories that sold. Back in those days, it was all about the games as it still should be.

Both Microsoft and Sony have entered the motion gaming market only to see the same effects as Nintendo. The hardware sells (more so for Microsoft than for Sony) but not many games sell with it. Aside from a few developers, most aren’t able to come up with anything for these controllers aside from WiiSports, WiiFit and Carnival Games clones. As a result, more and more second rate games are thrown out on to the systems, distracting people’s attention from the quality titles out there.

3. Strong First AND Third Party Games

In previous generations, Nintendo has had strong first part titles with its franchise players such as Mario, Zelda and Metroid. As classic as these are, the Wii has shown that some of them have begun to lose a little of their luster, like Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess or the upcoming Skyward Sword. Still, some titles seem to be evergreen and epic sellers for Nintendo like the Mario Kart series which continues to sell like gangbusters despite being years old for the Wii.

Unfortunately as the Gamecube showed us, first party support alone isn’t enough to keep a system afloat. Being comparable in power to other systems will result in a more even spread on multiplatform title sales, especially million selling franchises like Call of Duty. By trying to force developers in to gimmicky control schemes with less powerful systems, Nintendo has alienated themselves from top tier titles and the hardcore audience that follows them.

Nintendo also needs strong exclusive titles from third party developers that they can use to showcase the strengths of their new system. Titles like Goldeneye helped make the Nintendo 64 the iconic system it is today because no other platform had a title like it at the time. This needs to happen again for Nintendo to hold its own in the coming years.

Now while these are not the only things Nintendo can do to improve this next generation of console, they may be the most necessary. The touch controller sounds interesting but could encroach on gimmick territory if not properly utilized. As long as it is an accessory and not the focus, Nintendo should be safe in that regard.

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