Gameological At E3

Nintendo's E3 2012 press conference

Lost In Explanation

Nintendo’s fear of being misunderstood is turning it into a pedant.

By John Teti • June 6, 2012

The president of Nintendo’s American division spent a few minutes near the beginning of the company’s E3 2012 press conference bemoaning how few minutes there were in the company’s E3 2012 press conference. The self-defeating complaint was especially odd since Nintendo had grabbed itself an extra hour in the spotlight on Sunday with a pre-E3 webcast about the Wii U. Just how much time does Nintendo require to tell people about a new video game system?

More time, apparently. As the American chief, Reggie Fils-Aime, shook his fist at the temporal constraints of the press conference, he claimed that the event’s supposed focus on games would not allow them to fully explain how the Wii U hardware would change the way you consume entertainment. “Understanding this is vital,” he insisted, and he directed the audience to two further information sessions that Nintendo planned to hold (and webcast) during E3 week. The rather snooty implication, of course, was that the upcoming Wii U—which is basically a souped-up Wii whose controller has a screen in it—operates on such a high conceptual plane that Nintendo could not possibly convey its essence in a mere hour-plus.

Nintendo's E3 2012 press conference

There’s a recent history behind this compulsion to explain. Nintendo’s stock price dropped after last year’s E3, the one at which Nintendo first announced the Wii U. Nintendo’s president later argued that the disappointment simply stemmed from the fact that the public did not yet understand the Wii U.

It was a convenient but reasonable theory. Last year’s press conference was a mess of context-free statements of philosophy and was thick with buzzword bullshit. At times, it seemed like the script had been written by a marketing flack who tunneled into his own consciousness, à la Being John Malkovich, and emerged with a handful of teleprompter bullet points and PowerPoint slides. (An example of the strange disconnection from reality that pervaded last year’s show: The Wii U console itself was barely even shown, primarily seen as a small figure in the background of photos touting the system’s controller.)

Nintendo has encountered confusion and dips in their share price before. Like the time they unveiled a homely portable system that featured two screens. Or the time they showed off a new console featuring what appeared to be a milk-white Snickers bar that could supposedly track your movement. The DS and the Wii worked out pretty well for Nintendo in the long run—the DS’ library of games in particular is replete with smart, visionary gems. It would seem that the Nintendo executive suite has enough experience to know that, even when faced with the braying of fans and critics like myself, the merit of their ideas will determine their success.

Nintendo's E3 2012 press conference

Something about the Wii U reveal seems to have spooked Nintendo, though, and they’re overcompensating. There were some minor details of note, like the fact that the Wii U will allow players to connect two of its special magic-screen controllers. And there were a few warmed-over game announcements—few leapt to their feet when a Warner Bros. executive proudly announced that the eight-month-old Batman: Arkham City would be coming to Wii U. But on the whole, Tuesday’s press conference was clearly conceived in reaction to the perceived inadequacies of the 2011 affair, correcting last year’s under-explanation by plunging into laborious pedantry. And so we got, for instance, a pre-recorded video that explained how the trigger buttons of the Wii U gamepad fit comfortably under one’s index fingers and can emulate the trigger of a gun.

In the middle of a segment on NintendoLand—a sort of online amusement park featuring Wii U mini-games—a Japanese executive launched into an explanation of one mini-game in which a team of players try to hunt down an invisible foe in a maze. Think of it as a multiplayer Pac-Man in which most players play as the ghosts and the player with the magic Wii U gamepad screen plays as a stealth Pac-Man. It’s a simple concept, and yet the executive prattled on, detailing every last feature and rule of this charming but insignificant diversion. He was forcing a room full of industry VIPs and gaming press to sit there while, in essence, he explained to them how Pac-Man works.

At this moment, it was clear that Nintendo’s fear of being misunderstood has grown into something of a pathology. The underlying theme of Nintendo’s approach at this year’s E3 is, “If you folks don’t get it, it’s not Nintendo’s fault.” Throughout the press conference, Nintendo flacks implored the crowd to view the three other webcasts that the company planned for E3 week, because is was so very vital that we understand, damn it. It bears saying, though, that if you need upwards of four hours for your audience to understand why your video game system is cool, perhaps the problem is not with your audience.

