Published on February 15th, 2014 | by Darren Bolton

Nintendo! Hey, listen! – Your Approach To Online

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Let’s not beat around the bush here, Nintendo’s approach to online is so backward you worry its mum and dad are brother and sister. They haven’t even caught up with LAST gen yet never mind keeping pace with this one, or, crazy to think, be industry leaders in this field. Can you remember those days, when Nintendo were industry leaders in pretty much all fields? I still strongly believe they lead the way in software, and ultimately that IS the most important thing, I still think they are the biggest innovators in hardware which creates new experiences. I’m not going to lie, I miss the days Nintendo led the way in technical aspects, but I understand why they don’t, and feel it is a good thing there is a cheaper solution out there for people, rather than three identical machines; but what I can’t forgive is Nintendo’s ineptitude, ignorance and downright stubbornness with regards to “online”.

Before I continue this thought, I want to go back near 15 years, when Nintendo were the absolute multiplayer kings – they pioneered 5 player gameplay on the SNES with their multi-tap – Super Soccer, Bomberman, Street Racer etc They took this further by having the first console with four controller ports on the N64, a stupendous multiplayer console – the birth of Smash Bros, Mario Kart 64, GoldenEye (hard to imagine Nintendo were also the console kings of FPS!). What happened?!? How did they lose the crown so easily? So pitifully? Because they didn’t embrace online, because they lost the foresight they once had. Now Call of Duty and Fifa are the multiplayer kings.

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Fact is, online play is just the dominant way people play together now. Online is becoming the dominant way we socialise and interact now. Let’s not discuss how much of a shame this is, and it is, there is NOTHING like 5 player Nintendoland, or local play Mario Kart or Wii Sports; Nintendo still have that, but people, primarily, play online; or if there isn’t an online component they still want a social online component, and Nintendo has missed this. Disastrously. I feel this is one of the biggest reasons they have lost the mindshare in the gaming community. They have such an outdated view on technology and services, that people don’t see them as exciting; people want new, and modern, with social services – everything is moving that way. Nintendo promised us the “air” of online play; but they’re trapped in a mine and they’re sending their canaries to die.

Let’s have a look at their offerings on the Wii U, their brand new, modern console. At launch they provided Nintendoland, a fantastic multiplayer game, without online play. Their explanation (and they trot this out a lot) –  “They were set up from the start to be something people in the same room could enjoy.”(1) I’m sorry. Who said take local multiplayer OUT!? All this mindset is doing is STOPPING people from playing the game who don’t have access to family and friends to play with. This is why the game didn’t “do a Wii Sports”, because you limited its appeal in the modern world. What’s worse is it is a huge high-score game, yet you didn’t provide the ability to compare high-scores with friends. This is unbelievable

In the Investor briefing on January 30th Iwata admitted Nintendoland didn’t succeed how they hoped due to “the single-player experiences were rather weak”. Do you not think online multiplayer and/or high score sharing could have eliminated this problem?

You want to know what also didn’t “do a wii sports”? Wii Sports. The new, painfully inept online remake of the original sports, which are so terribly done it was almost pointless. With a great online set up, these could have been EXACTLY what the Wii U needed, but again, complete ineptitude in execution. Nintendo, what are you thinking?! I’ve covered this in more detail here.

Nothing more satisfying than playing to 3 people in the crowd...

You can look at every one of their releases and it is the same story –

New Super Mario Bros. U – no online multiplayer – “It wasn’t the focus this time”(2) and again no high-score sharing in the excellent challenge mode (though nice miiverse integration).
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Pikmin 3 – no online in the absolutely incredible multiplayer – “technical issues” – we don’t believe you Nintendo, then when pushed by Kotaku “what we’ve decided to do is focus on the single-player and local multiplayer”(3) Spot a pattern? There is online leaderboards though, for the great fantastic high-score attack mode, but hang on, it’s worldwide only, you can’t compare with friends. REALLY!?!? Oh boy. Considering you’re all about “playing with friends” nintendo, why have you ridiculously not included this? It’s just bizarre.

Super Mario 3D World – no online again, here’s what producer producer Yoshiaki Koizumi told Game Informer – “[W]e really wanted to deliver an experience that you can share with family, friends, or your boyfriend or girlfriend in the same place like you did with the original NES. We really want players to have fun in front of the TV, talking while they help each other out or get in each other’s way.”
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STOP IT!! Stop coming out with these preposterous reasons, you are either too lazy, or incapable. IT’S NOT 1986 ANY MORE NINTENDO!!!! I’ve played local multiplayer, it’s amazing, but so would playing online with friends – if anything, learn this – CHOICE IS GOOD! But again, there IS something positive, the stamps are a lovely addition to Miiverse and the ability to time attack each level with ghosts of friends is fantastic, a great Nintendo touch, the problem? Like everything else it’s half-baked. Why can we not have leaderboards for each level of all our friends times? I would bet anything more people would continue playing the game if there was a simple way to compete against each other, these randoms friends ghosts loses the competitiveness because you don’t know your “place”.

