Yes, you read the title of this editorial correctly; I bought a game for a console I do not own. The game in question is Ubisoft’s ZombiU. It is not a gift or present for a loved one; I fully intend to use it myself. But why would I spend money on a game if I don’t own the console to play it on? That’s just madness, right?
The first reason I bought it was because I need new underwear (by all accounts I may need more once I have played ZombiU). British retailer The Hut was offering a deal; buy three pairs of boxer shorts at £15 ($23.75), and get ZombiU for £20 ($31.50). So I could pay £35 ($55.25) for boxer shorts and the game, or £40 ($63) just for the game. I like a bargain when I see one, so I snapped it up.
But again, I can’t play it. Yet.
The second reason was more of a statement to myself: I am going to purchase Nintendo’s console. It may be days, weeks, or potentially months before I can afford to do so, but with ZombiU’s cover now staring at me day after day, I am invested in the future of Nintendo. The fact that I have not yet been able to string together enough pennies to buy one has annoyed me, but not as much as the naysayers and Nintendo haters that seem to have rounded on the new console. One only need browse the Wii U articles in Google News to see that the majority are written with a negative slant, criticising sales figures, bashing games and, if you happen to be someone who is still interested in what Michael Pachter has to say, a gloomy Armageddon for the House of Mario.
I guess that this is indicative of the modern era of fanboy culture and trolling; when Nintendo launched the Wii U’s predecessor in 2006, the Internet was still finding its social media feet. Facebook and Twitter were in their infancy, and gaming journalism was still domineered by published magazine websites, but from that time there has been the steady rise of people, like myself and the Warp Zoned team, who write articles not because it is our job, but because we have a keen interest in the subject matter. We often review games after the release, having paid for them, and therefore offer a more objective viewpoint than those websites or entities who have received gifts or advertising revenues from companies. There are numerous glaring examples of gaming websites being revealed as thinly veiled PR, perhaps the most famous being Jeff Gerstmann being fired by Gamespot, possibly due to pressure from publisher and advertiser Eidos over his less-than-glowing review for Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.
But the flip side is that the massive games journalism industry needs content, and thus we get articles that have wild, exploitative headlines that drive people to these sites. Nintendo just happens to be a very easy target. It has launched a console in the toughest economic climate since home video game consoles have existed. Here in the UK, we are facing the threat of a triple-dip recession, and longtime entertainment chain HMV, the place I first got my hands on a Wii U GamePad, has just gone into administration. To add to this tough economic reality, Nintendo face competition not only from the current generation of consoles, but also from mobile and tablet gaming apps. Last week’s CES show in Las Vegas brought us news of Valve’s much-rumoured Steam box, as well as Nvidia’s Project SHIELD. These new machines join an increasingly crowded market, with two Android-powered Kickstarter projects, Ouya and GameStick, also due to launch this year.
The point I am trying to make is this: Nintendo has braved this crowded, changing landscape with a new console, only to be met with derision and ridicule. Critics and fanboys of the other consoles are baying for blood, slicing apart the Wii U’s early sales figures and predicting failure by scattering the innards on the Internet like some medieval witch. Instead perhaps we should give the new console more than two months before judging it. When Sony and Microsoft launch their next machines, it is almost guaranteed that they will be priced far higher than the Wii U. However, I am not just a fan of Nintendo, and being a Playstation 3 owner, I will not be tearing into Sony when the uptake is slow. Of course it will be, for the same reasons I have mentioned above. The world is in dire financial straits, and a reasonable assumption is people cannot afford the extravagance of a new console as they once could.
Yet it is Nintendo, above all the other companies in our gaming sphere, that has pushed our ideas of how we play games. It is an innovator, not only with its hardware, but with its software as well. The company manages to reinvent its list of heroes time and time again, and for the most part it always feels fresh. But without Super Mario Kart, would we have Sonic & All Stars Racing or Little Big Planet Karting? Without the Wii’s motion controls, would we have Move or Kinect?
At the end of the day, I buy a Nintendo console because I know I will get great first party games, and hopefully some amazing third party titles too. I know the Wii U will not disappoint in either of these regards; I am geeking out about having a motion tracker on the GamePad’s screen while playing Gearbox’s Aliens: Colonial Marines. That is why I invested in ZombiU, because I am excited by this new console, this new beast. I guess what it boils down to is this: I bought the game because I want the Wii U to succeed. From my perspective, if the Wii U does well, it means gaming prospers and we all benefit. If those with negative opinions about Nintendo have their predictions come true, if the Wii U fails and Nintendo quits the console market, the naysayers would reap what they sow. It would be a very dark day for gaming indeed.