Nintendo's E3 2012 press conference

The truth is that Nintendo doesn’t need all that time. The press event began with a demonstration of Pikmin 3 by Nintendo’s oracular demigod, Shigeru Miyamoto. The game has the player commanding troops of cute, miniature helpers in a world filled with obstacles and equally cute, not-so-miniature monsters. The utility of the Wii U screen was immediately evident in this demo—it offers a bird’s-eye view that proves a boon when you are moving troops around the playfield—although that did not keep Miyamoto from belaboring the point. This enchanting five-minute preview did a better job of elucidating the Wii U’s potential than any of the talking points that ensued in the following hour. That excitement of being shown something joyous and fresh gave way to the boredom of being told, and being told, and being told.

(The other highlight of the press conference was Lego City, a game that appears to expand on the formula of previous Lego games by bringing the peg-headed characters to a kiddie-fied Grant Theft Auto setting. The trailer was great fun, and the open world has a lot of potential as a showcase for the Lego series’ savvy brand of pop-cultural riffs and humor.)

Nintendo’s propensity to condescend and over-explain would be nothing more than an annoying corporate personality tic, except that this attitude—that of a weary remedial-studies professor—shows up more and more in its games, as well. It manifests in the litany of cautions and info screens you must wade through every time you start playing a new Nintendo-made game. You see it, too, in nagging helper characters like Fi, a robotic fairy in The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword who regularly sits players down and tells them things that any mildly attentive person would already know.

The rationale behind this thorough instruction, according to Nintendo, is that they’re trying to broaden the audience for video games, which is a noble goal. The trouble with the enforcement of understanding, though, is that it leaves no room for epiphany. Increasingly, Nintendo is afraid to let players discover the magic in its games—to have those moments of self-driven insight that come from placing yourself in a new perspective—because allowing for discovery leaves too much to chance. The company would rather be sure that its users are all on the same page. So after an E3 2011 press event that left some of its audience mystified, Nintendo came back with a 2012 effort that left them stultified. It’s hard to call that an improvement.

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414 Responses to “Lost In Explanation”

  1. Andrew_Ryans_Caddy says:

    I think it says a great deal for the relationship between gamers and companies when Microsoft’s showy, expensive attempt at a calculated attention grab with that Usher performance got nowhere near the interest and exaltation as Satoru Iwata staring intently at a bunch of bananas.

    • Shain Eighmey says:

      It really does, and I think we should be proud of it. 

    • PugsMalone says:

      I expected him to take a big bite out of those bananas a la Chairman Kaga.

    • Destroy Him My Robots says:

      My favorite part about the Iwata video after the conference was when he traded his three-piece suit for a leather jacket when he went from talking about Nintendoland to Zombi U. “Now: Cool games for cool people. Please like this, I’m one of you”.

  2. Kevin Gray says:

    Many people were saying that it was the lack of games they were expecting to see, like a new Zelda (we just got one last fall!), Starfox, F-Zero, or other beloved franchise, that caused Ninty to incite a lot of backlash from fans & critics.  But this article gets to the heart of the real problem.  Nintendo needs to show, not tell.  We’re not confused how the buttons on the controller work or how to play another Mii-centric minigame.  We want to know: how powerful is the system; how are game producers integrating the new screen into their products, and for god’s sake, at least just tell us how much the damn thing will cost.

    • Dikachu says:

      One of Nintendo’s largest problems is that their biggest sellers are endlessly rehashed company franchises.  It’s like they can’t even sell a game anymore without sticking goddamn Mario in for no other reason.

      • Saint Stryfe says:

        That’s a whine that non-Nintendo fans put on Nintendo systems. I want those games, badly. They tend to almost always be good. I like them. I want to play them. But instead of them, I got Pikman (a game I honestly have no emotional attachment to) and instead of a glorious 3D game, I get another run through 2D Mario nostalgia – fun but not what I wanted.

        • rvb1023 says:

           It’s also a legitimate complaint.  Outside of the Mii games (Which, clever as they are, don’t require a whole lot on Nintendo’s part creatively speaking) Nintendo hasn’t made a successful franchise since Pikmin and I would barely call that successful as it is, Nintendo didn’t seem to keen to return to it until thousands started complaining about it.

