5 mins read

Two interesting bits of news regarding Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U platform and its online and social structure hit the news feeds today. And I am not amused.

The first is that friends codes will return. Nintendo of America managing director, Reggie Fils-Aime, has promised that the system has been revamped and improved, and now a limited form of communications is possible with people that you haven’t exchanged friend codes with. The problem is that, like the boy that cried wolf, I think many of us are now sick of Nintendo’s promises to improve things. The 3DS’ Friend Code system was, in reality, the barest of improvements over the Wii’s system, and messaging/ game finding is still a clunky, unintuitive way to do things.

It is frankly amazing that despite openly acknowledging that people do not like friend codes that Nintendo persists in using them. The excuse that it’s family friendly is a pointless one, since the system doesn’t really protect children from the virtual nasties out there, and a well-implemented parental controls system, such that Sony or Microsoft offer, is enough to allow the adults to enjoy an uninhibited online experience.

The second is that there is, apparently, not going to be a console-wide achievement system with the Wii U. Nintendo claims that the Wii U will use the same “achievement” system as the 3DS – and that seems to mean the activity log, but not a Gamer Score or trophy system.

Not everyone likes those, we know that, but considering it is such an easy way to give players a little extra incentive to finish games, for those that do like achievements there’s some substantial engagement gains from an achievement system. It needs to be opt-out, as it is for those that don’t want achievements with their PS3 or Xbox360 gaming experiences, but it needs to be there.

Both approaches demonstrate a resolute stubbornness on Nintendo’s part to stick to what it thinks it knows best, rather than follow market trends. Normally I’d say that is admirable, as I’m not generally a fan of developers and publishers giving in to public pressure when it would compromise their product vision. But these two examples are neither. Getting rid of the friend code would simply be acknowledging that in the world of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and PSN/ Xbox Live the idea of firstly exchanging codes, then both inputting the codes just to communicate is an outdated way of doing things. It fell out of fashion with MSN Messenger years ago.

The achievements debate is even simpler – it’s a completely harmless option that gives a large number of players a kick. It’s getting to the point where all platforms offer achievements in some fashion, and Nintendo is going to look decidedly archaic without a proper system in place.

I have high hopes for the Wii U, but these promises that Nintendo is making that its online infrastructure is improving is starting to sound frighteningly like the promises it was making that the 3DS would offer a better online experience. While it may technically be true, the Wii U is going to need more than a technical improvement to offer even the minimum acceptable standard for online experiences in the next gen.

What we should have been hearing from Nintendo is Twitter and Facebook integration – screenshots and online video streaming, retail game downloads and other social features. Instead we’re hearing, once again, how they’re updating friend codes and not doing achievements. This is evolutionary, not revolutionary, and the Wii U needs to be a massive improvement over the Wii and, yes, 3DS if it wants to be competitive once the PS3 and Xbox 360 hit the market.

All we’re getting right now is promises.

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  • the achievments system is not well liked by developers, especially when MS and Sony require the devs to include these systems. Nintendo is merely stating that it's not required for developers to include an achievement system but they can if they want to.

  • Hi Bobbies,

    Thanks for dropping by and the input! Much appreciated.

    Do you have a source for the developers speaking out against achievements and trophies? While I'm sure there's one or two disgruntled dev teams out there, from what I've seen it's a practice most are happy to work with.

    The problem is that Nintendo isn't including a console-wide achievement system. In-game achievement systems (like, say, Xenoblade) is pointless, as there's no way to socialise the achievements. Nintendo doesn't seem to understand that achievements are a social feature, and not necessarily a game-enhancing one. It's about increasing a gamer's engagement with the console, not the individual game.

  • Developers hate achievements

    so nintendo making it optional is a great thing

    Also friend codes will be like psn or xbl


  • To be honest, I never really got angry over the friend code system. What got me slightly angry was that every single, individual game had its own friend code. That was BS. However, what Nintendo has with the 3DS is, to me, fine; everybody gets their own friend code, everybody can have whatever name they want.

    As for the whole achievement argument, no one from the public really knows or understands how they will work, so to me it's not exactly right to come down on a stance at this time.

  • It's not so much the friend code system that bugs me here, it's how Nintendo will use it. Even with just the one friend code per system, it's a hell of a process to use the 3DS to communicate with anyone. Before the (very) limited Note application, there was nothing at all. There's still very few game invite options.

    There's very little indication that Nintendo has learned from that. Perhaps I'm wrong, but that's why I say we should worry – not dismiss the Wii U out of mind. 😛

  • Not all Devs hate achievements though too. I was just reading an article yesterday about how a lot of devs making minis wish there was an trophy system, same with the indie games on xbox with achievements. Devs may not like achievements – additional work for no apparent gain, consumers do and that should make the difference. Also, I have read several devs who say they like achievements because they can run reports on these achievements and get a better sense for the kinds of things players are doing within games, and that it can help shape future developments.

    I think these two things illustrated in the article show that Nintendo is still sagging behind the competition when it comes to understanding what their players want from online, unfortunately (and before I'm accused of fanboy, anti-fanboy, I love Nintendo games, have a Wii, 3DS, etc – but there are reasons the Wii is our least-played system in our house and part of it is Nintendo's missteps with online imo)

  • Well said, Chalgyr 🙂

    My gut response is that the majority of developers do appreciate achievements – we're at the point now where they're the standard and platforms/ games that don't feature them tend to get overlooked. I know I personally enjoy seeing my trophy/ achievement scores growing, and tend to ignore the older PS3/ iPad games that don't have them.

    So developers do want them in the most, and while Nintendo's activity log is admirable, I think the Vita has an advantage over the 3DS in supporting trophies.

    That's all my personal opinion, thought.

  • New lipstick on a pig is, well, you get the picture.

    I'm glad the 3DS got rid of per-game codes which was completely ridiculous. Though it still seems very archaic and adds to the frustration. (not to mention no IM features – swapnote isn't sufficient) I mean, why don't we have similar email addresses? foo1842672384023408@gmail.com seems just about right and easy to use, right?

    As for achievements, I wasn't aware that the 3DS had any. Oh, some basic ranking of your activity grouped by time spent or # of times frequented? By that definition I guess the Wii had achievements with the stats collected and reported by the nintendo channel.

    Beyond all of what I just said I really like my 3DS and hope the U does well. I think there are lots of possibilities out there for some fun gaming. Nintendo's old tune does need to change and it's ok to do some industry standard things guys.

  • Hi Robert, good to hear from you!

    I agree – I like the 3DS and I'm looking forward to the Wii U. I'm just not sure it's actually going to be the online success I was hoping for. Fingers crossed it's just paranoia! 😉

  • "
    Nintendo's old tune does need to change and it's ok to do some industry standard things guys."
    Perhaps Nintendo was thinking like that…with the Wii and Wii U, but got stuck with only one new "standard" for their system.
    Wii gave us online, even though the functionality of it and developer friendliness for it was apparently terrible. So, the one "standard" Nintendo attempted to achieve with the Wii was getting online multiplayer up and being offered as a "standard" option if developers needed it.

    Wii U? What standard did they choose? HD graphics. Unfortunately from their E3 showing, it appears to me that Nintendo can't multitask very well on a console. So, Wii U will have HD graphics, while it's online functionality is still??? Below standards at this point?

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