Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Wii U Problems

I'm going to start this off by saying I absolutely love my Wii U. I don't regret the purchase at all, and I've played some great games on the system so far. I think the Game Pad offers some great new ways to interact with games, and at the very least, being able to play games off screen in the TV is being used is amazing. That being said, I understand why Nintendo is having a crap time selling them. Their latest financial report showed they only sold 160,000 units in the last 3 months. That's bad. They actually sold more Wii systems over that same time period. It's understandable though, for a couple of very simple reasons.

The first, price. The Wii U Deluxe bundle is $350, only has a 32 GB hard drive, and compared to the much more powerful PS4 that's coming in at $400 in a couple of months, it's not a great bargain. Nintendo shot themselves in the foot with the high price of the 3DS, and now people are expecting a similar price drop for the Wii U. I know people that are holding out anticipating a price drop, and I think even dropping the price by $50 could do a lot for Nintendo's public image. $50 cheaper than a much more powerful system doesn't entice many people to buy. $100 cheaper could give the Wii U the same kind of advantage with younger audiences whose parents just want a babysitter for their kids and will go with the cheapest option. The PS4, as it stands now, is worth the $50 for a Bluray player alone. $100 cheaper could also mean core gamers won't have a problem picking it up as a secondary system just for the Nintendo exclusives, which leads in to my next point...

GAMES! Bloody hell I've been making the most out of any Wii U game I've picked up. New games are coming, but not much that will entice people to pick up the game until later in the fall. There are some cool games coming out in the next couple of weeks, and I know I'm excited for Pikmin 3 and Wonderful 101, but I don't think they're system selling games. However, a price drop now could make some people, like the many people I know that are waiting for either a price drop or Super Smash Bros (or both) pick up the system now, just to make sure they get one before the holiday rush, and they'll likely pick up a few games as well, helping software sales and showing third parties that developing for the Wii U isn't a losing battle.

Nintendo has stated before that they sell Wii U at a loss. That's not uncommon for game systems, for anyone that doesn't know, because they eventually bring the costs of technology down and recoup their costs with licensing fees and volume over time. Nintendo isn't used to selling systems at a loss, but they've also said they recoup the cost if they sell one game with the system. Dropping the price a bit will make their loss per system a little worse, but with a lot of great looking games coming out over the next few months, there's little chance they won't be selling 1, 2, or even 3 games per system. They just have to get the system in people's homes. Hell, they could even do a fall promo. Buy and register two games, get $10 eShop credit for free. This kind of thing could not only encourage people to pick up multiple games, but also encourage them to try out the digital games on the eShop or Virtual Console, helping bring indie developers to the systems, or showing off how great older games play on the Game Pad.

I think the Wii U has a lot of potential, and I hate seeing poor sales due to Nintendo being stubborn on a price point that seemed high before the PS4 was announced, and now just seems ridiculous. Learn from the 3DS. It's arguably the best system out there right now, but it had to get past its growing pains, horrid sales, and a massive price drop to get there.

I don't think the Wii U's price needs to drop that much, $50 should work, $100 would be a no-brainer. What do you think? If you haven't picked up a Wii U, what would encourage you to do so, if anything?

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review (sort of)

It's so hard to review a game like Animal Crossing: New Leaf. No matter how you describe it, I find it never sounds fun. Not even remotely. I remember first hearing about Animal Crossing back in the Gamecube days and wondering what all the fuss was about. I picked the game up and the next several months were a blur. The real world blended with the town my siblings and I created in the game. Dinner conversations were a mix of real world events and discussing who was moving out of town and how many bells (in-game currency) turnips were going for that day. A few iterations later, the game still has the same hold over the people I find playing it. My girlfriend, who didn't get the hype at all leading up to the game's launch a few weeks ago, reluctantly bought it on launch day with me, and has clocked in around as many hours as I have. We're hooked. We love it. It's already topping the most played list on our 3DS systems. I still don't think I can describe the game in a way that will make any Animal Crossing virgins who might be reading this want to play it. I'll try, briefly, because I so desperately want more towns to go visit. 

For those unfamiliar with the series, you start the game on a train, headed to a village where you're planning on settling down. The game randomly generates villages, and you get to pick one that looks good. It also determines what you will look like through a series of questions presented to you by a cat. When you  arrive in town in this game, there's some sort of mix-up and you become the mayor. You pick a spot for your house, and the characters in your village start explaining things. There's really no guide after that though. You can chose to build up your house, do different projects around the town, talk to other villagers, shop in the stores, etc. The more you do, the more options are presented to you. 

The big hook of the game is that it runs on a real-world clock. That means if it's 4 pm in the real world, it's 4 pm in the game. The villagers go on and things happen even if you're not there. If you let the game go too long, you'll notice weeds and garbage around your town when you get back. You may even find some pesky roaches have moved in to your house. It's a good incentive to check in every day. 

The game can get off to a slow start, for people that don't know the benefits of continuing on with the game. At first you have very limited options on what you can do, but as you build up different stores, locations, landmarks, and projects, the game becomes more rewarding, and collecting and unlocking various things becomes an obsession. It's kind of like The Sims I suppose, which I've also never found to be very appealing on paper, but once you get in to it it becomes almost a second life. 

On the 3DS, the game looks and plays great. Even when visiting other players towns online, the game responds very well and keeps a great framerate. The online features are a welcome additions, and visiting other towns and collecting guest houses via Streetpass is one of my favourite things to do in this new version. 

Overall, I can't say Animal Crossing is a game that's going to be fun to play like a Mario game is. I find it's good in short bursts, which is why I opted for the digital download version. It's always on my system, so when I'm finished playing something else, I can pop open Animal Crossing, check what I want to do for the day, then move on to another thing. I've been very impressed with the sheer amount of things that keep happening in this game, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a reason to keep their 3DS handy for the foreseeable future.

- Mark