Grumpy Gurevitz: A Pessimistic Optimist when it comes to Nintendo

The Big 'N' in all its Glory!

In a few months time the Nintendo 3DS will be launched, in our hands and part of our lives. At that point we will be able to point out all the things Nintendo have done wrong by being out of touch with the regular gamer, and our expectations when it comes to choice of games, console functionality and online experience. However, that’s then and this is now. Now is the time to be optimistic, to hope that Nintendo Of America have been listened to in Japan and how the device might be all we hope for and more.

Nintendo have a real opportunity to remind everyone why dedicated gaming devices can really deliver. This would be good for them (clearly), their fans and even for Sony who are hoping there is still a market for dedicated handheld gaming devices by the time they release their PSP2. For those without children, you should be aware: the itouch/Android set of devices are fast becoming children’s play things. Whether it be their parents’ phone they play on or just an itouch, which is sub £200 now.

Nintendo are betting that we all WANT 3D but don't want to buy a new TV or wear those stupid glasses. We also think it's quite scary that there are dads out there who dress up to play games, and block their child's view with their oversized feet.

Certainly, in the short term Nintendo have a great advantage with the DS being 3D, even if in the last few days they have issued health warnings saying children should not be exposed to the 3D side of the device. They might have issued the warnings, but they know that most parents will not deprive their children of the joy of experiencing 3D. After all, I know few parents who have chosen the 2D version of Shrek/Toy Story over the 3D one. Additionally, even if they start adding 3D screens to phones, it’s going to be a very different experience, as the DS, will still have 2 screens. One will continue to be 2D, and will be the screen you control the game from – you try using 3D controls, it’s not easy for the brain to see something with depth but then have to press something on the screen which is in effect ‘flat’ and 2D, like a virtual joystick. Additionally the 3DS has a range of traditional, real controllers, which for many games cannot be beaten by touch controls.

3D aside though, the 3DS also has great graphics. The iphone, though, also has great graphics; but the 3DS has some advantages if developers choose to take advantage of them. Firstly it has two processors, each of which are similar to that in the iphone. Secondly, even though it is running a background OS for the first time, like a phone, it’s still much more streamlined than an iphone type device, so more processing can be dedicated for gaming – certainly just being able to accept calls is a huge drain on a device like an iphone. Thirdly, there are reports that the 3DS cartridges start at 2gb, and go up to 8gb. If this is true then the amount of textures, audio, size of the game environments and lines of code can be be huge in comparison to iphone games (with Risen coming in at one of the largest, at 1gb). This allows, for example, a full GTA 4 city to be delivered on the device. The only thing holding back the 3DS might be its relative amount of RAM, with some rumours saying it’s as little as 64 Megs, the same as the PSP. However, the PSP did deliver a simplified Liberty City, so with clever coding a lot can be squeezed out of this. If these rumours are wrong though, and if the device were to have 128-256mb of RAM, then it would be in the same range as current consoles.

How NOT to do an online store: exhibit 1

The 3DS, so far, has not been marketed as a device which has general apps; but its overall online experience should be amazing. We are expecting proper gamertags (meaning no more friend codes), proper purchasing accounts with credit cards being stored with a password lock (it can still use points – that’s OK with me), and a store which is not simply a slow loading website page, with poor search and find solutions. Oh, and the quality of titles will now become good and wide. In fact, everything the DSiWare experience is not! Indeed, there is no reason why a range of non-game apps should and could not be released as the machine has the processing power to deliver them. Additionally when it comes to games, we hope for and expect some AAA titles, in terms of graphics and gameplay experience. Unlike the DSi, the 3DS we are told will be able to launch games from the SD card slot, so in theory you can carry 64gb or more of practical storage at a cheap price.

The new store and online environment promises to be quicker, with video previews and much more. Could Nintendo be about to out Apple, er, Apple when it comes to user experience? Surely not! Probaly not actually....

The 3DS can be connected to the Nintendo Network, even when the device is closed. Nintendo have already discussed how DLC, hi scores and other data can be ‘pushed’ to our devices, either via Nintendo or via local connections made in the ‘real world’ whilst players are out and about. Now, if the device can download and upload data whilst closed, perhaps it will allow us to have video calls, perhaps with support from Skype, where we could receive a call whilst the device is closed, with it making a ‘ringing’ sound prompting us to open it to receive the call. 3D video calls would be quite remarkable, even if it was ‘fake’, as the camera capturing the image would not be 3D of course. A bit of software gimmickry perhaps required there!

Lastly, Nintendo have their great popular franchises. Many of these have become newly popular with a much wider audience via the Wii. For hardcore gamers, it might be a little tiring to have yet another Mario Kart; but for many gamers, even those who never got a DS (there are some) being able to bring a close to Wii experience in their hand will be a real cause for excitement. I only hope that the third party developers step up and bring real, AAA experiences to the machine too, thereby making sure it doesn’t become a dumping ground for cheap conversions or brain training type games which is what the Wii and DS have become.

Looking ahead only 6-9 months from now, I am looking forward to Nintendo bringing out a 3DSG, which has a 3G module built in, offering an ‘always on’ data connection similar to the Amazon Kindle, for an extra £50. Personally, I would have wanted this released first, but it’s clear Nintendo won’t be doing this. I would part-ex my launch device for this improvement.

I'll have one of these with 3G connectivity please....

So…. in summary, Nintendo could not only have a short term star on its hands but do what it never achieved with the DS, or Wii, i.e. build a viable platform, something which doesn’t have an obvious life cycle. This will either be because our apps can carry over to new iterations along with our gaming community (as with the iphone devices) or because the device itself is powerful enough to grow with the audience expectation over the next three years without looking too tired as we near the 3DS version 2. Can I ask one thing though? Don’t forget Mac users. Sony always forgets us, assuming we only buy Mac and hence itouch over PSP. Assuming the 3DS might have some kind of backup/synch software like itunes, or even Sony’s MediaGo, can it please be made Mac compatible? Mac users like game consoles too you know.

The future could be bright. Once the 3DS is released though, let’s tally our hopes against the reality.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

One comment

  1. KrazyFace /

    Good read. I however, am on the pessamistic side of things concerning this new machine. I heard Nintendo’s hype about the DSiWare stuff and I stupidly put some faith into them. After the massive disapointment that was the DSiWare, I’m going to back off from this next one and watch from the sidelines to see what happens first.

    If they can bring out some new games and squeeze a bit of originality out of the 3D screen, and even incorporate that into some new Apps, I’ll buy into it. Until then, I’m watching you Ninty!

Leave a Reply