I could not be more bored.

Somedays you’ve got something that absolutely must be put down, a topic that practically writes itself, and somedays you don’t. Today is one of the latter.

I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors about the Wii’s successor in recent days. Many of the rumors seem far-fetched and self-contradicting, but one aspect they seem to agree on is that the new system appears to be a much more conventional system than the Wii was. The controller is evidently a reasonably normal two-handed job with buttons and the system’s horsepower is reportedly at least on par with the Xbox 360 and PS3, perhaps surpassing them. Nintendo has apparently been courting third-party support pretty hard (including names like Rockstar, who you don’t exactly associate with them). Some sources are even saying that there’s no inbuilt motion control and that the system won’t use the Wii moniker.

If any of this is true, it seems to indicate that Nintendo is retreating back to the core audience after six years of preaching the expanded audience strategy, and I’m not sure what to make of it. On the one hand, of course, I certainly fall into the core gamer category. I’ve got a Wii and enjoy it, but none of the twenty or so games I have for the system would be classified as a so-called casual game — it’s all stuff like Mario and Fire Emblem and Sin & Punishment, and the future releases I’m amped for include stuff like the new Zelda game, The Last Story, and Xenoblade Chronicles. I didn’t buy the system for motion controls and was in fact never really sold on them; rather, I bought it for the next installments in my beloved franchises. I’ve mostly regarded Nintendo’s attempts to expand the audience with a tolerant “rising tide lifts all boats” attitude. A system that appeals more towards the core — while still keeping Nintendo’s stable of franchises at close reach — is just what the doctor ordered just speaking personally.

On the other hand, though, you have to wonder if Nintendo is ceding the casual space to Apple, having concluded that the only way to make money off a dedicated video game device in this market is to shoot for the dedicated enthusiast fanbase. The Wii isn’t nearly as hot as it once was, after all… part of that is that Kinect is the hot new frontier in motion control, but maybe Nintendo has decided that casual gaming is a Daffy Duck “I can only do this trick once” deal and, having made their money, are retreating back to familiar waters.

That speaks poorly as to gaming’s future, in my mind… I live in terror of video games becoming a marginalized, niche hobby like comic books, completely at the mercy of the most obsessive, hardcore elements of its fanbase. Every time I see an exploitative, disturbing Japanese game or an adrenaline-soaked sci-fi power fantasy game, I kind of raise my eyebrow a bit. These are the kinds of games the core wants, but they’re not what I want. I don’t want video games to become inbred and self-feeding, never able to see beyond its own borders. However, neither do I want to see a world where the public doesn’t value games that cost more than five dollars — which I think is the ultimate result of Apple’s strategy. If those are the two extremes, I don’t consider myself allied with either one.

So I guess we’ll just have to wait and see where Nintendo jumps. Say what you will about Nintendo, but they always make their money back, so their next system is going to be a pretty big indication of where we’re headed. I just hope it’s somewhere I want to be.


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