EA Sports Dodges Questions It Recycled FIFA on the Wii


Owen Good

EA Sports Dodges Questions It Recycled FIFA on the WiiA week ago, Chris Scullion of Nintendo Gamer and Official Nintendo Magazine ripped FIFA 13‘s Wii version chin-to-groin, for being basically indistinct from FIFA 12 other than roster and uniform updates. Everyone knows the Wii is a dead console walking, but that does not excuse a major publisher palming off last year’s release like it’s something new this year.

Most folks go “Sim sports on the Wii?” and shrug, but Go Nintendo’s constituency is, well, Nintendo consumers and they take this seriously. They hounded EA Sports for an explanation and didn’t get one. Go Nintendo was told by an EA Sports rep that FIFA 13 has “the same great gameplay” as FIFA 12 and the studio porting it over “felt it was important to continue to offer fans the opportunity to play an authentic football experience on Wii.”

It’s a cynical, passive admission they recycled last year’s game under a new banner. It also harms the larger cause of sports video games, a segment EA Sports dominates, when a label this visible recycles a product this important. Sports video games across all publishers confront a unique insult—that they’re nothing more than updates of uniforms and rosters. That slur is angering to any who care about sports video games, whether they make one or play one.

So, I don’t care if the Wii’s AAA-title life support is certain to be shut off once the Wii U arrives in November, and all we’ll see is shovelware until Nintendo files the console’s official death certificate. FIFA 13 on the Wii is a basically dishonest product—it’s just FIFA 12 cloaked in new menus, sold as a new release. Not only does it harm both brands—major brands, too—it damages the overall legitimacy of annual sports video game releases, regardless of label. It would have been more of a favor to those who love sports video games if EA Sports had simply chosen not to release FIFA 13 on the Wii.

EA dodges accusations of FIFA 12/13 Wii being the same game [Go Nintendo]

EA Sports Dodges Questions It Recycled FIFA on the Wii


Nintendo’s Fils-Aime Expects Wii U’s Killer App to Be Social Networking

The small tablet that comes with Nintendo’s Wii U, used as a game controller or to change the TV station and watch videos, is the most obvious distinguishing feature of the new game console.

But in an interview, Nintendo North American President Reggie Fils-Aime said he believes the Miiverse, the game console’s social network, will be the unexpected hit.

“I think that it will pleasantly surprise people,” he said. “As the network grows and the installed base grows, it will prove to be a true killer application for the system, and I say this loving what we have done with Nintendo TVii and loving all the games. Until you try it and experience it, you may not totally understand it.”

At the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., Fils-Aime sat down with AllThingsD to talk about the company’s first game console to come out in six years. Nintendo finally announced two weeks ago that it will go on sale in the U.S. on Nov. 18, after originally unveiling it more than a year ago. The basic package will cost $300, and a more deluxe version will cost $350.

Fils-Aime said the big change with this console compared to the original Wii is that it provides more reasons for everyone in the family to use it, whether it’s to monitor sports scores on the GamePad, search for shows on Hulu or Amazon’s video services, or even to play games. “I compete against time on the PC, time watching TV, and time spent on social networks,” he said. “I already compete with all that stuff, and now you can do it in a new and engaging way.”

Specifically, Fils-Aime called attention to the Miiverse because he said there are no other social networks that are specifically built around gaming. Facebook is first a social network with games running on top of the platform, and other platforms, like Apple’s iPhone and iPad, have a Game Center, where game players can go to see high scores or interact with friends. Microsoft’s Xbox also allows players to become friends and chat about their game accomplishments, but Fils-Aime maintains the Miiverse is “a key differentiator compared to other companies in our space.”

The Nintendo Miiverse will appear on the start-up screen as a virtual hang-out, where avatars walk around a virtual “plaza.” Game players will be able to post their thoughts in “speech bubbles” that appear over their heads with text or drawings — sort of like status updates on Twitter or Facebook. The Miiverse at launch will be accessible only through the Wii U, but eventually it will be available using any Web-enabled device.

