Hi, my name is Ahmad and I’m a Nintendo fanboy. When I was a schoolboy, I used to go downtown every day and loiter at the local Toyworld and take turns at playing Super Mario Bros. on their NES, and occasionally pop along to the DEKA down the road to play Tetris on the GameBoy. Coming from humble beginnings I could only dream of having one of those consoles in my own home, but was later able to save up enough money to hire a SNES to play NBA Jam.
Part-time jobs opened the door to the Nintendo world for me, as I proudly walked out of Noel Leeming with an N64, extra controller, and Wave Race 64 in my arms. Years later, I am also the owner of a GBC, GB Pocket, GBA, GBA SP, GB Player, DS, DSL, GameCube, and, of course, the Nintendo Wii.
As much as I love Nintendo, I can also be one of their strongest critics. I think the same can be said of any fanboy - those that love something (or someone) are the easiest to infuriate: because they care.
As I’ve grown older (and of course wiser), I’ve become busier in my life. Although I have Peter Pan traits, I have also had a haircut, and have a real job. Not only do I have less time to play - it is no longer possible to invite friends over on a regular basis to play video games. They have busy lives too.
Multiplayer has always been the strongest drawcard to a game for me. And in order to play multiplayer with my busy schedule, I can only look to the online world. And this, unfortunately, is where Nintendo comes up woefully lacking. I can accept a shortage of quality AAA+ titles. I can even tolerate some motion-control nuances. What really irks me is that Nintendo and online do not really belong in the same sentence.
Sure, I’ve played away for hours with Mario Strikers Charged, but that’s one game, and I can’t even communicate with the person I’m playing with. What’s online play without being able to say “gg”, or “it was the lag!”? Nintendo insist on having their “Friend Code” system to prevent free communication with dangerous strangers - fair enough. But not even being able to communicate with added friends is absurd.
Since buying my Wii, I’ve also acquired an Xbox 360. Lack of a reasonable online service was one of the biggest reasons for this, and the recently published comments from Microsoft executive Jeff Bell ring particularly true:
“We’re positioning ourselves to be ready if, in fact, gamers find they’re ready to graduate from a certain experience potentially with the Wii, either because it’s limited on the type of gameplay that’s available or the technology in that box. “
Xbox Live means that I can turn on my console at any time and almost guarantee that I’ll be able to find a friend online that I can arrange an immediate game with. Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection means that I have to contact friends by email or instant messenger, hoping someone is close to their Wii and willing to play, and then wait in the lobby for their arrival. I can’t even send them a message from my Wii to say “I need to have a wee” and will “brb”. What this means in real terms is that I actually play on my 360, while my Wii gathers dust - this despite the Wii actually being my “preferred” console.
Nintendo have a lot of ground to make up to satisfy gamers who like online gaming. Metroid Prime 3 and Super Mario Galaxy are incredible games that I’ve very much enjoyed, but I don’t play single player games exclusively. The cancellation of EA’s MOH:H2 in Australia and New Zealand may not be Nintendo’s fault, but it further strengthens the perception that Nintendo have dropped the ball when it comes to online services.
Sure, everybody can vote, see weather and news bites, and even surf the internet. But that’s not really the kind of “online” I was hoping for this generation. It remains to be seen whether Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl can redeem Nintendo in this area, but if I won’t be able to communicate with buddies as I pwn them, Wii online play will continue to feel a little like kissing my sister.