Wii Fit – great piece of software, but again, a missed opportunity for online interaction – the CLUBS you can join offer no incentive, no stats comparisons, no routine sharing abilities – you can see basic stats on gender divide and activity use. Great. 80% of the people are male, and most people play balance games, that’s really made the experience complete… You can compare your latest activities with people, but only if you click on them, it’s slow and cumbersome; again, why can we not compare high scores on each activity with everyone? That would get us off our fat arses and exercise!! And this is the basics, you should be doing so much more, what other, similar services are doing. Why isn’t the Wii Fit account online? Then there could be an app you can download and put in your additional exercises, or even a calorie counter and put your food in, we could create routines and compare stats and scores with friends away from the console. It’s bog-standard practice with other lifestyle services; but seems positively futuristic for Nintendo.

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Finally come two eshop games – NES Remix, fantastic nostalgia porn, suffers the same problems as their other titles – they have times for each level (you can see one other person’s score), you can post the score to Miiverse, but you can’t compare with your friends. This whole section is me repeating myself over and over again, but I feel it’s important to stress the same mistakes Nintendo make over and over  – LET US COMPARE OUR SCORES/TIMES WITH FRIENDS!!! The final game is Dr Luigi, the stupidly expensive, but great puzzler. Even this, incredibly simple game has been messed up by Nintendo. I won’t mention the difficulty in playing your friends due to the non-existent communication or game invite systems, but when you do finally get into a game, if you want to change mode, or ANY settings, you have to kick out of the play, set up a new game, and rejoin… OH BOY!!! There is a decent handicap system to even-up the game, but you want to tweak it further? You want to play flash, or classic mode? Even change the music? Kick out, start again… I have to go into online chat rooms to organise a game of this. Can you not see how utterly stupid this is Nintendo? Can you not see the huge barriers you put up? You can’t even do the basics!!

This also doesn’t include their non attempts at online with the multiplayer heavy Wii Party and Game and Wario, both of which would benefit greatly from it. Though to counter-act that it also doesn’t take into account the excellent miiverse integration in Game and Wario and Wind Waker, they do some lovely stuff. It’s just core online/social serves they lack.

For me, that’s a 100% cock up rate with online in their games on the Wii U. Some truly fantastic aspects, but really failing on the basics and the services gamers now want and expect. Do Nintendo realise this? Mario Kart is coming out soon and is their one big online game, surely this can be the explosive online experience which can take Nintendo forward and continue with Smash Bros. at the end of the year? We certainly hope so. We have discussed our ideas here. Mario Kart TV is a great start, though we do find it worrying it automatically creates a 30 second montage. I hope this isn’t it. Each player will have their OWN moments, their OWN stories. An automatic montage is great, but letting us edit our own videos would be dreamy – do Nintendo not realise how creative their fans are?mario_kart_wii_online

What gives me hope is that there is one title I feel they really did a truly excellent job, and it was 6 years ago – Mario Kart Wii. It’s crazy they haven’t come close to it since, even going ten leaps back with Mario Kart 7. But Mario Kart Wii was great – online play was quick and smooth, there were free monthly online challenges, and time trials were handled perfectly – you could compare your times with the world, your country and, yes, with your friends. You could even download any ghost you wanted to race against. Perfect. This should be the standard functionality online for all games where relevant, then on top of this you can throw in your excellent, quirky touches.

In the previous weeks we’ve looked at how you can revolutionise online play, I wont repeat myself. Here are the articles – Miiverse and Wara Wara Plaza

Here are 5 additional things:

1. Party Chat – even the Playstation Vita has party chat. It may be too late from a technical standpoint. But let us talk to each other. We need to communicate to set up online games. Stop being afraid of social interaction. You pulled the same arguments with your friend code reasoning, but it NEVER made sense, you’ve abandoned it and we’re all okay. In retrospect you look as archaic as we all knew you were at the time. You’re making the same mistake. Let us talk to each other in games, communicate more freely with messaging.

2. Game Invites – I came up with a solution last week, but if you could have a system wide solution that would be even better.

3. When we are online, let us check our friends list, Monster Hunter allows this so it’s possible, but no other game does.

4. Realise people want to play together online and start seeing its importance in all your multiplayer offerings

5. Allow for high-score sharing among FRIENDS – 3D World, Wii Fit, Nintendoland, Pikmin 3, Nintendoland, Dr Luigi would all benefit greatly from this.

As a final note. We could write a more exhaustive article on the 3DS’ online ineptitude, there are some excellent examples of online play, but most fall short in exactly the same ways. For example, yesterday saw the release of their first free-to-play experiment; the online enabled Steel Diver; and it summarises perfectly what I’ve been saying. Basics: this online focussed game gives you no ability to have FRIENDS games. Cool Nintendo Quirk: You write text messages via morse code.

(1) Producer Katsuya Eguchi, Speaking, speaking with Famitsu (2) Shigeru Miyamoto, speaking with Kotaku (3) Shigeru Miyamoto, speaking with Kotaku

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