        • Ramon Mujica says:

          Thank you. I buy Nintendo systems because I want to play Nintendo games. Give me a new Mario every year (just try changing the graphics next time).

          Also, if Nintendo created a new franchise every year, how many would there be? How much bitching by the fans that there’s no (current console) version of those franchises?

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

           It also keeps non-Nintendo fans from becoming Nintendo fans. I have no love for Mario and can sort-of tolerate Legend of Zelda games. I got a 3DS for my birthday very recently, and most of the highly-rated games are stuff with Mario and Link n Friends and some Castlevanias. I feel like 1995 never ended.

  3. Effigy_Power says:

    I am pretty conflicted about controllers with screens in them. I was under the impression that years of research into controller-devices had the goal to provide as many buttons and triggers as possible while eliminating the need to actually look at them. I personally find nothing more annoying and to-a-grinding-halt-bringing than having to avert my view from the action on-screen and looking at a guide or the controller.
    Since I’d likely pause the game for that anyways, I feel that the need to display information on the controller itself is moot. It might as well be shown in the pause menu.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      I think that’s a fair concern, but did you see the promo vid for Ubi’s Zombi U?  While the non-stop parade of controller screen features could easily read as excessive gimmickry, for me more of them conceptually hit than missed.  The inventory screen even specifically highlights what you discuss, that while digging through your bag, the view goes to third person on the tv, but doesn’t pause.  So you have to keep looking up to make sure you’re not about t be eaten while rooting around for a magazine.  The sniping element looks like it could be pretty cool, too.
         I don’t think it will be an epiphany for gaming, but it does have the very real capability to incorporate some neat stuff.  Plenty of nonsense as well, as is the way of these things.

      • CivilizationHasFailed says:

        Sounds like the WiiU version of Red Steel. The first third party game to “get” the potential for the tech, only to completely fuck it up and prove once-and-for-all the tech is gimmick to the core.

        • BarbleBapkins says:

          Really this tech is more or less proven already conceptually, as @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus points out its basically a jumbo-sized DS, which has been used pretty well by third-parties over the years.

          What I’m more concerned about is the actual GPU/CPU specs that the WiiU has.  While its obviously powerful enough to run “current gen” games, I don’t think Nintendo can really afford to be drastically less powerful graphically again, if only for brand-image reasons.  Two console cycles in a row as the profoundly weaker alternative isn’t going to win them many new converts.

        • Merve says:

          @BarbleBapkins:disqus: There are some rumoured specs that leaked, purportedly from the SDK:

          Apparently, it’s quite a bit more powerful than the 360 or the PS3, but it doesn’t represent a massive technological leap over the current generation. It’s about as powerful as high-end-of-mid-range gaming PC. That’s good news for me, because I don’t want to have to spend money upgrading my PC to play next-gen games.

        • Saint Stryfe says:

          I have little to no care for graphics power at this point – with all their horsepower the 360 and PS3 haven’t really made anything to make me want to sit up.

        • BarbleBapkins says:

           @Merve2:disqus Thanks for the link. That is about what I expected from the Wii U graphics-wise and it seems like a pretty decent place for it to be. 

          @twitter-20661163:disqus I am definitely in agreement with you there. Graphics at this point really aren’t much of a selling point to me. Give me some interesting gameplay over empty shininess any day!

        • gaugebozo says:

           Processing power doesn’t necessarily have to do with graphics alone, and can affect gameplay. For instance, see the Dead Rising Wii version, which was like walking around in an empty mall compared to the Xbox version.

      • Long_Dong_Donkey_Kong says:

         That was the problem yesterday.  The casual audience Nintendo is after will buy a system after seeing it on Ellen or something like that.  Gamers follow E3.  While Nintendo Land might show off different aspects of the controller, it is still a collection of mini-games which is what turned off many people from the Wii.  Nintendo needed a game like Zombie U in their presentation (cough, Metroid) to show people who play deeper games how this will make their gaming better.  Even if we’re only talking a demo level or two, and the game won’t be out for 1.5 years, if Reggie had said, “Imagine playing The Legend of Zelda and being able to…” while showing us some ingenious use of the controller that nobody had ever thought of, everyone would be breathing easier today.

