While the Xbone and the Wii U will not be competing on store shelves for another few months, their respective parent companies are in similar positions, scrambling to make both consoles more appealing to the gaming masses. What is most interesting to me is how both companies have chosen to handle the process. The different ways that both companies handle disappointment brings to light some of the variations in Japanese and American business mentalities. On one side, an American company that gave its consumers a big “Fuck You” and is now in the process of begging for forgiveness. On the other side, a Japanese company that feels the best way to deal with adversity is to stubbornly stick to the original plan, no matter how messed up things have become.
Microsoft’s Xbone troubles started before Don Mattrick had a chance to take one step off the stage at the conclusion of the Xbone announcement. The internet was rife with criticism for Microsoft’s freshly announced console, and for good reason, it was abysmal. Microsoft has spent the following months since the announcement event in May backpedaling and reversing nearly everything that was once known about the Xbone. Seemingly, Microsoft is attempting to reverse more policies for the Xbone than Wii Us sold in the past six months. The past three months have seen everything from the oppressive DRM policy to the Kinect requirement be reversed. Thanks to all the reversals, the Xbone is now set to be a PS4 knock-off sold at a higher price. At least, that is how it appears to gamers that stay abreast with gaming news. As Julian touched upon in his news article, all these changes will likely lead to an enormous amount of confusion this November. What effect that this confusion will have come launch day remains to be seen, but with any luck, it will be an entertaining launch day.
On the other side of the spectrum is Nintendo. After years of surviving the peaks and valleys of the video game industry, Nintendo has fallen out of touch with the gaming audience. Where Microsoft has made changes in trying to realign themselves with the desires of the gaming public, Nintendo remains stubborn in their ways, clinging to ancient ideas as if they are a last beacon of hope. Much the same as the Xbone was in May, the Wii U has very little positive to say about it. Nintendo’s misuse of the Virtual Console has bled over from the Wii, with much of the Wii’s catalog still not being ported over. The console is all but devoid of quality games, losing third-party developers quicker than if it was revealed that Nintendo hid child porn on each Wii U hard drive, and being pulled from the shelves of massive stores across the UK.
Despite all this, change does not appear to be in the air for the Wii U. Satoru Iwata, a man that has always been in touch with reality, has dismissed the notion that price is a factor in the Wii U’s pathetic sales. Apparently ignorant to the number of times he has been asked questions about the console’s price, Iwata has said that price clearly is not an issue since the Deluxe model is outselling the Basic model. Iwata, of course, ignores the fact that the Deluxe model is the better option between two terrible value propositions. He also ignores that some retailers have abandoned stocking the Basic model altogether. In Iwata’s mind, a weak lineup of games is the sole reason for the Wii U’s struggles. Nintendo’s stubbornness has painted the company into a corner, they want more games to be released so the console will sell more, but third-party developers want a larger user base before they begin to develop for the console again. Nintendo has pinned their hopes on a strong holiday lineup to sell what will be a year-old console. Unfortunately, much of the Wii U’s holiday lineup will also released for either the PS3 and 360, or the PS4 and Xbone, potentially setting the Wii U up for a disappointing holiday season.
The results of this year’s holiday season will shed some light on the future of all three major console manufacturers. In much the same way that the Wii U had a strong holiday launch, I expect both Sony and Microsoft to have the same. Sony has been careful to avoid any missteps so far, and as long as they refrain from the same mistakes they made with the PS3, they will enter the holiday season in a strong position. After their plethora of u-turns, Microsoft should now focus on clarifying exactly what the Xbone is. Nintendo may be facing their toughest holiday season. Arriving at the next-gen party a year early means they will not have the same fancy hardware their rivals will be touting. Barring the unlikely drop in price, the Wii U Deluxe will only be fifty dollars less than a PS4. It is easy to imagine many people opting for a PS4 over the Wii U, and with many PS4 launch titles being the same titles that the Wii U will have for the 2013 holiday, it is even easier to see this happening.
Nintendo is in the process of learning similar lessons that Sony learned with the PS3. Unfortunately, Nintendo is seemingly oblivious to Sony’s initial struggles last generation. As a Nintendo fan since Super Mario Bros., their handling of the Wii U sends my inner child into fits of nerd rage. As for Microsoft, I would heartily enjoy watching their demise at the hands of the Xbone. While both companies have gone about their business in very different ways, the handling of their respective next-gen consoles has become a joke. Unfortunately, the punchline to the joke will not be revealed until the dust settles from the holiday season and one company is faced with the revelation that their way was wrong.