Let Freedom Ring
04 Jul 2008 17:28
David MarseillesDavid Marseilles

Let Freedom Ring

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Open Letter to Nintendo from WiiHD


Dear Miyamoto-san,
We believe in the Wii. Not simply as a blue ocean surfing, expanded audience party machine. But as a device that can compete head-to-head with the PS3, 360 and even the PC as a core gaming platform. Sometimes we wonder at Nintendo under-selling the device and its owners, as George Harrison did repeatedly last year, saying we weren't the type of gamers that liked aggressive online multiplayer and did not need such features. We remember the promise you made to have a dual focus; on both the casual audience And the core audience, and we find it wanting.

Yes, Galaxy was an incredible game. Nintendo is and perhaps always will remain the king of platformers. Nintendo also does great honor to gamers by really trying to make a new game that has a reason to exist, other than the quest for more money. Mario Kart and Brawl were solid core games that delivered fun and did it in a big way. Metroid Prime 3 Corruption was one of the best games of 2007, not in spite of the Wii, but largely Because its uniqueness, yet it did not get its due.

Of course one of the reasons MP3C didn't get its due was that Nintendo of America didn't bother to advertise it. They allowed Wii Shop users on the 40-some-odd percent of Wiis that had connected to the internet at that point to download a nice video channel if they wanted, and left it at that. Naturally, it still sold around a million and half copies, as many of us were dying to get our hands on it from the first time we saw it at E3 2006. But the larger gaming world was content to ignore the incredible gameplay, the compelling and foreboding enviornments and the heavily integrated adventure elements that made MP3C a unique and exciting game. Perhaps they ignored it because Nintendo did. Sure, you made certain it was a quality game, and when Retro needed more time to fine-tune it, you ensured that they got it, which is more than most publishers do these days. But you didn't promote it, and you let the world ignore something incredible that should never have been ignored. You had the resources to give the world a look at that game, and at the Wii as a platform itself, in a way they didn't see at the time: as a system that was not only suitable for, but brilliant for core games.

This was not an isolated incident. Nintendo aided and abedded those who wrote off the Wii as a system that could only handle housewives and small children. When your company had the opportunity to demonstrate to the nay-sayers, neutral parties, and most importantly, 3rd party developers, that the Wii was about more than party games. That not only could the Wii handle incredible core gaming, even that with a uniquely Western sensibility, but it could excel at it. That what it lacked in horsepower did not prevent pleasant looking games, and that what it provided in controls, nothing else could match.

Nintendo has made great games, and so they seem to think that they've fulfilled their promise to core gamers to focus on them as well as the casual. The problem is that Nintendo is NOT just a publisher. Nintendo is the shepherd of the Wii platform, and their leadership must be greater than just good development. To keep your promise, you need to take an active role in 3rd party success, especially in 3rd party core success. In addition, you have to address to the inadequacies of the Wii's online system.

Friend codes are the enemy of core gamers, and at the same time, they do not fulfill their promise to protect children, and quite possibly, they do just the opposite.

First, let me explain why your system does not provide protection to children. If you've ever been to a Nintendo-themed blog or internet forum, you know that one main-stay of them is a central repository of Friend Codes. There are millions of kids online trading Friend Codes with complete strangers as we speak. While they're doing the all-too-familiar Friend Code mining, they are coming into contact with people online that they never would have were it not for this ineffective parental control, and they are establishing a dialogue there that could be used against them.

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In the meantime, parents are told constantly not to worry because Friend Codes protect their children for them. And so you've actively discouraged the most potent form of parental control: parents. A proper and effective parental control will encourage monitoring of minors by their parents, and provide useful monitoring tools. The least effective system takes parents out of the equation and leaves kids to find a way around your static technology. They always do, and they've been working their way around this one for years, exposing them to all manner of strangers in the process while their parents think all is well.

Second, let me explain how they interfere with core gamers. I'm in my late 20s. I work hard, I take care of family and help friends, and when it comes time to play, I want to sit down and play. I don't want to have to work to be able to enjoy online multiplayer to its fullest—which means occasionally playing with strangers. People like myself are old enough to go to war, drink, smoke and do things in 37 states that would make our parents roll over in their graves. Also, we're cordless. We don't need your Friend Codes to protect us from evil baddies.

Yet you do not provide a way for adults to opt out of the Friend Code system and have a reasonable lobby-based online system. Nor do you provide basic 7th generation online features like voice chat or even basic 6th generation features like text chat. To play with strangers at all, we'd need to mine Friend Codes off of forums the way kids do. The problem is, we're adults. We already have jobs, and mining isn't on our list of desirable activities. Kids have time to mine, but we don't.

So effectively, you protect adults and destroy functionality while you endanger children. Enough. Other online services already provide protection and parental controls for minors that are effective and don't interfere with features for adults. At least you could copy them. At best, you could improve them dramatically while still retaining features. For now, your system of parental controls is inferior to that of your competitors, whether the media recognizes it or not. You've chosen the worst of both worlds, and in the process, you've hurt core gamers even more, as 3rd parties wonder just how useful online features designed for adults would be under the Wii's archaic-feeling constraints anyway.

Finally, you've dragged your heels on storage space long enough. We know that the SD card can opened up for content. We know that USB drives are possible, and we know that you're smart enough to design systems that will protect your content on those mediums. And we're sick of waiting, and we're sick of seeing third party Wii games miss out on features that appear on the same games on other systems because publishers are concerned that storage scarcity will limit their return more than even the cost of their DLC.

We here at WiiHD love the Nintendo Wii. A host of core gamers, including millions that have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Nintendo over the course of several generations, love the Wii. You haven't kept your promise to us yet, but there's still time. Exercise your considerable new 7th generation wealth and ensure that these basic 7th gen necessities are met, because we believed in you, and we need you to believe in us. Start with High Voltage Software's The Conduit, beg to publish the game, give it the coming out party that Metroid Prime deserved to have with millions in advertising, and give them access to the online feature set including a Friend-code free lobby system over the Nintendo Wifi Connection and the voice chat functionality we know you are working on.


Please feel free to repost this Open Letter in full anywhere, but please credit and link back to WiiHD.

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