        When we first saw the Wii, skeptics immediately thought it was one of those glorified “plug and play” cheap video games with crappy looking tennis rackets controllers or something like that.  But when we saw games like Red Steel (crappy as it was), immediately people thought of light sabers and Master Swords and first-person shooters where you point at the screen rather than dual analog sticks.  We saw Wii Sports we thought it was a cool concept and imagined playing Tiger Woods games with that control scheme.  What we got yesterday was a fancier Mario Party and a few games (Pikman, Mario) that already had control schemes that worked just fine.  I went into yesterday believing that I would buy the system at launch.  I came out believing that I will buy it if/when I see a reason to buy it.

        • gaugebozo says:

          I agree that after the Wii I’m extremely reluctant to jump into gimmicky technology. The games (and the Xbox and Sony responses) are ultimately what will decide it for me.

          On the other hand, I like the idea of someone else being able to use the touchpad, because I have a very casual gamer wife. She tends to get frustrated if things get too tough, and it shuts down game time. If she could play but have an experience like placing blocks for me while I move through the level, it would greatly benefit us both.

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

           @gaugebozo:disqus Your comment made me think of something that would be cool, and possible : an asymmetric co-op game that’s like an “escort mission,” but actually fun.

          One person uses a traditional kind of controller and is playing a traditional kind of game, like a third-person shooter. The other person has a big touch-screen controller, and instead of doing shooting and running they act as support, giving healing items and extra ammo and maybe helping with certain tasks, like the block-placing you mentioned.

    • Kevin Gray says:

      I think the phenomenon you describe will be very prominent in games where developers use the technology in a lazy way, much in the same way that shovelware companies tacked on awful motion control with the Wii.  However there are many innovative ways, particularly in multiplayer, that the gamepad screen could be introduced.  Rayman Legends showed this, as well as the demos for the Nintendo Land games (although they spent waaaaay too much time describing them during the conference).

      • bradwestness says:

        It seems like they’re missing a “killer app” to really flaunt the capabilities of the new controller. It’s hard to convince people that something is revolutionary and amazing without having any real examples other than golfing with it and using it as a map or whatever.

        They developed the Wiimote+Nunchuck controller as part of the development of Mario Galaxy. I wonder which title was the driver of this new controller.

        Also, is this the first time Nintendo has ever not launched a console with an all-new Mario game? 

        (Considering that “New Super Mario Bros. U” is basically “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” with different power-ups)

        • gaugebozo says:

           The Wii didn’t also. Galaxy came out a year later. The last real one was Super Mario 64, which as you pointed out, showed off the new controls for the N64.

        • bradwestness says:

          @gaugebozo:disqus Ah, you’re right. I guess the Wii just launched with Twilight Princess with the expanded Wiimote controls.

    • Merve says:

      The Pikmin 3 demo sold me on the concept of dual screens: action on the TV, map on the controller. It’s simple, but I think every RTS game that gets released for the Wii U should do it. Heck, pretty much any game with a map should do it.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        I’m so dense I just now realized Wii U is a console DS.  I thought the DS was a superfluous notion when first introduced, and of course, I was wrong.  It’s a simple thing, but just having a separate screen for the more spreadsheet elements of gaming has been great.

        • rvb1023 says:

           The main difference no one seems to be highlighting is that the DS screens are about an inch apart.  Presumably, the tablet will be on your lap.  Instead of casually shifting your eyes to the screen below you, you will have to bring your entire head down to look at it.  I don’t want to come off as lazy and I’m not saying it won’t work at all, it just won’t be nearly as smooth or natural as DS gameplay is.

    • The Tuck Pendleton Machine says:

      There seems to be a huge push for more innovative control options (Microsoft Kinect, of course, included) but is that solving any real, underlying problem that’s keeping people from buying and playing games and game systems?

      I’m sure that MS and Nintendo have volumes of research data that tell them that casual gamers want more intuitive control interfaces, but hardcore gamers are going to play the games they find fun, regardless of the interface. 

      And if you have to have 3 videos and a couple hour long productions to show how the interface works…chances are, it’s not simpler or better.

