Here’s a handy tip for starting an internet fight: Invade an online gaming community and ask, “What defines a hardcore gamer?” Three hundred posts later, you’ll have a lot of speculation, a lot of arguments, a lot of hissing and spitting, but you probably won’t have a solid answer.
Nintendo thinks it has a good idea of what constitutes a “core gamer;” namely, the player base the company cheesed off with the Wii and most of its games.
Last month, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata talked to shareholders (translated via Andriasang) about why the Wii didn’t appeal to core gamers. Iwata believes that the Wii’s non-traditional control scheme was a key factor behind players’ ire.
“Wii was not accepted by core gamers because they did not want to abandon their preferred control approach,” Iwata said. “Additionally, Wii did not use HD because HD cost performance at the time was low. Wii U makes it easier to use conventional controls. Also, the Wii U controller is not as big or heavy as it looks.”
If one were forced at gunpoint to define a core gamer, one could do worse than parrot Iwata’s definition. As far back as the birth of the GameCube, Nintendo believed that simplified controls are the key to attracting non-gamers, a point that the Wii has since proven spectacularly. A big, clunky controller peppered with a dozen buttons is an intimidating animal for anyone who’s never handled a game before, and the same is true for a PC game that calls for simultaneous manipulation of the mouse and the keyboard (the runaway success of point-and-click social games, however, also proves Nintendo’s theory on the attractiveness of simplicity).
But where do simplified motion controls leave the rest of us–those of us who could hold a controller or interact with a keyboad and/or mouse before we could properly spell our last names? That depends on how well you’ve managed to adapt on a personal level. The Wii has a sizable library of core games. The problem lies with being expected to play them with the often-clumsy Wii remote. Take last year’s Donkey Kong Country Returns as an example. Those of us who have played the preceding games on the Super Nintendo were suddenly expected to shake the Wii remote to make Donkey or Diddy execute a rolling attack–often with sloppy results. In previous games, rolls were conducted by simply pressing the Y button. The inability to depend on a key attack dampened what was otherwise a well done platforming game. Worse still, there was no option to use the Classic Controller.
A similar problem arose in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, which expected players to shake the Wii remote to pick up objects instead of holding down a familiar button.
The Wii U’s controller has a far more traditional interface, aside from its built-in touch screen. With any luck, that means we won’t have to compromise with a shake, rattle, or roll where a button press will do just fine. Catering to the core gaming demographic may involve more than knowing when to utilize motion controls, and when to simply let tradition take its course–but recognizing the importance of tried-and-true control schemes is a sign that Nintendo is set to take core gamers a little more seriously with the Wii U.