Zach asks the questions that Nintendo won't answer.
Before we get into this, let me be perfectly blunt: nobody is going to ask Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, or anyone else any of these questions. You’ve read interviews with Nintendo. The media throws lowballs, and they parrot off the company line in a self-congratulating way. Hell, they do the same even when people throw a fastball! However, these are questions that need to be answered, for the North American market and elsewhere. Reggie and/or Iwata seem like perfectly good candidates to provide some answers for irate consumers. I don’t expect any frank responses, but hey, a girl can dream. Lord knows if I had the opportunity to sit down with either of these men, I’d be giving them these tough questions.
1. Let’s talk about the 3DS. It’s a wonderful piece of hardware and although its full potential wasn’t realized right off the bat, it got there in the first year. You can’t say that for the original DS or, arguably, the Wii. However, the system has been plagued with hardware problems unseen in other Nintendo products. Surely you’ve heard about the infamous vertical grease lines, broken shoulder buttons, and faulty cameras. On the whole, the 3DS feels rushed. Did the number of hardware problems the 3DS has experienced surprise you? Was the system not fully vetted before going to market?
2. This issue plagued the Wii in North America and Europe: toward the end of the system’s life, we just aren’t seeing Virtual Console games anymore. Europe went through months without a VC release, and North America was even worse. And there was never any explanation as to what titles were chosen and why, or reasons given for such a severe dry-up in the service. For example, there’s always been a high demand for EarthBound (SNES), but it was never released. Instead, Nintendo of America gave us Ice Climbers, which nobody wanted, or Pokemon Puzzle League (instead of, say, Tetris Attack). Could you explain the process for getting VC games onto the Wii Virtual Console, and why things tapered off so harshly?
3. It took four or five years for the Wii’s Virtual Console to grind to a halt, but the process seems to be happening much faster for the North American eShop Virtual Console, which is terrifying. The Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and Game Gear, combined, must have hundreds of perfectly good games to release on the service, so it’s unclear and worrying how weeks will go by—weeks—without any Virtual Console releases at all, and when the smoke eventually does clear, it’s something like Qix or Lock & Chase. Nintendo of Europe and Nintendo of Japan have had no problems in this area—both localities have Wario Land and Kid Icarus: Myths & Monsters. I guess the biggest Virtual Console question I have is this: why has Nintendo of America been so reluctant to support the Virtual Console, both of the Wii and the 3DS?
4. Please describe, in as much detail as possible, Nintendo of America’s increasingly cozy relationship with GameStop. Xenoblade Chronicles was a GameStop exclusive, as was the Circle Pad Pro. The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower are also slated to be GS exclusives. 3D Classics: Kid Icarus was a timed (thank god) GS exclusive. Why did I have to buy my Circle Pad Pro through Nintendo’s website—and pay shipping to Alaska—because every GameStop, as usual, only received two or three units, which sold out immediately and didn’t have any idea when more were coming? Wouldn’t the Circle Pad Pro have more sales success in the hands of other retailers? Did GameStop come to you with a giant bag of cash for these exclusives, or did Nintendo of America actively seek them out a partnership? As you are doubtlessly aware, many gamers (including myself) view GameStop as the devil, so you can understand our hesitation when we read about Nintendo getting friendly with the industry’s version of The Great Satan.
5. Historically, Nintendo has been—frankly—unapologetically ass-backwards when it comes to online infrastructure. The Wii is a perfect example. The 3DS is certainly better. It fully embraces online shopping and gaming. Mario Kart 7 and Kid Icarus: Uprising are wonderfully competent online, and the recent eShop upgrade that allows me to pay exactly what I need to pay to buy something is great. I might caution, however, that these improvements merely bring Nintendo up to the bare minimum status quo. I don’t really think Nintendo can be congratulated for implementing something that Microsoft and Sony have been doing for the better part of a decade. How seriously is Nintendo committed to a fully functional, fully featured online experience for the Wii U? Will Wii U and 3DS accounts be linked? On PSN, for example, my Vita and PS3 are both linked to a centralized PSN account, which stores my funds. If I add $20 to my PSN account, I can buy downloadable content on my PS3 AND my Vita—I don’t have to mess with separate transactions for both. The recent news that Nintendo will be releasing full retail games for download is shockingly proactive, but the news that downloads will be tied to a single system—just like the Wii—really tempers that news. That leads me to my next question.
6. The other much-maligned sticking point with the Wii’s downloadable content is how downloads are tied to the system, not a centralized account. When I bought a new Wii because my launch unit went kaput, the NOA representative told me they could not transfer my downloaded software to the new system. Instead, I actually had to pay to repair the old system—which is what I wanted to avoid in the first place. Will the Wii U have the same limitation? How did Nintendo justify this inane decision during the Wii’s development? Did nobody think it would be a problem or was it simply a limitation of the available technology—to Nintendo (not to Sony or Microsoft)? The recent news from Nintendo Direct, that full retail downloads will be tied to specific systems, means that Nintendo is keeping up this trend. What is the reason for sticking with this?
7. As you may recall, the Wii was difficult to find at launch due to production shortages and extremely high demand. Do you expect the same demand this time around, and have you taken steps to avoid shortages?
8. We haven’t seen a really stellar launch game for a Nintendo system since, arguably, Super Mario 64. Twilight Princess doesn’t really count—it was a GameCube game. Can we expect that trend to reverse itself for the Wii U? What will be the “killer app” that gets asses in camping chairs on launch day? How aggressively is Nintendo pursuing quality 3rd-party relationships to help with a strong launch? What lessons did Nintendo learn from the botched 3DS launch?
Well, that was cathartic. What questions would you like Reggie, Iwata, or anyone else to answer?