      • gaugebozo says:

         I’m weary of gimmicks also, but arguably synthesizers didn’t solve any problems in music.

        • HilariousNPC says:

          Uh, having a shitton of replicated instruments that one person could play at his fingertips didn’t solve any “problems”?

          Tuck Pendleton’s got it spot on. This whole motion control this is a red herring that Nintendo’s used to sell an underpowered machine with an underpowered suite of software.

          Instead, it could have just focused on making great games, or a system that was easier for third party and independent developers to really crank solid titles out for.

          Now we have a fractured development philosophy. How to create shiny, mediocre games on powerful systems, or how to create gimmicky, mediocre games on gimmicky systems. Developers still haven’t figured out how to implement story and gameplay, and the one thing I know was definitely not hampering that progress was the damn controller.

        • gaugebozo says:

          You could already replicate lots of different instruments through guitar effects. Synthesizers when they were first created filled a room and nobody knew how to work with them. In order to make the sound you wanted, you almost needed engineering experience. They only ended up working because people threw out the instruction books.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Yeah, I was having this problem personally a couple of days ago. I’ve started playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and it’s my first time playing a game on a desktop instead of a console in years. I know it’s second nature to most PC gamers, but having to stumble around to find the TAB key to open my inventory, or peck around the keyboard with my pinky searching for the control key in order to crouch is always really distracting. I guess it doesn’t help that I’m playing in total pitch darkness to enhance the mood.

      That said, I think a controller with “as many buttons as possible” is not necessarily the ultimate goal. I remember reading somewhere that Nintendo was attempting to create games you could “play with one button”, which I thought was also misguided, but I think something in between would be best. When a game has too many commands, I find it difficult to pick up again after a while. That’s basically the main reason I haven’t picked up the Harley Quinn DLC despite having loved Arkham City: I don’t want to spend the first half hour flailing around on the controls trying to remember what every button does, what the context sensitive commands are, what direction I have to press and how many times to equip which items, etc.

  4. Skerrcrow says:

    Great article! Nintendo has already raised me, I don’t need it to hold my hand anymore.

  5. Craig Duda says:

    I’m really enjoying John Teti’s articles. Great writing.

  6. The_Sputnik_Sweethearts says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Here’s my back story, if only to provide a little context:

    I grew up a Nintendo gamer with a brief foray into the PS2 in my teenage years (skipping the Gamecube), but I’ve never had enough money on my own to invest in the next gen systems, nor have I even had a HD TV until a few months ago. I got a Wii about a year after it first came out as a graduation gift, less than two years later it was stolen out of my dorm, and then I inherited my sister’s less than a year ago and realized there weren’t any games I wanted to play –until Skyward Sword came out, and oh my god you guys, I feel like a kid again.

    Still, even when I wasn’t actually playing games, I liked to read about them. I ended up on Kotaku yesterday looking for more Wii-U information, which has got me pretty excited I won’t lie, and one of the things pointed out in the comments there is how the general public still doesn’t seem to get how this system works (CNN reports were the examples cited). So I agree that for us, the presentation was needlessly repetitive and frustrating, but even after all the hand holding, for some people, a.k.a. the non gamers, Nintendo still isn’t getting the message across.

    There’s no way I’ll invest in the Wii-U the second it comes out, but I’m glad that Nintendo is finally making games in HD, which doesn’t bother me that much when I’m playing Zelda but noticeable afterwards when I’m watching gameplay videos from other systems and I do feel a twinge of jealousy. But mostly, I found that the motion control mechanics did almost nothing for me on the Wii, which is why there were so few games I wanted to buy (I did enjoy for the record, Mario Galaxies, Twilight Princess, NSMBW, No More Heroes, maybe some others I’m forgetting).

    Basically, I hope there’s equal measure of innovation (whatever that will entail) and traditional, solid, foundational, whatever you want to call it, old-school awesome game design.

    Phew. Glad that’s off my chest. I promise all my subsequent comments won’t be so long-winded.  I migrated here from the AV Club, which I’ve been reading for something like 6 years now, and Gameological quickly has become my favorite video game related site, both in the reporting and the comments.

