UPDATE: Industry Experts Respond To Nintendo HD News

by Phil Kollar on Apr 18, 2011 at 08:00 AM

UPDATE: A few more reactions rolled in over the weekend. Check the second page of this story to read them.

ORIGINAL STORY: Yesterday GI broke the news from multiple trusted sources that Nintendo will reveal a new HD-capable console by or at E3 of this year. While new rumors about the system have continued popping up around the web, we decided to gather some early thoughts about the timing and necessity of this announcement from various industry experts.

Shane Bettenhausen, Director of Business Development, Ignition Entertainment:

"I’m eager for this thing to be revealed! In my estimation, Nintendo actually needs to announce some details on its next home console at this year’s E3 in order to remain competitive in the home console race. As exciting as the Wii was a few years back, it’s truly showing its age and has become increasingly difficult for third parties to find success on the platform of late. The challenge that Nintendo faces is to make a console that has more to offer than just the valuable ‘Nintendo DNA’ and the incredible first-party support that we’ve come to expect. And gimmickry won’t be enough to make this a clear leader…I’m hoping that its specs and capabilities will really surprise everyone."

Denis Dyack, President, Silicon Knights:

"If this is true, I am very excited! With the Wii Nintendo showed innovation that resulted in growth for the industry, so I cannot wait to see what they have planned next. Of course, a new Nintendo console will also result in the next round of Nintendo games, which I look forward to playing on day one.”

Michael Pachter, Managing Director, Wedbush Securities:

"I have no [previous] knowledge at all, as I get all of my news from Game Informer. With that said, I think that the right time for a launch was in front of the launches of Kinect and Move, and think that Nintendo missed the ‘perfect’ time to launch in 2009. They could have launched at $300, and would have been competitive with Kinect and Move bundles and may have kept Wii households from upgrading to one of the other consoles. In my view, every Kinect and Move bundle sold cost Nintendo the opportunity to convert or retain a customer, so 2009 was the right time to launch. Once they passed on a 2009 launch, they should have pushed to get the Wii 2 out at the same time as Kinect and Move (late 2010), to at least compete for the market share captured by Microsoft and Sony. Once again, they chose to wait, and recent hardware figures show that they missed an opportunity. I think that there is still significant interest in a Wii 2, particularly from the very large Wii installed base, so it is not ‘too late,’ but it’s also not the ‘right time.'"

Lee Jacobson, Senior Vice President of Licensing and Digital Publishing, Atari:

"Nintendo has always marched to the beat of their own drum and never engaged in the same graphical arms race that defined the Xbox 360 and PS3. I for one am excited to see what their next move is at E3, as Atari has always done very well on Nintendo systems and we know that whatever they announce will be high-quality and speak to an audience that is uniquely suited for their system."

John Davison, Vice President of Programming, CBS Interactive/GameSpot:

"It's been clear that something has been brewing at Nintendo for a while, and the timing is absolutely right for them to be making some bold steps with a successor to the Wii. Although very successful for the past few years, they've been incredibly late to a number of parties, and there's a huge opportunity for them to embrace the changes that the audience now expects from a modern game experience. Beyond motion controls or HD graphics, which are a given, there's a lot they could do in terms of digital distribution, cross-device connectivity, and social integration to prove they really ‘get it.’ Do I think they'll actually do this? Maybe. Judging from the 3DS it's clear they're not completely ready to embrace all of the current trends, but they seem to be taking baby steps in the right direction."

Jeff Green, Director of Editorial and Social Media, PopCap:

"It's really kind of now or never for Nintendo, isn't it? Announcing an HD system now? Welcome to 2009! To the Western hardcore gamers, the Wii has been all but forgotten for a long time now. When I look at that system sitting there unplayed and unloved at my house for lord knows how long now, I'm all but embarrassed, both for it and for myself for still having it plugged in. So, yeah, pretty necessary timing by Nintendo's part. How it's going to stack up against the PS3 and Xbox 360 is anyone's guess (I certainly have no clue), but if the thing isn't at least on parity with those systems,  we can call it DOA right now. But, you know, who knows? The 3DS rocks (the machine, not the current lineup), and when the Wii launched, that too was a fantastically disruptive force in the game industry. So I wouldn't count Nintendo out by a long shot. They always manage to rebound somehow. I'd say this is the biggest hole they've been in for a while, but I do look forward to seeing what they have up their sleeves yet. And, honestly, I'll be rooting for them. When they're on top of their game, they just make gaming a better, happier place. So call this tough love and cautious optimism."

Tim Gerritsen, Director of Product Development, Irrational Games:

"Nintendo clearly staked a different market out for themselves with the Wii than Sony and Microsoft did with the PS3 and Xbox 360 respectively.  If they are indeed bringing to the table hardware that is on par or better than these platforms, we will need to see if they are going to focus on games outside the market they committed to with the Wii."

N’Gai Croal, Chief Consultant, Hit Detection:

"I don’t have global sales numbers in front of me, but my feeling is that the Wii is still leading in terms of global hardware sales on an annual basis. They were still ahead for 2010. Obviously they’re still ahead in overall install base by a significant margin. 2012 seems kind of early to me, especially because they haven’t even cut the price to $150, though there are rumors that they’re going to cut the price.

"The way I look at it, the things that have motivated Nintendo to release hardware in the past are some kind of breakthrough game or controller or a major shift in the market outlook that has required them to make a move. Maybe there’s a game that we don’t know about yet that we’ll see at E3. There are rumors about what the interface will be. Some rumors are saying there will be an HD display worked into the controller. That seems like a strange rumor, because if you think about an HD display built into a controller, that would either have significant cost implications or profitability implications. Coupled with the rumors that it will be more powerful than the PS3 and 360 – I don’t know if you can hit all that and still be at $250 or even $299.