“People have to leave the current paradigm behind to understand what we are trying to do. Miiverse is going to be embedded right on the game platform, so literally some of the activity will be able to happen immediately as people experience it,” he said.

Nintendo is also investing heavily to integrate social experiences built into TVii, which allows users to access their TV guide from the GamePad and to control their set-top box using infrared technology. It also allows them to connect to other video apps, like Hulu and Amazon, or to a TiVo if they have one.

The GamePad will serve as a resource where consumers can look up additional information about what they are watching, which is commonly done today on phones or laptops. In additional, Nintendo will provide a timeline of screenshots based on what you are currently watching on TV. In a demonstration, Zach Fountain, who heads up TVii for Nintendo, showed me how a snapshot of a touchdown appears moments after it happened during a live game, or how scenes from “Modern Family” propagate the timeline as they happen, with the key moments selected by content curators. Users can comment on the moments, and then share the comments to Twitter or Facebook if they choose.

The service will take a lot of work behind the scenes since content curators will have to identify the bigger moments, write captions and create the polls.

Nintendo is closely collaborating with a company called i.TV to pull it off. Some technology will be used to make the process more automatic, but it will also take a lot of human interaction since it will be supported 24 hours a day.

The equivalent undertaking would be if Facebook were to hire content creators to write and post pictures to users’ walls based on their activities or interests. Fils-Aime said i.TV will be managing the TVii timeline, while Nintendo will be using both internal and external resources to monitor the Miiverse. The Miiverse and TVii are free to anyone who buys a console.

Because of the chatting capabilities across the whole system, Nintendo will be offering strict parental controls, so that parents can dictate how much they want their children to see. If children do have access to the Miiverse, “we’ll be leveraging technology, the community and our own reviewers to determine what’s appropriate for the masses,” Fils-Aime said. “What Miiverse is doing is quite different from anything else that’s being done, especially with the ability to hand draw messages and things of that nature.”

Nintendo has not said how many Wii U’s it expects to sell, but it is forecasting 10 million units combined for both the original Wii and the Wii U this year. Already, retailers have sold out of the limited quantities made available for preorders, but more will be available on launch day. “We are looking to max out production as quickly as possible,” he said.


Why I’ll be buying a Wii U at launch

nintendo wii u launch

Every gamer should buy Nintendo’s next console. Here’s why.

Wii u everything you need to know pricing launch release date

Nintendo doesn’t have it easy these days. Mobile phones and tablets continue to peck away at its handheld consoles while the Wii, now nearly six years old, struggles to find new buyers among fierce competition from Microsoft and Sony.

As if that weren’t enough, Nintendo is now paying for its negligence towards the gaming industry. The new controller has been met with skepticism, and the claims of better third-party support this time out have been met with shrugs.  We’ve heard this song and dance before.

It’s all seems very doom and gloom. Yet, in spite of this, I’m going to line up to buy a Wii U at launch – and if “gamer” is a label you’re happy to claim, you should too. Here’s why.

Wii U GamepadEnough Power To Please

The Internet’s popular opinion about the Wii U’s hardware is woefully miss-informed.  I’ve read countless forum posts and website comments that firmly state the Wii U is just a minor upgrade to the Wii and no better than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. That’s nonsense.

We don’t know exactly what is in the Wii U yet, but we do know it’s a relatively new PowerPC processor paired with 2GB of RAM and a custom AMD Radeon GPU, most likely derived from the company’s Evergreen architecture. For comparison, the Xbox 360 uses a graphics chip similar to AMD’s Fudo architecture – which is five years older. Given the separation in architectures it would not be surprising if the raw power of the Wii U is three or four times that of an Xbox 360.

We don’t need to rely on speculation, however. Nintendo has constantly demonstrated games running at 1080p, something current consoles aren’t capable of (they render games at a lower resolution and up-scale to 1080p).

It’s likely that the new consoles from Microsoft and Sony will be quicker, but that’s okay. What’s important is that Nintendo will finally have hardware that can do justice to the beautiful art found in its first-party titles.