    • Dikachu says:

      I still contend that the success of the Wii was the biggest stealth tragedy to occur to more-than-casual gamers like myself.  I’d so love to play Skyward Sword but 1) I am not gonna buy a system for 2-3 games (I’d also probably buy the Mario Galaxy ones too) and 2) every time I fired it up on my 52″ 1080p 240Hz 4-color LED TV I’d probably cry… the graphics look bad even on Best Buy’s dumpy 32″ LCD HDTV demo.

      If Nintendo were allowed to publish their console games on competitors’ systems, though… ahh (little bit of jizz leaks out)

      • The Sputnik Sweethearts says:

         In a way, that’s why I’m glad I missed out on gaming in general in the last few years  – in my mind graphics on the Wii don’t seem like such a huge step down!

        • Nudeviking says:

          This.  The Wii was a huge graphically upgrade over the stuff I was playing on my Gameboy Advance (aka the last non-desktop computer video game system I had prior to buying a Wii).

      • double_hawk says:

        A lot of games (such as the galaxy games and skyward sword) have gotten around the graphics problems with their stylized visuals.

        skyward sword and the mario galaxy games are worth the cost of a system though (as well as super smash bros brawl and mario kart!)

        • Dikachu says:

          I’m sure if I actually started playing it and got into it, I’d probably care less about the inferior graphics… but the chances of me buying a Wii just for a couple games are nil, especially since I made that mistake with the GameCube 10 years ago.

        • double_hawk says:

          I did the same and while there were a few great games on the cube, it wasn’t overall very good.  Though I’ll still put on wind waker or even Rouge Squadron (which was a launch title!) every now and then cause they are still awesome

        • bradwestness says:

          I prefer the stylized graphics too (and I liked Wind Waker’s graphics as well) more than ultra-realism for Mario and Zelda games.

          I’ve never really found the difference between 480 and 1080 to be that noticeable, but aside from resolution, Skyward Sword does have really, really noticeable aliasing all over the place. 

          They must have had to disable any filtering to keep the framerate playable. It would be interesting to see what it would look like on the Wii U with anti-aliasing enabled.

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

           @Dikachu:disqus @double_hawk:disqus A working Gamecube can be had for $16 these days, so I’ve been debating buying one literally just so I can play Eternal Darkness.

      • Asinus says:

        I thought that i’d feel that way about Xenoblade, but once you get used to the lower resolution, it’s not even noticeable (unless you’re just one of those people who fixates on graphics, but it doesn’t sound that way). Mario Galaxy is perfectly cartoony enough that lower quality textures fade and the game looks exactly as good as it should. Skyward Sword wants to be on a HD system a little too badly and the textures turn up muddled. I liked how they fade to an impressionistic painting in the distance (it’s a nice work around limitations) but they really should have gone back to Wind Waker graphics– Wii does cartoony very well (see No More Heroes, Mad World). 

  7. Aymanut says:

    Pikmin 3 made me JIZZ IN MY PANTS. Pikmin 2 is my favorite game of all time.

  8. JokersNuts says:

    I’m a huge Nintendo fan and usually come to their defense, but the Wii U demo video I watched this morning (with the “family” playing some flight simulator, and lame multiplayer chase game using Miis) was horrible.  I know the games used were just to show off the technology, but it felt so lame and more of a new Wii Accessory, than a brand new system. 

    • Dikachu says:

      Considering the Wii was practically just a rehashed GameCube with a funky new controller, that’s pretty bad.

  9. double_hawk says:

    I’m a nintendo fanboy but I don’t think i’ve ever been that underwhelmed by a press conference before.  Pikmin looks great but that was the only exciting part.  Apparently the nintendo-land stuff is more fun than it looks though

  10. Dikachu says:

    “The trouble with the enforcement of understanding, though, is that it leaves no room for epiphany.”

    This, right here, is pure fucking gold.  It should be tattooed backwards on every game director/producer’s forehead so they see it every goddamn morning.

    I grew up playing video games when virtually nothing was actually explained to you… you had to actually FIGURE SHIT OUT.  And it was incredibly fun and rewarding to do so — would the original Legend of Zelda be anywhere near as awesome if Link had a fairy telling him every goddamn thing along the way?