"I went back and talked to my friends in the media, and the impression I get is that it’s real and Nintendo will make this announcement at E3. It’s clear that this is a shift in strategy for them to try to win over developers sooner. The only way to keep a secret as they’ve done in the past is to just not tell anybody. Once you start telling people, you’re counting down to when it’s going to leak. I wonder how much that really has to do with PS3 and 360 and how much it has to do with what’s happening with iOS and to a lesser extent Android. I don’t mean that they’re hoping to get iOS developers to make games for whatever their next console is, but there’s so much energy with iOS software that they may need to rethink and do it differently from what they’ve done in the past. They don’t have the support from third parties that 360 or PS3 or iOS or Android does. They may be looking at that and thinking that down the line it’ll be a real problem, so maybe they can’t wait until the same year or even the year after their competitors release new hardware. They need to tackle it now and come out early and build momentum with third parties. They’ve already attempted to court iOS and Android developers with WiiWare and DSiWare – that’s another reason to get new hardware with a new online infrastructure up. They need to get a whole system in a state that’s much more optimized – whether it’s for big publishers making graphically intensive games or smaller developers – and put that into Nintendo’s ecosystem before the expected launch of PS3 and 360’s successors."

Justin Blankenship, Associate Consultant, Hit Detection:

"For my part, I'm most curious to see how they can both appeal to the hardcore and maintain the same broad appeal of the Wii. It's going to be a very narrow needle to thread if they want to appeal to both. They not only need to make a show of good faith to the hardcore market, they have to be able to take the new gamers who bought a Wii along for the ride and make it accessible to them.

"Also, if the rumors of a machine more powerful than the PS3 and Xbox 360 are true, cost is going to be a concern. It's no mystery that part of the Wii's success was that it was the most affordable of this generation's consoles. I'd expect the next consoles from Sony and Microsoft to technically outperform the Wii2, so it makes sense that if Nintendo wants some hardcore credibility, they'd launch first for the next generation of hardware. It's by far the best chance of successfully achieving that strategy. With both Microsoft and Sony investing players into their brands with persistent profiles attached to Achievements and Trophies within online communities, it's an uphill climb for Nintendo to get these gamers to switch over in significant numbers.

"Finally, I'm curious about what else this means for games at E3. If it's really going to be more powerful than the 360 and PS3, is there any reason we can't see GTA5 or Mass Effect 3 on the Wii?"

Andy McNamara, Editor-In-Chief, Game Informer:

"Nintendo obviously deserves a lot of credit for motion gaming and for introducing gaming to new markets (along with Apple), but the Wii for all its ingenuity and great games has aged poorly. The lack of high definition graphics enabled Nintendo to offer a price-conscious piece of hardware that also kept development costs down at the beginning of this console generation. However the market has changed as HDTVs and home theaters rapidly spawn in homes across the globe and users demand more online and visual punch from their entertainment dollar.

"The introduction of a new platform that addresses both the visual fidelity issue and closes the technology gap between the Wii and other current generation hardware is not only key for Nintendo’s success, but the health of the industry as a whole as third-party publishers and developers can target all the three major home consoles with a single product.

"Rumors of backward compatibility with the current Wii and the use of motion controls all seem extremely likely to me, though I personally don’t have enough information to confirm these details. However, controllers with touchscreens seem extravagant to a usually frugal Nintendo technology team (though incorporating Nintendo handhelds into the system screams genius to me, specifically for Nintendo). That said, Nintendo has a proven track record that it is capable of anything after the amazing success of the Wii and introduction of motion-based gaming. So anything is possible. However, I think it is of the utmost importance that packed in with every HD console shipped is a controller capable of playing first-person shooters through established and accepted standards, meaning dual analog sticks and a large array of buttons (and one that hopefully you don’t have to connect to another controller to use wirelessly).

"We can all hope that when this system is officially unveiled it doesn’t mean a major drought for the current Wii games market, but Nintendo has done it in the past and history would point to them repeating the strategy, including moving key titles like Zelda from this generation’s hardware to the next."

Ru Weerasuriya, Co-Founder, Ready at Dawn Studios:

"It's been a while that people have been speculating about the release of a Nintendo HD platform. I do think that such hardware is definitely needed from them at this juncture. But creating new hardware is just a start.

"The Wii gave them an opportunity to expand the gaming audience at large but for many people I know, it was just a short-lived fad. The breadth of games didn't follow. The past has lent credence to the fact that the last Nintendo platforms have been tantamount to closed systems that have really only been beneficial to Nintendo games. Whether they change their approach to third-party publishers, only time will tell. As for developers, any studio out there should always consider the potential of any new hardware coming out if it provides a good platform for the kind of games they make and the type of audience they seek.

"Ultimately, a console and its resulting success or failure will always be defined by the games."

Feargus Urquhart, CEO, Obsidian Entertainment:

"It’s great to hear about a new Nintendo system being in the works. A bunch of my college and post-college years were spent playing on the NES and SNES, and so I’ve been a fan of Nintendo for more than twenty years now. I also remember when playing Final Fantasy meant playing on the NES or even a Gameboy. And I do think it is the right time for Nintendo to launch a new system, and we would absolutely support it. I stated playing RPGs at a pretty young age on personal computers, and I’d love to bring those games to the younger audience Nintendo has always been great at making games and systems for.”