An Excellent Launch Lineup

New Super Mario Bros. UThe Wii U hits store shelves on November 18th with an impressive selection of games — 23 will be available on launch day, and 51 titles in total are planned for the “launch window” that runs through March.  Several of these are brand-new games that are launching exclusively for the Wii U. I’m personally looking forward to New Super Mario Bros. U, ZombiU and even Epic Mickey 2 (which will be released on all systems, but offer Wii U-specific features on the GamePad). These titles alone put the launch line-ups of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to shame. I’m also looking forward to Rayman Legends, though it now looks like it may not make the November 18 release.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nintendo is also launching with a generous selection of third-party titles including Assassin’s Creed III, Darksiders II, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Mass Effect 3. Most of these have been released, or will be released for other platforms, but their inclusion on the Wii U helps to beef up the console’s appeal. And that goes double for me.

I haven’t played several new console games because my Xbox 360 went kaput (for the third time) and was no longer covered under warranty. I couldn’t find any reason why I should waste money replacing it when the Wii U was already announced and capable of playing the same games. My excitement might be less if Microsoft made reliable hardware.

Nintendo Can Take Over My Living Room

Nintendo TV controllerNintendo TVii came out of nowhere. There was little to hint at its existence and then – boom! Nintendo drops the bomb just a few months before release.

TVii put the Wii U over the top for me. Since my Xbox 360 died, I’ve been using a Roku for my streaming needs. It works fine and I’d recommend it to anyone, but it’s terribly simple. Scrolling through Netflix titles can take some time, and there’s not much customization available. It works. And that’s all it does.

The new controller must have given the guys at Logitech a heart-attack. It’s taken them years to squeeze small touchscreens into their line of Harmony remotes. Then here comes Nintendo, tromping in with 6.2 touchscreen display that connects directly with streaming services (via the Wii U, of course), and can even be used to purchase new content.

Television via console is now Nintendo’s game to lose. As long as the processor isn’t too slow, as long as the touchscreen isn’t unresponsive, as long as the software works right – it’ll be great. And inexpensive, too, because there’s no need for an additional subscription to access content you’ve already paid for. That’s a lesson Microsoft should learn.

wii u pro controllerBackwards Compatibility

Buying a new console is often bitter-sweet. Yay, it’s a new console… but now I have to buy all new peripherals and games. Ah, hell.

The Wii U doesn’t ask so much from buyers. Most Wii accessories are compatible with it, as are most Wii games. Even software and save data downloaded to the Wii will be transferable to the Wii U. In a sense, the new console is more of an upgrade than an entirely new product. It adds new capabilities but also retains the functionality found in the old system.

Nintendo is not abandoning its family-friendly position. And that position is partially based on price. Asking a family to replace an old console with a new one – and three new controllers, plus any peripherals – is always a tall order. I’m happy I’m not going to have to re-purchase controllers when the next Mario Kart game comes out.

Wii U premium bundle

Yes, The Price Is Right

Nintendo’s premium Wii U, which is the one you want, retails for $349. There have been the usual complaints, but they’re only valid if you think coin is traded as freely in real life as it was in the last Mario game.

This entirely new console, which is more powerful than any other on the market today and comes with a 6.2” touchscreen controller, costs less at launch than either the Xbox 360 or PS3 did (by a huge margin in the case of the PS3). Even now it’s only $100 more (in premium guise) than the current mid-range Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 bundle. This seems like a damn good deal. I seriously doubt that Nintendo is making any per-unit profit at this price.

And let’s not forget that the Wii U is compatible with old controllers, which means current Wii owners don’t have to pay anything extra for additional peripherals. The new Pro controller, which is tailored towards third-party games, is the only exception — but hopefully it will be sold at a price similar to the current Classic controller, which is $20.

Conclusion

Will the new console reverse Nintendo’s fortunes? That’s impossible to know. Its competitors have yet to reveal themselves, and long-term success depends on far more than a console’s capabilities at launch.

Then again, speculation about profit margins won’t make the Wii U more or less enjoyable. It is a game console. It should play games well, and it should have good games to play. The Wii U promises better gaming than any other console, and Nintendo has thrown in a tasty bonus with TVii. That’s more than enough to get me in line. What about U?

Updated to fix a typo.