    Nowadays every studio insists on bashing every detail of the game mechanics over your head at every opportunity… cut scenes, voice overs, popups, button diagrams… it’s like programming robots to do repetitive tasks.  I can understand the impulse — reaaaaaally casual gamers may not want to play if they can’t mow through it in a few hours — but there are still a ton of us who just wanna dive in and explore.

    • Merve says:

      A lot of recent games have pop-up tutorials or tooltips that can be turned off from the options menu. Some even have an optional hints system that will help you if you get stuck. I feel like that’s the best way to do it: if you want a part of the game explained to you, then that option is available to you, but if you want to discover the game on your own, then you’re free to do so.

    • SamPlays says:

      I’ve been playing games since the Atari 2600, so I don’t really consider myself a casual gamer. Granted, I play less now than I did during my teen years and early-20s but I still find the time fit in a “non-causal” game every month or so. I think its an exaggeration to suggest that effective, virtual wayfinding is for really casual gamers. It ultimately comes down to the game you’re playing. For example, the Fallout games are generally non-intrusive in how they engage the player and you’re left to your own devices to explore the world at hand. However, action-oriented games such as Uncharted and Mass Effect benefit from clearer direction. Much like any sports game, the flow of action is better experienced when it’s not interrupted (intentional or not). Speaking of sports games, the SSX series was always very good at keeping a fast pace without “bashing every detail” on how to reach the end of the trail. I think the Call of Duty games are a little too heavy-handed in making sure players know exactly where to go and what to do. However, I can appreciate that the developers want to ensure that players experience (relatively) non-stop action and their decision certainly did not prevent me from enjoying the game. Some games, including the Metal Gear Solid series, seem keenly aware of the connection between holding a controller and the perceived experience of immersion and exploit that to (often) humorous results.

      I think it’s safe to say the limitations of games in the past were one reason why you had to “figure shit out”. When you’re working with scant memory on some of these titles, the only viable option for telling players how to make their way was by providing (relatively) thick manuals and maps – I’m remembering King’s Quest when I say this. Don’t forget, too, the kids are prone to enjoying repetition more so than adults (attention capacity and span improves with age). You may simply be nostalgic for a time when repeating the same scenario in a game was the limit of your cognitive abilities! 

      Everything considered, I think there are plenty of gaming options today that invite players to “dive in and explore”. The benefit of today’s games is that these games are likely designed by choice rather than technological limitation.

    • Ziegfelding says:

      Hotel Dusk is the best example of this I have seen in recent years. If you’ve played the game you know the part I’m talking about. A puzzle solved by doing something no game ever had previously required you to do. And all you get is the same repeating set of hints to lead you to a completely unpredicted action. But when you figure it out its incredible and you find yourself blabbing about it in forums years later.

      • Kilzor says:

        The puzzle with the coins?  If not, refresh my memory!

      • caspiancomic says:

         The one where you have to close the device? That was pretty cool.

        • Ziegfelding says:

          Exactly. I was trying not to spoil it but I’m not sure how many years old a game needs to be for that to no longer be a concern.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Well, Cing did thst in their previous game in the (PLOT THING)

          4-game series.

          Still, point stands.

        • HilariousNPC says:

          Ah Ghaleon points out, it wasn’t that unexpected. I didn’t think it was nearly as clever as you did. To me it felt like when a 7-year old walks up to you and shows you a magic trick, and then stands there totally thinking you’re going to have the shit impressed out of you.

          (I’ll point out that there are a ton of moments like that in numerous other games, only the world of GameFAQs doesn’t allow people to have the “Aha!” moment for themselves, and that’s why they’re not as omni-present as they used to be.)

          Additionally, not everyone views those moments as fondly as you do. There’s an old Sega Master System X-Men game that has a puzzle telling you that you have to “reset the system”, and there’s a timer counting down. If the time counts down, you die and have to replay the level, never knowing what you were supposed to do, as there’s no obvious solution in the room.

          You’re actually supposed to hit the reset button on the console, which will disarm the bomb, but not actually reset the game. I know a few gamers who have never beaten that game, and hate it to this day because they never knew what to do.

