A Whisper in the Darkness
When it comes to a Nintendo console, we all know the drill. First party titles are superb, offering franchises that, love them or hate them, only Nintendo can offer. With each new console they release, we know we can count on a great Mario or Wario platform adventure, a Zelda adventure RPG, a Metroid puzzle or two, and a healthy random dose of either Kirby, Kid Icarus, Pikmin, Pokemon, Fire Emblem, or any of a cadre of titles we've been familiar with since the '80's. Where Nintendo often makes its most disastrous mistakes is with support for third party studios. The Super Nintendo platform had one of the greatest title libraries of any console ever, littered with third party support ranging from phenomenal to pitiful. Much of this was due to the SNES being the de facto console of its generation, fending off only moderate competition from Sega's near-equally legendary Genesis. Much more was due to the accessibility of the platform for development.
Much of this fell apart with the seemingly backward, and overly complicated N64. Despite being monstrously more powerful than the competition, light years ahead of it's time for a console, few developers outside Nintendo R&D actually knew how to take advantage of that power, and the costly ROM system made it far less favorable to develop for than CD-based competition from Sony and Sega. The clumsy yet respectable N64, with its paltry game library was followed up by an equally clumsy successor: GameCube. The age of Nintendo had seemingly vanished. Once again, the GCN had the best hardware of its generation, following late in the cycle after the launch of the PlayStation 2. Despite boasting great performance, and the introduction of a new proprietary optical disc format, it was only a minor upgrade from the N64, and while the game library was a bit more successful than its predecessor, the last breaths of the Sega Saturn and the already massive base of PS2's combined with Microsoft's upstart XBox (Read also: PC gaming,) had killed it before it even gained legs.
Yet a few years back, an amazing thing happened. While Sony and Microsoft were busy beating each other over the head with their extreme PC-like graphics featuring the, then, latest GeForce 7 class graphics cards, high level physics and high definition performance, Nintendo simple gave up and decided not to compete. The result is the now ubiquitous Wii. A simple redesign of how gaming is thought of. An attempt to merge the ideas of universal accessibility from their most successful products, the portable GameBoy, Advance, and DS platforms, with the core of consoles. In effect, they did to Sony and Microsoft what Sony had once done to them. They reinvented the game from beneath the feet of the giant.
Yet, for every leap forward is a stumble backward. The Wii which for two holiday seasons was nearly unattainable, and succeeded in becoming the latest Cabbage Patch doll of the digital age finally hit a roadblock. The classic Nintendo obstacle reared it's ugly head: No third party support. Sure an endless torrent of party games and casual kiddie titles spewed forth, but true core gaming appeared lost. UbiSoft was one of the first voices in the darkness to come forth, admitting they'd believed the Wii to be a fad and had not taken it seriously. They intended to rectify that situation and get to work on some games designed to make the most of the Wii. It was finally, at least in theory, a real console...
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