    • alguien_comenta says:

      You can always play FEZ.
      Also, obligatory:

    • Asinus says:

      The last two Zelda games have filled me with rage specifically because of the “Go do little quest X. Here’s exactly how to do X. Now go do X and here’s how to do it again…” explanations.

  11. Really? Your complaint is that Nintendo over explains things, and that’s bad because Fi? 

    • What?!?!?! You want me to follow that furry thing that just popped out of the ground and scurried away from me? Well, let’s see… The path I’m on goes in two directions, the one that thing went in and the one I came from, while I’m flanked on both sides by cliffs. I don’t know what to do, FI, I need more info! WHERE DO I GO??!!?!?!!?

  12. double_hawk says:

    comment removed

  13. Saint Stryfe says:

    My biggest disappointment was one simple statement “When you sign in with your Wii U your Virtual Console and Wii Ware games will be downloaded to your system.” Wii with HDMI and and some new games? Fine. A silly thing like a Price would have been nice too. 

  14. Ryan Steiner says:

    “He was forcing a room full of industry VIPs and gaming press to sit there while, in essence, he explained to them how Pac-Manworks.”
    That’s who happened to be in the room but that was hardly the audience. Their audience was investors and potential investors, who aren’t as savvy as, well, probably anyone who happened to be attending the keynote.

    All this explanation is aimed squarely at investors and their message is: “Wii sales have plummeted, but we have a way to get our casual-gaming cash cows excited again.”

  15. rubi-kun says:

    Nintendo holding back on big games makes some sense given that they’ll need something to steal the show next year against the inevitable PS4/Xbox720 announcements. Even then, though, this was an awful presentation. And the lack of third party games is probably going to really bite them in the ass this time. Really, year-old ports are getting the spotlight? Other than Assassin’s Creed III and Rayman Legends, there doesn’t seem to be anything for the system (ZombiU looks generic and has the worst title ever for a game that does not take place at a university for zombies). At the least get Bioshock Infinite for launch, if not a big GTA/Final Fantasy-style system seller.

    • Merve says:

      Unfortunately, BioShock Infinite has been delayed until 2013. But I agree that Nintendo needed more upcoming AAA autumn releases as launch titles to get potential buyers excited.

  16. GrantB says:

    The only questions I have for Nintendo now are these:

    1) What are you doing to attract quality third-party developers to the Wii U?  (e.g. Do you consider it a problem that these devs largely ignored the Wii, and are you actively trying to solve that?)

    2) Do you think that the Wii’s massive glut of unimaginative low-price shovelware was a problem?  Will you try to raise the bar for quality so that when I go to GameStop I don’t see a wall of stuff that’s predominantly shit targeted at undiscerning parents?

  17. caspiancomic says:

    When the DS was first announced, I thought it was a stupid gimmicky little trinket. When the Wii was first announced, I thought it was going to blow the roof off and change the gaming landscape in ways I couldn’t even predict, like some kind of gaming singularity. In the end my personal experiences with both of these machines were the total opposite of my initial predictions: I love my DS and probably play it more than my PS3, while my Wii collects dust when I’m not using it to play Virtual Console games. My point is, I am utterly unable to predict how successful a Nintendo console is going to be.

    That said, I am cautiously optimistic about the Wii U. I mean yeah, the name is stupid, and so far there aren’t any games for it that have really turned my head, but I think the potential is there. If 3rd or 2nd party developers are given the proper tools to develop for the thing, we’ll probably see some really cool little games on it some day. Also possible: mountains and mountains of crappy shovelware.

  18. wolfndeer says:

    I don’t know why they didn’t learn from the launch of the 3DS. The Wii launched in 2006 — the economy was great and this was a new and interesting console. That isn’t to say the 3DS / WiiU aren’t interesting, but people need several good reasons to spend their money now. Nintendo should have made having amazing launch games a priority. Bundle the WiiU with a Mario game (like the SNES with SMW) and have several other major platform games ready as well, like a Donkey Kong, Pokemon, and Zelda. You can’t expect people to shell out hundreds of dollars for a collection of minigames and a zombie shooter.  

  19. JosephHilgard says:

    A beautiful final two paragraphs.  Thank you.